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!!!)
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.
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.
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.
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!
Rachel, Alan, and the girls