They Came Despite Discomfort and Danger
THE date was January 2, 1992. The place—Maxixe, Inhambane Province. The African night-sounds of Mozambique were sharply interrupted as a radio was turned on. “Jehovah’s Witnesses are holding their ‘Lovers of Freedom’ Convention in our province,” the broadcaster announced. “Their purpose is to instruct people about how true freedom can be found in today’s world. All are welcome to attend.”
There in that distant corner of Africa, history was being made! For the first time, a district convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses was being held, and 1,024 persons were there to enjoy it. A few years ago, such an event could never have occurred so openly in Mozambique, since the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses was then under ban. Would you like to hear about the courageous sacrifices that were made to attend this convention?
Inhambane Province, like many other parts of Africa, is exquisitely beautiful. Dhowlike fishing boats with triangular sails ply the sea off its coastline. Coconut palms are plentiful. But an ugly specter stalks the countryside: civil war!
For those lying asleep in a palm frond hut in the early hours of the morning, it is not unusual to be wakened by the dull boom-boom-boom of heavy artillery in the nearby rurals as the bush war rages through the night. All too often it is the innocent citizens who suffer. Sometimes children are seen hobbling along with missing or mutilated limbs. Even some of Jehovah’s Witnesses carry scars on their faces and bodies from the brutalities they have suffered.
Under these conditions the “Lovers of Freedom” Convention was deeply appreciated by all who attended. Despite the possibility of ambushes en route to the convention, many family groups from the rural areas were determined to come. Getting there was not comfortable either, since public transportation is mostly on the back of large, open trucks. Sometimes up to 400 passengers squeeze onto one truck! A number of these trucks line up to form convoys that are accompanied by armed military escorts.
Nora and her three daughters, ages one, three, and six, were one family who risked their lives by traveling this way. She had saved for months in advance to afford the trip. The fact that there were no fixed accommodations available at the convention did not put her off. Along with many others, Nora and her family simply cooked, ate, and slept on the open ground right at the assembly site.
Not even the fierce tropical heat followed by torrential downpours could dampen the unrestrained delight of brothers enjoying a spiritual feast together. They felt that nothing was more important for them than being at that convention. A total of 17 persons symbolized their dedication in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. As the baptism took place, a large throng of joyful onlookers was spontaneously moved to sing praises to Jehovah.
This group of worshipers had truly discovered what it means to become lovers of godly freedom. Hans, a representative from the capital, Maputo, said: “We have just seen the start of a new chapter in the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses in this part of Africa.”