Greetings from Montepuez!
We’re emerging from our winter here in northern Mozambique, putting away our jackets and beginning to wipe layers of dust from everything and everyone. We’re also just under the four-month marker for our remaining time in Mozambique, which carries with it a swirl of conflicting emotions!
Shortly after our last newsletter we hosted an “ikoma” for Abby; this is the ceremony/celebration in this culture that marks children growing into adults. About 100 women spent the night at our house singing and dancing and sharing gifts and counsel with Abby as she ventures into adulthood; it was a bit of mash-up of Mozambican and American expectations, and it was so very beautiful to have so many friends here to celebrate our oldest daughter – many of them have watched her grow up here!
Just a few days after the ikoma, our team received eight interns from Harding University. They spent six weeks job shadowing us, getting to know our friends and ministry partners, eating in our homes and out in villages, and getting a feel for life in this part of Africa. While the interns were here in Montepuez, the churches we work with hosted a Women’s Conference on our team’s property.
This was the first province-wide gathering for women since major leadership changes in the churches, and it was absolutely beautiful. Over 230 women from six different districts came to enjoy each other and to worship, dance, and learn together, with the theme of the conference being the Whole Story of God-With-Us.
Starting back in May and continuing through September, Rachel is studying through the Sermon on the Mount in two different women’s groups; they’re in some pretty remote locations, and together with a few women from town they worship and study together, and they’ve made it about halfway through the text. They are enjoying being together and wrestling with Jesus’ provocative invitation into this different kingdom!
This has been a season of travel for our team; both the Smiths and Westerholms have traveled out of the country, and we also were delighted to receive Brian and Laura Beth Oliver and their kiddos to visit us here! We tried to take them around and give them a taste of Montepuez life; they got to meet a bunch of our friends and have some cultural experiences like frying bajias, worshiping with a village church, climbing our mountain, experiencing a local/famous singer/storyteller performance, and a couple days all together at the beach in Pemba. We are so thankful they were able to come visit, and we treasured their time here with us as a precious gift!
At the end of July, I spent a weekend with church leaders from the Balama District. We spent one day in a workshop setting discussing initiation rites for boys and how the church could think creatively about this practice. Then the next day we had a mini-retreat together; we went to a waterfall about three hours away were we talked about the power of living water and the need to be “funnels” and share the blessing of living water with others as we make disciples of Jesus. After that weekend I went on to a village on the other side of Balama where one of our students in the Theological School was doing a seminar with churches in his area. It was beautiful to hear him using the materials that he learned in the school, making it his own and sharing it with others, which of course is our hope – that church leaders will share what they learn and to bless others in their neighborhood.
Last week we hosted a sustainable agriculture seminar here with about 30 representatives of farming associations from 5 districts. This seminar focused on how to make communal vegetable gardens (as opposed to the larger crop-farms) and we took a field trip to see some other associations growing cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, onions, etc. It has been great to help connect people we care about with those who can teach them how to produce more in their farms and gardens.
Later this month we will begin the second semester of 2018 in the Theological Institute; I will be teaching classes on preaching and on the “Giants” (challenges facing the Church in Cabo Delgado) and Rachel will be teaching the class on church history. The first semester was pretty intense for us; in a ten-week span, Rachel and I taught six week-long classes (and may have almost worn ourselves out…). We were thankful for the stamina to make it through that stretch, and we hope that God will continue to use the school to bless these students and the churches they serve.
Our departure from Mozambique is coming up quickly on the horizon; it is a big transition, and we have never done this before! Rachel and I have conspired together several times to dream and plan and figure out what it looks like to “leave well;” how to honor the relationships with teammates, churches, and friends that we’ve grown especially attached to in our fifteen years here. Since our team works with over 70 churches it is a challenge to figure out how to say goodbye well to people spread out all over the southern half of this province.
Right now we are really, really (really!) grateful for wise counsel from mentors to “take a year to say goodbye” as part of healthy leave-taking. We’re also making plans for packing up a container and stepping through the logistics of moving internationally, so our brains are going in multiple directions! Our plan is to arrive in the United States in December and to spend time with family and supporters in the first few months of 2019 while also looking for jobs and discerning the direction of the next chapter of our lives. We don’t know where God is leading us next, so please keep this transition in your prayers; thanks again for supporting us and this ministry!
Please join us in prayer:
- For a good second semester in the Theological Institute
- For resolution of our document issues
- For wisdom and peace about wrapping up our time in Mozambique well and trust about what God has for our family in the future
Grace and Peace,
Alan and Rachel Howell