Founder of Lutheran missions in Mozambique passes on to glory; the church he helped create is growing by leaps and bounds

Rev. Joseph Alfazema

CANADA – Rev. Joseph Khembo Alfazema, the father of confessional Lutheran missions in Mozambique and a pastor of Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC), passed on to glory on May 11, 2019 in Edmonton, Alberta. A funeral service for Rev. Alfazema was held on Saturday, May 18, 2019 at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Edmonton.

Rev. Alfazema was native to Mozambique, but fled to Canada with his wife Perpetua in the 1980s to escape civil war. After the war ended, the Alfazemas were asked to assist in the founding of a school, health centre, and clean water supply in their homeland. This led to the founding of the Kapesseni Project, which brought not only physical assistance to those struggling in the aftermath of the civil war but also spiritual care as well.

Rev. Alfazema pursued pastoral ministry through Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary (St. Catharines, Ontario), and was called to serve Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) as a missionary to Mozambique upon his graduation. While his wife Perpetua focused on social ministry needs through the Kuwangisana Project, Rev. Alfazema focused on Gospel proclamation and evangelization.

Rev. Alfazema returned to Canada for health reasons following his retirement, but the work they began continued. In 2018, the church which grew out of his mission work was officially recognized by the Mozambican government as the Concordia Christian Church in Mozambique (Igreja Cristã da Concórdia em Moçambique – ICCM). While the church was officially registered by the government in 2018, it had previously operated unofficially for several years under the name Concordia Lutheran Church in Mozambique (Igreja Luterana da Concórdia em Moçambique —federal requirements in Mozambique prevented the young church from registering with the word “Lutheran” in its legal name).

The church grew out of Rev. Alfazema’s missions, and drew on the support of a number of international partners. Early on, Rev. Alfazema partnered with Rev. Dr. Carlos Walter Winterle to collaborate on mission work in the area. Dr. Winterle is president emeritus of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (IELB) and was at the time serving with the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA). Together, LCC, the IELB, FELSISA, and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, along with support from the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany’s (SELK) Bleckmar Mission project, coordinated mission outreach and theological training in the country, especially through the formation of a Theological Education by Extension Program organized by the IELB.

 

Rev. Joseph Alfazema (far left) poses with the first class of students Mozambique’s TEE program, along with TEE instructors Rev. Carlos Winterle (back-row, second-from-left) and Rev. André Plamer (front row, far right).

In August 2015, the Mozambican church celebrated the ordination of its first graduating class of pastors from the TEE. At the time, the church had ten congregations. By June of the next year, they had 31 congregations. Today, the ICCM has 80 congregations and a current class of thirty students training for the pastoral ministry.

The ICCM’s parent churches and supporters—LCC, the IELB, FELSISA, the LCMS, and SELK—are all member churches of the International Lutheran Council.

The family of Rev. Aflazema has invited those wishing to honour his legacy to contribute to the building of new classrooms for an elementary school in Mozambique.

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FELSISA reelects Bishop Reinstorf, discusses social instability in South Africa

FELSISA’s newly elected Synodical Council: Rev. Kurt Schnackenberg, Lutz Böhmer, Bishop Dieter Reinstorf, Deputy Bishop Helmut Paul, and Harald Niebuhr.

SOUTH AFRICA – The Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA) convened for its 61st Synodical Convention in Pretoria from September 15-17, 2018, at which time Rev. Dr. Dieter Reinstorf was reelected Bishop for another four year term. Elected as Deputy Bishop was Rev. Helmut Paul.

FELSISA Bishop Dieter Reinstorf.

The theme for this year’s convention was: “Christ is my life: Constructive responses from the faith community to the present social and political challenges in South Africa,” based on Philippians 1:21. In recent years South Africa has been marked by political instability with the ruling party considering amending the constitution of the country to pave the way for land expropriation without compensation. If this bill should be passed, FELSISA would be directly affected in that most of its members still form part of the agricultural sector. On the other hand there are social inequalities in South Africa that can be traced back directly to the apartheid era that simply need to be addressed. As keynote speaker for the conference, Prof. Dr. Piet Meiring (a pastor and academic of the Dutch Reformed church, as well as a former member of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission) was invited to give two presentations with group and plenary discussions. Dr. Meiring’s presentations drew in particular on Jeremiah 29 and Micah 4, and the FELSISA convention was deeply enriched through the presentations.

