“LET it be clear, Chilaule: This is Mozambique, and you will never be legalized in this country. . . . You can just forget it!” When agents of the now extinct Police for Investigation and Defense of the State (PIDE) angrily said that to one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, it was during the height of Portuguese colonial rule in Mozambique. Domination by the Roman Catholic Church was undisputed.
Yet, Jehovah’s Witnesses did not stop making open expression of their faith in Jehovah, nor did they stop telling others about his loving purpose. Their history in Mozambique gives eloquent proof of the quality of their devotion to Jehovah. They were strengthened by their confidence in the love of God and of his Son, the kind of love that was described by the apostle Paul when he wrote: “Who will separate us from the love of the Christ? Will tribulation or distress or persecution or hunger or nakedness or danger or sword? Just as it is written: ‘For your sake we are being put to death all day long, we have been accounted as sheep for slaughtering.’ . . . I am convinced that neither death nor life . . . nor governments nor things now here nor things to come . . . nor height nor depth nor any other creation will be able to separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Rom. 8:35-39.
The history of Jehovah’s servants in Mozambique is a record of people who, even when stripped of all their material possessions, were rich because of their deep-rooted faith. They saw evidence of God’s love for them, and they had intense love for one another. But before we examine that history, let us take a look at the country itself.
Its Beauty and Peculiarities
Mozambique, which has an estimated population of 17,400,000, is spread out along some 1,550 miles [2,500 km] of the coast of southeast Africa. The climate is basically tropical, and the produce is that of the tropics—coconuts, pineapples, cashews, cassava, and sugarcane. Seafood is also a prominent part of the diet.
The Mozambicans are, in large measure, a happy and good-natured people who love life. From among them have come athletes who are world famous. Of course, these are few in number. But there are upwards of 19,000 others who are coming off winners in a race that involves other values. These are Jehovah’s Witnesses, who have a history in Mozambique that reaches back to 1925.
Seeds of Truth Take Root
It was in that year that Albino Mhelembe, a Mozambican working in the mines of Johannesburg, South Africa, heard the good news of God’s Kingdom. The seeds of Kingdom truth took root in his heart, and soon he got baptized. Returning home, he began to preach to the members of his former church, the Swiss Mission, in Vila Luísa (presently Marracuene), in the southernmost province of Mozambique. The newly interested Africans were very zealous and often traveled 20 miles [30 km] to get to meetings. New groups were started, including one in Lourenço Marques, now Maputo.
About the same time, the work of preaching the Bible’s message was getting started farther to the north. Gresham Kwazizirah, an African in Nyasaland (present-day Malawi), had studied the book The Harp of God with the help of John and Esther Hudson, from South Africa. In 1927, Gresham, accompanied by Biliyati Kapacika, moved to Mozambique in search of employment. They entered the country through the Milange area and proceeded south to Inhaminga, Sofala. There they both found employment with the Trans-Zambézia Railway.
In Inhaminga they also found a congregation of a so-called Watch Tower movement and its pastor, Robinson Kalitera. When Kalitera heard the Biblical teachings set out in The Harp of God, his eyes were opened. Recognizing that he had been mistaken, he and his entire congregation began associating with Jehovah’s organization.
European Field Receives Attention
In 1929 the first European Witnesses, Henry and Edith Myrdal, arrived in Lourenço Marques from South Africa and began witnessing to the Portuguese population. Four years later they were joined by the de Jagers. Many seeds of Bible truth were scattered as a result of their move.
Then in 1935, two more pioneers, Fred Ludick and David Norman, paid a visit to Lourenço Marques. They stayed with the Myrdal family. However, on their fifth day of service, they were abruptly picked up at the Myrdal residence by the secret police, packed into the Black Maria (a van used for transporting criminals), and taken to a high-ranking official, a Mr. Teixeira. When David boldly declared that he knew that the bishop was behind the whole conspiracy, Mr. Teixeira jumped up and roared: “If you were my citizens, I’d have you here and now banned to the Island of Madeira, but because you are South African citizens I’ll have you deported at once!” That same day they were escorted to the border by two carloads of heavily armed policemen. However, on reaching the frontier, the brothers witnessed to their police guards, placed literature with them, and shook hands all around before continuing their journey.
Facing Severe Tests
Janeiro Jone Dede, a humble African farmer, learned the truth in 1939 in Inhaminga. Upon returning to his home in Mutarara, he shared the truth with his relatives, who were members of a religious group that practiced polygamy. He became a special pioneer, and two of his fleshly brothers, Antonio and João, served as regular pioneers. However, in 1946, Janeiro was arrested and sent to Tete, where he was made to clean toilets for the Europeans for four years. He was then transferred to the central jail in Beira, and from there he was transported to Lourenço Marques in a manner both strange and inhuman. He was sent by boat in a box filled with salt water, with only his head exposed. Upon arrival in Lourenço Marques, he emerged naked; his clothes had disintegrated. He was given a sack to cover himself. At his trial he was ordered to abandon his religion and his God, but in a manner similar to that of the apostles of Jesus Christ, he replied: “What matters is to obey God rather than men.”—Acts 5:29.
After the trial, Janeiro was placed in an isolated cell and into a small wooden box, with only a tiny opening through which a few pieces of fruit were shoved daily. When he was taken out one week later, he was practically unable to stand. Along with his fleshly brothers Antonio and João, he was deported to São Tomé e Príncipe to serve a seven-year sentence. During this time the Dede brothers helped to form a congregation on those penal islands. When Portugal Dede, who was in South Africa, became aware of the deportation of his brothers, he returned to Mutarara to care for the congregation until their release from the penal colony.
And what about those Witnesses in the south? Under harsh persecution they too proved to be loyal Witnesses. Among them was Albino Mhelembe, who by then was up in years. In 1957 he and others from Lourenço Marques were also deported to São Tomé, but they continued to witness. Sional Tomo, though sent back from São Tomé after two years, was exiled again, this time to Meconta, in the province of Nampula. He died there, but he left behind a congregation as evidence of his ministry.
“I Will Be a Shepherd of God’s Flock”
That was the way Calvino Machiana answered when his teacher asked the class what they wanted to be when they grew up. Later, in Johannesburg, a former schoolmate witnessed to him. However, it was not until he returned to Lourenço Marques in 1950 that he finally severed ties with the Swiss Mission Church. When the colonial police, the PIDE, arrested and deported the more experienced ones of the group, the ones who were left behind lacked supervision.
Providentially, Nelli Muhlongo, a South African, came to visit relatives in the neighborhood where Machiana was located. Machiana learned that she was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and told her of the interested ones in the area. She called them together and started a group Bible study. There were six who participated in this study group. Sister Muhlongo asked Machiana to conduct, but he refused, saying: “I am not baptized.” She replied: “I am only here visiting. When I leave, you will have to take the lead.” So it was that Machiana came to be “a shepherd of God’s flock” sooner than he had expected.
“Zunguza, . . . Return to Your Country”
In 1953 young Francisco Zunguza left Beira for Cape Town, South Africa. His goal was to gain a scholarship to study medicine in London. Included in his baggage was the book Children, which a friend had given to him as a present. He stayed in Pretoria with an Anglican family, who one day saw him reading the book and asked if he was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He replied that he was not but was just reading the book. However, the family kindly put him in touch with one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who then started a study with him. Two years after he arrived in South Africa, he got baptized.
Brother Zunguza recalls receiving the following counsel from mature brothers in the congregation: “Zunguza, it is best that you return to your country, Mozambique, and work there. You are now baptized. Why pursue other things? It’s not worth it.” (Compare Romans 11:13; Philippians 3:7, 8; 1 John 2:15-17.) Brother Zunguza accepted this counsel and without hesitation returned to Lourenço Marques, where he joined the small group located there. In time, he married and with his wife, Paulina, was used extensively by Jehovah’s organization in the traveling work throughout Mozambique. His love for God has undergone severe tests of endurance. Despite some 14 years in prison, in concentration camps, and under government restriction, he has remained faithful. Understandably, he is loved and greatly appreciated by his Mozambican brothers. As Brother Zunguza himself says, “it was best that I returned to my own country.”
Attempts at Obtaining Legal Recognition
Concerned with the persecution and the deportations by the colonial government, the South Africa branch sent Milton Bartlett, a graduate of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, to Mozambique in 1954. During a stay of just a few days, he was able to speak with the American consul and with a high-ranking Portuguese official, who recommended that he apply to the governor-general for legal recognition. The official said, however, that because of the government’s concordat with the Vatican, even if a certain degree of freedom was granted, Jehovah’s Witnesses would never have the freedom that the Roman Catholic Church enjoyed.
That was followed up the next year when John Cooke, another Gilead graduate, visited the British consul in Mozambique. Even though the consul was friendly, he mentioned that the Catholic cardinal had recently made an attack in the press against all forms of Protestantism. The consul also added that the security police regarded Jehovah’s Witnesses as dangerous. In conclusion, he expressed the opinion that of all the “sects,” to use his expression, the Witnesses had the least chance of gaining legal recognition.
Nevertheless, Brother Cooke’s visit did yield good results. He was able to make a return visit on an interested young Portuguese man by the name of Pascoal Oliveira. Pascoal had been in contact with the truth some years before in Lisbon. A study was arranged with him and his parents. Pascoal later dedicated himself to Jehovah.
In 1956 the Nyasaland branch, which was then caring for the work in Mozambique, began sending special pioneers across the border to preach in villages in the northern region. Others too came to serve where there was a need in Mozambique, and their influence was especially felt in the border regions.
In time, Janeiro Dede and his brothers returned from São Tomé. In São Tomé they had been able to preach freely, but upon returning home, they were given a lashing and were told to stop any preaching activity or they would be deported again, never to return. How like the treatment meted out to the apostles of Jesus Christ by the Jewish Sanhedrin!—Acts 5:40-42.
Janeiro and his brothers did not allow these threats to stop them from serving Jehovah. In March 1957, Janeiro was appointed to be a special pioneer, and later, for more than ten years, he served as a circuit overseer throughout most of the country.
Newly interested ones continued to join the group in Lourenço Marques. One of the homes in which a study was held was that of Ernesto Chilaule, a Mozambican. Antonio Langa also lived there. Of Catholic background, Langa questioned doctrinal points and demanded proof, especially concerning the Trinity. The group feared that he would turn them in to the PIDE (Polícia de Investigação e Defesa do Estado). Langa, however, had a sincere interest in the truth and continued to listen to the study from outside the house, hiding on the staircase. Based on what he heard, he concluded that this was the truth.
One day a brother gave Langa the book “Let God Be True” as a present. On returning home from work the next day, Langa began reading the book at two o’clock in the afternoon and did not put it down until he reached the end, at two o’clock in the morning! Thereafter he began to attend the meetings regularly and insisted that his friend Chilaule also read the book so that they could start preaching.
They chose as their territory the animist Zionist (Mazione) groups in the outlying areas of Lourenço Marques. At night, when these groups met for their rituals to the sound of drums, with dancing, drinking, and music, the two would go to them and, after getting permission from the group leader, deliver a short talk. It was often dawn by the time they returned home. What zeal in spreading their newfound faith!
