Friday, November 21, 2008

warming up in the southern hemisphere

Hi again from Montepuez!

It is HOT in northern Mozambique! We have always said that we thought November was the hottest month, and it has been confirmed yet again. The rains don’t really start until about mid-December, which helps cut the heat, so until then we are sweating with temperatures in the 90’s in the house. It is difficult for us to imagine the cooling weather for all of you not in the southern hemisphere… And yes, we know that we are overdue for a newsletter! When we last wrote we had been home one month from furlough, and it is almost three months since then. We have been busy enough that it has been difficult setting aside time to write an update.

At the end of August we went to Balama (an hour and a half further out into the bush) together with the Smiths to spend the weekend with the church there. Each year our team does a weekend visit/teaching seminar for all the churches in each of the 6 districts that we work in (Balama, Chiure, Namuno, Montepuez, Pemba, and Ancuabe), and this year we taught through the Sermon on the Mount at each seminar. The teaching went well in Balama; we really enjoyed the fellowship and we also got really dirty – Balama dirt is really fine red clay dust, and once it gets on it is hard to get off!

About a week later, we had our team retreat together in Nacala, a town about six hours away on the coast. It was a good time of fellowship, vision-casting, praying and playing together. A few days after we got back Alan and Chad headed back out to make another visit/teaching seminar, this time in the Namuno district, which went well.

Alan and Chad got back late Sunday night, and then very early Tuesday morning (23 Sept) our teammate Mika called and said that her husband Aaron, who had been sick for several days with severe headaches, was getting worse and that they were getting concerned about the possibility of meningitis. So within a few hours Alan and Chad were in the car taking the Roland family to Pemba (the medical facilities here in Montepuez are not good). There they met up with a South African doctor friend of ours and took Aaron to a clinic there in Pemba, where he began to improve slightly. Because of the difficulty in diagnosing what was making Aaron sick and the concern for meningitis, they arranged for Aaron to be flown out the next morning to South Africa with an aviation group called Mercy Air. Once they arrived in Nelspruit, South Africa Aaron was taken to the emergency room at the hospital there, and while they tested and treated him for several things, they were never able to pinpoint exactly what made him so sick. The Rolands were in South Africa for a few weeks making sure Aaron was well enough to return, and we are so thankful that he recovered and that they came back to us. Thanks so much to all of you who joined us in praying for Aaron.

The same morning that Alan took Aaron to Pemba was Abby’s first day of school with Luke, being taught by our teammate Martha. They have been in school for nine weeks now, and they are both doing well and eating it up. Due to the nature of our lives over here, Abby and Luke are getting a hybrid of regular classroom schooling and home schooling, and so far it is working out really well. Last week I stepped in and taught for a week for the first time, so I am now officially broken in! I was nervous at the thought of teaching for awhile, but Martha guided me through the prep that she usually does, and my week with Abby and Luke went very well. It is an understatement to say that we are thankful to be doing this together as a team, and though it is going well, we are still recruiting for a teacher to come over and teach our children (and fundraising for this as well); please see our website for more information.

Alan’s weekly teaching schedule for the past several months includes Tuesdays with the young church in Khambiri (studying key stories from the Old Testament and the Life of Jesus), Thursdays in Nkororo (studying the life of Jesus and what it means to be a church), and Saturdays doing Train & Multiply. He and Jeremy wrapped up one year of teaching Train & Multiply with leaders down in the Chiure district two Saturdays a month, and they have begun T&M now with church leaders here in Montepuez town. Thursday afternoons I have a women’s Bible study in town. Sundays we worship with one of the various churches we have relationships with, Fridays are for lesson preparation and extra visits, Wednesdays are team days for business and prayer together, and Monday is our Sabbath.

