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