Baptism in Lourenço Marques
When the group reporting field service had reached 25, a letter was written to the South Africa branch asking for a representative to come to baptize the new ones. The reply that was received directed that Brother Zunguza himself should care for this. On August 24, 1958, at a meeting held in a discreet location, 13 persons were baptized—the first in Lourenço Marques. Among this group were Calvino Machiana, Ernesto Chilaule, and Antonio Langa, along with their respective wives, as well as Paulina Zunguza.
In 1959, after Brother Zunguza had moved to Beira, Brother Chilaule was summoned by the PIDE. They had been intercepting his mail and reading it. He was interrogated for an entire morning. That afternoon, agents went to his house and confiscated all the literature. The brothers and interested ones who saw the police Land-Rover at Chilaule’s home feared that all of them would be arrested. Surprisingly, one week later all the books were returned. That was the encouragement the group needed.
Timely Visits Provide Encouragement
Meanwhile, Pascoal Oliveira and the small group of Europeans in Lourenço Marques received upbuilding visits from Halliday and Joyce Bentley, a missionary couple sent by the Nyasaland branch. Their visits, made twice a year, included Beira, some 450 miles [720 km] north of the capital, as well as other cities. Later on, Milton Henschel, from the world headquarters, also visited them and encouraged them to continue to build with Jehovah’s organization.
The first congregation of Mozambican Witnesses had already been functioning in the capital for a number of years when, in 1963, a congregation was formed for the European publishers there.
Courageously Proclaiming the Good News
After the colonial police, the PIDE, had returned Ernesto Chilaule’s literature, the African group in Lourenço Marques became fearless. On Sundays they would meet near the busy Xipamanine marketplace, under the shade of a tree. Using a sound-amplification system, they would consider the day’s text. The group would then divide into pairs to visit the homes and businesses around the market. At 11:30 a.m. they would return to their original meeting place for breakfast before commencing their widely announced public discourse at noon. Now and then, when some publishers were delayed in returning from their ministry, they would be called over the sound system: “It’s time . . . It’s time . . . Let’s get back because it’s time . . .”
A large crowd would begin to gather. In addition to those who had been personally invited and the brothers themselves, many curious onlookers who were drawn by the amplified sound would come. They would form a large circle in the busy area, and then the discourse would begin. Householders in the area would come out on their verandas to listen, many bringing out their Bibles to follow along as scriptures were read. The brothers continued this arrangement for some years, taking turns between the Xipamanine and Chamanculo marketplaces and Craveiro Lopes Avenue (now Avenida Acordos de Lusaka). This contributed to growth in the 1960’s—from one congregation to four.
His Card First With the PIDE
A person contacted in this way was Micas Mbuluane. When he accepted the book “Let God Be True” and requested a Bible study, he asked: “How much will I have to pay for this?” There is never a charge for such studies, but the brothers suggested that he make his home available on the following Sunday for a discourse. He readily agreed. The speaker was Ernesto Chilaule, and there were some 400 people present. An informer from the PIDE reported the meeting to the police. The police chief summoned Micas to his office. Micas was worried. In his words: “Here I am a double Gentile, having been to only one meeting. What am I going to say?” (Locally, “Gentile” means an unbeliever; “double Gentile” emphasized the unworthiness he felt.) He immediately called the brother who studied with him in order to receive training in the few minutes he had before answering the summons.
Arriving at the police station, Micas was asked what his religion was. He replied without hesitation, “Jehovah’s Witness.” Then Mario Figueira, the police chief, proceeded with the interrogation: “So there was a large meeting held in your home, with a foreign influence, behind closed gates, and with the police locked out. For a certainty it must have had to do with Frelimo.” He was referring to the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frente da Libertação de Moçambique), the movement that at that time was fighting for the independence of Mozambique. Micas wondered how he should respond; this had not been covered in his “training.” He tried to explain diplomatically the entire arrangement that he had seen and participated in for the first time.
“All right, Micas, that’s enough,” Mr. Figueira interrupted. Putting his arms around Micas, he continued: “What you are speaking is the truth. From the beginning of history, God’s servants have been persecuted for speaking the truth, as you have been. I only ask one thing: Next time you hold such a large meeting, let us know so as to avoid any controversies. Go in peace. But tomorrow come back here, and bring two photographs so that we can open a Jehovah’s Witness card on you.” (At that time all responsible ones in the congregation had a card on file with the PIDE.) Micas likes to say with a good chuckle: “Me, a double Gentile, I had a card with the PIDE before I had one with the congregation!” Sad to say, this sympathetic treatment by agents of the police was not usual.
Events in Malawi Benefit Work in the North
Three of the “Disciple-Making” District Assemblies that took place in Malawi in 1967 were held near the border of Mozambique, thus making it easier for some Mozambican brothers to attend. But in October, President H. Kamuzu Banda declared Jehovah’s Witnesses a prohibited society in Malawi. Savage persecution broke out against them. Throughout the country, their property was destroyed, they were beaten, some were killed, over a thousand Christian women were raped. In desperation, many survivors sought refuge in Mozambique. Contrary to what might have been expected, the Portuguese authorities received them hospitably. Food was provided for them at two large camps near Mocuba, in the province of Zambézia. In one of these camps alone, there were 2,234 of our brothers. Their presence contributed much to the spreading of the Kingdom message in the north.
In Beira, the second-largest city in the country, the Mozambican Witnesses enjoyed greater freedom during this time than did those in the capital. They were able to hold their meetings but were restricted as to house-to-house preaching, especially in the European residential areas.
A Controversial Notice Causes Divisions
In 1968 the elders in Lourenço Marques received a summons from the PIDE. They were presented with a “Notice” that stated that Jehovah’s Witnesses were prohibited from proselytizing and that they should meet only with those of their own family. This “Notice” was to be signed as confirmation that the elders had received it.
Having understood that this did not in any way constitute a renouncing of their faith but was merely an acknowledgment of a notice, the elders signed. However, they were determined to continue to obey the Biblical injunctions to meet together and to preach, though doing so discreetly and in smaller groups. (Matt. 10:16; 24:14; 28:18-20; Heb. 10:24, 25) Regardless of their intent, a division resulted among the brothers. Some believed that the elders had compromised by signing this document.
In an effort to prove to the dissident group that they had not acted out of fear and that no compromise had been made, the elders formed a committee headed by Ernesto Chilaule. They approached the PIDE authorities to inquire as to the reason for the ban. “What is wrong with Jehovah’s Witnesses?” they asked. They were told: “We have no problem with you, but this religion is banned in Mozambique. Even if you do not do anything wrong, the government does not authorize this religion.” The officials added that if anyone wanted to practice this religion, he would have to go to another country.
The response given by Brother Chilaule and his companions was firm: “If the government decides that teaching people not to steal, not to kill, and not to do anything bad is wrong, then let us be arrested. We will continue to teach the truth, and that is exactly what we will do when we leave here.” These expressions again remind one of Jesus’ apostles before the Sanhedrin.—Acts 4:19, 20.
Did this courageous action reconcile the dissidents? Sad to say, no. Despite all the help offered them, including repeated visits by a special representative from the South Africa branch, they continued to pursue an independent course, calling themselves “Free Witnesses of Jehovah.” They had to be disfellowshipped for apostasy. The Society later wrote that adopting a cautious course of action in the face of persecution is not an indication of fear but is in harmony with Jesus’ counsel at Matthew 10:16.
PIDE Strikes a Hard Blow
Less than a year after that rebellion, the PIDE arrested 16 brothers who were in positions of responsibility. Among these were Ernesto Chilaule, Francisco Zunguza, and Calvino Machiana. It was on this occasion that agents of the PIDE directed to Brother Chilaule the words at the beginning of this account.
More arrests ensued. How did the PIDE get the names and addresses of the appointed servants? During a raid on Brother Chilaule’s house, on a table they had found a file containing the Society’s letters with the names of the appointed servants, as well as the manual Preaching Together in Unity. With this information in their possession, they specifically searched out the congregation servant, the assistant congregation servant, the Watchtower Study conductor, the Congregation Book Study conductor, and others. These were thrown into the Machava prison without trial—condemned to two years of imprisonment.
The South Africa branch encouraged the brothers in prison and provided help for their dependent families. Amnesty International made efforts to get the brothers released as well as providing some support for their dependent families. The brothers in Mozambique who were free arranged to provide food to those in need. Alita, Brother Chilaule’s daughter, says of this arrangement: “We never lacked our daily food. Sometimes it was even of a better quality than what we had been accustomed to.”
The Preaching Work Continues
Despite the “troublesome season,” Jehovah’s people could not stop their life-giving work of preaching the good news of the Kingdom. (2 Tim. 4:1, 2) Fernando Muthemba, who became one of the pillars of the work in this country, recalls that in his congregation both the congregation servant and the assistant congregation servant were arrested. Since he was the Bible study servant, it became necessary for him to take the lead. The Society instructed that a series of discourses be given based on the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. Using appropriate caution, he arranged for these to be given at night, at the book study groups. Each speaker would give his discourse to two groups every night. Thus many invited ones received this spiritual food, and their appreciation for the truth increased.
Intensive training was given to new ones so that they would be effective in their ministry and courageous in the face of persecution. Filipe Matola describes how he benefited from early training: “We were trained to share with others what we were learning, proving skillfully from the Bible all that we taught. After two weeks of study, we would start preaching informally. In the third week, we would begin bringing other interested ones to share in the study. In the fourth week, we began preaching from house to house. New ones were encouraged to endure under tests and imprisonment and to be fearless. Only one brother in a position of responsibility in the congregation was free, and he would say: ‘I do not know when I will be imprisoned. That is why you should all learn how to care for the congregation.’” When Brother Matola too was sent to Machava prison, his zeal did not cool off.
Preaching and Meeting in Prison
As soon as possible, the group in Machava prison organized all the meetings, with a view to keeping spiritually strong. How were they able to do this, since they were under guard? It was like this, said Filipe Matola: “We would take advantage of the occasions when we had access to the prison yard. The one assigned to give a talk in the Theocratic Ministry School would walk around with four others, as if they were strolling and having a conversation. He would then leave this group and do the same with a second, and so on, until he had given the talk to each group.”
Initially they tried holding the book study in the cells with the aid of a publication, but their study was discovered, and they were prohibited from continuing. They changed their method. Luis Bila, one of the other prisoners, recalls: “We would prepare individually, and then at a prearranged day and hour and without a publication in hand, we would walk around using the same method as for the Theocratic Ministry School, each one bringing out the main points of the material. This method was highly advantageous because we had to memorize the material, so that we would never forget it.”
Family members who were free aided by hiding literature under food and smuggling it into the prison whenever they came to visit. In this way the brothers were fed physically and spiritually.
There were also occasions when other prisoners were able to benefit from the meetings. On one occasion when 3 brothers shared one wing of the prison with 70 other prisoners, a public discourse was given. One brother served as chairman, and the second offered prayer. The three then sang, and the discourse was given. Attendance totaled 73.
Ernesto Chilaule shared his cell with a member of Frelimo who had been arrested by the PIDE for fighting for independence. Friendly conversations and a witness about the hope of the Kingdom of God were shared. They would meet again later under different circumstances.
