North Central students lead worship with local worship leaders in Mozambique

North Central alumni explore new model for short-term missions

By Charles Porter ’96, M.A.

On May 15, an unconventional worship gathering happened in Maputo, Mozambique.

On stage was a multi-ethnic band of worship leaders, singing in both English and Portuguese, as hundreds of university students from all over the capital of Mozambique worshiped the Lord. Most of the gathering was original songs, written either by the Mozambique university ministry A Palavra, or written and produced at North Central University. “Breath of Heaven” and “Always Remain” mixed with the best of local songs to create an amazing environment where passionate students leaned into experiencing God.

The trip was three years in the making. As an Assemblies of God World Missions (AGWM) missionary to Africa since 2001, I first voiced the idea to Worship Arts Specialist Jeff Deyo during my first year as the Missionary in Residence at North Central in 2016.

I grew up on the mission field. My parents were church planters, and we always had these really talented people, but what we often lacked was training. When I came to North Central, I was blown away by the variety of gifts and talents I saw. I dreamed one day of activating those gifts to serve the larger body of Christ. That dream came back to life when I returned to join the faculty. What if we could take a team not to perform, but to partner, to invest and leave some of the amazing North Central DNA behind?

While on a previous trip to Maputo with NCU students in 2018, I connected with Matt Marlin, the AGWM missionary on the ground, and we began to dream of what a worship training team could do. Worship is one of the main values for this movement of university students in Mozambique, which has grown to 45 campuses and more than 400 groups in merely four years.

Back on campus for a visit after my Missionary-in-Residence term was over, I reiterated the invitation to Jeff Deyo to come and lead a team of trainers to invest in this powerful ministry.

Deyo agreed it was time, and reached out to a number of current and former students to form a band. In a God-connection, several of them had been in my classes, and Kenzie Hanley had even shared with me her dream of one day leading worship in Africa.

Off to Mozambique

On May 6, our group—Jeff Deyo, North Central seniors James Thao and Kenzie Hanley, and alumni Mandy Smedsrud ’18, Caleb Ballew ’17, Jessica (Hutchens ’19) Ballew, and I—boarded the first of many planes to ultimately end up in Maputo, Mozambique. There, we spent a week training and investing in A Palavra and local Assemblies of God churches.

“My husband, Caleb, and I loved getting to pour into and equip the musicians and worship leaders through practical workshops,” said Jessica Ballew, who now serves on staff at Emmanuel Christian Center in the Twin Cities.

In all my travels, I’ve never been where Jesus isn’t already there. We weren’t bringing Jesus to Maputo. But we could bring a gift to the body there in the form of excellence in training. That excellence is deeply ingrained in the NCU culture.

The trip was designed to be a mixture of very practical training in issues related to music and worship along with intensive spiritual mentoring.

Every day was memorable, from the 7 a.m. church service where the music went out and the praise got louder, to the personal conversations with leaders on the ground. But for the whole team, two moments truly brought the trip together.

Every morning was dedicated to teaching a small group of worship leaders in spiritual issues related to worship. One morning, the teaching was on warfare worship. The response was anything but typical.

“Immediately afterward, this practical and poignant biblical revelation launched us into a lengthy spontaneous musical worship response as we contended together for the lost in the city and in the nation,” recalled Deyo.

In most of the contexts in which I have worked as a missionary and educator, spiritual warfare is not some abstract concept. So when Jeff connected the dots in the teaching, the natural response of the African team was “Let’s do this, now!”

The second marker moment was the night of combined worship. Marlin’s ministry is spread out over 45 campuses and local groups focus on inductive Bible study. Quarterly, they gather for a communal time of intercession and worship. Rather than having two teams perform separately, the lead North Central team and the lead A Palavra team practiced together and played together, with different members taking turns on different instruments. Each group sang in both Portuguese and English.

The beginning of revival

James Thao, who did sound training and played drums, said, “The joining of different, people, culture, tribes, tongues, and nations united by Jesus Christ was amazing!”

Jessica Ballew perhaps sums up the team’s feelings best: “I remember a moment when we were singing their original song in Portuguese—the lyrics in English were, ‘Because of God’s love my life is meaningful’—and I looked out at all the people and thought, ‘This is it. This is the beginning of a revival.'”

I have always felt there was a different way to do short-terms teams, that we could bring very targeted training to areas that will support and partner with missionaries on the ground. We did that with business people when we were in Tanzania, and this was an opportunity to leverage some of the gifts and talents of friends from North Central to invest in our partnership with the Marlins and A Palavra.

I really see this as the future—as the body of Christ continues to grow internationally, being strategic about how we invest in our brothers and sisters around the world.

Charles ’96 and Tahnya (Blue ’97) Porter are currently itinerating to continue their work training and equipping ministers and missionaries in Africa and beyond. You can follow them on Instagram and Facebook.

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