The Immaculate Conception: Set In Macossa, Mozambique

The women, men, and children are seated as the pastor reads out his sermon to all within the walls of the mud brick church, and it is in the midst of this otherwise normal Sunday that a girl who looks to be around the age of seventeen comes inside and shouts.

« Pastor, tem de me ouvir. Te estou a dizer que estou grávida… »

Mother turns her head. She has her hair wrapped in a polka-dotted headscarf. She wears her day-to-day orange-and-grey dress. Her earrings chime as she flips her head to look behind. She feels self-conscious of the sound she has made in the house of God, but it is nothing compared to the loud interruption of this woman.

Light banners against the pastor, from the opening in the wall he is standing under.

The pastor speaks on as if he has not heard the intrusion. 

« Aqui estamos com ele. Para ser salvo, em nome de Jesus…Aleluiah. »

« Amen » the congregation resounds. 

The woman comes up to the front and shows her belly to the pastor. 

« Pastor, look at what has happened. I said, I am pregnant! »

The hall, used as a church on Sundays, is quite cramped. The men and women who are in attendance are either sitting on the pews baked out of the mud or on plastic chairs that they have brought from outside. There is usually little distraction in such a closed space, and one can only remain fixed on the Holy Word for so long. It is natural that the men and women begin to murmur to themselves.

The pastor looks nowhere else except towards the entryway, from which light is peering through. He clutches his microphone and grows loud again. Without modulating his glare he says: 

« Look, everyone, look. Witness this. Without having sex, this girl has become pregnant. »

The chatter of the men and women grow tenfold. The noise is almost like the ripple of a wave, overtaking the quiet of the village, until it crashes and causes everyone to stand. These men and women circle the girl and the pastor. The women are the first to have their interview. Some take the words of the pastor like gospel itself and praise the Lord for this miracle. Others ask the girl directly how she became pregnant, whom she was sleeping with, why she is interrupting their church to share the scandal. One of the oldest ones is already taking her hand and feeling up the woman’s skirt, testing her virginity, to see if it has been taken. 

The girl has too many questions to answer. All she says is « It is the truth. I am pregnant, yes. »

The pastor interrupts before she can say anything else.

« It is a miracle, it is true. We are close to the birthday of Christ, and so God has blessed this village with our own Virgin Mary. Come, everyone. We must come together and pray. »

The pastor bows down his head and keeps his microphone close to his mouth.

« I confirm this knowing we are not far from God. We have been given this gift of a miracle because we are meant to be saved. It will be like fresh waters from the rivers. It will be like the sweetest of breads on our tongues. A new child has been born from God. Amen. »

« Amen » resound the churchgoers again, as does Mother. Mother feels the pleasant taste of spring water in the back of her throat, just like when she savours the taste of Portuguese-style breads. She was feeling perplexed before hearing the pastor, but now she looks at this girl and feels a sense of wonder and calm.  The other men and women have come to the belly of the girl and are closing their eyes and praying. Some are saying blessings to the miracle, some are wishing this child good health, and others are repeating the prayers the pastor has already said.

When it is her turn, Mother comes up herself and puts a hand on the child’s belly. She sees the concern on the girl’s face but says, « What a blessing! You have been gifted an immaculate conception, sim! »

Mother is smiling because she wants the girl to smile. 

The girl stares at the pastor, and says, « Estou grávida, sim… »

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