Eager to Share the Truth in Inhambane
Inhambane, one of the southern provinces, became a stage for intensive activity carried on by a humble bricklayer. This man, Arão Francisco, after hearing a discourse in 1967 in Lourenço Marques, did not doubt that he had found the truth. He felt compelled to share with people back home what he had heard. This he did. After his returning to Lourenço Marques, he was baptized at about the same time that the large group of elders was arrested by the PIDE. Arão felt responsible for the interest he had stimulated among his own people and feared that he would be imprisoned before he could help them further. Some of the brothers tried to dissuade him, saying that he was still too new in the truth to go out on his own. He waited for a few months but could no longer resist a compelling desire to witness to his people. He gathered his wife and two children, and they started back for Inhambane. Beginning with only his family, he held all the meetings.
He spread the seeds of truth in the city of Inhambane, in Maxixe, and in other towns in the region, laying the foundation for congregations found there today. When a Catholic priest tried to intervene, saying, “You cannot form any groups here,” Arão courageously responded: “There are no limits for the good news that I bring. It can go anywhere.” And, indeed, as shown at Acts 1:8, that is what Jesus said would happen.
The local priest called a meeting to decide whether Arão should be expelled from the area. Arão asserted that he would not move. Not surprisingly, the priest called in his favorite ally, the PIDE.
PIDE Hunts a Preacher-Builder
One Sunday, when Arão was visiting other groups farther away, four PIDE agents attended the meeting in Inhambane. They claimed to be Jehovah’s Witnesses who were passing through. At the end of the meeting, however, they identified themselves and demanded to see Arão. Not finding him, they arrested eight of the brothers who were present.
Since Arão was building a house for the administrator of Ngweni, the agents went looking for him there. Arão heard the administrator tell them: “I cannot allow him to go because of religion. First he has to finish the work on my house.” The agents then asked: “You mean he is the one building this house?” “Yes,” the administrator replied, “and he also built the house in Maxixe and many others. This work that he’s doing on my house, no one around here knows how to do. He built the registration office in Maxixe, and he has yet to build the travelers’ lodge.” After hearing such a résumé, the agents said: “We will return to get Arão to build the house for the public works administrator.”
Arão was arrested and was used for the construction of various projects for the government. But even as a prisoner, he had many opportunities to witness.
An official of the PIDE would call Arão to his office at night to help him to study the Truth book. When other people arrived, the official, Mr. Neves, would quickly pick up some documents and pretend that he was conducting an interrogation. One day he said: “Arão, with what you have been teaching me, I’m converted. All my life, from the time I was in Lisbon until now, I have spoken with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Now when I retire shortly, I will become one of them. But before I leave I must free you. Work at finishing your present job, and I will speak to the inspector general about getting another bricklayer. To avoid any problems, I will not go back to Lisbon, but I will sell everything I have and go to America. Do you hear me, Arão? Don’t say anything to anyone.”
Mr. Neves was intent on keeping his promise and even freed the brothers imprisoned in Inhambane. However, freeing Arão was no easy task. The PIDE had come to regard him as their builder. Mr. Neves, by this time, had already retired but would go every day to see his friend and appeal to the inspector general to free Arão. As he had promised, only after Arão had been freed did Mr. Neves continue on his way. We wonder where Mr. Neves is now. Did he keep the rest of his promise? We sincerely hope so.
Political Changes Bring Temporary Relief
On May 1, 1974, a shout of joy was heard throughout the Machava prison. The “Carnation Revolution” (Revolução dos Cravos) of April 25 had put an end to dictatorship in Portugal, bringing about dramatic changes in her overseas colonies. On May 1, amnesty was granted to all political prisoners. Jehovah’s Witnesses, having been imprisoned for their political neutrality, were included in this amnesty. Mozambique now prepared to become an independent nation.
On being released, the brothers were encouraged by seeing increases in the number of Jehovah’s servants. They were also pleased to observe how strong spiritually the ones were who had remained free. (Compare Philippians 1:13, 14.) Taking advantage of their new freedom, they held a circuit assembly in grand fashion. Adding to their delight was the presence of two South African brothers dear to them—Frans Muller, South Africa Branch Committee coordinator, who had shown keen interest in the welfare of the brothers in Mozambique, and Elias Mahenye, who had served for many years as circuit overseer in southern Mozambique.
At this assembly those who had been imprisoned were encouraged to work in union with Jehovah’s rapidly advancing organization. Brother Mahenye reminded the brothers: “PIDE has disappeared, but its grandfather, Satan the Devil, is still around. Strengthen yourselves and build courage.” He asked those who had been in prison to stand. There were several dozen. Then he asked those who had come into the truth during the brothers’ period of imprisonment to stand. Half the audience of approximately 2,000 stood up. Brother Mahenye concluded: “There is no reason for you to fear.”
These were timely words of encouragement. Dark clouds were forming on the horizon, and a supreme test of love for God awaited all of Jehovah’s people in Mozambique.
The year 1974 passed rapidly. During that year, 1,209 were baptized; 2,303 in 1975. Many who are elders today were baptized at that time.
However, revolutionary fervor was taking hold of the country. The slogan “Viva Frelimo” (Long Live Frelimo) became a symbol of the ten-year struggle for freedom and independence. There was nationwide euphoria, and to the majority, it seemed unimaginable for anyone not to take part. The prevailing sentiments were about to bring down a curtain on the short-lived freedom of the brothers, and it would be a curtain of iron.
Orders to Arrest
As preparations for independence day, June 25, 1975, began to take form, the neutral stand of Jehovah’s Witnesses became ever more evident. Responsible brothers tried to get an interview with the new government, but without success. The recently installed president practically gave an order when he shouted during a radio discourse: “We will put a definite end to these Jehovah’s Witnesses . . . We believe that they are agents left behind by Portuguese colonialism; they are former PIDE . . . Therefore, we propose that the people arrest them immediately.”
The storm had broken. So-called dynamizing groups were mobilized in the neighborhoods, with one common objective, to arrest all of Jehovah’s Witnesses—at work, at home, on the streets, at any time of day or night, throughout the country. Everyone was compelled to appear at neighborhood meetings held at workplaces and in public areas, and anyone not joining with the crowd in shouting “Viva Frelimo” was identified as an enemy. Such is the spirit that prevails when nationalistic passions rise to fever pitch.
Yet, it is well-known that Jehovah’s Witnesses, though neutral as to political matters, uphold law and order, treat officials with respect, are honest, and are conscientious about payment of taxes. Through the years, the Mozambican government would confirm this fact. In the meantime, however, the situation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Mozambique proved to be like that of the early Christians who were put to death in the Roman arenas for refusing to burn incense to the emperor, and like that of their brothers in Germany who were thrown into concentration camps for refusing to shout “Heil Hitler.” Worldwide, Jehovah’s Witnesses are known for their refusal to compromise their obedience to Jehovah and to Jesus Christ, who said of his followers: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.”—John 17:16.
Mass Deportation—To Where?
In short order the prisons in Mozambique became overloaded with thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Many family members became separated. The intense propaganda generated such hostility against the Witnesses that, although the elders did not encourage it, many preferred to turn themselves in, feeling more secure with their brothers and relatives who were already in prison.
From October 1975 on, the Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) and South Africa branches received a flood of reports from circuit overseers, various responsible committees, and individual brothers, conveying a dismal picture. These, in turn, were passed on to the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. As soon as the worldwide brotherhood received news of the dire situation of the brothers in Mozambique, incessant prayers in behalf of these persecuted brothers went up to heaven from all parts of the earth, in harmony with the counsel at Hebrews 13:3. Only Jehovah could sustain them, and this he did in his own way.
Most likely it was not the intention of the higher governmental authorities to inflict on Jehovah’s Witnesses the brutal sort of treatment that was actually experienced. However, some of the lesser authorities, in a determined effort to change deep-seated, conscientious convictions, tried with violent means to squeeze out a “Viva.” One of many examples is that of Julião Cossa of Vilanculos, who was beaten for three hours in an effort to make him compromise his faith, but to no avail. When these tormentors did occasionally succeed in getting a forced “Viva” from someone, they still were not satisfied. They would demand that the Witness also shout “Down with Jehovah” and “Down with Jesus Christ.” The atrocities suffered by our brothers are too numerous to relate and too horrible to describe. (See Awake!, January 8, 1976, pages 16-26.) However, they knew that, as the apostle Paul wrote to the first-century Philippian Christians, their courageous stand in the face of tribulation and persecution was proof of the depth of their love for God and gave assurance that He would reward them with salvation.—Phil. 1:15-29.
The suffocating conditions resulting from overcrowding in the prisons, aggravated by filth and lack of food, caused the death of more than 60 children in a period of four months in the prisons of Maputo (formerly Lourenço Marques). The brothers who were still free did their best to try to sustain their brothers in prison. During the final months of 1975, some Witnesses sold their belongings in order to continue to provide food for their imprisoned brothers. Yet, identifying themselves with those in prison meant jeopardizing their own freedom, and many were arrested while tending to their brothers’ needs. This was the sort of love that Jesus said his true followers would have for one another.—John 13:34, 35; 15:12, 13.
Paradoxically, during this same period, some Witnesses in the province of Sofala were treated quite differently. Upon arrest they were taken to the luxurious Grande Hotel in the city of Beira and given food while waiting to be taken to their final destination.
What destination? This was a mystery, even for the drivers of the many buses and trucks that would transport them.
Destination—Carico, Milange District
Between September 1975 and February 1976, all of Jehovah’s Witnesses who were detained, whether in prisons or in open fields, were transferred. The unrevealed destination was yet another weapon used by the police and other local authorities to try to intimidate the brothers. “You’ll be eaten by ferocious animals,” they were told. “It is an unknown place in the north, from where you’ll never return.” Unbelieving family members joined in a chorus of weeping and lamentation, insisting that the believers capitulate. However, very few compromised. Even newly interested ones courageously threw in their lot with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Such was the case of Eugênio Macitela, a zealous supporter of political ideals. His interest had been aroused upon hearing that the prisons were full of Jehovah’s Witnesses. To find out who they were, he had requested a Bible study, only to be arrested and deported one week later. He was among the first to be baptized in the concentration camps, and today he serves as a circuit overseer.
The Witnesses showed no sign of fear or apprehension when they were taken from the prisons and loaded into buses, trucks, and even airplanes. One of the most impressive caravans left Maputo on November 13, 1975. There were 14 buses, or machibombos as they are called here. The seemingly inexplicable joy of the brothers moved the soldiers in charge to ask: “How can you be so happy when you don’t even know where you are going? Where you will be going is not good at all.” But the joy of the brothers was not dampened. While unbelieving relatives cried, fearing for the future of their loved ones, the Witnesses sang Kingdom songs, such as the one entitled “Bravely Press On.”
At each city along the way, the drivers telephoned their superiors to find out their destination, and they were ordered to advance to the next stop. Some of the drivers lost their way. Finally, though, they arrived at Milange, a town and district seat in the province of Zambézia, 1,100 miles [1,800 km] from Maputo. There the brothers were received by the administrator with a “welcoming talk,” a diatribe filled with threats.
They were then taken 20 miles [30 km] to the east, to a place on the banks of the Munduzi River, the area known as Carico, still in the district of Milange. Thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses from Malawi, who had fled a wave of persecution in their own country, had been living there as refugees since 1972. The unexpected arrival of the Mozambican brothers was a surprise for the Malawians. And it was a surprise for the Mozambicans to be received by brothers speaking a strange language. It was, however, a most pleasant surprise, and the Malawian brothers received the Mozambican Witnesses with such warmth and hospitality that the drivers were impressed.—Compare Hebrews 13:1, 2.