This past Tuesday in Khambiri we baptized 10 new believers into Christ. As Alan walked to the river with the church, he talked to one of the members who had been a part of the church since it began about a year ago. He was excited because his wife and her uncle were being baptized that day. Alan was excited as well, because the fact that both these family members were coming to Christ meant that others were seeing signs of change in this man’s life. That same day before the Bible study, one of the members who has been a Christian for about 3 months shared a story from the previous week when he had taken a short cut through the bush and ended up lost and hungry. He thought, “I’ve been learning to pray with the church, I’ll ask God for help.” He walked for another minute and found a huge mango tree with tons of ripe fruit. He sat down and ate and then began to realize where he was. An hour later he was back at home. He shared that, “I was lost and hungry and God helped me get home.”

One project that we’ve been excited about is helping people learn how to build Lorena stoves. Almost everyone here cooks over an open fire. This way of cooking uses a lot of firewood, and is a health risk as many children each year are burned by these fires and mothers and the small babies tied on their backs breathe in a lot of smoke. Lorena Stoves are made from readily available material (dirt from a termite mound, grass, and water) and a couple hours worth of effort. The Lorena Stoves help save firewood and keep the smoke and fire away from mothers and their children. As a team, we’ve taught how to build the Lorena stoves in six places and we’re hoping that it will catch on as people begin to see the difference it can make.

Alan is completing his first practicum for his M.Div. this semester… he is on schedule to complete the second practicum next semester, which means that, Lord willing, he will graduate in May! Alan was in grad school full time beginning summer 2000 though fall 2002, when we moved to be with our sponsoring church in Nashville before moving overseas. From then on he has taken his remaining classes online or while on furloughs to the States, so it will have taken us nine years. Even though Alan won’t get to walk across the stage in May (since we are so far away), it will be very exciting for him to finish!

The first weekend in November Alan went down to Nampula to teach a one-day seminar in one of the churches there. The Nampula and Zambezia provinces have quite a few churches that we have known in the past, and they have struggled a lot with some significant divisions over the years. One of the church leaders contacted Alan to ask if he could come down and answer some questions of identity and division. They talked about some of the specific issues and we’re hoping that these churches will move forward together.

The next weekend was the weekend seminar for the Montepuez district, which was held here in town. Alan and Aaron taught through the Sermon on the Mount, and people came from all of the churches in the Montepuez district, which is quite a large district. We had about 12 churches represented and around 70 participants. It was exciting to see people we know from various villages all together in one place worshiping, studying God’s Word and getting to know each other.

Ellie’s birthday was Monday, and she is very happy to be three now, though that day up until the party she kept insisting that she was still two. Friday we are taking off to visit our friends Rusty, Ann, and Hallie Caldwell over in Lichinga to visit with them and see their development farm there, and we are really looking forward to that – we haven’t seen them in two years. We will be back just in time to celebrate Thanksgiving with the Rolands and Westerholms on Thursday, which is just a few days before the Westerholms leave for an extended furlough/childbirth in the States. We will really miss them while they are gone, and we know they will miss us too, though I doubt they will miss the sweating part of Christmas in Mozambique.

Thank you so much to those who contributed towards some of our special projects earlier this year! Some of you contributed money for MP3 players and speakers, and now that the Makua hymnal is finished (with 125 songs in Makua-Metto), we’ve lent out the six MP3 players and speakers. The churches are enjoying using this resource as it is helping them learn these new songs as well as hear some of the scripture recordings we have in Makua (the majority of people here in the churches do not know how to read). The chicken project is about ready to get started, though we’ve decided to wait until April when corn for chicken feed will be cheaper. We are currently starting to line up the appropriate paperwork and get land here in town to house the project. Also, since we’re now in the time of hunger these next few months before the harvest, some of the funds you gave are being used to help some of our friends who’ve been hardest hit during this time of need.

Our health has not been great these last few months, the most significant illness being that Alan had malaria last week. But it also seems like we have been continually under the weather with one minor illness after another, whether it is respiratory infections, stomach bugs, fevers, pink eye or sore throats. But we are thankful for the health that we do have and the healing God gives.

