The small baptistry was crowded and stuffy on a warm Sunday afternoon. Half of the seats in the room were filled with men, women, and children dressed all in white. Four families, 17 people in total, were baptized into the Beira 1st Branch in Mozambique in June. The four couples were married the day before—and this is not an unusual event for the Mozambique Maputo Mission.
The African tradition, lobola, requires couples to pay a dowry before they can marry. Because of this tradition, many couples live together for many years without being legally married because they don’t have the money for the lobola. In the April 2013 General Conference, Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve, talked about the challenges the Mozambique mission faced because many couples don’t get married. “Members and missionaries thought and prayed about how to help,” Elder Andersen said. “The answer to their prayers was that they would emphasize the law of chastity and the importance of marriage and eternal families.”
Helping to bring four families to baptism was no easy task. Marriage is often a considerable barrier to baptism for families in Mozambique. It’s hard for couples to reject the traditions of their families, as getting married without paying lobola is considered a very serious taboo. Elder Croft, a missionary serving in Mozambique, said, “People that go to the end [of the discussions] understand that it’s a commandment of God [to live the law of chastity], and they’re willing to do anything they can to keep that commandment.” The faith of these families is often tested with the sacrifices they have to make. Even without paying the lobola, legal marriage in Mozambique costs at least 300 metacais. (about US$18).
One of the families baptized in June was Joao and Amelia Muloi, along with seven of their eight children. Joao earns a living selling T-shirts along the road. There were several times when he didn’t think he would be able to pay the marriage fee, but in the end, he decided to make the necessary financial sacrifice, and his family always had enough to eat. The Lord helps those who are determined to follow Him.
Francisco da Conceicao was unemployed and needed surgery, besides needing money so that he and his partner, Matilde, could get married and be baptized with their son, Rui. Francisco and many of the other families who were baptised, were able to pay the marriage fee with the help of friends and family, as they pressed forward in faith with their desire to keep the commandments.
Another family, Vidal and Feliciana Pascoal and their son, Andre, struggled at first because Vidal worked on Sundays. His boss was upset when Vidal first asked to take Sundays off, but he wanted to go to church, believing that it was the right thing to do, and he was blessed to keep his job. The Pascoals also struggled to break with the marriage traditions of their family, but after talking to recent converts and people from their own tradition who had passed through the same experiences to get married and baptized into the Church, they found the strength and courage to continue forward.
In the end, all four families made it to baptism, crowding the baptistry that day.
Excerpted by Collette Burgoyne