Wednesday, November 9, 2011

November 2011 update

Dear family and friends,

We send you our hot, sweaty greetings from northern Mozambique! The temperatures have been rising steadily, and these days it isn’t unusual for the temperature in the kitchen to be over 90 degrees. Please join us in praying for RAIN as this season begins. With only one rainy season, the distribution and quantity of rainfall directly affects the amount of food our Mozambican friends have for the entire year. We’re praying for enough rain for all the crops, but not so much that flooding destroys crops.


In July we went to South Africa (a three and a half day drive) to have the truck worked on by a fully equipped mechanic, and also for Ellie to have surgery to close her umbilical hernia. We are grateful for all your love and prayers for Ellie; the surgery went well without any complications! My parents joined us in South Africa right after that, and we had some time of rest and play and seeing some of God’s amazing creation together while Ellie’s incision healed. Our time with them was a very precious gift.

Talking with visitors who stop by.

Two days after we pulled into our driveway from the trip to South Africa, Alan’s youngest brother Aaron and his wife Erin arrived to visit, which was  so wonderful. We introduced them to as many of our Mozambican friends as we could, and though I’m sure the names of all the new people and places began to run together, they were good sports and Erin took a lot of pictures (some are pasted here in this post). Over a weekend we took them to a game reserve north of us that we’d never been to before; we saw multiple species of antelope and bird, and we even blundered right into three lions with a fresh kill (we stayed safely in the jeep, of course)!


Robert, Allison, and Miriam Berger arrived at the end of September; Allison is our team’s school teacher for the year, and we are so thankful to have her! The Bergers have been with us for a little over a month now and are getting settled into the teacher house that our teammate Jeremy Smith has been building. School has been going well; there are two classes: third and second grades together and then kindergarten, and the kids love having “Miss Allison” for a teacher. I have been teaching each class a Portuguese lesson three days a week, which has been a lot of fun.


One significant blessing from having a team teacher this year is that I’m a little freer for ministry time outside our home. This month we’ll begin switching one village day a week from Alan to me; the women (and the men) in Chipembe/Nkunama/Omeringue churches have been asking for more time for the women to study together. These are some of the women I have known the longest, and I am really looking forward to my Fridays with them.


We’re humbled and thankful to announce that the fundraising for the house is completed! Praise God; he is faithful and his children are so generous. Construction is going well, though definitely behind the schedule we’ve hoped for. Recently we had been anticipating moving before the end of November; but now we’re aiming for the end of the year. The roof is on (just in time for a good hard rain yesterday!), the plastering of the brick walls is partially done, and the wiring is installed. We have been told that the electric company will come to hook up our house this week – but we are only cautiously optimistic because that is the same thing we were told last week, the week before that… and the week before that.

While the house is nearing completion, we are still waiting on a solution for water or a well on the land. We’ve had a quote from one company of around $17,000, which was higher than we had hoped, but we’re still waiting on a quote from another company. $5,500 has already been given; please join us in praying for a reliable water source on the land. If you feel led to contribute financially to this need, you can send a check made out to Donelson Church of Christ to the following address: 2706 Old Lebanon Road, Nashville, TN 37214. A note should be included to specify that the funds are for well drilling.

this is where we worshipped in Chipembe

Our work with and in the churches this year has taken on a different shape. Certain villages have had fewer visits than before we started on the house. While some of them are hanging in there (we’re celebrating baptisms in Nkororo and Newara next week), others are barely hanging on (Namwaciko is really struggling due to a leader’s drunkenness). It’s hard to see people we’ve invested in choose to please themselves instead of seeking to follow the will of Jesus; just this past week we participated in an impromptu intervention with a couple where the husband has taken a second wife.

Others, though, are enjoying a season of growth. In October we participated in the provincial conference where around 140 people from villages and towns all over Cabo Delgado came together to enjoy fellowship and Bible study together. It was really fun to see church members from rural and urban areas connect with each other and worship together. It was a full weekend for Jeremy, Chad and Alan as they taught, shared in many conversations, and provided a lot of the transportation with our trucks. Early Friday morning Alan drove 45km south of the conference location to the area of Macoka; he picked up over twenty people to bring them to the conference, but unfortunately had to turn others away because the car was way over capacity. He was humbled and amazed late that afternoon to see thirteen more people who walked that distance all day to come join in the fellowship, some of them carrying very small children. One of Alan’s young friends from the village of Siwewe pulled him aside and introduced his Mom, telling Alan that he had baptized her just a few weeks before. Those moments are such an encouragement and keep us going.