Our internet is, we think, pretty close to being functional. Our teammate Jeremy has worked hard to get the system set up, and then we ran into a few kinks and are waiting for the technician for the cotton company in town to come and help us work it out. It would be very nice to have fast internet as a Christmas present… but we’ll just have to see.

We miss you all! Conventional wisdom says that the longer you do something the easier it gets. But we have recently discovered that it isn’t true in regards to living so far away from those we love – it is getting harder to be away from you!

We ask that you please
• Pray first for a good rainy season so people can eat in the coming year. Enough rain for the food to grow, but not so much that fields and flooded and crops ruined. And long enough that each of the crops get the water it needs to grow in its time.
• Please pray for everyone, especially those of us with more than we need, to work together to share deeply and together end poverty (physical and spiritual). Pray for the imagination needed to make this happen.

With love in Christ,
Rachel, Alan, Abby, and Ellie Howell

Friday, August 22, 2008

getting started again in montepuez

Hello again from Montepuez!

We have been home for a month now, feeling settled and enjoying being received and welcomed by so many. Our team provided meals for us for over a week, which was a big blessing (especially since the fridge and freezer were empty), and our Mozambican friends were very generous, too, welcoming us back with gifts of chickens, oranges, rice, cassava, corn flour, peanuts, honey, beans, peas, bananas, and watermelon. We have been greeted with very big smiles and warm handshakes, and for a few close friends I told them “I have to hug you like an American!” (Hugging isn’t really weird or offensive here, but people just don’t do it.) Our friends here have really enjoyed seeing the photo books we brought back, one from Alan’s brother Aaron’s wedding, and also the one we made about our work in Mozambique that many of you saw when we were on furlough.

We had an easier time than we expected jumping back into speaking Makua. We definitely felt rusty getting those words to come out of our mouths at first, but it came back quicker than we thought. We realize that we are in a tricky place in language learning; we can communicate and make ourselves understood very well, and it would be easy to not study language much more. But we know we don’t yet sound just like our Makua friends; we still need more work on the way we put our sentences together and on the more complicated verb tenses as well. I have also been reminded that the biggest test of language comprehension (in my opinion!) is being in a group of women who know each other well, and trying to keep up in a discussion about something they care about, where several are talking fast all at once! So we still have our work cut out for us.

We set aside this first month back for making the rounds visiting the churches and villages where we have relationships, to see how they have been doing these last few months before jumping into the same activities and routines we had before furlough. While we were in the states two of the churches in the area we work (north of Montepuez) had key members who passed away. One of the women from Chipembe, Nantolo, a woman who is a Queen in her clan and a solid member of the church, died. Also, we were sad to hear about the death of our brother Cassimiro who had been a Christian for about a year and a half. After deciding to follow Jesus, he gave up drinking and was becoming a leader of the church in Nekwaya. He and Alan had a number of conversations about the ways his life was being transformed by the power of the gospel. Shockingly, Cassimiro was murdered by a new member of the church in Nekwaya who had been drunk and violent at the time and who then fled from the village. The church in Nekwaya has some very young men who have stepped up and led during this awful time. When we visited in Nekwaya this past Sunday Alan went and visited with Cassimiro’s family and walked out to the grave site together.

The church in Nekwaya is young and has a long way to go. Alan is picking up where we left off in teaching our infant church curriculum to the newest churches in this area (Khambiri and Nkororo). Also, our team is spending more of our time on leadership development, so in the next few months that will increasingly be the focus. Please keep these churches in your prayers. Our goal is to see a movement of churches who are maturing and planting other churches here among the Makua-Metto people.

Abby’s 5th birthday was July 30th, and she really enjoyed having a party with the kids on our team. Abby and Luke will start kindergarten mid-September with Martha (Luke’s mom), and then in November I will step in and teach about once a week. Shortly before they start school we will have a “graduation” from our informal preschool so they will remember that they are moving on, and hopefully not be too disappointed that they are missing preschool with all the other kids. We are so thankful to have a teacher on the team (Martha) as we begin our kids’ formal schooling, though our plan and prayer is that teachers will come over to teach for a year (or more!), beginning next year (’09-’10 US school year). Please visit our website and pass this information along to anyone you know who might be interested!