The district administrator was the man who had been in Machava prison with the brothers years before. On receiving each group, he would ask: “Where are Chilaule and Zunguza? I know they will be coming.” When Brother Chilaule finally did arrive, the administrator said to him: “Chilaule, I don’t really know how to receive you. We are in different camps now.” He held to his ideologies and did not make matters easier in any way for his former cellmates. He was, as he said of himself, “a goat governing among the sheep.”
Loving Support From the International Brotherhood
The international brotherhood of Jehovah’s Witnesses expressed their loving concern for the brothers in Mozambique. They inundated the country’s postal system with messages appealing to the Mozambican authorities. Workmates at a telecommunications firm used to ridicule Augusto Novela, a Witness, and say that Jehovah’s Witnesses were just a local sect. But they were silenced when the telex machines began receiving messages from all over the world. The overwhelming response testified to the fact that Jehovah’s people are truly united by love.
After about ten months, a government minister, on a visit to inspect the camps, acknowledged that the brothers had been imprisoned because of false accusations. However, it was still too early to expect freedom.
The Challenges of a New Life
A new chapter had opened in the history of Jehovah’s people in Mozambique. The Malawian brothers in the area had organized themselves into eight villages. They had gained much experience in adapting to a new life-style in the bush and had developed their skills in building houses, Kingdom Halls, and even Assembly Halls. Those who did not have prior experience in agriculture also learned much about that sort of work. Many of the Mozambicans, never having planted a machamba (cultivated field), were about to experience for the first time hard work in the fields. In the first few months, the new arrivals benefited from the loving hospitality of their Malawian brothers, who took them into their homes and shared their food. But now it was time for the Mozambican brothers to build their own villages.
That was not an easy task. The rainy season had begun, and the region was generously blessed with water from heaven as never before. However, when the Munduzi River, which cut through the center of the camp, overflowed in a region normally afflicted with drought, the brothers saw this as a symbol of how Jehovah would care for them. Indeed, in the 12 years that followed, the river did not once dry up as it had done before. On the other hand, “the muddy, slippery terrain, caused naturally by the rainy weather, made for an additional challenge to former city dwellers,” as Brother Muthemba recalls. Furthermore, it was not easy for the women to cross the river while balancing themselves on improvised bridges that were nothing more than tree trunks. “For men who were accustomed to offices, our challenge was to go into the dense woods and cut down trees to build our houses,” recalls Xavier Dengo. These conditions turned out to be a test for which some were not prepared.
We recall that in the days of Moses, complaining started among “the mixed crowd” that accompanied the Israelites out of Egypt and into the wilderness and that it then spread to the Israelites themselves. (Num. 11:4) Similarly, among those who were not baptized Witnesses, a group of complainers manifested themselves right from the beginning, and some of the baptized ones joined them. They approached the administrator and let him know that they were willing to pay any price to be sent back home as quickly as possible. But this did not result in any prompt homeward trip as they had hoped. They were kept in Milange, and many of them became like a stone in the shoe for the faithful ones. They became known as “the rebels.” They lived among the faithful brothers but were always ready to betray them. Their love for God had not held up under test.
Why the Halls Fell
The Malawian brothers in the camps had enjoyed considerable freedom of worship. When the Mozambican brothers arrived, they initially benefited from this. Each day, they would gather in one of the large Assembly Halls for a consideration of the day’s text. It was often a Malawian circuit overseer who presided. “It was strengthening,” recalls Filipe Matola, “after months of imprisonment and traveling, to hear spiritual exhortations in the company of so many brothers.” However, this relative freedom did not last.
On January 28, 1976, government authorities, accompanied by soldiers, went through the villages and announced: “You are forbidden to worship or pray in these halls or anywhere else in the villages. The halls will be nationalized and used by the government as it sees fit.” They ordered the brothers to bring out all their books, and then they confiscated these. Of course, the brothers hid what they could. Following this, flags were raised in front of each hall, and soldiers were stationed as guards to ensure compliance with the decree.
Although the halls were built of stakes and appeared rustic, they were quite strong. Yet, in a relatively short time, all of them began to disintegrate. Xavier Dengo remembers that on one occasion he and the administrator had just arrived at one of the villages when the hall actually began to collapse, even though it was not raining nor was the wind blowing. The administrator exclaimed: “What is going on? You people are bad. Now that we have nationalized the halls, they’re all falling down!” On a later occasion, the administrator said to one of the elders: “You must have prayed for the halls to fall down, . . . and your God made them fall.”
Organization in the Villages
Nine Mozambican villages sprang up parallel to and facing the existing eight Malawian villages. These two groups, united by the “pure language,” would live together for the next 12 years. (Zeph. 3:9) The area of each of the villages was divided into blocks, lined by well-maintained streets, each block encompassing eight plots of approximately 80 feet by 110 feet [25 m by 35 m]. The congregations were grouped according to blocks. After the ban had been proclaimed in the camps, they could not build conspicuous Kingdom Halls. So, instead, they built special L-shaped houses to serve the purpose. A widow or other single person would live in these to give the appearance that they were residences. Then, when meetings were held, the speaker would stand at the corner of the “L” and thus be able to face the audience on either side.
Around the perimeter of each of the villages were its machambas. Each congregation also tended a “congregational machamba,” which all shared in cultivating as their contribution toward congregational needs.
The size of each village varied according to the population. A 1979 census showed that Mozambican Village No. 7 was the smallest, with just 122 publishers and 2 congregations, while No. 9, the largest and most distant, had 1,228 publishers and 34 congregations. The entire camp had 11 circuits. This whole camp, composed of the Malawian and Mozambican villages and dependent areas, came to be known to the brothers as the Circle of Carico. The last census we have on record is that of 1981, when the population of the entire Circle of Carico was 22,529, of which 9,000 were active publishers. Later there was further growth. (The then president, Samora Machel, declared the population to be 40,000, according to the brochure Consolidemos Aquilo Que nos Une [Consolidating That Which Unites Us], pages 38-9.)
Chingo’s Time—A Difficult Time
Of course, Jehovah’s Witnesses had not been taken to Milange simply to become an agricultural colony. It was not without reason that the government called the camp Reeducation Center of Carico, as is evidenced by the administrative center in the middle of Malawian Camp No. 4, manned by government staff, with offices and residences. There were also a camp commander, his soldiers, and a prison where many of our brothers were incarcerated for varying periods, according to the decisions of the commander.
The most notorious commander of all was Chingo. His two-year period as commander became known as Chingo’s time. Determined to break the uncompromising stand of Jehovah’s Witnesses and “reeducate” them, he resorted to every psychological tactic known to him, as well as to violence, in order to achieve his aim. Although having virtually no formal education, he was a fluent and persuasive speaker, with a penchant for illustrations. He used his gift to try to indoctrinate the brothers with his political philosophy and to weaken their love for God. One of his schemes was “the five-day seminar.”
“The Five-Day Seminar”
The commander announced that a “five-day seminar” had been scheduled and that the Witnesses should choose the most capable men from the villages, ones who would be able to pass on information of interest. These would be sent to a seminar to be held in some distant location. The brothers refused, doubting his intentions. However, “the rebels” who were present pointed out the brothers in positions of responsibility, including the circuit overseers. Among these were Francisco Zunguza, Xavier Dengo, and Luis Bila. A truck left carrying 21 men and 5 women. They traveled hundreds of miles to the north, to an area north of Lichinga, in the province of Niassa. There the men were thrown into a “reeducation camp” with criminals, while the women were taken to a camp for prostitutes.
Here they were subjected to severe tortures, including what their tormentors called “Christ fashion.” The victim’s arms were held straight out to the sides, as if on a cross, and then a stake was placed parallel to the arms. Nylon line was wrapped tightly around the arms and the stake for the entire length of both arms, from the fingertips of one hand to the fingertips of the other. With circulation completely cut off from the hands, arms, and shoulders, he was kept in this position for a considerable length of time in a futile effort to squeeze out of him a “Viva Frelimo.” Because of this cruel and inhuman treatment, Luis Bila, a faithful elder, suffered a heart attack and died.
The sisters were subjected to a treatment of “exercises,” requiring that they run almost endlessly, sometimes into and out of water; perform somersaults up and down mountains without letup; and be subjected to countless other indignities. What a seminar! What “reeducation”!
In spite of this cruel treatment, the majority of these brothers kept their integrity; only two compromised. One of the brothers managed to send a letter to the Minister of the Interior in Maputo, exposing this treatment. It had an effect. The governor of Niassa came in person by helicopter. He immediately stripped the commander and his aides of all authority and declared: “These can consider themselves under arrest for practicing acts that Frelimo never intended.” When the other prisoners who had suffered similar treatment heard this, they shouted for joy, saying: “Thanks to you, we’ve been freed,” to which the brothers replied: “Give thanks to Jehovah.”
After a while they were transferred to other camps, where the treatment consisted of only forced labor. In all, it was almost two years before they were returned to Carico—and Chingo was there to receive them. He continued to make unsuccessful attempts to weaken their loyalty to Jehovah by conducting similar “seminars.” Finally, when about to leave Carico, he gave a discourse in his characteristic illustrative style. Admitting defeat, he said: “A man applies many blows to a tree, and not having many more left to fell it, he is replaced by another who, with just one blow, completes the job. I applied many blows but failed to finish. Others will come after me. They will use other methods. Do not give in. . . . Continue firm in your stand. . . . If not, they will receive all the glory.” By keeping their love for Jehovah strong, however, the brothers endeavored to make sure that only Jehovah would receive glory.—Rev. 4:11.
Those Who Remained in the Cities
Were all the Mozambican Witnesses in prison or in the detention camps at this time? Even though their enemies searched them out with a fine-tooth comb at workplaces and in virtually every neighborhood, there were some who escaped. Not everyone was eager for them to be sent to prison or to be otherwise punished. But the Witnesses were constantly in danger of being apprehended. Everyday activities such as buying foodstuffs or getting water at a public faucet were risky.
Lisete Maienda, who remained in Beira, recalls: “I was denied a card necessary to buy food because I did not go to the required political meetings. Happily, a friendly shopkeeper would call me in private and sell me a few kilograms of flour.” (Compare Revelation 13:16, 17.) Brother Maienda was fired from his job at the port of Beira six times, but each time, his employers would come back looking for him because his professional qualifications were so valuable to his company.
Although witnessing and meeting together were high-risk affairs, the light did not go out in any of the principal cities of the country. The Maienda family in Beira were joined by a group of youths in the Esturro neighborhood who were courageous and thirsting for the truth. Together they kept the light shining in the capital of Sofala Province. The zeal of the group in Beira was so great that, in spite of the danger, they would cross the border into Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in order to obtain spiritual food.
The branch office in Salisbury (now Harare) worked boldly and untiringly to care for all the brothers who were scattered about in the northern region. Thus, when news reached the office that a group was still meeting in Tete, the branch dispatched two brothers to give attention to the needs of that group, since, like Epaphroditus, a fellow worker of the apostle Paul, they were longing to see the brothers. (Phil. 2:25-30) One of these brothers was the much loved Redson Zulu, known throughout the north for his stirring talks in the Chichewa language. At great risk he and his companion traveled through the bush by bicycle to minister to their isolated Mozambican brothers.