This week we are actually still basking in the warmth of a very loving visit from three sweet people from the Donelson church, our sponsoring church in Nashville. Roy Young and Brian and Laura Beth Oliver took the plunge and came over to visit and encourage us, our team, and the churches that we work with. We took them around to as many villages and churches that we could fit into ten days, trying to give them an overview of our life and work here, how God is moving, and how the churches are doing. We are so thankful to the Donelson church for their continued love, encouragement, and broad support, including sending Roy, Brian, and Laura Beth to come visit!


Overall 2011 has been a weird year for us, and in some ways we are feeling weary. A few times throughout the year when considering how full the calendar had been, Alan and I have thought this might be the busiest year we’ve had or will have (with house construction as the main culprit) in Mozambique. The busy-ness has led to stress, for our family and within the team as well, and we are ready for this season to be over. We’re extra thankful for the abundance of visitors this year, who have reminded us not only of how much they love us, but of the wideness of God’s love and mercy, too. Please pray for wisdom as we make choices of rest and work for our family as we finish out construction, and we’d like prayers for our health as well. Just within the past couple months, Alan has suffered from both malaria and amoebic dysentery, and I had a bad case of adult strep throat. Thankfully our children have stayed pretty healthy and are as full of life as always. Abby continues to love reading and school with her friends; Ellie is delighted to finally be in school like Abby. Katie Joy seems to think at times that she is just as big as her sisters, which of course means she can (at least try to) tell them what to do.

Please join us in praying:

· For God’s kingdom to come among the Makua-Metto, not just among men, but also women and children

· For leaders to grow into maturity as they seek to follow the way of Jesus

· For enough steady rain to supply food for the coming year

· For our health and balance of work and rest

· For construction to finish well and soon, and for a well to be dug on our land for water

With much love and peace,

Rachel and Alan Howell

Thursday, June 30, 2011

heading south for the winter…

Dear Friends and Family,

Hello again from northern Mozambique! We’re in the middle of our “winter,” which means the air is very dry, and it’s actually chilly in the mornings and pleasant all day long, which we are thankful for!  002This week we are preparing and packing for a trip down to South Africa; we are in need of a few services hard to come by in northern Mozambique. For starters, our truck needs some work by a fully equipped mechanic, and we are also all lined up with dentist appointments – nothing like driving 3 ½ days so you can go to the dentist! Also, on July 12th, Ellie will have surgery to close her umbilical hernia – please keep her in your prayers! My parents will join us in South Africa a few days after that, and then we’ll have a week of vacation before re-packing the truck and driving 3 ½ days back up Mozambique.003

We got word Monday that Belarmino, a very sweet man from one of the churches here in town had died. He had been very sick for a long time, and a few months ago his relatives came from the Namuno district and took him back to his home village with them. We were sad about that, especially since his sweet wife Delfina, along with other believers were doing such a good job taking care of him, but it is a common practice in this culture to take very sick people away from their immediate families back to their mother’s original village. Tuesday Alan took Delfina and other family members out past Namuno to that village, and yesterday I took church members out to do the Third Day ceremony together in that village.

A few weeks ago Alan went and visited with Belarmino. He was pretty sick, being mostly confined to a rope bed and after spending a few minutes catching up on the news from Montepuez he asked Alan, “Do you know why I am sick? My family member was jealous of me and put a curse on me.” After listening for a few minutes Alan asked him if a child of God can be cursed. Belarmino shook his head “no” and said it was hard being confined to a bed and sometimes he thinks too much about it. Alan reminded Belarmino of the scripture that he had been memorizing with our teammate Jeremy Smith earlier in the year and encouraged him to “remain in Christ” and not to give up hope. We believe that Belarmino will have his hope fulfilled!

Our team has had missions interns from Harding University with us for almost a month now. The Missions Internship is for students who think they might be interested in living and working in Africa, so they can come and experience a small slice of that. At the first of June eight college students arrived and have had a busy schedule learning Makua, spending weekends out in villages, eating interesting foods and job-shadowing us for the last few weeks. Right now they are with our teammates Jeremy and Chad doing a survey of another people group here in Mozambique, in hopes that God might plant a seed for one or some of them to come back long-term!

