This is how it all began…….
In 1975 God spoke to a team of YWAMers in South Africa about visiting and ministering in Marromeu, Mozambique. Unfortunately, at that very time, war broke out preventing the team from going. Although the original team had been unable to get to Marromeu, God hadn’t forgotten about it and he spoke again about 18 years later to a Zimbabwean named Shephen Mbewe.
The call to Marromeu
Shephen was doing his Discipleship Training School with a man who originally came from Marromeu and his stories and description of the town captured Shephen’s heart.
“I first heard about Marromeu and the (Zambezi River) delta in January of 1993. I was told that there was a place called Marromeu that was very remote but very, very needy spiritually. He told me about Luawe - that the people there were totally cut off from the rest of Mozambique because of the war, that there was widespread witchcraft, and many people were scared to go there and preach. My heart burned inside me as I heard these things - it had been my desire always to go to a place where Christ was not known. I could not believe that God was giving me the opportunity.”
Shephen and his friend began to pray for Marromeu and Mozambique each morning and during those times of prayer, God confirmed his call on Shephen’s life to go there and minister to the people.
There were many other YWAMers interested in Mozambique and some short-term teams went out to Marromeu. In the meantime, Shephen got married to Caitlin and in 1994 as part of their honeymoon, they travelled to Marromeu to see for themselves.
“What we saw in Marromeu was not pretty. The place was a mess, nothing worked - no telephone, no electricity, no running water. The old factory stood desolate, wind blowing through loose rusted corrugated sheets. There was mud everywhere. No one apart from a few government officials worked. I had never been to a place where men woke up in the morning and just sat around because there was no employment. The shops were empty. The market sold a few dried fish and some sea salt but that was all. It was grim. Caitlin and I walked around wondering what we were doing in that place, but kept our thoughts to ourselves. We were determined to hear God speak without influencing each other. He did. We both felt this was the place God was calling us to.”
Holding this call in their hearts, Shephen and Caitlin spent the next few years in the UK getting further training. They also linked up with a couple who, independent of Shephen and Caitlin, had been hearing God calling them to Mozambique. God was forming a pioneering team.
Finally, in August of 1999 the Mbewe family moved to Marromeu. They bought land right in the heart of the community and began to build their house. They were soon joined by Elias & Debbie Santos and their children, already long-term missionaries and pioneers in Mozambique, and Tim and Miranda Heathcote; and YWAM Marromeu was born.
The team felt very strongly right from the beginning that they were called to demonstrate the gospel in a very practical way, working to meet people’s physical needs as well as their spiritual ones. There was a heavy focus on discipleship and a desire to identify with the poor and needy. The team really valued taking the time to grow in their knowledge of local language and culture and most of the ‘team time’ was spent in prayer asking God for clearer strategies to reach Marromeu and the Delta region and for him to enlarge their hearts for this area.
“Although Marromeu was small, there were many churches but they were all very weak and struggling. Years of isolation had left the church vulnerable to a lot syncretism - a mixture of Christianity and animistic beliefs. We grabbed every opportunity for teaching and developed a strong desire to disciple and strengthen these churches.”
Journey to the Delta
Right from the beginning, basing the team in Marromeu was a way of establishing a launch pad into the delta region. Those small, remote, isolated communities, cut off from the rest of Mozambique and from hearing the gospel were always on the hearts of these pioneers.
“We had our first trip to the Delta in 2000 and it took 4 days by canoe. It was a really difficult journey and if it hadn’t been for the response of the people, maybe we would never have made it back there!”
The people there were so pleased by the visits the team made, no one from outside their communities in the region had ever been there before. In a community meeting the leaders expressed a desire to have their own school, better access to medical care, and clean water. These three things became key in allowing us to get into the communities of the Delta and express God’s love.
The team had a strong desire to visit the Delta more regularly but the isolation of the area remained a challenge. The journey was dangerous, time consuming and demanded a lot of energy from those travelling.
In 2006, a partnership was formed with Mercy Air, a Christian aviation ministry. Mercy Air would fly their helicopter to Marromeu and transport the team to the delta, transforming a 4-day arduous canoe journey into a relaxing 20-minute flight! The use of the helicopter has revolutionized the ministry to the delta, allowing the growing YWAM Marromeu team to take regular medical care, educational programs, discipleship courses and agricultural support to over 40 villages in the area. They were also able to help with the issue of clean water by bringing well building teams to the area. Not only did helicopter allow the team to get into the delta, it also made it possible to bring people out and has succeeded in facilitating many medical evacuations over the years.
Expanding into new territory
Throughout all this time the team (which now included several others) lived and ministered from their own homes in Marromeu, but as dreams and visions from God began to develop the limitations of space began to impact the team. Shephen’s friend told him about a village called Nensa, 30km outside of Marromeu where there was plenty of land available. The chief of the village was very enthusiastic about giving the land to YWAM to use, but some of the village leaders were keen for a traditional witchcraft ceremony to take place when the land changed hands. Of course the team refused to take part in such a ceremony, but in a move that the team took as confirmation that the land is for them, one of the chief’s councillors unexpectedly advised him to forego the ceremony as it would be pointless if the hearts of the Christians were not truly engaged in it.
The vision for the land at Nensa was to develop a training center where people from the delta and Marromeu and from other regions could come and receive training that would equip and empower them to go back to their communities and actively develop them both spiritually and physically. Farming, Schools, Health Care Training, Carpentry Schools, Children’s Activity Centre, Youth Retreats and the list goes on and on and on. It was to be a place where the elderly and vulnerable in society can find a safe place to live and work and continue to contribute to society. It was to be a place where missionaries can come and find rest for a time and be restored to go back out onto the field again. It was to be a place where all spheres of God’s kingdom can be found and where people can see the love of God clearly demonstrated in the lives of those who live and work there.
Building in Nensa began in 2009 and we have since run several YWAM schools from there including DTS. We have a pre-school and primary school there, we have farming and agriculture projects there, youth retreats and discipleship seminars. We are growing in vision and ministries, but we have barely scratched the surface.
This is our story so far, this is the story of God reaching out and caring for His people; but we are just beginning- the question is: is He calling you too?