An incredible story of faith…30 years in the making. During the month of June, a small team of disciples from South Africa, the US and Brazil travelled to Nacala, northern Mozambique, to strengthen Elias Uache and his wife Angelina, a couple who lead a congregation of around 800 members. During the weeklong stay, 17 people were baptized, and this number has now grown to 20. How did this come about? This remarkable story started over 30 years ago.

Below is an edited version of the story written by Leslie De Morais on how events unfolded.

A Miraculous Letter in the Mail

Back in 1987, Mike and Anne-Brigitte Taliaferro’s full attention was focused on leading the church that had been recently planted in São Paulo, Brazil by the New York International Church of Christ. One day, a letter arrived from Africa. It was from Mozambique, to be exact. The letter was from a young pastor in the north of the country who was trying to confirm the existence of other Churches of Christ. A rumor was circulating in his then rural location that their church in Mozambique was the only one left of its kind. He couldn’t believe it! So, he sat down and began writing letters to all the countries he could think that might have a Church of Christ. He wrote letters asking each leader of the church to let him know of their existence. He simply addressed the letters to the leader of the church in each city. No address. Just “ Church Leader, Church of Christ” and the city and country.

In what must have been a miracle of God, in a city of more than 18 million people, one of the letters somehow reached the Taliaferros in São Paulo.

Elias, the letter’s author, was an enthusiastic pastor. In his teen years, he became a central figure in his church, because he was the only one there, at the time, who could read. At age 15 he began preaching the word to his community. Years later, when certain members in his congregation stirred up some controversies, he wrote his letters and posted them. A single response to his inquiry came from Mike Taliaferro.

The only way I can even fathom how the letter reached Mike and Anne-Brigitte is due to the fact that some diligent postal employee performed some pretty impressive investigative work and got that letter delivered.

A Friendship Begins

Mike began to correspond with Elias, assuring him that there were other churches of Christ and explained some basic principles of discipleship to him. At some point, Mike asked Eliasto travel from Nacala, his home town, to Maputo to meet with him. Mike wired money to pay for Elias’ bus trip and hotel stay. The trip was 1,511 km (939 miles)and took several days for Elias to arrive. He waited at the hotel to meet with Mike. Unfortunately, back in Brazil, Mike was unable to travel due to someone in the family falling ill. Elias waited a month. Mike was able to contact Elias and explain what had happened and that their meeting would have to take place another time. Elias returned to Nacala only to find he had lost his job. Undeterred, he and his wife Angelina decided to grow and sell vegetables to support themselves and their children.

During this time, Mike and Anne-Brigitte had been asked to begin a new chapter in their lives by leading the mission work in all of sub-Sahara Africa. They left Brazil for the US in preparation of the next big challenge in their lives and in doing so lost contact with Elias.

Technology Revives the Communication

Fast forward to 2017. In the time that had lapsed, Elias shepherded the church in his city as well as visited, maintained and spread the word of God to 36 groups in surrounding districts. He had an old car back then that took him and Angelina on their missions, until it broke down and he was financially unable to repair it. The lack of funds restricted Elias’ evangelism to the nearly by villages and today he and his wife focus on six congregations. Elias had never forgotten Mike nor the teachings he had received via Mike’s letters.

One day, he thought, “I wonder what ever happened to my friend, Mike.” He decided to look him upon the internet. Yes, the internet had reached even the small towns in the north of Mozambique.

Information about Mike appeared instantly, almost magically and Elias rejoiced at finding him again after so many years. They began to e-mail one another, and Mike put Elias in touch with Araujo Francisco, the evangelist for the Maputo Church of Christ at the time.

The Perfect Spiritual Storm

Araujo arranged for Elias and Angelina to come to Maputo at the same time that we would also be there. Meeting them was like reading a passage right off the pages of the New Testament. They are solid and integral people with a deep love for God. Their simplicity of heart and genuine desire to learn inspired all of us. Elias brought a briefcase with him that contained all the letters Mike had written him three decades ago. He shared his memories of traveling to Maputo at Mike’s request. He spoke of the faithful way God had provided for him and his family all these years. He asked for help for his churches. Many of the members did not own Bibles, they were just too expensive. He asked for visits from brothers and sisters in the church in Maputo. After speaking with him and reading the few letters Mike sent, it became apparent that Elias had only received the initial part of the Good News, before losing contact with Mike. Elias and Angelina were teaching people about becoming followers of Christ as much as they knew how, but the full message about discipleship, repentance and baptism was lacking. Members were simply accepting Jesus into their hearts and none of them understood the daily applications and character changing transformations of true discipleship.

“Mean while a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.” – Acts 18:24-26

With much prayer and great respect, several of us (including Juju and Júdia Rodrigues from Angola) began studying the Bible with Elias and Angelina. The couple from the north considered us brothers in the faith. So, we approached the studies from the point of view of ‘let’s compare what we both teach people we’re trying to reach with the message of Christ.’ As Elias and Angelina came to the realization that our messages were different, an internal struggle ensued. Imagine what that would feel like. After a lifetime dedicated to giving your all, you discover your most basic concepts about salvation and the Christian purpose in life were incomplete. It is at times like these that only the scriptures and the Holy Spirit can convince individuals of the truth. We prayed and fasted for their hearts and the conclusions they would reach.

God saw the sacrifice and heard the prayers.

On Wednesday, July 25, 2018, 60-year-old Elias and his wife Angelina were baptized into Christ in the Indian Ocean on the beach in Maputo. This African “Apollos” was humble and grateful to finally receive the complete teaching that changed his and his wife’s life. They were eager to return to their city and restudy the Bible with the whole church, which they are presently doing.

Elias and Angelina returned to their city together with Claudio, a brother from Maputo who is originally from Nacala. He helped Elias find the most adequate way to speak to his congregation about the changes he made while in Maputo. The church responded with humility, just like their pastor, saying “If you, who are our teacher, saw the need to change, then so must we!” They are now studying the Bible, becoming true disciples and being baptized for the forgiveness of their sins.

The church in Maputo is developing a plan to send a mission team to the north to help Elias and Angelina shepherd all of the churches under their care.

Please keep them in your prayers!