002Work with the churches over the last couple months has seen a number of issues come to the surface, both good and bad. The churches in Newara, Nkororo and Kambiri have had some difficulties but seem to be heading in the right directions. Newara had a few baptisms earlier this month and are almost finished building their own church building (we only helped them with some black plastic for the roof). Nekwaya has had a lot of internal conflict lately and needs prayers for maturity. On the other hand, the Bible study and discipleship training in Chiure continues to be one of the most enjoyable and fruitful things we are a part of. The churches in that district have planned and held a number of meetings on their own, planted multiple churches this year, and the men we have worked closely with over the last few years have been mentoring others. We have been studying through the book of Acts together, and a few weeks ago the different men each shared about the baptisms that had happened on Easter Sunday in their churches. Alan started making a list and we realized that 70 people total had been baptized in the different churches in the Chiure district that day. Praise God!001

One leader from each of the churches in Chipembe and Nkunama are also in leadership positions with the minority political party and are currently on bad terms with one of the local officials in the area (who is a member of the party in power). She is the woman we mentioned in our last newsletter who declared that the churches in that area were not allowed to teach their children and had to stop making visits to another village to plant a new church. This past Saturday, Alan was a part of a meeting with multiple government officials and church leaders as they tried to resolve this issue. Please pray for peace and wisdom for us and these leaders as they consider their allegiances.

The last week of May I was blessed to go to a missionary women’s retreat/renewal called Come Before Winter in Kigali, Rwanda with my teammates Martha and Amy. The CBW team travels to several places around the world each year conducting renewals for women in ministry, and the experience was a rich, deep blessing from God that was very much needed. Mentoring and counsel from believers who have been walking with God ten or twenty or thirty years longer than us is hard to come by when we live in such a remote location; we crave it and are very, very grateful when we are able to receive it.

We are really, really excited to share an answer to prayer: Allison and Robert Berger are joining our team for one year to come and teach our children! This fall we will have one older class (Abby, and Luke and Andrew Smith), and one kindergarten class (Ellie, and Maggie Westerholm), and so we are very grateful that the Bergers have chosen to come work with us. Robert and Allison currently live in California, and they just celebrated the arrival of their first child Miriam, and they plan to arrive in Mozambique early this fall.

The house construction is going well – it’s always a little behind the schedule we’d prefer, but this is Mozambique, which means we don’t have a Home Depot down the street! Alan has had to work as the contractor while continuing in ministry activities. We have finished the walls up to the top of the windows, but work will stop for a few weeks while we are out of the country. We have received $24,525 towards our fundraising goal of $30,000 – praise be to God and thank you so much!019

One significant challenge the last month has been the lack of water. We built a cistern out near the house and hooked it up to the city water, but because of broken pumps and lower water levels, we have not had water coming into the cistern for over a month. It is becoming clear that we need to pursue digging a well on our land to deal with the water shortages for most of the year; this would serve all the families on the land (us, the Westerholms, the teacher house and school house, one Mozambican family living on the land) as well as providing water for ministry events. We have begun looking into the process of digging a bore hole on the land; depending on which company we use in the area, the cost could be between $5,000 and $10,000, which unfortunately was not part of our family’s original construction budget.

So we need $5,500 more to reach our construction goal, and then we are praying for God to provide the additional funds for digging a well on the land; if you feel led to help contribute to these needs, checks can be written to Donelson Church of Christ, 2706 Old Lebanon Rd, Nashville, TN 37214. The memo line should read “Mozambique Construction,” and a note included specifying that the funds are for Construction in Mozambique.

Both construction and our drive down to South Africa are weighing on our minds right now. Please join us in asking God for:

· The remaining funds for house construction and well-drilling

· Protection from car accidents, breakdowns, and theft as we travel to and in South Africa

· Ellie’s surgery on July 12th to be successful and peaceful and that she will heal well

· Our dental visits/procedures to be reasonable

· Our vacation to actually provide the rest we need

· Kingdom vision for us and our Makua-Metto friends!

May God’s will be done here on earth as it is in Heaven! Amen!

With love,

Rachel and Alan

Monday, April 11, 2011

April 2011 Update

Hello again from northern Mozambique!

