TWR Canada past-president Ray Alary blogged every Thursday, telling behind-the-scenes stories and ministry updates you won't find anywhere else. You can still access his stories and read about his time as a missionary with TWR.
For the last number of weeks, I have been sharing my life journey. Now I want to focus on how my story ties in with what I’m calling my ministry journey.
For the first six years of my missionary career, I was a technician. I was part of the support team that allowed ministry to happen. Without electricity, there were no radio broadcasts; without the radio broadcasts, there was no ministry. As I served in that capacity, I understood that ministry was taking place. While I was excited about it, I was not emotionally connected. God’s calling was clear, and I knew I was right where I was supposed to be, but I was not emotionally connected to the listener.
On Bonaire, Dan Canfield oversaw the Portuguese ministry to Brazil. He would get so excited as he shared the stories of changed lives, yet I found I didn’t have that same level of excitement. Today when I share, I am probably more excited than Dan ever was! I have seen time and again how radio has been used to evangelize areas where people could not go. During my years in Africa, I had the privilege of travelling to places where radio has had a great impact, areas where there are few, if any, trained pastors; yet today there is a thriving church! How can that happen? It happens because radio waves have penetrated those countries, and our radio programs have been the evangelist to many who would not have heard any other way.
If you were going to begin a ministry into an area where there was no established church, what would your process be?
Look at the picture carefully. Yes, it’s a shipping container, and a shipping container not in very good condition! Believe it or not, our ministry in Northern Mozambique started in that container.
Mozambique had been at war for over 15 years. Every family had been affected at some level. Many had lost family members; others had been displaced. There was a lack of everything: food, water, medical help, education for the children. Reverend Avelino Mutlima wanted to share the gospel with his people, the Lomwe people; he wanted to bring hope to a part of the country where all hope was lost. The question was, how can hope be established in such a dark place?
It took an evangelist with a burden for his people. Reverend Avelino realized that going from mud hut to mud hut was not the most effective way to reach out to his people. He needed a way to share the message of hope to them, and he was willing to produce radio programs in a shipping container if he could find a way to get those programs aired.
Carl Seyffert, first President of TWR Canada, with Reverend Avelino outside the container
TWR Canada assisted financially to get things started, and programs were produced in that container. This all happened prior to my going to Africa which was 21 years ago. The result of TWR Canada’s investment all those years ago resulted in over 300 churches being planted in six years!
Let’s fast forward to today. Today, in that area of Northern Mozambique there is an established church; Theological Education by Extension is taking place, and our role has gone from evangelizing to discipling. The container is no longer used as we have a studio built with brick and mortar.
TWR Canada played a part in letting the Lomwe people know that there was hope when all looked bleak for them. For many years, we worked together with our partner, Words of Hope, to speak hope. As well, through a local church in Canada, the program producer, Avelino Mutilima, received monthly support to care for his family, which continued until he retired a few years ago. Today, TWR Canada funds the production and airing of Women of Hope programs in Mozambique in the Portuguese and Makhuwa languages.
We have seen people in Mozambique come to a knowledge of Christ through our evangelistic approach. We have many testimonies of changed lives. One I remember from my days in Africa is of a man who was very angry because his wife got up at 5:00 am to go to a prayer group that was started as a result of the Women of Hope programs. His wife accepted Christ through this fellowship with believers and through hearing the programs. Even though she was forbidden to attend, she went anyway. Her husband was angry because she had not listened to him; however, he couldn’t deny that he was seeing a change in her. After a period of time, he began getting up as soon as she left and following her. He heard the women praying, and he heard the teaching…and he knew why his wife was acting differently. He began to act differently as well. The end of the story brought tears to my eyes: he not only accepted Christ as his Saviour, he began attending the prayer time, which until he joined was exclusively for women!
Our ministry in Mozambique started in a shipping container. This is not how we in Canada would imagine a ministry beginning! Yet this is what God did, and the impact has been huge. For years radio was the only way they could hear the Christian message. The ministry had such an impact that people in Mozambique wanted to call their denomination TWR! (We didn’t let that happen.)
Evangelism is part of TWR Canada’s mandate. Romans 10 tells us that we have a responsibility to ensure that people hear the good news. We take that responsibility seriously. We do our part, and God does the rest, just as he did in Mozambique.
I thank God for all these experiences I have had. The stories of changed lives are different, but the power of the Word of God speaking into hearts never changes. God speaks to the uneducated, the underprivileged, the abused, the refugee and the president of nations in a still small voice that changes their hearts. That is evangelism. Thank you, God, for letting me have a part in ensuring that they hear.