Shortly after Abby’s birthday we headed down to Nampula for several days to change money, get groceries, and to get the truck worked on. The roof rack had come off earlier in the year and needed to be reinstalled, and the cable that holds the spare tire under the bed of the truck was broken. Getting a car worked on in Mozambique isn’t quite like it is in the States; sometimes we take it to Toyota (in Pemba or Nampula), but often it involves something along the lines of “I know a guy…” But the roof rack and spare tire cable are fixed and secure now, and we are thankful for that (though apparently the guys who fixed the spare tire cable didn’t tighten all the connections to the secondary fuel tank that had to be moved to do their work, and Sunday we had a major fuel leak coming back from Nekwaya, but thankfully Alan was able to fix that easily). So now we just need to have the windshield replaced…

In addition to groceries and truck repairs we always enjoy the fellowship (and hospitality!) of our colleagues and friends in Nampula. This time we were blessed to see Shawn and Sarah Gardner and their kids Ben, Olivia, and Caleb. Many of you will remember that Caleb had to be life-flighted out of Mozambique a year ago for severe respiratory distress. Many of you joined us in prayer for Caleb and his family through his long illness and rejoiced with us in the healing that he received. After a lot of prayer and time for healing and recovery, the Gardners have moved to Nelspruit, South Africa (just across the border from Moz) for a year or so. From there they can continue their relationships and ministry in Mozambique for a time and still get the regular therapy that Caleb needs. We love Shawn and Sarah and their kids and it was a blessing for us to be reunited with them, and we look forward to seeing where God leads them in the future.

We also were able to see the Maddux family who are new to Good News for Africa (our legal organization here in Mozambique) and have just moved to Nampula from the States. They were gracious enough to allow other GNFA families to send items to their container to be shipped over to Moz, and so Abby now has a big-girl bike, and we now have camping cots and sleeping bags so sleeping out in the bush won’t be so painful! Our team also sent over on the container some hardware that will hopefully allow us to piggy-back off the satellite internet connection of the cotton company in town, who have been very gracious with us. Our teammate Jeremy is working on getting all that set up; it will be very nice to have high-speed internet. We are trying not to set our expectations too high (since this is still Mozambique and not the US), though we are very much looking forward to being able to access to online resources, online banking, sending pictures of our ministry (and of our kids for the grandparents!), and being able to receive more than just text from all of you!

Next weekend begins a busy few weeks for us. First we will go further out in the bush to the town of Balama with our teammates the Smiths and spend the weekend with our friends in the church there, teaching and learning together. The next week our team will receive a visit from another Nampula GNFA missionary family, the Beens, and the next week we will head down to Nacala to have a retreat for our team. After the retreat our family will stay a few extra days in Nacala for personal vacation time, and then after heading back to Montepuez we have 2 days to wash all our dirty laundry and head back out for another weekend out in the village with churches, this time in the Namuno district.

Last, but not least, we are looking forward to hearing from the participants from the “Big MO,” the conference/gathering of friends, family, and churches of missionaries in Mozambique (both our team and the team in Lichinga) coming up this Labor Day weekend in Searcy, AR. They will convene to fellowship, share stories, learn from each other, and to coordinate together as they support and care for these two missions in Mozambique. This is a rewarding experience that will not disappoint; for more information see our website

As we wrap up, we ask that you pray for:
-the kingdom of God to come in our area
-our health (this a bad season for allergies here, with dust, mango pollen, and smoke from burning fields)
-fundraising and healthy pregnancy for our teammates the Westerholms
-as we begin schooling for Abby and Luke

We love and miss you all!

Rachel, Alan, Abby, and Ellie

Monday, July 28, 2008

internet? what internet?

We are finally home in Montepuez!

