A cheer erupted as the new alumni waved their degrees above their heads. I looked out upon a sea of smiles and laughing eyes peeking out from under mortarboards. After years of dedicated study, law students had now become law graduates. Among those rejoicing was our own Pastor Moises. It was his kind invitation that led to my attendance at the graduation ceremony, a first for me in Mozambique. Now both a pastor and trained in law, he is faithfully following the Bible’s instruction ‘to administer true justice, show mercy and compassion to one another’ (Zechariah 7:9).
At first glance the ceremony appeared similar to a British graduation. Many of the formalities, such as the chancellor’s speech and presentation of the degrees, remained the same. However, my initial impression quickly shifted, as I witnessed a uniquely Mozambican celebration. Graduates danced to the beat of a drum as guests clapped and ululations rose above the noise. Such energy and jubilation was distinctly lacking in my own graduation ceremony some years back.
This experience held a number of lessons for me. One was the way that the seemingly familiar is transformed on African soil. As I filed into my seat awaiting the ceremony to start I thought I knew what to expect, but here in Mozambique the graduation I was accustomed to became something else, something more vibrant. Second, it was a reminder that we never stop learning. Pastor had learned a new discipline. I had learned through yet another novel experience and continue to learn here.
Yet another new experience for me is learning how to deal with the heat and rains of the Mozambican summer. Soaring temperatures, sometimes in excess of 40 Celsius, combined with high humidity levels can convert the simplest of tasks into a prolonged lethargic episode. The heat also ensures that I am often soaked even before the rains arrived. One sun-scorched Sunday service the mere act of standing and clapping was enough to drench me in a shower of my body’s own making. I’d never thought it possible to be that wet in church without being baptised! When they come the torrential rains bring some relief from the heat but also carry a different set of complications. Churned mud roads, overflowing drains and vehicles with drained batteries are just a few of these. Yet these experiences again bring new lessons in patience, perseverance and the use of four wheel drive. In the midst of such lessons, when physical things are so altered by changing circumstances, I am inclined to agree with author Louis L’Amour when he said “The best of all things is to learn. Money can be lost or stolen, health and strength may fail, but what you have committed to your mind is yours forever.”