Joan Antcliff MBE - Manna
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Joan Antcliff MBE

The late missionary Joan Antcliff saw the misery of the Mozambican war for Independence at first hand. From her arrival in southern Africa in 1951, as a 29 year old to her departure when she was in her fifties, Joan has turned her experiences into a book, ‘Living in the Spirit‘. Joan wrote home to her family in Devon and her mother kept these letters and later this enabled her to turn them into a book.

Birmingham-born Joan’s new life in Mozambique could not have been more different from the safe and secure world she had left behind. Her calling to be a missionary came when she joined the Land Army during the Second World War.

“I became very involved with churches in Leicester and that’s how I found my vocation. A missionary from Nyasaland, now Malawi said they were desperate for teachers. I’d always had a sense of adventure and decided it was was the right thing for me.”

Joan did a two year teacher training course in Salisbury and learnt Cinyanja, the local language and off she went. After this she was asked by the Bishop to go to Mozambique.

“Mozambique was much more rural and very isolated. There were one of two Roman Catholic missions in the district. Ours was the biggest and look after 300 pupils. I had to train teachers. The schools’ and church finances were desperate and so were ours. We were not paid a salary and given £30 a year for personal needs. I stayed through 10 years of the fight for freedom. Most of the Frelimo were my pupils who had been trained in Tanzania. It was extremely difficult to keep an aura of neutrality. One by one the pupils vanished to fight for their country. It was extremely difficult. They would send us notes telling us not to travel on the roads because they were putting down landmines.”

She returned to Devon because of the civil war in Mozambique when the missionaries were not allowed to teach religion and so she returned to the UK and became Head of RE in a grammer school.  In 2002, she decided to write the book ‘Living in the Spirit’ to raise funds for the churches in Mozambique. She was Editor of the MANNA magazine, and Director of the Southern African Church Development Trust for for many years aswell as being the Commissary to Bishop Dinis . She spent the last years of her life in a nursing home in southwestern England and died in the summer of 2019.

Her amazing account of her life in Mozambique can still be bought here. ‘Living in the Spirit’. 

Very fittingly, she left a legacy to MANNA and this is going towards a new project in Nampula Diocese to enable girls from the Maratane Refugee camp to get a secondary education. As an advocate for girls education, we hope she would be very proud.

Desmond Tutu wrote:

“Many of us in Africa would probably not be alive today had it not been for mission hospitals and clinics: many of us would not have been educated had it not been for mission schools and we would not have heard the Good News of God’s love had it not been for missionaries who came preaching the Gospel. We owe immense debt to the intrepid women and men such as Joan Antcliff, whose rivetting account of her work in Mozambique deserves a large audience.”