Free Methodists in Mozambique
The first missionary from the Free Methodist Church set foot in Mozambique in 1885. G. Harry Agnew traveled to the east coast of Africa with a vision to continue the work of David Livingston following his death. Upon arriving at the port of Inhambane, Agnew elected to stay on the coast as he saw the needs of the people were significant. Free Methodists have been working in Mozambique ever since. The Free Methodist Church in Mozambique and its ministries have been under Mozambique national leadership since 1975.
In 1959, Dr. Marguerite Palmer, one of the first women to graduate from the University of Washington Medical School, established the Nhaloi Hospital near Massinga in the Inhambane province. The original hospital building was built in 1964. Under Dr. Palmer’s leadership the hospital thrived.
Government Ownership and War
In July of 1975 the government of Mozambique, recently independent of Portugal, took over ownership and operation of the hospital. The government almost immediately began a building project to enlarge the hospital facility which was never completed. In 1976 civil war broke out between the government FRELIMO forces and the resistance RENAMO forces and consequently Nhaloi was on the frontlines of fighting. During the war the hospital was shut down due to the violence and was used as barracks by both sides. The conflict left the property in ruins and the buildings were left unusable.
In 1990, Rev. Dean Smidderks was able to travel to the site even though the war continued. He was the first missionary to return, but was only able to visit and witness the devastation. Mozambican leaders remained at Nhaloi throughout the civil war.
In 1992 the civil war ended and following free elections the Mozambique government turned the hospital site back over to the church with the hope that the hospital would be reopened. In the late 1990’s Mozambique was listed as the poorest country in Africa. In the years following the war the government has struggled to rebuild infrastructure, but has made significant progress.
In January of 1998, Rev. Dean Smidderks and his son Rev. Hendrik Smidderks traveled to Nhaloi for a one week visit. At this time the buildings remained in disarray, but the church people were expressing a commitment to rebuilding.
Later in 1998, Dr. Matthias Furrer, a Swiss physician working in Zimbabwe, began exploring the possibility of reopening the hospital. He and his wife, Dr. Kathrin Furrer, made several trips to Nhaloi. They were able to make repairs to buildings and bring in supplies that allowed the site to be used as an infirmary or clinic.
In years to following the Free Methodist Church of Mozambique has made modest strides to repair and renovate the facility. Under the leadership of Bishop Joao Uanela, there is a desire to operate the hospital for the benefit of the surrounding area.
At this time the Nhaloi hospital is the only hospital within walking distance for 30,000 people. At the time of Dr. Palmer’s retirement from Mozambique in 1976, she was the only Doctor accessible to over 100,000 people. It is believed that this number has grown to the neighborhood of 225,000. Problems persist with the buildings, supply of medications, and staffing. There is a staff of nurses, aides, and support personnel of 15 people who operate the clinic and a maternity facility.
In July of 2012 a team of 13 people traveled from the United States to explore the next step in developing the care available through the Nhaloi site. The team was comprised of a medical team, a logistical team, and building/construction team. This team worked under the direction of Bishop Joao Uanela in cooperation with the Mozambique government.
The Medical Team operated a clinic in Nhaloi for 2 weeks treating 177 people. They assessed medical needs including: equipment, medication dispensation, personnel, and training.
The Construction Team began developing a plan for completion of the hospital facility including: hospital physical plant, water delivery, electrical power, landing strip and aviation potential, residential needs for personnel and future teams. They found the well had ceased to function in May of 2012. The power plant had a fuel system failure.
The Logistical Team began work on governmental cooperation, foundation underwriting, and development of national leadership.
When the 2012 team returned to the United States, Dr. Randy Claassen, Rev. Hendrik Smidderks, and Jim Blackburn began to plan for foundation that would support and sustain the work of the Nhaloi facility. In February of 2013 "Hope and Healing Africa" was incorporated and began to work on strategy and funding for the future at Nhaloi and beyond.