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A joyful flood: Hundreds of baptisms occurring in Mozambique after COVID-19 restrictions ease

Missionaries with baptismal candidates from the areas of Trevo and Liberdade in the Mozambique Maputo Mission, at the Liberdade Ward building in Maputo, Mozambique, on April 30, 2022. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The first baptisms from the areas of Zimpeto, Marracuene and Boquisso, Mozambique, at the Zimpeto Branch building on April 23, 2022. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Missionaries stand with the people ready to be baptized at the Matola Ward building in Maputo, Mozambique, on April 23, 2022. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Antônio and Angelina Pondja, center, on their baptism day in front of the Magoanine Ward building in Maputo, Mozambique, April 23, 2022. Antônio Pondja is a guard for the chapel and waited a long time to be baptized. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Baptismal candidates pose for a picture with the missionaries in the Mozambique Maputo Mission on April 23, 2022. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Cleidy Maria Francisco, center, with other baptismal candidates in Nelspruit, South Africa, April 2022. Nelspruit near the border with Mozambique. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, the government of Mozambique implemented rules prohibiting baptisms and other religious ordinances.

The number of people waiting to be baptized grew over the past two years. On April 20, the president of Mozambique announced the restrictions would be eased and baptisms could take place again.

Some 900 people were baptized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mozambique in the two months since restrictions were lifted, reported the Church’s Africa Newsroom.

Elder Stephen Woodbury, a senior missionary in the Mozambique Maputo Mission, said they hurried to get ready and get started after the announcement.

“Interviews were conducted, baptismal fonts scrubbed and baptismal clothes cleaned in preparations for the first baptisms in Mozambique, set for Saturday, April 23,” Elder Woodbury said. “The first baptism took place at 8 a.m. in Magoanine, where a faithful security guard for the chapel was baptized, after he had cheerfully helped clean and fill the font the day before.”

Antônio and Angelina Pondja, center, on their baptism day in front of the Magoanine Ward building in Maputo, Mozambique, April 23, 2022. Antônio Pondja is a guard for the chapel and waited a long time to be baptized.
Antônio and Angelina Pondja, center, on their baptism day in front of the Magoanine Ward building in Maputo, Mozambique, April 23, 2022. Antônio Pondja is a guard for the chapel and waited a long time to be baptized. | Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Baptisms continued throughout that day and into the evening in 15 areas of the mission, he said, “with a total of 63 people being baptized, limited only by the number of baptismal clothes that were available.”

Read more: Elder Rasband visits southern Africa, meets with Mozambique president

The Beira Mozambique Mission saw similar events take place. Jaime Casa Branca, 23, had been waiting for the announcement that baptisms could take place again. He met the missionaries in the street outside his home at the beginning of the year.

“I was scared at one point, wondering, ‘When is my baptism going to take place?’” he said. “But I continued to be faithful, knowing that one day the COVID restrictions would be lifted.”

Branca said the day of his baptism “was the happiest day of my life.”  

Cleidy Maria Francisco, center, with other baptismal candidates in Nelspruit, South Africa, April 9, 2022. They traveled over the border from Mozambique in order to have the opportunity to be baptized, before Mozambique lifted the restrictions.
Cleidy Maria Francisco, center, with other baptismal candidates in Nelspruit, South Africa, April 9, 2022. They traveled over the border from Mozambique in order to have the opportunity to be baptized, before Mozambique lifted the restrictions. | Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Cleidy Maria Francisco, 23, had also been waiting. Her baptism came six months after she first met the missionaries.

“I felt really anxious,” she said. “But I kept thinking, maybe God sees the need for me to learn more before I take this step.” She continued to attend Church and study the gospel until she was able to get baptized.

“I remember everything about that day,” Francisco said. “The ultimate joy came when my father performed the baptism.”

Entering the waters of baptism was a moment of joy and relief for Flávia Amosse, age 51.

“It was as if I had been on a long, long journey,” Amosse said. “It felt like I was dusty and sweaty, and I could now finally take a shower. When the baptism came, it was like the waters were there to cleanse me.”

Elder Woodbury told the Church News that the Mozambique Maputo Mission president, President Osvaldo Dias, had been fasting weekly for nearly a year and a half that baptisms would be allowed again. 

Missionaries in Mozambique said they felt a new and reverent spirit of gratitude during the baptismal meetings — and they knew the Lord answered their fasting and prayers to allow this work to begin again in the country. 

Elder Koby Hilbig said, “Our bishop repeatedly said that the angels of heaven were blowing their trumpets, celebrating the grand work that will follow this miracle of baptism opening.”

Elder Gabriel Njange and Elder Nelson Canamala shared how they saw the determination and joy of investigators as they entered the water to make a covenant with Heavenly Father and they were “very happy to live this moment of great joy.”

Now two months after being baptized, Amosse, Francisco and Branca say the gospel has changed their lives.

Said Amosse: “Now that I’ve joined the Church, my experience has been great. I feel like I have more family. I belong to a family of Saints. I love the fact that there are other women to talk to, and other women can talk to me.”

Francisco said: “Ever since I joined the Church I am a much happier person. I feel it was the best decision that I have ever made.”

Branca baptized his sister in June, and several other relatives were baptized in the ensuing weeks. 

“I am so happy to share this experience with people I love,” he said.

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