Visit Report 2008


Pilgrimage to Zove

November 2008

[Source: Elizabeth Tucker, ALMA Rep for Friern Barnet and Commissary for Bishop Dinis]

Procession at Berta Sengulane’s commemoriation service

Father Paul and I set out on our pilgrimage to Zove, the place of the car accident ten years ago, on the very same date that I set out for Mozambique in 1998. I was delighted he could accompany me to Mozambique, as he was able to introduce me to all the friends he had made on his visit in June.

We spent two weeks of sheer joy, staying first in Beira and then in Zove. In Beira we were welcomed by the Mothers’ Union and the Youth Fellowship of St. George’s, as well as by Father Isaiah our twin priest. I was so overwhelmed by their hugs that when it became clear my suitcase had not arrived, all I could do was laugh!  Father Paul took charge of reporting the suitcase and this was how the whole two weeks went! I had no responsibility, was driven everywhere, and was entertained by a family in Beira - Thanacio, who works in pharmaceuticals, his wife Monica, a nurse in an AIDS hospital, their daughter Katia 17, sons Eddie and Raphael 12 and 9, and daughter Mercia 4, all made me unbelievably welcome. They gave amazingly varied, tasty Mozambican meals and the parents’ room with mosquito net and air conditioner, which I greatly appreciated as the temperature was in the 30s and it was very humid. Thanacio had a little English, and Katia and Eddie knew a little from school, so we managed somehow! Katia taught me how to say ‘I am full of joy’, and ‘it is truly marvellous to be here’ in Portuguese.

Offertory at Berta Sengulane’s commemoriation service

In Beira, after a quick look at the sea, we were taken straight to St. George’s and I felt as if I was in a dream to see the places I had seen in the videos….I was given a capulana, indispensable garb for Mozambican ladies, which I immediately donned, and a head piece. Next day we visited the hospital, and the people we wanted to meet were of course engaged with either an accident or a seminar, but I merely wanted to see another place of which I have no memory….I was distressed to see a bandaged boy being taken into the hospital with one foot clearly missing and a little boy suffering from malaria in the children’s ward. There were two weddings in St. George’s next day and Monica kitted me out with a beautiful black and white dress with drums patterned on it. I was invited to read the psalm at the wedding of an Englishman to a Mozambican, who had saved up their wedding day until our visit so that Father Paul could marry them! While waiting in the area around St. George’s between the weddings, I met the two people who had received me ten years ago and taken me to the hospital. They were amazed to see me and I knew I was right to have come. We were special guests at both wedding receptions, each totally different from the other - the first ‘at home’ and the second at the golf club. On the Sunday Monica lent me an enormous skirt, top and scarf, which I greatly enjoyed wearing. I was again invited to read the psalm, which happened to be 23, so it was all I could do to read about ‘walking through the valley of the shadow of death.’ The singing, drumming and xylophone playing were beautiful. The skilful player of the wooden, yes, wooden, xylophone, was a blind man …..

Chris Hembrough, whose family was hosting Father Paul, drove us from Beira to Chimoio, where the St Bernard Mizeki pilgrimage begins each June. The journey took us past the place where we were given another truck and I was given water, four hours after the accident in 1998. It now has a larger Health Centre.  We were welcomed very warmly by the new Director and he showed us the accident and emergency area, which I must admit seemed vaguely familiar – the only time during the visit I felt this. In Chimoio we were welcomed warmly in the church of St. Bernard Mizeki, another place I ‘knew’ from the videos. There was astonishing singing from the youth choir. Then we were taken to the small church of St. Bernard where we were given a candlelit dinner after singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to one of our hostesses, and walking up the steps to the rocks where Father Paul had experienced amazing total silence with all the clergy of the diocese during his visit in June. This was the first evening I had seen the stars in all their glory. Indeed wonderful.