Yes, we’re a little late getting this newsletter out! Life and work have been very full lately, making it difficult to set aside the time to sit down and write.


It has been a wonderful rainy season this year – rains were plentiful but not to the point of destructive flooding, and we are so thankful for that blessing from God! Our Mozambican friends love sharing their food, and there are regular piles of corn and pumpkin in the kitchen (sometimes overflowing to the back porch!) While we are still receiving some sporadic rains, the roads that were impassable in January are clear again (though still muddy and bumpy!), and people are starting to spend more time back in their villages again instead of so many days out on the farm.


With the end of the rains our weekly women’s study group will start back up next week, which I am really looking forward to. During the hiatus I still enjoyed taking Thursdays to go visit those women in their homes, but I am looking forward to seeing the whole group more often again.

Alan and our teammate Jeremy have continued studying twice a month with church leaders in the Chiure district (southeast of us), currently going through the book of Acts together. The fruit they are showing is exciting – these leaders are planting new churches and teaching others what they are learning.

The church members in Chipembe and Nkunama, along with Alan, have had to put their regular visits to plant a church in the village of Maputo Familiar on hold. A recently appointed local leader recently decided to show off her authority and publicly stated her belief that Alan and the church are working with the minority political party; she also decided that the churches aren’t allowed to teach the children on Sundays when they gather together. Alan has met with the leaders of those churches about this; they were encouraged by stories in Acts 5 where the early church dealt with persecution and how their consistency in the midst of suffering was a powerful witness. We were encouraged to see these believers leaning on each other and seeking wisdom from God about what to do. Alan and the church leaders met with local authorities, and Alan has also spent time meeting with the authority one step above the local leader causing the problems, who has been kind and professional about the issue and recommended a wise course of action for avoiding problems with her. Please pray for the chief over the locality of Chipembe that God would change her heart and that the churches in that area would display the fruits of the Spirit in all they do.

Recently two churches that have had problems in the past, Nakuka (several years ago) and Neewara (more recently) have reorganized and started gathering together again. This past Sunday we enjoyed joining the church in Neewara for worship together, followed by a shared meal of xima (stiff corn porridge) and matapa (whatever you eat with the xima, in this case beans and also mushrooms). That morning a rain shower had just passed through, and following the rain, swarming ants came out by the millions all over the ground – they were in the paths and around the houses and in the crops nearby. We all had to squeeze very close to each other on the porches of the mud hut we were worshiping in, as it seemed at the beginning that the ants weren’t interested in coming up onto the porch. By the end, though, we were starting to get bitten on the feet, and we were ready to get the kids into the car!

Lately we have committed as a team to work very intentionally towards redeeming a relationship with a church leader in town who, while a gifted visionary, has at times been very stubborn and frustrating to work with (for our team and for some church members). We realized how this problem has affected or caused other problems, and it was time to actively pursue resolution instead of just wishing it would go away. We have been praying diligently over this relationship and Jeremy, Alan, and Chad have been meeting together with him monthly to pray together, and already we are seeing fruits of increased trust, understanding, and humility. We are praising God for the way the spirit and atmosphere in the church where that leader usually worships has started to change.

One recent Sunday we worshiped with the Napai church here in Montepuez, and we were so encouraged. The joy of the Spirit was palpable that morning as we all praised God together. This church has begun including their children more in the times of gathering together to worship; the kids presented some songs for the church and Abby jumped up there to sing along with them. It was a beautiful, joyful day. There was also one woman there who we were surprised to see, the mother of a believer named Saide, whose family has been almost completely Muslim. She was very angry at first that her son had become a follower of Jesus and one day called Alan a pig to his face in 2008 while he and Saide were studying the scriptures together. She recently decided to follow Jesus, and to watch her sing and dance while the children were singing was amazing, considering how far she has come since Alan first met her.

In March we had the very special blessing of a visit from Steve, Lidian, Henry, and Kate Howard from Plano, Texas. The Howards worship with my parents there and have always loved on us a lot when we are in their neck of the woods, and this year they got on a plane and came all the way over to see us! They loved on us a lot, and they even brought us some Dr. Pepper and summer sausage! We tried our best to show them a “little bit of everything;” they enjoyed meeting many of our Mozambican friends – as many as you can in eight days, and they practiced greeting them all with Makua phrases. They ate Mozambican food with their hands and rode in the back of the truck with 10 other people, and they endured frequent power outages and our poorly-planned plumbing in this rental house. We hope we didn’t wear them out too much, and we hope they’ll come back again!