Among other business, the convention decided to review and expand on the church’s ecumenical guidelines document (Explanations and Guidelines for Ecumenical Encounters)This decision was taken in the hope of gaining greater clarity and uniformity of practice in ever changing contexts where a clear confession of Christ needs to be spoken.

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Rapid Growth for Mozambique’s Lutherans

Mozambican women sing during a worship service.
Mozambican women sing during a worship service.

MOZAMBIQUE – Missions in Mozambique continue to bear fruit as the Lutheran Church of Concord in Mozambique (Igreja Luterana da Concórdia em Moçambique – ILCM) shares the good news of Jesus Christ.

In August 2015, the ILCM celebrated the ordination of its first graduating class of pastors—eight pastors to serve the young church body’s then ten churches. The celebration saw approximately 1,000 members converge on Villa de Sena, an event which drew considerable local and even national attention.

Amambo and Maviga

Among those discussing the event were Christians in Amambo, who heard the story from a local woman, who herself heard it from a truck driver. The Christian community in Amambo had been left on their own five years earlier, when the priest serving them left the village. Without pastoral care, the congregation remained isolated and alone, slowly dwindling as members fell away. The news of the ILCM ordination celebration encouraged the remaining congregation members to try to make contact with the Lutherans they had just learned of.

Two members travelled twenty kilometers by bike to a nearby town, where they found transportation by truck to Villa de Sena. In total, their trip took two days along rough roads in territory known to be frequented by lions. When they finally arrive in Villa de Sena, they were directed to Rev. Manuel Jambo, President of the ILCM, who welcomed them into his home. After a night of conversation they joined President Jambo and Rev. Mateus Sifa at the local church for worship. They returned to Amambo with the good news that the Lutherans had agreed to visit them to begin a course of instruction.

Rev. Winterle and pastors of the Lutheran Church of Concord in Mozambique visit the congregation in Amambo.
Rev. Winterle and pastors of the Lutheran Church of Concord in Mozambique visit the congregation in Amambo.

Within a few weeks, the newly ordained pastors from the ILCM did indeed visit. And on September 6, 2015, members, pastors, and visitors dedicated the Lutheran Church of Amambo. Just three weeks later, they dedicated another congregation fifty kilometers away in Maviga, as the members of Amambo shared the clear Gospel message they were now receiving.

Nine months later, international partners had the opportunity to visit the Amambo congregation. Rev. Carlos Winterle, a Brazilian pastor serving the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA) with long-time involvement in the mission in Mozambique, and Rev. Shauen Trump, Area Director for Eastern and Southern Africa for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), joined eight local pastors in visiting the community. 110 members were on hand to welcome them. Knowing that the guests would be unable to visit Maviga on the same trip, the congregation there also sent a delegation to welcome them as well—twenty-one representatives who travelled the fourteen-hour journey by foot.

Cado

Women and children in Cado sing.
Women and children in Cado sing.

The village of Cado similarly found themselves interested in learning more about Lutherans—though their reasons for doing so are somewhat different. The Christians of Cado paid dearly for pastoral services, struggling under the tyranny of a pastor who mandated a substantial cash payment for each visit. It was not until villagers started going to town, some forty-five kilometers away, to find a market for their goods that they realized not all churches operate in the same way.

When the possibility of life together under a different model came to light, the congregation took action to learn more. They sent out two youth by bicycle to Villa de Sena to make inquiries of the churches there—and once they arrived they met President Jambo and Rev. Sifa. President Jambo hosted the two Cado villagers in his home, where they discussed the theology of stewardship, offerings, and matters of financial administration in the church. Through these discussions, President Jambo was able to clearly share the Gospel, and explain the church’s focus on Word and Sacraments.

That Sunday, the two villagers attended São Paulo Lutheran Church in Villa de Sena, and got to see these focuses in practice. By the end of the service, their path was clear. They explained to the church members in Villa de Sena that they were sent out to find a parent church body for their congregation, and that they had been convicted that the Lutheran church was the one they had come to find. The Cado villagers requested the blessing of the São Paulo congregation to send a pastor to support a Lutheran church in Cado.

A few weeks later, three Lutheran pastors traveled to visit the people of Cado. The first Lutheran service was attended by fifty villagers meeting under a tree. Within a year, the congregation had grown to eighty.