Similarly, the light of truth continued to burn in the province of Nampula. A group of unbaptized ones remained there and, in their own way, continued to hold meetings. At first, the attendance was 8, but this soon grew to 50. When a brother was sent from Carico to be hospitalized in Nampula, he got in contact with one member of that unbaptized group, a person who worked in the hospital. The brother sent word to the Society, and the branch office instructed him to study with the group in order to prepare for baptism those who were ready. Five got baptized. They received further help when a Witness from the Netherlands who was in Nampula on secular work opened up his home for meetings. In time, some of that group qualified to shoulder responsibility as elders.
Relief at the Central Prison
In 1975, one group of prisoners after another was sent up north from the prisons of Maputo, while others kept arriving to take their place. Then, about the end of February 1976, the government decided to stop its ceaseless transporting of Witness prisoners.
A few months later, President Samora Machel paid a visit to the central prison of Maputo. Sister Celeste Muthemba, one of the prisoners, seized the opportunity to give a witness to the president. He listened in a friendly manner, but after his departure the sister was strongly reprimanded by the prison authorities. However, one week later an order came through for her release, along with a document that guaranteed her protection from further harassment for political reasons and the right to her former employment in the central hospital. Furthermore, authorization was given for the release of all of Jehovah’s Witnesses from that prison.
Those in Maputo organized themselves into congregations. Before long, 24 congregations were formed into a circuit stretching from Maputo northeast to Inhambane. Fidelino Dengo was assigned to visit them. Additionally, the South Africa branch appointed a committee of elders to care for the spiritual needs of these groups. They developed cautious methods of informal preaching. They made arrangements for the brothers to attend conventions in neighboring Swaziland. And right in Mozambique, when some returned from Carico, the brothers held assemblies disguised as “welcome home” parties.
And in Carico? What were the arrangements for spiritual activities there?
“O.N.” Committee Supervises the Camps
The Malawian brothers, under the oversight of the Zimbabwe branch, had formed a special committee to care for spiritual needs in the camps. When the brothers from the south of Mozambique were brought to Carico, they too benefited from the arrangement already operating there. Two of the brothers from the south, Fernando Muthemba and Filipe Matola, were added to the committee.
The O.N. Committee (Ofisi ya Ntchito: Service Office, in Chichewa) corresponded with the Society and organized assemblies and conventions. They compiled reports for the whole camp and periodically met with the elders in the villages. They also supervised the work of the 11 circuits. Theirs was a heavy responsibility, particularly so because of the precarious relationship of the brothers with the government authorities.
Preaching and Making Disciples in the Camps
A considerable number of interested ones and Bible students who accompanied the brothers to Milange in 1975 were baptized in November 1976.
Many who had been regular pioneers continued preaching right on through their imprisonment and transfer to the camps. But to whom did they preach? In the beginning they studied with those not yet baptized, including children of the brothers. A family with many children was viewed as a “good territory.” The parents studied with some of the children, and the rest were divided up among the single publishers. In this way many kept active in the disciple-making work.
However, this was not enough for those who truly had the evangelizing spirit. A zealous pioneer began spying out territory outside the camps. Of course, it had its risks because of the limitations imposed by the camp authorities. He realized that he would have to establish some pretext for leaving the camps. What could he use? Having prayed for Jehovah’s direction, he decided to sell salt and other consumable goods to people outside the camps. He asked a high price so as to avoid any real transaction, while creating an opening to give a witness. The method caught on. In time, many of these “vendors” could be seen offering their products outside the camps. Covering the scattered territory involved traveling long distances, leaving at dawn and returning at night. It was sparse “vegetation” for so many “locusts.” But in this manner, many persons living in the area learned the truth.
“Production Center of Zambézia”
Because of the diligent work of these industrious “reeducation students” and the blessed rains watering the region, agricultural production flourished. The Witnesses in the camps came to have bountiful harvests of corn, rice, manioc, millet, sweet potatoes, sugarcane, beans, and local fruit such as mafura. The grain stores of the Circle of Carico were overflowing. The raising of fowl and small animals such as chickens, ducks, pigeons, rabbits, and pigs enriched their diet with protein. The hunger they had experienced initially became a thing of the past. In contrast, the rest of the country was experiencing the greatest food shortage in its history.—Compare Amos 4:7.
In recognition of this agricultural success story, the government began to call the area of these camps the “Production Center of Zambézia.” With income received from sale of excess produce, the brothers were able to acquire clothing and even some radios and bicycles. Though prisoners, they were well equipped because of their diligence. They scrupulously complied with the government’s tax laws; indeed, they were among the major taxpayers in the region. In harmony with Biblical standards, conscientious payment of taxes, even under these circumstances, was one of the requirements for anyone to be considered for any privileges in the congregation.—Rom. 13:7; 1 Tim. 3:1, 8, 9.
There occurred in Carico a mutual exchange of skills and culture. Many learned new skills, such as bricklaying, carpentry, and sculpting in wood. Together they developed abilities in toolmaking, working in cast iron, building quality furniture, and more. Besides their benefiting personally from skills learned or refined, they were provided another source of income because of this activity.
The greatest challenge in cultural exchange involved language. The Mozambicans learned Chichewa, spoken by the Malawians. This became the principal language spoken in the camps, and most of the literature available was in Chichewa. Slowly and gracefully, the Malawians also learned Tsonga and its variations, spoken in the south of Mozambique. Many also learned English and Portuguese, which would prove valuable to them later in special privileges of service. One elder recalls: “You could meet a brother or sister speaking your language fluently, and you would not know if he was Mozambican or Malawian.”
How Did Spiritual Food Get Into the Camps?
It came from Zambia via Malawi. By what means? One circuit overseer replied: “Only Jehovah knows.” In the camps the O.N. Committee would assign young Malawians, many of them pioneers, to cross the border on bicycles and, at a predetermined location, meet those who had been sent to deliver correspondence and literature. In this way the congregations were supplied with up-to-date spiritual food.
In addition to this, the O.N. Committee members would cross the border and make their way to Zambia or Zimbabwe to benefit from the annual visits of zone overseers sent out by the Governing Body. By these and other means, the brothers in Carico maintained strong ties with Jehovah’s visible organization and thus remained united in his worship.
Congregation meetings required special arrangements. Because the brothers were constantly watched, many of the meetings were held at dawn or earlier. Those in attendance would gather outside, as if eating porridge in the yard, while the speaker stationed himself inside the house. Some meetings were held in riverbeds or inside natural craters. However, preparations for a convention involved much more work.
Conventions—How They Were Organized
After receiving from the Society all the material for the program, the O.N. Committee would withdraw to Village No. 9 for several weeks. In this relatively remote place, they would work through the nights under the light of a lantern, translating talk outlines, recording dramas, and appointing speakers. Particularly useful was a manual duplicating machine that they had received from Zimbabwe. Their work would not stop until the entire program for the series of six conventions was complete.
In addition to this, a team was assigned to find and prepare an appropriate location to serve as the convention site. This could be on the side of a mountain or in the woods, but not less than six miles [10 km] away from the camps. Everything had to be done without the knowledge of the authorities or “the rebels.” Small portable radios were borrowed, and with these a sound system was set up for audiences of over 3,000. There was always a stream nearby, where a baptismal pool could be prepared by building a dam. Stage, auditorium, cleaning, maintenance, were all arranged for beforehand. Finally, the convention site would be ready—at a different location each year.
An arrangement was worked out that would allow all in the villages to attend. It functioned well because the brothers demonstrated a wonderful spirit of cooperation. They could not all attend at the same time; a deserted village would have attracted the attention of the authorities. Therefore, neighbors took turns—one household attending on one day, while the other household attended on the next. The family that stayed behind would move around in the neighbors’ house; thus, no one would notice the absence of the family. Did this mean that some missed out on parts of the convention? No, for each day’s program was presented twice. Thus, a three-day convention would last six days; and a two-day assembly, four days.
A network of alert attendants provided a chain of communication. It extended all the way from the camp’s administrative center to the convention site, with a man positioned every 1,600 feet [500 m]. Any suspicious movement that might constitute a threat to the convention would put this line of communication into action, relaying a message 20 or 25 miles [30 or 40 km] in just 30 minutes. This would allow enough time for the convention administration to make a decision. It might mean closing down the assembly and hiding in the woods.
José Bana, an elder from Beira, recalls: “On one occasion a policeman warned us the night before that they already knew about our assembly and were going to break it up. The matter was taken to the responsible brothers. Should they cancel the assembly? They prayed to Jehovah and decided to wait until the following morning. The answer came—a torrential downpour during the night overflowed the Munduzi River, turning it into a sea. Since the police were on the other side of the river, everyone could attend the assembly, without the need for anyone to stay behind and without the need of the human communication chain. We sang Kingdom songs to our heart’s content.”
Apostasy and Village No. 10
A movement that stirred up much trouble was started by an apostate group that called themselves “the anointed.” Originating mainly from the Malawian villages, this group claimed that the “time of the elders” had ended in 1975 and that they, as “the anointed,” should be the ones taking the lead. The material in the Society’s book Life Everlasting—In Freedom of the Sons of God was a great aid in helping some who had doubts to understand what was involved in the genuine anointing. But the influence of the apostates spread, and many who listened to them were led astray. As part of their doctrine, they said that it was not necessary to send in reports to the Society. They would simply throw these into the air after saying a prayer.
It is estimated that about 500 were disfellowshipped as a result of this apostate influence. They decided of their own accord, and with the permission of the authorities, to build their own village. This became Village No. 10. Later on, the leader of the movement was attended to by a train of young women, many of whom bore him children.
Village No. 10 and its group continued in existence throughout the remaining period of life in the camps. They caused many difficulties for the faithful brothers. Some who were initially influenced to join the group later repented and returned to Jehovah’s organization. The apostate community was finally disbanded when life in the camps came to a close.
“The Camp Is Our Prison, and the Houses Are Our Cells”
Up to the beginning of 1983, life in the camps had a certain semblance of normality. However, our brothers did not forget that they were prisoners. It is true that some, on their own, managed to return to their cities. Others would come and go. Nevertheless, the community as a whole remained. It was only natural that they longed for the homes from which they had come. They exchanged letters either through the postal system or by the hands of a few brothers who daringly visited the camps to see relatives and old friends—although some of these brothers were caught and imprisoned.
Xavier Dengo used to muse: “You Malawians are refugees, but we are prisoners. The camp is our prison, and the houses are our cells.” In effect, though, the situation of our Malawian brothers was very much the same. Whatever normality the villages seemed to have was about to come to an abrupt end.
Armed Invasion Brings Panic and Death
At the beginning of 1983, armed members of the resistance movement began invading the Carico region, forcing the commander of the administrative center to seek refuge at the district seat in Milange, 20 miles [30 km] away. For a relatively short period, the brothers seemed able to breathe easier, although they were still under some surveillance by the authorities.
However, tragedy struck on October 7, 1984, while preparations for the district convention were being finalized. An armed group approached from the east. As they made their way through Village No. 9, they left in their wake a trail of panic, blood, and death. After killing Brother Mutola in Malawian Village No. 7, they killed Augusto Novela in Mozambican Village No. 4. In Mozambican Village No. 5, Brother Muthemba was alerted by the sound of gunfire. When he saw the body of a brother on the ground, he cried out to Jehovah for help. The armed men burned and sacked houses. Men, women, and children ran wildly in every direction, desperately seeking cover. This violent attack was only a prelude of more to come. After crossing through the camps, the group chose an area just north of Village No. 1 to set up their base.
