Friday, November 20, 2009

Greetings from northern Mozambique!

It is hard for us to imagine that most of the people reading this are experiencing cold weather right now! For those of us in this part of the southern hemisphere, our temperatures have been climbing, we’ve been sweating, guzzling water, and eating ripe mangoes around the clock. We’re also getting ready for the rainy season – it has rained a couple of times already and many of our friends have been busy working in their farms. Please join us in praying for the rain – asking God to send plentiful rains for a good harvest, but not too much that the fields flood and crops are lost.

Speaking of prayer, thank you to all of you who joined us in praying for peaceful elections here in Mozambique last month! This was only Mozambique’s fourth general election and it went smoothly. You might remember that it was in the context of an election year (2004) that rumors were started locally that we were political spies working for the minority political party, which resulted in us living in exile in another province for over a year. The atmosphere was much more peaceful and mellow this time around, and we are so thankful that they dialed down the rhetoric and that there was no violence.

At the end of September we participated in a women’s conference that was attended by about 50 women from 16 village churches all over the southern half of our province. The subject up for study and discussion was the ikoma, the initiation ceremonies for girls as a transition from childhood to adulthood. The ceremonies traditionally include many harmful practices (beating, abuse, ridicule, encouragement of sexual promiscuity), and in the past few years several women from the churches have done a Christian ikoma, and many more have expressed interest. We went through several passages of scripture from Deuteronomy, 1 Peter, Ephesians, and 1 Corinthians and discussed how we could redeem the ikoma for God’s kingdom. The weekend was tiring, but fascinating and fun watching women get into debates with each other and ask each other hard questions. I also bumped up against the limits of my Makua-Metto language ability a couple of times: in a room with 50 women and awful acoustics, between 1 and 3 crying babies at any given time, 1 toddler with squeakers in his shoes, and up to 8 women all excitedly talking at once about something they care about… it was hard to follow in those moments! But it was exciting watching our friends think critically about what parts of the ikoma glorify God, and what parts don’t, and discuss how to change those parts and possible implications of making changes to cultural ceremonies. Some of you may remember that we do not yet have the full scriptures in Makua-Metto; for this conference we had several of our Metto friends translate the additional passages we wanted to use – and it made us even more thankful for SIL/Wycliffe and all the hard work they are putting into translating the scriptures!

We’ve kept busy with our regular ministry activities as well. Recently we have been teaching marriage seminars with different clusters of churches in our province. This past weekend, Alan and our teammate Jeremy did two seminars, one with the churches in Nekwaya/Kambiri/Namwaciko, and another with churches in Chipembe/Nkunama/ Nkororo/Nhinawe/Neewara. These seminars are good times of encouragement as we learn what a Christian marriage should be like. It is also fun seeing friends from different villages getting the chance to worship together and enjoy each other’s fellowship. This fellowship was a big blessing especially to the church in Nkunama. One of the founding members of that church died the day before the seminar and when we arrived we went directly to the funeral. There were over 200 people there. Gabriel, the brother who died, was a very quiet old man, and it was surprising to see so many people in attendance. When Alan asked why there was such a big turn-out, the other church members said that the village of Nkunama wanted to see what the church would do. Funerals are very significant in this culture, and it was important that the church do a good job of taking Gabriel through this “last ceremony.”

We have continued doing leadership training and discipleship groups in Montepuez, Chiure, and in the villages north of town. Since Alan’s trip to Rwanda we have adopted a simpler, more reproducible method of studying the scriptures (called “Discovery Bible Study” by some), and our Mozambican friends have easily picked it up. Alan has encouraged different churches to work through the commands of Jesus with this method when they study together. He has spent a lot of time lately talking about the importance of trusting Jesus and living the life here in this world that he has called us to live – he really means for us to live out the Sermon on the Mount, for example. In addition, Alan has been studying with a group of folks in the village of Nhinawe that is interested in becoming a church. They have recently started studying through some of the key stories in the book of Genesis; please pray for this new contact point.

A few weeks ago we hosted a sustainable agriculture seminar on our land and were pleased with the turnout! We had almost 60 participants even though we were only able to give about a week's notice; this included representatives there from 15 or so villages and a number of men and women who live here in town. Even though there was not enough time to implement all the ideas before the rainy season, we decided to go ahead and have an initial seminar to introduce some of the concepts. We talked about not burning fields (a huge problem here), planting at the right time, planting with proper spacing, making a "blanket" of leaves and grass to help conserve rainwater, how to make compost, etc. Our project manager (running the non-profit chicken business), Domingos, did an incredible job; he presented it effectively and kept the participation level high. One of the best Mozambican farmers we know was there and he rushed home the next day saying that he was going to try to go ahead and get started this year. Implementing these concepts should drastically increase production. A representative from the Mozambican department of agriculture attended as well, liked what he saw and heard, and encouraged us to keep doing these seminars. The seminar was hosted on the land our team purchased earlier this year. In addition to housing the non-profit chicken business, we’re in the beginning stages of developing the land: planting some crops, and clearing brush and making improvements to get ready for more agriculture and possible construction next year.

We have about 3 weeks left until we leave for the States, and it feels like there is a lot left to do to get ready. Our baby is due mid-January, and I have been feeling well, trying to stay cool in this heat! Due to the poor state of healthcare in Mozambique we will be having the baby in the US, but we’ll be returning to Mozambique the first week of March. Last month, we were able to do an ultrasound in the city of Nampula, about 5 hours away, and the doctor told us that we are having a baby boy! He said he was about 90% sure, but due to our track record, we aren’t sure we’ll believe it completely until the little guy makes his appearance in January.

Our prayer requests:
• for the kingdom of God to come among the Makua-Metto
• for the non-profit business and future development of the team’s land
• for safe travel to the US on December 12th
• for the safe birth of our baby in January
• for a good rain this year leading to an abundant harvest in Mozambique

Thanks for keeping up with us and participating in this work,

Alan, Rachel, Abby, Ellie and baby Howell