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