Heavy air traffic followed by rain in New York made us miss our flight Thursday night to Johannesburg out of JFK, though thankfully we were able to get on standby for Friday night's flight. That meant, of course, that we would miss our Saturday morning flight from Joburg to Pemba, which wouldn't fly again until Tuesday, so we spent three nights in Joburg resting and getting over jet lag, which really wasn't so bad. We have never had a good experience flying through JFK, so maybe we should try something else next time...

So we are finally home; we have unpacked, cleaned, dusted, and hung up a bunch of pictures of family and friends from furlough. It has been a very smooth transition compared to our return from our first furlough, and for that we are thankful. Our teammates helped open up our house for cleaning before we got home and prepared a bunch of meals for us; we are so blessed by our team! We are planning a number of visits over the next few weeks to reconnect with our friends in Montepuez and in the surrounding villages with the main goal of listening: to hear recent news and how people are doing. Yesterday we worshipped with the church in Chipembe, and it was like coming home; it was so great to see them all again. The day after we got home a number of women left with my teammate Martha to a womens conference in another province, so we look forward to hearing how that went.

Abby and Ellie did GREAT on the 19-hour flight, which means they slept a LOT. Of course, that also means that they woke up at 2am every night for the next 5 nights, but it seems they have recovered and are sleeping all night again now. They have been pretty good about jumping right in there and greeting people in Makua and Portuguese. Abby's fifth birthday is Wednesday, and she is SO excited, changing her mind at least once a day about what she wants her cake to look like.

Our house is in pretty good shape after being empty for four months, with only one leak in each bathroom, and the improvements the landlord made (without telling us!) aren't bad. =) Our snail-pace dial-up internet connection, however, seems to have given up and bitten the dust, so I am at the lone computer at the telephone company office in town working online, going through emails, copy/pasting, and getting kicked offline with technical problems every thirty minutes or so. We have some equipment coming soon on a container that hopefully will allow us to piggyback off of the internet service of the cotton-processing company here in town; we are all really hoping that will work.

Please join us in praying for the following cares:
-for God's kingdom to come among the Makua-Metto
-for vision as we pray and plan for the next three years
-for the health and unity of our team
-for our own spiritual nourishment
-for Abby and Ellie to learn Portuguese and Makua

We love and miss you all!
Love, Rachel (and Alan, Abby, and Ellie)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

See You in Three Years (or in Mozambique!)

Well, we have finished up packing, and the suitcases are in the car for our early morning departure. We have had a wonderful furlough – we feel so blessed to have seen and spent time with so many of you, and we are so sorry for the few of you that we missed. Though we have left the States to live in Mozambique, God has blessed us with many homes, especially in Nashville, Memphis, and Dallas. At the moment we are dealing with a strange swirling of emotions; we are looking forward to being home, but have been sick to our stomachs saying all our good-byes that we know will be for awhile, especially in light of how fast grandchildren grow.

Please pray for us as we travel:
--that we and all our luggage will arrive safely into Pemba and Montepuez
--for us as we get settled back in Mozambique and get re-oriented to life there
--for the next three years as we listen and discern how God is working and leading in northern Mozambique

Rachel, Alan, Abby, and Ellie

Monday, July 7, 2008

out of the mouths of babes

Our families (my parents and many of the Wilson clan) have all been together for the July 4th weekend here in Plano, TX. Since our family will be heading back to Mozambique shortly, we had an early birthday party for Abby and Ellie. They received some gifts and were really excited. After Abby, our four-year old, played with one of the toys she sighed and said:

"Wow, this is just what I always wanted. But, I just didn't know about it, yet."

We all laughed at her honesty. Haven't we all felt that way before?

Grace and Peace,

Thursday, July 3, 2008

memory and imagination

Two weeks from tomorrow our family will get on a plane with all of our luggage (yikes!) and head back home to Mozambique. We have been having a great time here in the US with our families, but our minds are starting to think about life and ministry among the Makua.

