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