Nehemias André Chaia was born at Mbanze under Chief Nguluze, Chidenguela. His father was Pastor André Maholo Chaia and his mother was Mrs Lúcia Mabunda (Matshinhe) Chaia from Manjacaze. As a pastor’s son he never needed to herd cattle out in the veld.
In 1953 his parents went to pastor at Chikavane. It was their wish and also his desire that he attend school and in 1956 they sent him to Tavane School. For lack of money he returned home in 1959 and his father sent him to the Catholic Mission at Mangunze. He attended some of the outreach educational classes held by missionary Mary Cooper and she arranged for him to enter the Bible College at Tavane. His father prayed for him before he left, “Lord, we give you this young man, our son, Nehemias. Help him now as he leaves us so that tomorrow he may serve you.” Nehemias continued with school for the first year, then, in 1961, he enrolled in the Bible College. However he did not understand what it was really all about.
While in college he was sent to pastor at Chieleni but did not do well as he had not as yet met Jesus. In 1962 he served at Pheyapheya and then at Mapfongwani, near the mission. One day the principal, Miss Lorraine Schultz, Dez Para Oito (Ten to Eight) told the student body she was very concerned that some students were taking preaching assignments but they had spiritual needs themselves. While one student began to weep during his report and asked for prayer. Nehemias wrote later, “I also went to the altar. I can never forget that day on September 22, 1962 when I met Jesus. I thank him for redeeming me. I was lost and dead but I lived that day.”
The following Wednesday, September 25, during the chapel service Rev. Samuel Manhique read II Timothy 3:5, “…having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” Chaia explained what happened, “I felt the great need of the Holy Spirit in my heart. As I prayed for myself, I suddenly felt great peace and joy. I spoke, ‘Thank you, Lord. I am now sanctified.’” The teachers helped him with his fees and his studies went well after that but he did not complete the course.
In 1966 he went to Johannesburg to work in the mines and continued to serve contract periods until 1969. He worked at Lorraine Mine, No. 3 Shaft. In 1968 he reported, “My heart is very happy knowing Jesus Christ because He has forgiven me for all of my sins. Also self rule has been taken away….I truly love Him and I love to serve Him and witness for Him among my people.”
He married Miss Leonor Bessie Moisés Ngulele on November 1, 1969. Chaia prayed much about returning to Bible College. Finally he did complete his course in 1972. From 1975 the couple pastored at Munguambe, Chidenguele, until 1978 when Chaia was chosen to minister on the Rand compounds in South Africa while living at ERPM Mine at Boksburg. He was ordained in 1977 by Dr. Eugene Stowe.
Nehemias Chaia was a great leader with a gift for evangelizing unchurched people. As pastor at Munguambe he had a large following of young people who had committed their lives to serving the Lord. Starting in 1975, Mozambique was an orthodox Socialist-Communist country, to such an extent that local government leaders would not allow young people to attend church services. In the schools young people were taught that the Bible was a book of illusions. As a result a great many left the Church of the Nazarene. Nehemias Chaia was able to retain the young people in his church and kept them motivated to serve the Lord, “The ultimate reality in the world.”
Filipe Banze says that his uncle, Nehemias Chaia, who convinced him that socialist ideas were simply unworkable, was instrumental in helping him find the Lord. At the time of his death, Nehemias Chaia was helping Filipe’s father prepare for Filipe’s marriage.
Rev. Nehemias Chaia was tragically killed in an automobile accident while serving as chaplain in the Deelkraal Mine at Carletonville. He was accompanied by a Nazarene layman, Mr. Mondlane, who was also killed.
Paul S. Dayhoff
Miss Lorraine Schultz stressed that the students had to be present at ten minutes before eight in the mornings. If they were late they would forfeit breakfast the following day. Hence the name they gave her.
Pastor Nehemias Andre Chaia, “My Testimony,” Mutwalisi (The Herald), Shangaan/Tsonga magazine of the Church of the Nazarene in Mozambique and South Africa, (Florida, Transvaal, South Africa: Nazarene Publishing House, April-June 1968), 7.
Mr Filipe Banze, report at Swaziland Nazarene Bible College, July 1998.
Rev. Nehemias Chaia, biographical notes in Shangaan, from Miss Lorraine Schultz. “Mozambique Pastor Killed,” World Mission (Kansas City, MO: Nazarene Publishing House, May 1985), 11.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Africa Nazarene Mosaic: Inspiring Accounts of Living Faith, first edition, (Florida, Gauteng, South Africa: Africa Nazarene Publications, 2002), copyright © 2001, by Paul S. Dayhoff. All rights reserved.