I’ve been thinking about our teaching ministry in Mozambique. Our team is using a chronological storying method. This approach understands the key stories of the Old Testament as necessary preparation for hearing about the death and resurrection of Jesus. So, the churches we work with hear about the Creation and the Fall, Noah, Abraham, Exodus, David, and the exile among other things before they hear about the coming of the Messiah. We believe that this approach gives the hearer the best preparation for understanding the story of Jesus and sets the stage for their own transformation in order to begin to look like Jesus.

I came across a quote that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

“Reading and interpretation, therefore, reflects a conversational mode that looks backward and forward – backward as a function of memory, which provides fuel for the imagination that looks forward. Embodiment of biblical truth in the present, therefore, stands at the place where memory and imagination meet.” - Gordon Matties

This quote is a little thick. What I’m taking away from this quote is that for the church to be the people that God has called them to be in any context they’ll need to draw on the deep wells of stored memory from the biblical text to inform their imagination as to how to live out the faith in that place. We need to be rooted in the biblical stories. But, we’re not expected just to repeat exactly what happened to the faithful who have gone before us, but instead to be faithful - be consistent - with the story we’re apart of.

So, our memory (formed by the biblical testimonies and local testimonies of God’s faithfulness) equips our imagination and allows us to live out the faith. My goal then is not to tell interesting narratives, but to outfit the Makua-Metto with the formative stories necessary for living out their faith in their neighborhoods.

Grace and Peace,

Saturday, June 28, 2008

May 2008 Newsletter

Dear Friends and Family,

Greetings from the United States this time! We are writing from Memphis, Tennessee, and for all of you we have not seen, it is nice to be on this side of the pond with you!

travel trials
Our travels didn’t get off to a good start, or at least not a timely start! Every single flight we took to get from Pemba, Mozambique to Dallas, Texas left between one and four hours late, which resulted in a forced 2-night stay in New York City (at the expense of South African Airways, thankfully). This would have been more frustrating except that we had built in two days at the beginning of our schedule just for recovering from jet lag so we wouldn’t get sick, so basically we just got over our jet lag in New York instead of Dallas. We considered for about half a second leaving the hotel to do some sight-seeing; the problem was that we only packed warm-weather clothes and it was about 33 degrees in New York – we even saw some old, gray snow still sitting on the tarmac at the airport! Needless to say we were a little road-weary (or is it air-weary?) when we FINALLY got to Dallas.

We took a week of our personal vacation for the year that first week, which was nice and restful. My parents watched the girls and sent us off to a hotel for a few nights for some kid-free relaxation, and then a couple days later we took the girls to San Antonio to go to the zoo, the River Walk, and most of all, Sea World, which they enjoyed. A couple days after that we started making our way to Tennessee, stopping for a few days with Alan’s family in Memphis before heading on to Nashville, where we spent a month with the Donelson church, our sponsoring church family.

furlough fun
Missionaries live unusual lives, and furlough is no exception! Basically, when we are in Nashville, our job is to spend as much time with Donelson folks as we can, reconnecting relationships with those who have sent us, and sharing about the work in Mozambique so that members at Donelson feel connected to the work they support. So for the four weeks we were in Nashville, we averaged lunch with Donelson people about 5 days out of the week, and dinner about 6 days out of the week, with sharing in Sunday school classes and Sunday night home churches and missions committee meetings on top of that, with visits to the dentist and the eye doctor and the financial planner squeezed in as well! We were very blessed by our time in Nashville; we feel very much like we are at home with family when we are with Donelson, and it is a joy to pick up right where we left off in our relationships there, even though it had been 2 and a half years since we were with them.

It was a pretty busy schedule to keep for a whole month, though, and by the end of the four weeks we were pretty tired! On 5 May we left Nashville for Memphis to be with Alan’s family; we have enjoyed the change of pace and have been catching our breath and catching up on emails and finances, etc. This past weekend we took a quick trip to Searcy, Arkansas for Alan’s brother Aaron’s graduation from Harding University, and this coming weekend Aaron Howell will marry Erin Gray here in Memphis (yes, that’s right, it’s Aaron and Erin!). We are excited for Aaron and Erin, and we are glad we could arrange our furlough to be here for the wedding – Abby and Ellie are especially excited since they are flower girls in the wedding and get to wear pretty dresses! While we are in Memphis we are also hoping to take the girls to the zoo and catch a baseball game, and on Memorial Day we will head down to Florence, Alabama to spend more time with Alan’s family there.

