Mozambique Methodists celebrated the 30 year anniversary of the ordination of two women ministers in their country last month, praising the leaders as "standard bearers" for women in the field.
Nearly 700 gathered at the Methodist's Cambine mission to sing, dance and give tribute to Amina Isaias and Lea Jatamo who were ordained in 1979 as the first mainstream women pastors in Mozambique.
The now retired clergywomen are credited as being at the forefront of the church's membership growth and for developing its programs for supporting victims of poverty.
The women were also honored for their works in mentoring young pastors, battling institutional sexism, founding cutting-edge mission projects and planting at least five churches in the region.
"You are not just the first women pastors in The United Methodist Church here, but you were the first in any Christian denomination, said the Rev. Dinis Matsolo, speaking on behalf of the Mozambique National Council of Churches.
"You have opened a door for women in leadership that will never again close. And that is a gift from God," he added.
Isaias, now 65, had accompanied her husband to the United Methodist seminary at Cambine mission when he came to study evangelism.
"I had never heard of a woman pastor, yet God started calling me," she told the United Methodist News Service.
Jatamo, who began her ministry work as a Sunday school teacher in her teens, was recognized as a gifted evangelist, having planted at least three congregations in what is now the Maputo West District of Mozambique.
Jatamo is credited with making the district "one of the strongest, most vibrant districts in southern Africa," according to Bishop Joaquina Nhanala, the first woman elected as a United Methodist bishop in Africa in 2008.
Various tributes were given to the women, including one from a group of 35 men married to United Methodist clergywomen who presented a resolution affirming their wives and challenging the Mozambican church to "continue the path of empowering women."
A choir of young clergymen celebrated Jatomo, Isaias, Nhanala and other clergywomen, noting that they were "sent by God to save our people."