Hello friends and family!
Greetings from the rainy season! The rains are in full swing here in northern Mozambique; which means that the corn and the rice and the beans are growing, the roads are a muddy mess, and many of our friends are spending a lot of their time out in their fields hoeing and weeding the grass and weeds from around their crops. It also means that the cloud cover is keeping out the bulk of the heat most days, which is a relief. Unfortunately at this point in the rainy season the mosquito and fly populations have exploded, bringing an increase in malaria and diarrhea with them, and a lot of people are sick. And of course while we are praying for sufficient rain for the crops, we also know that flooding is always a risk; recently a tropical storm in the Indian Ocean caused a lot of flooding in the south of Mozambique. Many people died, and roads, houses, and livestock were washed away in the floods; please pray for the families in the south who are trying to rebuild their lives right now. Still, we are praying for the rains to continue through February and March, just without flooding. We have been here long enough to have been through a year or two when the rains stopped in January, which is too early, causing many of the crops to die. So pray with us for the rain!
In November I started going north every other Friday to regularly visit with some women I love and study the scriptures together. Six women from the three small village churches of Chipembe, Omeringue, and Nkunama had been asking to study together, and we decided to go through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Those three villages are very close to each other; we meet in a different home each week, spend some time singing and praying together, and then read/listen to/discuss a passage. We also always share a lot of fellowship and conversation and a meal together of xima (stiff cornmeal porridge) and matapa (usually beans or greens). Only two of those women can read, so we do everything orally and with a lot of repetition and then discussion about what we’ve heard. Since we’ve started studying in Chipembe, the women from the church in Newara asked to study together as well, so since the New Year I’ve been going to visit and study with the five women there on the alternate Fridays.
Hearing Jesus’ teaching from the Sermon on the Mount is so rich and deep – I love watching people hear it who haven’t heard it before: hearing who is really blessed in God’s Kingdom is different than who the world thinks is blessed, hearing Jesus say that insulting or hating someone is the same as murder in his Kingdom, hearing Jesus say that they are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. My prayer is that what my friends learn from Jesus they will not keep to themselves but share with their families and neighbors.
We had a fun but busy holiday time. When we are in Mozambique, we celebrate some American holidays but not others; our team has been joined for Thanksgiving by a few other American families for several years now, and it has turned into quite a large event with its own traditions that we look forward to very much (this year included a small talent show and a piñata turkey!) For Christmas we chose to share several meals together and then have a Nativity drama together as a team, with all adults and children having parts, except for the napping babies, of course.
In late November God answered our prayer for drilling a well on our land. There were several weird delays and setbacks, but after a couple weeks of the crew sitting on the land, the well was finally drilled, cased, and capped. The drilling company has had some more delays in returning to install the pump, but that will hopefully be completed soon (in the mean time we’re catching rain water off our roof).
Despite the delightful holidays, overall November and December turned out to be exhausting for our family. We had a deadline of the end of the year to be out of our rental house, and our landlord already had a new tenant lined up and waiting to move in as soon as we left. We knew we would be moving into an unfinished house no matter how much we got done, so Alan worked long, hot days starting at 4 a.m. and hired extra crews to finish certain parts of the house so as much as possible could be completed before we started actually living there. We moved in during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and we are relieved to have it over with. Our teammates were such a blessing to us, swooping in to help unpack, watch our children, move furniture, hang shelves and mosquito nets, and provide meals, and we are so thankful for all their help! A few things remain unfinished on the house (no running water yet!), but we’ve put those things on a list and we’ll get to them when their time comes.
We have felt so loved and supported finally living in this house that God and you built! We have been especially aware of God showing his love through his children, knowing how much generosity and sacrifice went into the giving to make this construction possible – we are overwhelmed with gratefulness even in ordinary tasks, because your love from God is written all over the walls. So thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
Our teammates the Westerholms had to vacate their first rental house back in June (it was owned by the municipality, and there were new regulations regarding municipal properties), and just a few weeks ago the landlord of their second rental house asked them quite suddenly to vacate (to make room for high-paying clients). The availability of finished housing is very limited in Montepuez, and there are a couple big companies in town who can afford to pay high prices for housing for the employees that they bring in, which puts the rent far out of our range. This has been a confirmation to us and the Westerholms that building on the land was a wise decision.
Alan is thrilled to be coming to the end of this season of construction – his ministry activities were pared down to a few key ongoing activities for the past few months due to the building and the way life changes here around the rainy season. He has a few new Bible studies that will start this month; one of these studies will be with our guard Beto and his family. Beto is from a Muslim background and has been working for us for about five years now, only recently though has he become interested in studying the scriptures together. A couple of months ago he got sick and went to a magical healer here in town, and after going to this healer he showed up at our house covered in black sooty markings, feeling even worse than before. A couple days later he and Alan talked about how ineffective that trip to the magical healer was, Ellie and Alan prayed for God to heal him, Alan gave him some medicine, and he recovered quickly. Not long after that he expressed his desire to study the scriptures together, but asked to first go and talk to the leaders of his and his wife’s families. This morning Alan and Beto picked a day to start their study together, and Beto mentioned that a few of his neighbors are also interested and asked if it was okay for them to come too. Please pray for Beto and his family and the other groups we’ll be meeting with in and around Montepuez.
The school year has been going wonderfully, and we are daily thankful for Robert and Allison Berger coming this year for Allison to serve as our team teacher! Their beautiful baby girl Miriam is almost eight months old now, and we’ve really enjoyed having them as neighbors now that we’re living out on the land. The Bergers serving with our team has been a tremendous blessing in a year of high stress and multiple transitions; in addition to Allison teaching the team kids, Robert has been helping develop maps and other resources to help keep track of church growth. As we look ahead as a team we are already praying for God to continue to provide teachers for our children; please spread the word that we are recruiting!
This summer we are scheduled for a furlough in the States May through August to be with family, reconnect with friends, and share about the work God is doing in Mozambique. We are very much looking forward to enjoying the sweetness of being together in person with those we love from whom we are normally so far away. Our time will mostly be in Memphis, Dallas, and Nashville, with a couple of short trips to other locations; we would love to see as many of you as possible! We are also praying for God to provide a reliable minivan-type vehicle for the four months we are there; if you know of an available vehicle, please let us know!
Abby and Ellie are growing and loving school, and Katie Joy turned two a couple weeks ago. Katie is already quite passionate and outspoken about what she thinks and wants, which we think is wonderful, though of course it comes with its challenges. I am very thankful for how sweet and patient Abby and Ellie are with their little sister (though some days I wish they’d be more patient with each other!).
We are currently having technical difficulties with our computer whenever we are online, which we suspect may be due to a virus. We’ll be sending out this newsletter via email, and then attempting to post this same newsletter with pictures on the blog www.howellsinmoz.blogspot.com ; hopefully the pictures will post! We also will have another fun update coming to the blog in few days sharing an unusual day I had recently with a lot of Mozambican interruptions and adventures; look for it on the blog by the end of the week!
Please join with us as we pray for:
• Much praise and thanks for house construction winding down!
• Rains to continue steadily through February and March, but without severe flooding
• Healing for those with malaria and diarrhea right now
• For God’s Kingdom to come and take root in the hearts of our friends and neighbors here
• Peaceful transitions for the team and for our family with furlough this summer
• Teachers to come teach our children!
We love you and thank God for you!
Rachel and Alan and girls