Next day we were driven to Zove, where Bishop Dinis left the Mothers’ Union conference that was taking place in the church to come to our car and greet us. When we went inside, he showed the Mothers’ Union the kneeler I had made for the church and the phial with the tiny piece of glass from the Landrover windscreen, which I had given him at the Tree of Life exhibition at the British Museum in 2005. I was glad I had a postcard of the Tree of Life to hold up for everyone to see. After awhile Father Paul and I escaped from the heat of the church and the long speeches in Portuguese to explore the place. I was thrilled to see the huge Cross of Victory, on the place where Berta was thrown. One path leads from it to the Health Centre, the other to the church. After being given a delicious meal we were driven 20 km to the nearest place, Muxungwe, where we were accommodated in chalets with private bathrooms and mosquito nets!! Honoured guests, we were, as everyone else was camping in huge tents or the buildings at Zove……

Post-eucharist presentation
Post-eucharist presentation at Berta Sengulane’s commemoriation service

Muxungwe now has a hospital that can deal with accidents and a newly finished church that the congregation had started after the accident. We had a riveting morning. When the Bishop arrived to process to the church for its dedication, we were preparing to process too, when to our astonishment, and I must admit relief, we were wafted into the Bishop’s car! A police car was blaring out, and I imagined there had been trouble somewhere. No! It was escorting us and the procession! The service in the church and outside after the dedication, and the subsequent tree planting and feast lasted six hours…..all of them full of interest: baptisms, confirmations, offertory, eucharist, healing, song, dance, and gifts to the Bishop, including a live turkey! We were relieved when told that the Bishop was not going to visit another place that day, and we were given a break in our chalets….before being picked up and taken back to Zove for the Bishop to prepare us for the service to commemorate Berta the next morning. We weren’t able to get into the church as the Mothers’ Union was in full swing, and so we met at the Cross, from where we could revel in the full sight of the stars, which were dimmed by the electricity from generators near the church.

Lords prayer murals
Lord’s Prayer murals donated by St John’s primary school, Friern Barnet

Commemorations for Berta started at the Cross. Bishop Dinis invited me to speak, and I felt enormously privileged to be given the opportunity to tell everyone what the experience of his visionary faith had meant for me. We then had a service in the church, during which I was very pleased to share the reading from Romans 8 with members of the Sengulane family. Before the Gospel, two of Dinis and Berta's sons, Robert Ashdown (who had been in the accident) and I carried two long poles, in the centre of which was a toy Landrover with a Bible attached . This symbolised that we had thought we were just passing through this area, but were actually bringing it the ‘Word of God’. The church was packed and I hope people could see! Again the service lasted for hours. The best bit was when Bishop Dinis baptised a baby, born in the Health Centre the previous day, and gave him the name ‘Dinis,’ to great applause! We were given a super lunch and then went straight back into the church for a further few hours, for speeches commemorating Berta. Father Paul gave the Lord’s Prayer pictures, painted for the school at Zove by our school, and everyone listened very attentively. When the ceremonies were over we were able to visit the school and see the area round it, which is used for growing things, and for football. We are hoping that the head of the school will be able to visit us when Father Isaiah comes next year. The day ended with more tasty food, which we had seen the Mothers’ Union preparing in gigantic cooking pots over wood fires outside. I was excited to see the new moon, on its back……

Bishop Dinis with Elizabeth
Bishop Dinis with Elizabeth

The next morning, when we were being given breakfast after a ‘short’ service of only three hours, Bishop Dinis came up to me and said now was the time to put the piece of glass on the Cross. The best surprise of all! To my delight he invited me to put it in some cement just under the cross bar, where it glittered green. He said it belonged there and I had taken it to England! When we said goodbye, I was thrilled that he told me I had brought him great joy.

Then it was the journey back to Beira to prepare to come home. We were escorted to the airport by our hosts, and by Father Isaiah and his wife Cremilda, and given a magnificent send off. I am still reeling from the whole overwhelmingly joyful adventure.