This year is a construction year for our whole team. We and the Westerholms are both building our own houses. The Smiths have been working on a large meeting pavilion, an entrance gate, and building a schoolroom and house for a teacher. It has been an interesting challenge to try to balance construction, life and ministry and keep everything in a healthy balance. Our hope is to have the roof on by the end of June and move in sometime in October. We have been blessed by many of you who have donated to our construction fund. Currently we have received donations and pledges of $26,625 towards our budget of $30,000, leaving $3,375 to be raised – thanks be to God! If you feel led to help contribute to this need, checks can be written to Donelson Church of Christ, 2706 Old Lebanon Rd, Nashville, TN 37214. The memo line should read “Mozambique Construction,” and a note included specifying that the funds are for Construction in Mozambique.

Katie Joy is extremely mobile now – she walks all of the house and yard and does her best to keep up with her sisters. We really enjoy trying to translate her attempts at communicating with us – she’s got “Mama” down very well, of course, and is working pretty hard at getting “Daddy, Abby, Ellie” to come out. Most of the time she can also tell you what a lion, elephant, duck, dog, monkey, bird, and gorilla say. Abby and Ellie love riding their bikes and do a great job keeping an eye on their little sister; Ellie continues to enjoy learning to read, and Abby may be soon at a point where she has more gaps than teeth in her mouth.


It looks like God is answering our prayers for a team teacher for the 2011-2012 school year, and we are REALLY excited about that! We’ll write more about that in our next newsletter, but we wanted to share that answer to prayer!

As we close, please pray with us:

· For the Kingdom of God to continue breaking into this area

· For maturity, humility, and unity in church leaders

· For rest and balance as we balance ministry, house construction, and family

· For our trip to South Africa later this year (July) that will include surgery for Ellie (to close her umbilical hernia)

· For fundraising for our school teacher!

We love and miss you all!

Grace and peace,

Rachel, Alan, Abby, Ellie, and Katie Joy Howell

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Under Construction

It has begun.  This week we (mostly) finished our storage/guest building and broke ground on the main house.  I’m also posting some other pictures of some of the other things happening at the land right now (not including the Westerholm’s cob house construction which deserves its own post).  The large pavilion for seminars and meetings was just finished on Tuesday and we put it to use right away to host the last day of a farming seminar for a Leprosy group here in our province.  Keep all our team’s construction work in your prayers – especially as we try to balance it with ministry as well.


Storage building and some guest space


Working on our cistern


Digging the foundation for our house (I hired 18 guys and we finished most of it in one day – no backhoes here!)


compressed earth bricks ready to go


Jeremy lining up the teacher house


the new gate (almost finished)


the newly finished meeting pavilion (way to go Jeremy!)


the leprosy group after finishing up the farming seminar

Friday, January 21, 2011

happy new year!

Hello again from Mozambique!

Happy New Year! We hope that your holidays were peaceful and full of time with loved ones. We’ve enjoyed seeing pictures and hearing stories of all the beautiful snow many of you have had in the States – meanwhile we are right in the middle of our hot, humid season! We enjoyed celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas together with our friends and teammates, though ours involved sunscreen and swimming and temperatures near 100 degrees. (and some pretty sweet holiday care packages!!!)

001  Over the past couple months Alan has begun going with a few men from the Chipembe cluster to teach in a new village called Maputo Familiar where some there have been asking us to come. He has also made visits with the leaders of churches in several different districts and hearing from them what their goals are for 2011; it has been encouraging to see some of them grab hold of a vision for their area. In some places our ministry is changing to more of an equipping role for local leaders. In the Namuno district, we are working with Napoleon to provide training resources for him to work with leaders in his area, and we are hoping to start soon in the district of Balama as well. While some of the churches are doing well, others are struggling; the churches in Nkororo, Neewara and Namwaciko need prayers for godly leadership and freedom from drunkenness.