On subsequent days they made daily incursions into the camps—robbing, burning houses, and killing. On one of these occasions, they killed six Malawian Witnesses, including the wife of Fideli Ndalama, a circuit overseer.
Others were taken prisoner to the group’s base. Young men in particular were subjected to efforts at forced recruitment into their militarized movement. Many of the young men fled from the villages to hide in the machambas (the fields that they cultivated), and family members took food to them there. Young women were recruited as cooks, but then the invaders endeavored to force them to serve as “lovers.” Hilda Banze was one who resisted such pressure, and consequently, she was beaten so severely that she was left for dead. Happy to say, she recovered.
The armed group demanded that the population supply them with sustenance and carry their gear. The brothers found this demand to be incompatible with their position of Christian neutrality and therefore refused. Their refusal was met with rage. Neutrality and human rights had no place in an isolated world where beatings and weapons were the only recognized law. Some 30 brothers died during this turbulent period. One of these was Alberto Chissano, who refused to give any support and tried to explain: “I do not take part in politics, and that is the reason why I was brought here from Maputo. I refused in the past, and it will not be any different now.” (Compare John 18:36.) This was too much for the oppressors, who furiously dragged him away. Knowing what was certain to happen, Brother Chissano bid farewell to the brothers with an air of unwavering faith. “Until the new world” were his last words before being severely beaten and mortally wounded. The brothers on the medical team tried to save him, but it was to no avail. It would indeed be “until the new world,” for not even the threat of death could break his faith.—Acts 24:15.
Delivered From a Fiery Furnace
Something had to be done to alleviate the unbearable tension. The O.N. Committee met with the elders and ministerial servants to discuss how to attempt a dialogue with the resistance movement. However, men from the resistance movement had already sent out an invitation to all in the area to come to their base. The elders decided to go, along with a considerable group that volunteered to accompany them. Two brothers were instructed to speak on behalf of all the villages. Isaque Maruli, one of the appointed spokesmen, went by his house to inform his young wife and to say good-bye. Alarmed by what might happen, she tried to dissuade him. He spoke consolingly to her and asked: “Do you think we have survived until now because of some cleverness on our part? And do you think we are more important than the other brothers?” She silently displayed her agreement. They prayed together and then said good-bye.
Present at the meeting were not only the Witnesses but also non-Witnesses who were willing to support the armed movement. The brothers, however, numbering some 300, outnumbered the others. It was a heated meeting, with people shouting political slogans and singing military songs. An announcement was made: “Today we are going to shout ‘Viva Renamo’ [Resistência Nacional de Moçambique (National Resistance of Mozambique), the movement fighting against the Frelimo government] until the leaves fall off these trees.” The commander, the soldiers, and the non-Witness population became impatient with the silence of the brothers. A political commissioner who was presiding over the meeting explained the ideology of his movement. He told of the determination of the upper command to dismantle the villages and have everyone spread out and live among the machambas. He then gave opportunity to those in attendance to express themselves. Our brothers explained their neutral position. They hoped that their reasons for not participating in supplying food, carrying the gear, and so forth, would be understood. As for dispersing from the villages, they had already been forced to do this.
The commander did not like the courageous response of the brothers at all, but providentially, the commissioner was more understanding. He calmed the commander and sent the brothers away in peace. They thus came out alive from what they described as a “fiery furnace.” (Compare Daniel 3:26, 27.) Yet peace was not guaranteed. The single most shaking event was to come a few days later.
The Massacre of Village No. 7
Although the sun was shining, Sunday, October 14, 1984, turned out to be a dark day in Carico. Early in the day, the brothers had held their congregation meeting, after which some visited the villages to fetch remaining supplies before quickly returning to their new homes in the fields. Without warning, an armed group left their base and proceeded in the direction of Mozambican Village No. 7. They captured a brother on the outskirts of Village No. 5 and demanded: “Show us the way to Village No. 7; you are going to see what war is.” On arriving at the village, they rounded up all who happened to be there. They made them sit in a circle, in the order in which their villages were numbered. Then the interrogation began.
“Who is the one that beat and robbed our mudjiba [an unarmed lookout, or informer]?” they demanded. The brothers, unaware of what the men were talking about, answered that they did not know. “Well, if no one is going to speak, we’ll make an example of this man sitting here in front.” And they shot a brother in the forehead at point-blank range. Everyone was shaken. The question was repeated again and again, each time with a new victim awaiting the shot. Women, holding on to their babies, were forced to watch the barbaric execution of their husbands, as did Sister Salomina, who watched her husband, Bernardino, die. Women too were murdered. Leia Bila, wife of Luis Bila, who had died of a heart attack in the camp near Lichinga, was one of these, and her small children were thus orphaned. Neither did the executions spare the young, such as Fernando Timbane, who, even after being shot, prayed to Jehovah and tried to encourage the others.
When ten victims had thus been brutally executed, a disagreement arose among the executioners, putting an end to the nightmare. At their order, Brother Nguenha, who would have been the 11th victim, rose from the “chair of death.” He recounts: “I had prayed to Jehovah to care for my surviving family, for my days had come to an end. I then stood up and felt an uncommon courage. It was only later that I felt the emotional shock.”
The survivors were then compelled to burn the remaining houses in the villages. Before leaving, the armed men warned: “We came with an order to kill 50 of you, but these are sufficient. They should not be buried. We will keep watch, and if any body disappears, ten will die for each missing body.” What a strange and hideous order!
With the sound of the shots echoing through the area, and as the news spread with those who had managed to escape, a new wave of panic swept over the villages. In desperation the brothers fled to the woods and the mountains. Only later was it discovered that the accusing questions that had triggered the massacre had been instigated by a disfellowshipped person who wanted to join the resistance movement. He had also become a thief. He had made the false accusations against the brothers in his own village in an effort to win the favor and confidence of the group. Later, when the group discovered that they had been fooled, they apprehended the originator of these lies and put him to death in a most barbaric fashion.
The Dispersion Begins
The entire Circle of Carico was grief-stricken and confused. The elders, also in tears, sought to console the families who were mourning the loss of loved ones in the massacre. The thought of remaining in the area was unbearable. A natural dispersion, therefore, began to take place. Whole congregations sought out distant places, up to 20 miles [30 km] away, where they could feel more secure. Some decided to stay around the machambas. Thus, the elders on the O.N. Committee had their work doubled. They had to walk many miles in order to ensure unity and the physical and spiritual security of the flock in all the widely dispersed congregations.
News of this sad predicament reached the Zimbabwe branch, which then arranged for members of the branch office to visit the brothers and build them up. They also consulted the Governing Body in Brooklyn about the need for food, clothing, and medicine in the camps at Milange. With deep concern about the welfare of the brothers, the Governing Body gave instruction to use available financial resources to care for their needs, including, if deemed advisable, making provision for them to leave the Milange area and return to their home regions. That option seemed advisable indeed.
Near the beginning of 1985, members of the O.N. Committee, as they had done every year, left Milange to meet with the zone overseer, who had been sent out by the Governing Body. Don Adams was there from Brooklyn. In a meeting that included the Branch Committees of Zambia and Zimbabwe, the members of the O.N. Committee presented their concerns in relation to the Circle of Carico. They were counseled to consider whether it was wise to remain in Carico. Attention was directed to the Bible principle set out at Proverbs 22:3: “Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself.” With this in mind, they returned to the camps.
Leave? How? And to Where?
The counsel was immediately conveyed to the congregations. Some promptly acted on it, as was the case with João José, a single brother who later shared in the construction of the Zambia and the Mozambique branch facilities. With a group of others, he crossed the border into Malawi and then to Zambia without any major problems.
The situation, however, was not so easy for others. Many families had small children to consider. Members of the resistance movement constantly watched the roads, and anyone traveling on them was subject to attack. The border with Malawi presented another challenge, especially for the Malawian brothers, as Jehovah’s Witnesses were still despised and hunted there. Thus, the perplexing questions were: How would they leave? Where would they go? Having lived all these years in the bush and without any documents, how could they cross borders? “We also do not know,” was the response of the members of the O.N. Committee, in what proved to be an extremely tense meeting with all the elders. “One thing is certain—we have to disperse,” they stressed. They concluded: “Each one say a prayer, make your plan, and act.”—Compare 2 Chronicles 20:12.
In the ensuing months, this became the principal theme of the meetings. The majority of the elders supported the idea of leaving and encouraged the brothers to follow through. Others decided to stay. Eventually, a scattered exodus began. Malawian brothers who made an attempt to go home were blocked at the border for the old reasons and had to return. This dampened the enthusiasm of those who had decided to leave and strengthened the argument of those in favor of staying. An “invitation” to another “important meeting” at the military base proved to be the deciding factor for most.
Exodus En Masse
On September 13, 1985, just two days before the announced meeting, Brothers Muthemba, Matola, and Chicomo, the three remaining members of the O.N. Committee, met together once more. What should they recommend to the brothers regarding the “invitation”? The meeting lasted all night. After much prayer and pondering, they decided: “We will have to flee tomorrow night.” Immediately, as far as it was possible, they spread news of the decision as well as of the time and place to meet. The congregations that agreed to leave showed up. It was the last act of the O.N. Committee in the camps.
Starting at 8:30 p.m., after offering prayer, the brothers began a timed exodus. Their exodus was a secret well kept from the soldiers and “the rebels.” To be caught would have meant disaster. Under cover of darkness, each congregation had 15 minutes to move out, with each family allotted 2 minutes. The long single-file line snaked silently through the bush, with no one knowing what the break of day would bring at the border with Malawi, if indeed they made it there. The spiritual shepherds of the O.N. Committee were the last to leave, at 1:00 a.m.—Acts 20:28.
After walking for about 25 miles [40 km], Filipe Matola was overcome with fatigue as a result of going without sleep for two days. He dozed beside the trail while waiting for the last of the elderly ones to pass by. We can only imagine what joy he must have felt when his “nephew,” Ernesto Muchanga, came running from the front of the line, with the good news: “‘Uncle,’ the brothers are being received into Malawi!” “This is an example,” Matola exclaimed, “of how Jehovah opens the way, when there seems to be no way out, like at the Red Sea.”—Ex. 14:21, 22; see Psalm 31:21-24.
During the next several months, they experienced what it was like to live in refugee camps in Malawi and Zambia, before returning to Mozambique and getting back to their own cities. But what happened to those who remained in the area of Carico?
Those Who Remained
The decision of the O.N. Committee did not reach all the widespread congregations before the exodus began. Some individuals who did hear the announcement decided to remain and go to the meeting at the military base. The Maxaquene Congregation, along with others, had not heard the announcement but had already decided to flee. Before going to the meeting, these brothers left their families prepared for flight. Some 500 brothers showed up at the meeting. It was brief and to the point. The commander said: “It has been decided by our superiors that all here present should come to our main regional base. It will be a long journey. There you will spend up to three months.” And the trip began right then.
Taking advantage of lax vigilance on the part of the soldiers, brothers who had decided to flee slipped away. They joined their families and escaped in whatever way they could toward the Malawi border. Others, whether in compliance with the orders of the armed movement or for lack of opportunity, began the trip toward the southwest to the base at Morrumbala, arriving there several days later. Once there, they were put under further pressure to support the movement. Their refusal resulted in severe torture and innumerable beatings, during which at least one brother died. Three months later they were finally allowed to return to their homes.
