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.
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.
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