Cado-Nhachiva

The congregation in Nhachiva assembles.
The congregation in Nhachiva assembles.

It was in ministering to the community of Cado that another mission opportunity presented itself. Rev. Sifa was traveling the forty-five kilometer trip home from Cado—a trip that would be taxing in the best of circumstances, and even more so on one of Africa’s typical heavy one-speed bicycles on rough dirt roads. About ten kilometers into the trip, Rev. Sifa stopped at a trading centre for rest and a refreshment. While there, a teacher noted his clerical collar and asked if he were a priest. Rev. Sifa explained he was a pastor of the Lutheran Church, and they began to discuss the history and doctrine of Lutheranism. Interested in what the pastor had to say, the teacher asked him to consider starting a church in his village of Cado-Nhachiva.

Several weeks later, Rev. Sifa was on his way to Cado again. On the way he found the teacher and several other villagers waiting for him in Cado-Nhachiva. Rev. Sifa spoke with them and invited to travel with him to the church in Cado. They went. Not much later, Cado-Nhachiva held its first worship service, with 80 people attending. Today 150 members regularly attend services where the Gospel is clearly proclaimed.

Suero

The clarity of the Gospel preaching done by Lutherans is making an impact elsewhere in Mozambique too. In Chemba, a local community radio station host learned that firsthand. In Chemba, as in communities across Mozambique, the radio station gives regular airtime to local pastors. But when Lutheran pastor Rev. Julio Castomo had his first moment on air, the host was taken aback by his message. It was so different from the other preachers who came for their five-minute radio time.

After the broadcast, the host spoke extensively with Rev. Castomo about his message and about the church. The next day, he came to visit the pastor in his home. And that Sunday, he came to church to learn more. Immediately afterwards, he travelled to his home village of Suero to tell his extended family about the love of Christ. They asked him to go back to Chemba, collect Rev. Castomo, and bring him to tell them himself. After a few evangelistic visits, the people of Suero organized a church and invited Rev. Castomo to come. The first week 60 people attended. The next week there were 80.

And Others

Preaching in one of the new congregations near Kapasseni.
Preaching in one of the new congregations near Kapasseni.

The ILCM has welcomed other churches too. Rev. Rui Jalene Souza of Kapasseni has seen his evangelistic visits to nearby villages bear fruit, with four new congregations planted in the area. And an independent congregation in Mutarara, hearing of the ILCM’s work, recently sent two representatives forty kilometers to Villa de Sena looking for a church body with substance. The dedication of a Lutheran congregation in Mutarara is expected in the near future. Work continues in other areas as well.

There is a burning desire in Mozambique for clear Gospel preaching, both among the unchurched and those lacking pastoral care. The Lutheran Church of Concord in Mozambique is meeting that need, and they are supported in that work by faithful international partners. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (IELB); the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA); The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS); The Mission of the Lutheran Churches (Bleckmarer Mission) of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (SELK); and Redeemer Lutheran Church (Victoria, B.C., Canada) have all signed a memorandum of understanding with the pastors of the Lutheran Church of Concord in Mozambique to provide guidance to ongoing mission work in the country.

Lutheran missions in Mozambique grew out of the work of now retired Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) pastor Rev. Joseph Alfazema and his wife Perpetua. Their work resulted in the creation of the Kapasseni Project, a Canadian organization that helped lead to the creation of a Mozambican Lutheran church body.

IELB, FELSISA, LCC, SELK, and the LCMS are all member churches of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.

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The above article incorporates reporting by Rev. Shauen Trump based on translation by Rev. Winterle. Photos are by them, Carlotta C. Thies, Rony Marquardt, and Mateus Sifa.

First graduating class of pastors for Mozambican Lutherans

Mozambique’s newly ordained pastors pose with TEE instructors Rev. Carlos Winterle (back left) and Rev. André Plamer (back right).
Mozambique’s newly ordained pastors pose with TEE instructors Rev. Carlos Winterle (back left) and Rev. André Plamer (back right).

MOZAMBIQUE – Mozambican Lutherans celebrated a major milestone on August 9, 2015, as Concordia Lutheran Church– Mozambique celebrated its first graduating class of eight pastors. The event drew significant local and national attention: more than a thousand people gathered in the Vila de Sena for the ordinations, including local dignitaries, and national television gave ten minutes of coverage to the event. Special church dignitaries in attendance included President Egon Kopereck of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (IELB) and Bishop Dieter Reinstorf of the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA).