Many continued dwelling in the Carico area, completely under the control of the resistance movement. They found themselves isolated from the rest of Jehovah’s organization for the next seven years. They were a sizable group, comprising some 40 congregations. Did they survive spiritually? Would their love of God be strong enough to keep them from succumbing to despair? We will return to them later on.
Refugee Camps in Malawi and Zambia
Not all who fled from Carico were readily received into Malawi. The Maxaquene Congregation, after crossing the border and while resting, were discovered by the Malawian police and were ordered to go back. The brothers pleaded with the police, explaining that they were fleeing from war in the area where they had been living. The police were unsympathetic. Seemingly without an option and in desperation, someone shouted: “We are going to cry, brothers!” And that is exactly what they did, and so loudly that it attracted the attention of the neighborhood. The police, embarrassed, pleaded with them to stop. A sister entreated: “Let us at least prepare some food for the children.” The police conceded to her request, saying that they would return later. Happily, they never did return. Later, someone in authority came to the aid of the Witnesses, bringing food and directing them to the refugee camp where the rest of the brothers were situated.
Mozambican Witnesses of Jehovah were now inundating the refugee camps in Malawi. The Malawian government received them as refugees of war. The International Red Cross provided assistance, bringing supplies to relieve the discomfort and difficulties caused by the inclemency of the open-air camps. Some went on to Zambia, where they were directed to other refugee camps. Filipe Matola and Fernando Muthemba now worked in association with members of the Malawi Country Committee, searching out Mozambican brothers in these camps in order to provide them with spiritual comfort and with the financial aid that had been authorized by the Governing Body.
On January 12, 1986, A. D. Schroeder, a member of the Governing Body, gave spiritual encouragement as well as an expression of warm love from the Governing Body to those brothers. Though unable to enter the camps, he gave a discourse in Zambia that was translated into Chichewa, recorded, and then taken to the camps where the Mozambican brothers were located.
Gradually these refugees were helped to get to their next stop—in Mozambique. For many this was Moatize, in the province of Tete. Yes, in Mozambique a change was taking place in the government’s attitude toward Jehovah’s Witnesses, although not all local officials were yet giving evidence of it.
Back Into Mozambique
Group after group slowly began to overflow the townships to the east of the city of Tete. Abandoned train cars, previously used as public privies, were used to house them. After being cleaned, many of these were used as meeting places for the Memorial of Christ’s death held on March 24, 1986.
Brothers from all over Mozambique waited there for months without knowing how they would be transported back to their places of origin. This wait had its share of tribulation. They tried to devise some form of employment to help support themselves or to save some money for an air ticket, but without much success. Because of war, travel by road was not possible. They were not always treated kindly by local authorities, who still tried to force them to repeat political slogans. To this the brothers boldly replied: “We were taken to Carico because of this issue. There we served our term and were abandoned to the mercy of armed attackers. We escaped by our own means. What do you still want from us?” With this response they were left alone. However, the youths continued to be harassed and jailed in an attempt to recruit them into the government’s army to fight the continuing armed insurgency in the region. Many young brothers used whatever shrewd means they could to get away and go into hiding.
The committee in Malawi decided that Fernando Muthemba should go to Tete in order to provide aid to the brothers there. When Brother Muthemba arrived in Moatize, the authorities decided to inspect his luggage. Just in time, the brothers were able to rescue the literature in his possession. So when the police searched through his bags, what did they find? “Just some rags,” he says. The disappointed police asked, “Is that it?” Yes, that was it. That was all the baggage of a man who had borne such heavy responsibilities in the camps. As with everyone else, he had come back stripped of all he had. In fact, at that moment, the physical appearance of the brothers was not at all pleasant—dirty, dressed in rags, hungry, and obviously ill-treated. They fitted well the inspired description of many of God’s servants of the past: “They went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, while they were in want, . . . under ill-treatment; and the world was not worthy of them. They wandered about in deserts . . . and caves and dens of the earth.”—Heb. 11:37, 38.
At Last, Transportation to Maputo
In Maputo a committee appointed by the Society proceeded to contact various government and nongovernment agencies, trying to find transportation for the brothers in Tete and in Zambia. How happy Isaque Malate and Francisco Zunguza felt when, on going to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, they were informed: “Over 50 flights have already been authorized to bring back Jehovah’s Witnesses”! They were grateful that the government had given the authorization.
Unaware of this arrangement, the brothers in Tete, who were all in camps near the airport, would go every day to the airport in hopes that some cargo plane would take at least a few of them. Moved with emotion, Fernando Muthemba speaks of May 16, 1987: “It was 7:30 a.m. When I looked at the airport, I saw two large Boeings that were to begin the ‘air bridge’ flights to evacuate all of Jehovah’s Witnesses to Maputo.” What a thrilling prospect! After 12 years—return to their cities!
Unfortunately, their appearance was far from presentable. Emídio Mathe, an elder in the Maxaquene Congregation, borrowed a pair of trousers from someone who had more than one pair so that he could arrive in Maputo reasonably dressed. The brothers awaiting their arrival in Maputo also took clothes to the planes so that the refugees could disembark with some dignity. Were they ashamed? “No,” responds Emídio, “although we had been stripped materially, we had the hope that Jehovah would one day use us to have his name put on high. We were not concerned with material goods; we did not feel ashamed. We went about ragged, but our faith in Jehovah was unbeaten.” The brothers in South Africa and Zimbabwe gladly contributed tons of food and clothing to their returned Mozambican brothers.
Additional transportation was provided by the government for the Witnesses returning to other provinces. For those returning to the province of Sofala, to the area known as the Beira Corridor (because of the protection provided by Zimbabwean soldiers), there would yet be trouble. Eighteen of them, including one elder, were captured and taken to a base of the resistance movement.
‘Jehovah Is Great, Jehovah Is Great!’
After interrogating them and realizing that these were Jehovah’s Witnesses, the commander of the base summoned a religionist who led a church in the area under the control of the resistance movement. He said to this man: “These are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and now they will pray with you. Treat them well.” To the brothers’ surprise, this pastor (who some time before had obtained some Watch Tower publications while in Zimbabwe) shook his head and exclaimed: “Jehovah is great . . . Jehovah is great!” He continued: “We had prayed to Jehovah to send us at least one person to teach us.”
The following day he gathered his church of 62 members and asked the elder to speak to them. The brother began by saying that all their images needed to be removed. (Deut. 7:25; 1 John 5:21) They promptly complied. He also showed that Jehovah neither approves of nor authorizes the expelling of demons by his servants today and that ritualistic drum beating is no part of true worship as outlined in the Bible. (Matt. 7:22, 23; 1 Cor. 13:8-13) In conclusion, the leader of the group stood up and said: “Starting from today, my family and I are Jehovah’s Witnesses.” The entire congregation, with the exception of one couple, expressed that same desire.
During the four months that the brothers remained there, they held meetings regularly. When the time came for them to leave, they took along with them a good number of this group, many of whom had previously been active members of the fighting factions.
Many joined Jehovah’s people during this period, for despite their difficult living conditions, the brothers never let up preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom and making disciples.—Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20.
Return to Life in the Cities
The brothers were grateful to get back to the cities. But without documents, places to live, or secular work, life continued to be hard for them. It was a new phase in their life of challenges. The nation itself was undergoing convulsions, scourged by civil war, hunger, drought, and unemployment. Could Jehovah’s people raise themselves erect in the midst of such dire straits?
The government came to their aid, creating the Department of Social Reintegration. Many Witnesses were restored to their former employment, occupying important positions in firms in the public or private sector. Others became entrepreneurs.
Many were able to return to their former residences, as relatives were still occupying them. For others, however, the situation was not so easy. Their houses had been taken over by strangers or by unfriendly relatives or had been nationalized by the State. Showing meekness, the returning Witnesses chose not to cause any disturbance, contrary to what the government might have feared. Witnesses who had not been sent to the camps opened their homes to take in their homeless brothers. Gradually they found or built places in which to settle. With Jehovah’s blessing on their diligence, many today have a good home, to the surprise of those who had observed the pitiful condition in which they returned. It is notable that in the midst of rampant poverty, not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses needed to resort to begging. After a few years, when the way was opened for people to own their own home by purchasing it from the State, the first person in the entire country to do so was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses who had been in Carico. Maputo’s literature depot is presently operating from this location.
However, obtaining a house or getting any other material benefit was not the brothers’ primary concern. Finding places to hold meetings for worship was more important. After all, was that not the primary reason why Jehovah had brought them safely home? That certainly was what the brothers firmly believed. (Compare Haggai 1:8.) They promptly improvised Kingdom Halls of all sorts—in backyards, in living rooms and kitchens, in shacks of tin and straw; sometimes—a luxury—they met in rented schoolrooms or hospital auditoriums. Most of the 438 congregations in Mozambique meet even now in these makeshift Kingdom Halls. The exceptions are rare. One such is in Beira, where, with the help of the Zimbabwe branch and their valiant construction team, the brothers overcame many obstacles and finally, on February 19, 1994, dedicated the first two brick Kingdom Halls in Mozambique.
Special Committees—Legal Recognition
In order to care for the material and spiritual needs of the brothers as they reorganized their lives, the Governing Body appointed special committees in Tete, Beira, and Maputo, to be supervised by the branches in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Under this arrangement the congregations could receive closer attention. To provide much-needed Bible literature, depots were set up in these cities. These also served as distribution centers for relief supplies of food and clothing. Assemblies and conventions were organized, although some obstacles still had to be overcome before these could be held openly.
Then on February 11, 1991, thrilling news echoed throughout the country, to the delight of Jehovah’s people worldwide. The government of Mozambique had granted legal recognition to the Associação das Testemunhas de Jeová de Moçambique (Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses of Mozambique). Fernando Muthemba, who had loyally helped to care for the brothers in Carico, would serve as its first president. Jehovah’s people in Mozambique were also rejoicing to have in their midst their first Gilead-trained missionaries. These were in missionary homes in Maputo and in Beira. Yet another home was being prepared in Tete to receive more missionaries who were to arrive shortly.
Missionaries Bring Joy to Their Brothers
A true missionary field opened up in Mozambique. Self-sacrificing and desirous of sharing in the spiritual rebuilding and harvesting work in Mozambique, Gilead graduates and experienced special pioneers who had already been serving in other fields eagerly accepted the invitation to serve here. They came from five continents, many of them from Portuguese-speaking countries such as Brazil and Portugal. Their new assignment was not without challenge, for in 1990 and 1991, the country was just beginning to pull itself out of the economic quagmire caused by war and drought. Hans Jespersen, a Danish missionary who had served in Brazil and who presently serves as district overseer, recalls: “There was practically nothing in the shops, and the signs of war and its consequences were clearly evident.” A steady economic recovery, however, is already evident. Nevertheless, many of our brothers in the northern and rural areas continue to live under extremely difficult conditions.
The missionaries faced much that was new to them. For example, prior to the signing of a peace accord between the Frelimo government and Renamo, the assignments of the missionaries sometimes required that they travel in colunas (long convoys of vehicles escorted by government-armed forces), and at times these came under attack. But they experienced great joy in getting to know their brothers; and for many of these brothers, meeting Witnesses of other races and nationalities was a dream come true.
