I was looking forward to my first service in Pemba, Mozambique. I knew the building where they had services was large, so I knew there would be a lot of people, but other than that I had few expectations. The building itself was one much like I am planning to build in Poipet city back in Cambodia. It was like a large warehouse roof. There were only about 6 lights in the whole place, but there was a stage at the middle and a worship team which filled the entire stage. I never actually identified one leader, but many people rotated in the “lead” role with nearly 30-40 in the worship team on the stage.
The sign entering the church was so funny. It had the name of Iris Ministries and the time in Portuguese of 9am. In English below it had the words “Sunday Morning: 9 ish”. It was so funny, but it was cut into stone! Being a punctual Cambodian-American I arrived at 8:30. At 9:00 I was in my seat, there was a young man on the stage, the visiting Indonesian preacher Mel Tari was sitting at the front of the stage and about 30 people seemed to be in the building. It was “9 ish” for sure. It wasn’t until 10:20am that the flow of people slowed into the building. American churches would have been nearly done by that point. We still had quite a while to go.
The worship was basically Mozambique music which was beautiful to my ears. It was a mixture of rhythmic steps, singing and chanting in a very African way. Of course there were several hand drums, but they also used a couple of guitars as well blending the African and Western instruments, but the sound was uniquely Mozambique. Only one time in all the hours we were there did they sing a Western translated song which was more of a performance dance piece than worship.
At a few times during the service the power went out. In most urban contexts the music would have immediately stopped, however, the Mozambique leaders just continued without even a pause. Even when the microphones didn’t work the young men just immediately started shouting loudly as they sang so the thousand person audience could hear them. When the electricity came back on a few minutes later they just gently transitioned into a new song using more equipment. When it cut off again, they would simply jump back into traditional dancing and singing at the top of their lungs. This happened a few times, which would likely lead to the cancellation of a Western service in its entirety, however this Mozambique church never skipped a beat!
Somewhere mixed into the worship they had an offering. As everything was translated into three languages (English, Portuguese and Maconde) and I missed the English sometimes, so when I saw people rush to the front of the stage, I thought they were going for a decision time or prayer, and didn’t realize they were going for presenting their offerings.
Later on, the preacher for the day, Indonesian pastor Mel Tari, gave a powerful testimony to the crowd of how God used and called Africans in the Bible. Since Pastor Mel was not from Mozambique he preached only a short hour long message.
Four hours later, the serviced concluded about 1 ish.