On 2 June the girls and I will head on to Dallas, and Alan will stay behind for 2 weeks to take his last class at Harding Grad School here in Memphis. After this all that remains are his 2 practicums, and then he will be finished with his M. Div., which will be very exciting! While Alan is still in Memphis my mom and I will take the girls to Virginia Beach to see my Granny, which we are really looking forward to. After his class Alan will join us in Dallas for our time with my family, which will include a trip to Colorado to see my brother and sister-in-law.

Monday we will be officially halfway done with furlough, and saying that makes it feel like it is going by fast! Since we are away for such long stretches at a time, it is a blessing to us to reconnect on furlough with so many people we love. At the same time, furlough can be a weird experience (not a bad kind of weird) – furlough is part of our job as missionaries but so different from our regular activities in Mozambique. Alan and I end up processing our emotional reactions together: reverse culture shock coming back to the States, wondering how we will adjust back to life in Mozambique in a few months (Will it be easy? Will it be hard?), and the strange joy of being together with people here we love while at the same time really missing our life and friends in Mozambique (more than on our first furlough). While not always easy to articulate, we generally regard that last one as a very good thing that is a gift of God’s grace: that even though life there isn’t always easy, Mozambique is becoming more a part of us, and we miss it when we are not there (just like we miss you when we are not here).

The girls have generally done well, and though we try to anticipate their needs and their possible reactions to all the travel and transitions, they still surprise us sometimes. Ellie, still being so young at 2 years old, has been pretty flexible, though still with normal 2-year old behavior! (whining when tired, etc. =) ) Abby, though, surprised us by asking to go home to Mozambique several times the first few weeks – even while watching whales leap through the air at Sea World! We realize, though, that we shouldn’t be surprised; even though Abby enjoys her grandparents and aunts and uncles and Bible class and French fries and ice cream and playgrounds so much, Mozambique is still home for her – more so even than for us if you count the portion of her life that she has lived there. We want to do a good job helping our girls adjust through the years to all the transitions we put them through; we know we are in God’s hands and that He knows even better than we do what our girls need and how to care for them.

meanwhile in mozambique…
Our teammates the Smiths, Rolands, and Westerholms are still plugging away in Mozambique, and they have done a great job sending us emails to keep us updated on what is going on in our area: our Mozambican friends and the young churches and Bible studies and seminars. We treasure every email they write; it lessens the disconnect we feel when we are so far away, especially since none of our Mozambican friends can do email! We were very sad to hear of two friends of ours who have died since we left for furlough: a woman named Nantholo from the church in Chipembe and a man named Cassimiro from the church in Nekhwaya. We have been to many funerals in Mozambique, but these two believers were by far closer to us than any others we have known, so we are sad to lose them and that we were not there to participate with the communities in the funerals. Our teammates also told us that four guards were killed at night in another neighborhood in Montepuez in April; violent crime is pretty unusual there and this is only a recent development – please pray for God’s protection, for his kingdom to come in Montepuez, and for wisdom for our team to make wise choices.

new pictures on the website
Due to our slow internet connection in Mozambique, we had not posted pictures on our team website since last August, so we are long overdue. We sent a whole batch of pictures to our website administrator, and they are up and ready for viewing; they cover September through March, and we hope you enjoy them! Speaking of internet and email, we sent our last newsletter in early March, and we had more bounce back to us than ever before (almost all were hotmail or Comcast addresses); the error message said that the reason “may be related to spam-like content.” Since we send out our newsletter to such a long list of people from a location in Africa, our messages may be being flagged as spam; please be sure to add us to your email address book. So for those of you who did not receive our newsletter in early March, please feel free to read it on our website! We may look into choosing a different format for our newsletters (maybe a blog?); we will keep you updated on that.