In a remote part of the north, a child walked all day with his father to see a missionary from Australia. Observing the expression of wonderment on the child’s face, the father said: “Didn’t I tell you that we have white brothers?” Many, on greeting the missionaries, expressed their delight, saying: “We only knew about you from experiences in the Yearbook.” Mozambican Witnesses who were still in refugee camps in Zambia in 1993 said: “When we heard in Zambia that there was a missionary home in Tete, we did everything we could to come back so that we could see this with our own eyes and in order to continue our service here, 18 years after being taken to Carico.”
The main objective of these missionaries in Mozambique is to preach the good news about God’s Kingdom. Doing so has been very gratifying. The first missionaries in Maputo and Beira recall: “The spiritual hunger was so great that enormous quantities of literature were placed daily.” The Society’s four-color publications are unique in this country and attract much attention from the public. The missionary homes are often used as central bases where Bible studies are conducted, as many students seem to prefer this.
At present, there are six missionary homes throughout the country, with 50 missionaries serving in various assignments. Some missionaries travel each month on routes established by the branch to collect reports and deliver correspondence, magazines, and literature. Included in one of these routes is the former location of the Circle of Carico in Milange.
What happened to the Witnesses who remained in this area and became isolated from the rest of their brothers?
The Circle of Carico Opens
On October 4, 1992, the General Peace Accord between Frelimo and Renamo was signed in Rome, putting an official end to 16 years of civil war in Mozambique. This widely celebrated event made possible the raising of the curtain that had shut off the region of the former Circle of Carico. And what came to view? Upwards of 50 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses, emerging from an isolation that had lasted for seven years. How had they survived spiritually during such severe isolation?
In February 1994 an interview was held in Milange with 40 of the responsible brothers. Also present were a thousand others who had walked more than 20 miles [30 km] just to see the missionaries. The elders who had remained after the exodus recounted: “After many of us were beaten at the military base, we were allowed to return, to live in the machambas of the extinct villages. In time, Renamo authorized us to build Kingdom Halls and hold our meetings. They promised—and held to it—that while we were in our halls or on the way to our worship, we would not be molested. However, they said that they would not be responsible for what happened if on a meeting day someone was found at home or even outside the Kingdom Hall.” And what about preaching? Their answer is touching: “Without clothes and stripped of everything, we lived like beasts, but we did not forget that we were Jehovah’s Witnesses and that we had the obligation to preach the Kingdom.” What an eloquent demonstration of appreciation and love for God!
In 1993 the district overseer and his wife witnessed an unparalleled event at a circuit assembly held in Milange, something that confirmed that these brothers had indeed kept on making disciples. When the speaker delivering the baptismal discourse asked the candidates to stand, 505 out of an audience of 2,023 stood up to present themselves for baptism! But there is more.
“Saul” of Carico
Saul of Tarsus, a vehement persecutor of the followers of Jesus Christ in the first century C.E., became a zealous servant of Jehovah. Carico also had its “Saul.” He is a man of fine facial features and meek appearance, and presently he serves as a ministerial servant and a regular pioneer. There does not seem to be anything that distinguishes him from his workmates as they sweat at hard physical labor to make a living. But listen as he pauses from his work to tell his story:
“In June 1981 the area where I was living was taken over by the resistance movement. I was taken along with the other men to their barracks. They explained to us the noble aims of their struggle and the importance of supporting the liberation of our people. I received military training and participated in successful battles. This became my life’s routine for the next seven years. Because of my loyalty to the movement, I was promoted to the position of commander. I commanded seven small armies. Many regions came under our control, and one of these was Carico. I sent out a detachment of men to penetrate the villages where Jehovah’s Witnesses were, to gain their support. I authorized the burning of their houses and the killing of some of them. My commandos said to me: ‘We will kill all of them, but we’ll never change them.’ In time, I was sent out to other bases.”
Although this commander had no qualms about persecuting Jehovah’s people, Jehovah, in his mercy, granted him an opportunity to change. He explains: “After seven years of not seeing my wife, I asked for personal leave to visit her. And it was in a refugee camp in Malawi that I had my first personal contact with the truth. Initially I rejected it. Later, as I heard about the new world, the Kingdom of God, and a world without wars, I asked myself: ‘Can someone who has done so many bad things benefit from this?’ The answer I was given from the Bible was: ‘Yes, by having faith and obeying God.’ I accepted a Bible study, and in June 1990, I was baptized. Since then I have been a pioneer, helping many of my fellow excombatants. In one camp alone, I helped 14 persons to become servants of Jehovah. I have served where there was a greater need, and I have had my share of suffering for reasons of neutrality. I am very grateful to Jehovah for his mercy and for his overlooking the times of my ignorance, forgiving me on the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.” (Acts 17:30) This is but one of many examples showing why the Mozambican brothers so often say, with deep appreciation: “Jehovah is great.”—Ps. 145:3.
A Branch Office in Maputo
Who would have guessed? It happened sooner than was expected. The Governing Body approved the opening of a branch office in Mozambique. Since 1925, when the miner Albino Mhelembe brought the truth from Johannesburg, the work in Mozambique had been cared for by the branches of South Africa, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. Finally, in Maputo, as of September 1, 1992, in a large house acquired and refurbished by the Society, in an area with many embassies, the Mozambique branch began its work of overseeing this vast field. Starting with a small family of seven members, the recently appointed Branch Committee had a challenging job ahead of them. They would have to organize the work in the field, care for the spiritual—and even material—needs of the brothers, assist with the building of Kingdom Halls, and build the new branch facilities. A big job indeed. But help began to arrive.
Teams of international volunteers who have come from various parts of the world are now working with their Mozambican brothers to build the new branch facilities in a pleasant location along the beachfront. The Bethel family itself has grown to 26 regular members. The brothers and sisters from the Maputo area also help. As a united group, they are all working to exalt the worship of the true God, Jehovah, in this part of the earth.—Isa. 2:2.
“Keep Holding Men of That Sort Dear”
A challenging work is also done here by the traveling overseers. There are men such as Adson Mbendera, who used to visit the congregations in the north and who later served as a member of the O.N. Committee in the camps; Lameck Nyavicondo, who is remembered with appreciation by the brothers in Sofala; Elias Mahenye, who came from South Africa to serve, suffered atrocities, and forewarned: “PIDE [the colonial police] has disappeared, but its grandfather, Satan the Devil, is still around. Strengthen yourselves and build courage.” (1 Pet. 5:8) Not expecting any conveniences, they have given up whatever comforts they might have had in order to serve their brothers.
Just recently in the area of Milange, where the “prison” villages used to be, a circuit was established. The brothers who live in that area are especially grateful to Jehovah to be benefiting more fully from the care provided through his visible organization. Orlando Phenga and his wife have counted it a privilege to leave Maputo to serve there, where he and thousands of others had played a role on the “Stage of Carico.” To the west of the city of Tete, helping to reintegrate others that were isolated for years by war, Benjamin Jeremaiah and his wife travel for days on foot to places where many people have never seen an automobile. Raymond Phiri, a self-sacrificing single brother, has had to sleep on a mountaintop, along with the rest of the congregation he was serving, to escape possible attacks, and there he prepared his reports for the office. Also, Hans and Anita Jespersen serve the countrywide district and have come to know both the spiritual riches and the material poverty of their brothers.
All these brothers manifest the sort of spirit that moved the apostle Paul to write regarding Epaphroditus: “Keep holding men of that sort dear.”—Phil. 2:29.
Moving Forward With Godly Zeal
Besides maintaining integrity through severe trials, the faithful ones in Mozambique have been manifesting their love for God and fellowman in another way. In the public ministry, they are making generous use of their newfound freedom and of Jehovah’s abundant provisions in the way of magazines and other literature. They can be seen preaching freely in the streets, in public squares, and in marketplaces such as Xipamanine. The results are evident as the number of praisers of Jehovah rapidly grows.
In addition to the new publishers, the increase has been enhanced by the return of brothers from the refugee camps in neighboring countries. Entire circuits have returned. Quickly they build Kingdom Halls, using whatever material is available. They do this even in temporary refugee communities, such as Zóbuè, on the Malawi border, and Caboa-2, outside of Vila Ulongue. Not waiting for better times, many are joining the ranks of the pioneers. There are now upwards of 1,900 sharing in such full-time service. They express great appreciation for the training received at the Pioneer Service Schools, which began functioning here in 1992.
Can you guess who the instructors were at a recent school in Maputo, where almost the entire class was made up of ones who had been in the Circle of Carico? Francisco Zunguza, the Mozambican record holder for number of times imprisoned because of his faith, and Eugênio Macitela, who was arrested and sent to Milange after having studied for only one week. Both of them presently serve as circuit overseers. And one of the students was Ernesto Chilaule. He has a recollection that he likes to share: “When I pass by that street where the building of the now extinct PIDE is, I look at that window and remember—it was there that the agents said to me: ‘Let it be clear, Chilaule: This is Mozambique, and you will never be legalized in this country.’ And, behold! Just down the street is our legal branch office!”
How rewarded Brother Chilaule must feel because his little Alita, who used to fetch food from the congregational provisions while her father was in the Machava prison, is now the wife of Francisco Coana, one of the members of the Branch Committee! Brother Coana was that zealous pioneer in Carico who ingeniously “sold” goods to those outside the camps so as to be able to preach to them. Certainly Jehovah has blessed the thousands of faithful ones who, up north in the district of Milange, in the Circle of Carico, constituted a beautiful tribute of love, faith, and integrity to the honor and glory of Jehovah.—Prov. 27:11; Rev. 4:11.
But the battle is not over. There are new dangers, challenging ones. The permissive worldly spirit that has spread around the earth can claim victims here too and has already done so. Immorality, materialism, and indifference caused by the apparently easier times have taken their toll. However, faithful servants of Jehovah in Mozambique continue earnestly to maintain constant vigilance. They have survived tremendous tests of faith. It is their determination, with Jehovah’s help, to continue to give evidence that they love Jehovah with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength and that they love their fellowman as themselves. They have unshakable faith that God’s Kingdom will soon transform the earth into a paradise, not only where war and hunger will cease but where they will have the great joy of welcoming back from the dead their loved ones, including all who proved faithful to God even to death in the Circle of Carico.—Prov. 3:5, 6; John 5:28, 29; Rom. 8:35-39.
[Maps on page 123]
(For fully formatted text, see publication)
Inset map: Many brothers were exiled to São Tomé, some 2,500 miles [3,900 km] away, in the Atlantic Ocean
[Full-page picture on page 116]
[Picture on page 131]
Ernesto Chilaule was told: “You will never be legalized in this country. . . . You can just forget it!”
[Pictures on page 140, 141]
In Carico refugee camp, our brothers (1) cut wood and (2) trampled clay for making bricks, while (3) sisters carried water. (4) They found ways to hold assemblies. (5) Xavier Dengo, (6) Filipe Matola, and (7) Francisco Zunguza helped provide spiritual oversight here as circuit overseers. (8) Kingdom Hall built here by Malawian Witnesses is still in use
[Picture on page 175]
Witnesses gathered for “Godly Devotion” District Convention near Maputo in 1989, soon after they returned from camps
[Pictures on page 177]
Top: Elders and circuit overseers at a location where missionaries deliver literature and mail each month
Bottom: Missionaries in Tete receiving lessons in Chichewa
[Pictures on page 184]
Branch Committee (from left: Emile Kritzinger, Francisco Coana, Steffen Gebhardt), with picture of branch facilities now being built in Maputo