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Back from Mozambique

Sharon asked me to tell you about out return to the UK from Mozambique. We only arrived last night (Tuesday) after leaving Nampula on Sunday evening, so it’s all a bit of a blur, but I will tell you what I can.

By way of background, Peter and I have been living and working in Nampula in Northern Mozambique since September 2017. We are both teachers at Rapale International School, Peter is leading the senior school and his brief is to develop and be over the building of the school. I teach the preschool class. The school is 16 km outside Nampula and is part of a group of businesses which have been established to bless and reach out to the local community with the hope of Jesus. We live on a ‘farm’, a very large, unfenced area with chicken houses (for eggs), an abattoir, hatcheries (the chicks are sold all over the north of the country), a  crocodile business, a feed mill (producing food for the chickens and selling this all over the north of the country), an agricultural and discipleship training facility and our school, RIS. 

The Lord led the original couple there about 16 years ago with the vision to reach people with the hope and love of Jesus through business. The area is poor, and peoples’ lives are hard. God has indeed been at work in the community and has been touching lives with his grace. 

Our daughters were due to fly out to Mozambique for their Easter holidays on 26 March, but in the two weeks leading up to this date, it became apparent that this was no longer an option. Events were unfolding fast at that time and our main concern was where they could stay. The Lord has provided a wonderful and safe place for them for which we are grateful.

Meanwhile the security situation on the farm hasn’t been great. Residences and businesses were being targeted, particularly at night. Six of the men living on the farm are taking turns to be ‘on call’ at night, to respond to calls from those having security emergencies. Peter did a week and we were grateful that no incidents occurred during those night. They are on duty in pairs and one night he and his partner patrolled the farm for two hours during the night. Having a visible presence does help as a deterrent. Our guards are on foot and it can take 30 minutes for them to get from one place to another, and the police don’t often have vehicles either (so we’d have to go and fetch them).

We looked at flights on 26 March and found one. We considered various options, including just me going. We were advised by our school that we wouldn’t be allowed back in if we left, because that is what the Mozambique authorities were saying. School was discouraging staff from leaving. We didn’t book those flights. 

On Saturday 28 we searched again for flights, seeing that borders and options were closing. We found nothing available until sometime in May. It seemed as if we were stuck. Then we heard that the Mozambique government had announced a state of emergency to come into force on Monday. That changed things once again. The security situation was real concern. We know we serve the prince of peace and that he listens to the prayers of his people, and we are continuing to pray that this will not be the inevitable outcome for these precious and vulnerable people in Mozambique. But the fact remained that our children were all in Europe and we were not. I was really scared but kept reading and clinging to Psalm 91 and Psalm 46. ‘Be still and know that I am God’ is said in the context of global chaos and breakdown! I’d never seen that before.

On Sunday 29 March Peter did another search for flights on his phone. One came up! For the same day. It was via Maputo and Lisbon and arrived in Stansted on Tuesday evening. Another time of prayer and we decided to book them. Peter searched on his laptop and they weren’t there. He tried again on his phone for 29 March and there was nothing. He tried something else and saw them again. The payment was successful, and we had 4 hours to pack and be on our way. 

Our dear friends Mike and Dilys drove us to the airport. We walked up to the door and a man said there was no flight to Maputo. Oh dear. We went inside just to make sure. It turned out that one flight had been cancelled but that ours was still running. Just the one flight leaving that evening. The computer system was down, and they couldn’t print our luggage labels. We waited an hour or so and were getting a bit concerned. I asked a few people to pray and it was amazing! Within a couple of minutes they were printed and we were through the check in. There were no more dramas leaving Nampula, just a bad smell in the departure lounge because a rat had died in the air conditioning unit! We knew we had 20 hours in Maputo and we’d never been there before. We didn’t want to risk not being able to get back to the airport, so we were thinking about just hanging around in the airport terminal for that time. Then we had a message from a colleague who was travelling back to Canada. She said there was space at the guest house where she was staying, and it was close to the airport. She managed to book us a room and told us how to get a taxi when we arrived. 

It was a real blessing to have a bed in a safe place. The guesthouse is run by two elderly American sisters. They are Christians and so peaceful. We were able to stay there until about 4pm on Monday which was amazing. At the guesthouse we met a lady who said another British family would be on our flight. She sent them a photo of me so we could say hello at the airport.

Check in at Maputo airport was fine, and we passed the health screening (a bit nerve wracking!) to go to the departure lounge. We met the family and got chatting. We didn’t know where we were going to stay when we got to the UK. There had been a possibility of a place, but it was difficult to get there for various reasons. We were chatting about this to the family… and they invited us to stay with them! Incredible. 

The flight to Lisbon went fine. We did get a little sleep and arrived safely. The family we’re staying with had their bags checked in all the way from Maputo to Heathrow. Because we were changing airlines, we had to go out and re-check in at Lisbon. There were only 8 flights showing for the whole day and we were relieved to see that ours was on the board! We had several hours to wait until check in opened up so we found a chair in the deserted airport and waited. We met a man called Francisco who had come to Portugal from the Azores to Lisbon for heart surgery. But because of coronavirus he hadn’t had surgery and was on his way home. He had been taken in an airport wheelchair to near the check in desk for his flight (which happened to be just next to where we were sitting). But the desk didn’t open. He finally asked us for help. So, I took him to find someone who could help. We don’t know if he was able to get on the flight or not. He was very agitated, and he was alone. We prayed together before he was taken by someone else to see if he could get onto the flight. Lord, please bless him with your peace and may he find you through all of this.

We were checked in for our last flight and boarded the plane. But then nothing happened. There was a technical problem and we were on the runway in Lisbon for two hours after the flight should have left. It was another lesson in trust. ‘Will you trust me?’ Yes, that’s what I want to do. This is how I want to live. Not just in a crisis but all the time.

We arrived safely in Stansted. After our flight, one more was coming and that was all. The rest were cancelled. And the family who came to Heathrow were on the last TAP flight to Heathrow for the next 2 months. We walked out through customs and there was Mark, having arrived at Heathrow and driven to fetch us. We were taken straight to a lovely house in Suffolk and here we are, being looked after by a family we met less than 2 days ago.

Thank you for your prayers, love and support. 

Tanya and Peter

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Roger and Julia PHILLIPS
Apr 05, 2020

So grateful for all of this. Love the pink wig, Shawn!

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