More than a thousand people march through the Vila de Sena on the way to the ordination of Mozambique’s first Lutheran pastors.
More than a thousand people march through the Vila de Sena on the way to the ordination of Mozambique’s first Lutheran pastors.

The CLCM is a young church body, and prior to this year’s graduating class had no pastors of its own. Instead, ministry in the region was overseen by those studying for by the. In 2014, the students received certification as deacons in preparation for their 2015 ordinations. Their ordination marks the end of five years of study through the Theological Education by Extension (TEE) program, an initiative of the IELB.

More than a thousand people march through the Vila de Sena on the way to the ordination of Mozambique’s first Lutheran pastors.
More than a thousand people march through the Vila de Sena on the way to the ordination of Mozambique’s first Lutheran pastors.

The ordination of the new pastors could not come soon enough, as the MLC continues to grow quickly (visiting professors in the TEE program were sometimes called on to conduct hundreds of baptisms at a time). Already a new class of students is beginning studies through the TEE program—and the class size has grown to fifteen.

In 2014, mission developments in Mozambique took another step forward as partners in the region signed a new Memorandum of Understanding on the TEE program. Signatories included the IELB, the current TEE students, the Kuwangisana Organization, the Kapasseni Project, FELSISA, and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). The MOU calls for the construction of a permanent seminary building: the Concordia Lutheran Center.

Lutheran missions in Mozambique grew out of the work of retired Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) pastor Rev. Joseph Alfazema and his wife Perpetua. Their work resulted in the creation of the Kapasseni Project, an LCC listed service organization that continues to support missions in Mozambique.

LCC, FELSISA, the LCMS, and IELB are all member churches of the International Lutheran Council.

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Mozambique’s Lutherans eager for first ordinations

Mozambique’s TEE students (all in blue shirts) pose with Kapasseni Project founder Rev. Joseph Alfazema (back row, far left) as well as TEE instructors Rev. Carlos Walter Winterle (South Africa: back-row, second-from-left) and André Plamer (Brazil: front row, far right).
Mozambique’s TEE students (all in blue shirts) pose with Kapasseni Project founder Rev. Joseph Alfazema (back row, far left) as well as TEE instructors Rev. Carlos Walter Winterle (South Africa: back-row, second-from-left) and Rev. André Plamer (Brazil: front row, far right). (Photo: pastorwinterle.blogspot.ca)

MOZAMBIQUE – Thanks to the work of numerous partners, Lutheran missions in Mozambique continue to flourish. Three new congregations have been established in the past year, with more than 100 people attending the first service in each new village.

The Mozambique Lutheran Church has no pastors of its own, so ministry is overseen by eight local men preparing for ministry. These men are all students in the Theological Education by Extension (TEE) program, and recently received the certification as deacons after completing their most recent round of intensive studies in July. The TEE program is organized by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (IELB), and brings instructors from other countries to offer theological education in Mozambique. The eight students will complete their studies in 2015 and be ordained to pastoral ministry the same year.

The day of their ordination cannot come soon enough: in 2012, one Brazilian pastor reported being called upon to perform nearly 300 baptisms while visiting Mozambique as a TEE instructor. The newly appointed deacons are now allowed to perform baptisms in addition their current duties (which include leading services, preaching, teaching, and counseling). But even as these students prepare for ordination, plans are underway for the beginning of a new TEE class of students. By July of this year, twenty students had already enrolled for the new class, set to begin in 2015. There are also plans for the construction of a new building, the Concordia Lutheran Center, to continue theological education in the future.

These developments in Mozambique will be guided through a new Memorandum of Understanding (Addendum) signed this past July by partners in the TEE program: the IELB, the current TEE students, the Kuwangisana Organization, the Kapasseni Project, the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa, and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

Lutheran missions in Mozambique grew out of the work of retired Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) pastor Rev. Joseph Alfazema and his wife Perpetua. Their work resulted in the creation of the Kapasseni Project, an LCC listed service organization that continues to support missions in Mozambique.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil, the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa, The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, and Lutheran Church–Canada are all members of the International Lutheran Council.

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