004 In November, we participated in a meeting in Pemba of all the Churches of Christ in the  province of Cabo Delgado. It was encouraging to see some of the emerging leaders teach boldly and encourage each other to be faithful, and Alan taught using the story of Achan from the book of Joshua about how the sin of one person can sabotage the plans of the whole group. The churches are at a tough transition point and are going through some growing pains; please pray for us as we work with Germindo Jaime to try and move the focus of leadership down to the local level and encourage the churches to focus on loving God and loving their neighbor.

In 2010, a donor in the States provided funds to purchase 30 wind-up MP3 players and they have been a huge blessing. The players have over 100 songs in Makua-Metto, recordings of the books of Mark and James and some Bible stories. It is a fun way for the churches to share the good news with their friends and neighbors and a great way for them to learn the stories, especially in such an oral society where so few read well and many can’t read at all. Many of our friends sit up into the night winding these MP3 players surrounded by a crowd of interested listeners. During lunch on Tuesday, my friend Joao summarized the story of Job (that he had heard on the recordings) for some neighbors and talked about how we as God followers should respond to suffering.

The weekly women’s study group continued into December working through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount from the book of Matthew, including one trip out to visit and study with the women from the church in the village of Nanhupu. I’ve also participated in a couple Ikomas (girls’ initiation ceremonies) in the last few months; it’s encouraging to see women who follow Jesus work to reclaim and redeem a practice that is so significant in this culture. The women’s group takes a break every year during the rainy season, usually from December through February, since everyone is spending so much time out in their farms. During this break I still go out on most Thursdays to visit a few women if we can catch them at home.

With the start of the rainy season some of our normal ministry activities are put on hold, not only because so many people are out in their farms, but also because some of the roads are increasingly impassable due to mud and lack of bridges. The villages along the main roads are still reachable by car, but the ones on the secondary roads are not. With the heat and the rain and the ripe mangoes lying on the ground everywhere, we also see an increase in flies and mosquitoes, which means that malaria, cholera, and other diarrhea illnesses are on the rise. Please join us in praying for rain, enough for the crops to grow (the last two years did not see sufficient rainfall), but not so much that it floods, and also in praying for health during this time of sickness.

002 We recently spent a few days in Pemba with our team to pray together and cast a vision for the next five years. The days spent there together were a blessing (it’s difficult to have that much uninterrupted time here in Montepuez), and we are almost done prayerfully fleshing out the vision and timeline. Our desire is to always be joining God in the work he is already doing in this corner of his kingdom.

013 Our girls are doing well! At our recent trip to Pemba it seemed they spent more time in the water than on dry land – they played and swam very hard. Even Katie Joy loves the water – she loves to dunk her own face in the water repeatedly, which is a little weird, but cute. Abby has started the second semester of second grade, reads voraciously and also gets a kick out of math and science. Ellie is learning to read and has moved beyond the first level of phonics, and is enjoying it more and more. Katie Joy just had her first birthday and is crawling all over the house, though she doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to walk just yet.

Our team is praying very hard for God to send us a school teacher (or teachers!) for our children – this fall we will have two third graders, a second grader, and two kindergarteners. We are very committed to educating our children well, but having a teacher come to help teach will allow us more time to participate in ministry with Mozambicans. If you know of anyone who might be interested in coming for a year to teach five (delightful, well-behaved!) children, please have them contact us!

To wrap up, we want to shout out a big ‘thank you!’ to everyone who has given to the house construction fund! (You will remember that we learned in July that we were moving from one rental property to another.) We are very glad to be free from the original landlord, though we are still trying to get running water here at the second rental house! We are encouraged and grateful to have received $14,100 with another $4000 or so pledged throughout 2011, which brings us to just over $18,000, nearly two-thirds of our construction budget of $30,000. So we’ll be starting to dig the foundation in the next couple weeks, and we request your prayers for the house construction to go smoothly. If you feel led to help contribute to this need, checks can be written to Donelson Church of Christ, 2706 Old Lebanon Rd, Nashville, TN 37214. The memo line should read “Mozambique Construction,” and a note included specifying that the funds are for Construction in Mozambique.

Please pray with us for:

· Enough rain for an abundant harvest but not flooding

· For God’s kingdom to continue to break through!

· Healing in the time of sickness

· Construction of a new home for us

· A teacher (or teachers) to come teach our children this fall

We love and miss you!

With peace,

Rachel, Alan, and the girls