Tuesday, November 19, 2013

to build a bridge

I parked the truck under a tall tree and the three of us walked down to the river.  As we neared the edge of the water, we paused as two men pushed a motorcycle across a temporary ‘bridge’ made of branches and logs.  The bridge made from a fallen tree that I’ve used to cross the river in the past had been washed away, so this was the only way to get to the other side.  Amissi, Selso and I greeted the men and then crossed over ourselves.

It’s nearing the end of the dry season, so while the log bridge we used works fine for now, in just a few weeks it will be gone.  The Montepuez River will soon be filled by runoff from northern Mozambique’s seasonal rains; so while these days the river doesn’t seem very imposing, once the rains begin it will become a dangerous, rushing monster.

Amissi (a church leader that lives here in the city), Selso (a young man that Amissi is discipling) and I talked as we walked the dirt path from the river to the village of Ncomekah.  We greeted the men, women and children who passed us on their way to cross the river themselves.  After walking for about half an hour, we arrived at Rajabu’s house. 

Rajabu is a man who my teammate Jeremy Smith has been discipling for the past few years.  He and his wife recently moved to the village of Ncomekah to be near Rajabu’s mother-in-law.  Rajabu and his wife want to start a church in that village.  We sat around after worship eating mangoes and Amissi made plans to come by bicycle and visit them again in a few weeks.  Rajabu was excited to have some promised help in beginning that church.  But he noted that while those plans will work fine for the month of December, by January or February the river will be impassable.

Rajabu accompanied us on our walk back to the truck and as we walked along I thought about the meetings that have taken place over the past few months about the lack of a bridge over the Montepuez River.  I thought back to our first meeting with the community leaders back in June – I was sitting under a thatch roof with Armindo Eusebio (a young man I am discipling) and Will Zweig (a Peace Corps worker teaching Science at the local High School).  The bridge was Will’s idea.  He had approached me a few weeks earlier, asking about places in our district that most needed a pedestrian bridge.  So, there we were sitting on bamboo chairs listening to a group of men from the villages of Bandar, Cambir and Ncomekah.  These villages would benefit the most directly from a bridge and one by one they stood up and told tales of family members being killed or maimed by crocodiles, friends who drowned trying to swim across the rushing waters, and others who lost food or their own bicycles to the river.  As I translated the stories from their Makua-Metto into English, Will’s eyes widened.   
This was the place to build a bridge.    

The Montepuez district is in the middle of the poorest Province (Cabo Delgado) in what the United Nations Development Program considers to be the third poorest country in the world.  And Mozambique’s lack of infrastructure is most costly to subsistence farmers who live in outlying villages.  During the rainy season, these villagers have only three options: risk crossing the river by swimming, pay nearly half a day’s wage to have themselves and their goods paddled across on unstable canoes, or travel miles and miles out of their way to reach the nearest bridge.

At that meeting with the village leaders back in June, we discussed the possibility of a safer, cheaper and faster option for the people: building a 35 meter-long pedestrian footbridge outside of the village of Bandar.  I’ve been glad to play a small part in assisting the US Peace Corps in partnering with the Prometto Association, the Montepuez District government, Bridges to Prosperity and a Bridge Commission made up of leaders from these three villages to build a bridge that would directly benefit at least 10,000 Mozambicans.  The estimated budget for the construction of the bridge is $20,000 and there is a 40% financial commitment that has already been promised.  So, what we need now is the remaining 60% (about $12,000) in order to completely fund the project.
We are in the process of writing grants and making this need known to people who may be interested in contributing to this project.  If you are interested in making a donation, send me a message through our team website here and I will give you more details about how to help.

Please keep this project in your prayers – it will be an amazing blessing to our friends here in Montepuez!

Grace and Peace,

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