since you asked…
Many of you that we have already spent time with have asked “What else can we do to help?” So we wanted to share in our newsletter the different ministry opportunities/ projects that we are looking at in the next few years:

  • Development project. Over the past year or so Alan has had a vision for starting a not-for-profit business in Montepuez. We have had some experience with raising our own chickens and there is a market in our area for fresh eggs and buying quality chickens for consumption. With about $1300 we could purchase a plot of land in our town, build some chicken pens as well as purchase the chicks and starter feed. We have a good relationship with the handicapped association and I would like to employ a few of them as guards and train a manager to run the day-to-day operations of the business. This business should be able to support 3-5 employees and the profits could be used to do a number of good things in our area. From buying corn to give to the leprosy association, supporting orphans, to starting a similar venture in a different area in the future. Our team sees this as a good way to show that we want to be a blessing to our community.
  • Hearing the word of God: MP3 players and speakers. The lack of literacy is a big problem for the churches in our area – both in Portuguese and Makua. A missionary friend of ours who serves among a different people group has had a lot of success using recordings of the biblical texts and having people listen in small groups. He has let people borrow MP3 players and speakers and when the rechargeable batteries run out – they bring it back and can add additional recordings. This way of sharing the word of God has been really effective so far – so, we’d like to try that among the Makua-Metto as well. When we return to Mozambique, we would like to take back 10-15 MP3 players and portable speakers (We would probably purchase these in Dallas – and the cost estimates we have so far are about $70-100 per unit).
  • Mozambican churches sending their own missionaries – One of the most exciting things happening among the churches in Mozambique is that at a national level the Churches of Christ are catching a vision for sending their own missionaries into unreached areas of Mozambique. Alan was present at a meeting a few months ago where they laid out their time table and came up with a plan for supporting these missionaries. So, far they have raised over $1000 USD. They want to prepare these missionaries well for this cross-cultural work and want to spend about 9 months of training before sending them out. With about $4-6,000 we could help them purchase some land and contribute towards the building of a storage room (to hold the food that the Mozambican churches will be sending to support these missionaries while training), a meeting area for the students, and set-up costs for the missionary training. We are excited about the possibility of helping in this way because this help would allow all the contributions that the Mozambican churches are making to go towards directly supporting the sending of their missionaries.
  • Giving in the time of hunger. Though some years are worse than others, December through March are difficult months for many people in Mozambique when there is often not enough food (the harvest starts in late March). This coincides with the rainy season, which means more mosquitoes and more people suffering with malaria. We help out many people who come to us for money to buy food or medicine or mosquito nets, but during those four months we often run out of money. Extra funds for hunger relief during December through March would bless many people.
  • Schooling our kids. This year in the fall our teammate Martha will begin teaching our two oldest kids, Luke and Abby, (with me as backup and assistant!), but we hope to have teachers come over from the States beginning in fall 2009. This will be the beginning of the adventure of schooling the children on our team, and we are looking for individuals and/or churches to partner with us financially in this effort, both one-time and long-term, since there are no funds for this in our personal salary or our work fund. In the beginning this would involve some initial one-time funds (curriculum purchase, bookshelves, desks), but would expand to more regular needs (renting a school house as we teach more kids, supplies, more curriculum). In addition, don’t forget – we are looking for teachers! Many who do this will fundraise to come over and teach missionary kids for a one-year commitment, and we have made a few initial contacts, but please tell anyone you think might be interested; we would be happy to start lining up teachers for the next several years!
    If you are interested in helping with any of the needs above, please email us and let us know; the different projects have different time frames, etc.

please pray
As we wrap up here, we ask that you pray for
For the Kingdom of God to come among the Makua-Metto

  • Furlough travels: safety and peace through transitions
  • For unity and health on our team

    May God bless you as you serve Him,

    Rachel, Alan, Abby, and Ellie Howell