Greetings again from northern Mozambique!
As I write we are two weeks away from departure for furlough in the States, which means we are trying to balance our regular responsibilities and commitments while also preparing to be gone for a few months! To complicate things a little bit we’ve also had a computer virus which has kept us offline for most of February and March, and we’ve been sick ourselves, too – lately it seems like we’ve caught every little bug that’s going around, and we’re a little weary of being sick. One nice change has been the weather – right about April 1st the temperatures dropped from their heights and turned cooler, with cool breezes blowing almost all day. We’ve been wearing long sleeves and jackets several mornings, and I can’t ever remember wearing long sleeves in April in Montepuez before.
Before going further, you’ll remember Brian and Laura Beth Oliver and Roy Young from the Donelson church visited us here in Mozambique back in October. Brian’s skills as a videographer are stunning, and he has blessed us by making a video about the work here. Many of you may have already seen this, but in case you haven’t seen it yet, you’re in for a treat – just click on this link! http://vimeo.com/35650818
Alan and Jeremy are continuing their leadership training with a group of nine men in Chiure, studying through the book of 1 Peter as well as talking about intentionally making disciples and investing in new leaders. This group of men is already bearing fruit, and it is exciting to see God working in their lives. After the study a couple weeks ago, Alan spent the night in the village of Mahipa, where two of the students are from, to visit with them in their homes and continue the conversation about how to put what they have been studying into practice. Alan is also going through ministry training materials with leaders of four of the churches north of Montepuez (Nkororo, Nekwaya, Nakuka, Khambiri). This past Saturday Alan was with the group from the village of Nkororo as they studied through the story of Nehemiah and talked about what we can learn about leadership from his example.
Alan has a new ministry opportunity that we would appreciate prayers for. A missionary doctor-friend who works with the Leprosy Mission International is interested in making a series of recordings of biblical stories for the leprosy care groups to listen to, and he asked for our team’s input since we speak Makua-Metto. Alan agreed to write the dialogue for a couple of sample recordings which we will record on April 19th. The recordings will consist of the text of the story from scripture and then three participants having a conversation about what they heard and how it applies to life today. Alan has really enjoyed working on these initial dialogues and recordings, and he sees the potential for these recordings to be useful for passing on the biblical stories to multiple audiences, especially in such an oral society. Please keep this project in your prayers.
On Fridays I have continued studying slowly through the Sermon on the Mount with women in Newara and in the Chipembe/Nkunama/Omeringue church cluster, and I love being with these women and their children! They are far from perfect (as am I!), and there are still a lot of scriptures they haven’t heard yet. But it is beautiful to see their lives and their children’s lives starting to look different as they answer Jesus’ invitation to walk in God’s Kingdom. Coming up on Easter weekend there were two people in Newara who were ready to be baptized, and two people in Chipembe as well, but Alan and I had already committed to worship in town that Sunday, so we couldn’t come join their worship and celebration. The Friday before Easter I listened as the women in the Chipembe cluster actively discussed whether or not they were going to walk the 7-8 miles (2-3 hours) down to Newara, and Alan and I prayed like crazy through the weekend that they follow through and go worship and do baptisms together. Yesterday I went up for our study in Newara and was thrilled to hear that the Chipembe/ Nkunama/ Omeringue believers had walked to Newara and that they had baptized four people together!
Seeing people catch glimpses of God’s Kingdom and realize that Jesus is inviting them to come walk with Him in it is thrilling; seeing the church BE the body of Christ to each other and their neighbors makes us want to jump up and down and shout! Small churches walking 8 miles to worship and baptize new believers together, without any involvement from us, is a sign of love and maturity here. Other exciting recent news was that over the past few months the larger church in town began organizing different days for members to go together to hoe the fields of the widows in their church, again, without any involvement from us. It’s enough to make us shout Hallelujah!
We are excited to share news of growing churches with you! To see the full picture, though, is to remember that these churches are tiny in relation to the surrounding population, and there are plenty of significant challenges and growing pains. Drunkenness is everywhere, most marriages are flimsy, and apathy is a big problem. We invite you to seriously pray with us over the darkness in this area, that more and more people will see the growing Light.
On the home front we continue to be daily reminded of the love God has shown us through the generosity of his children to build this house – thank you so much! On Saturday April 21st at noon we’re having an open house party to celebrate God’s generosity in building the house, and you are all welcome to join us! We’ve finished a few other projects on the house; the closets have shelves now, and the carpenter should bring the closet doors soon. Alan went to Pemba this week to get the tank and pump for our cistern so we can pressurize and have running water in the house. Currently we’re still using rain water in the cistern, and yes, unfortunately we’re still waiting for the drilling company to return and install the pump on the well so the well can be usable (It’s been four months now that we’re waiting on the pump for the well; please pray for the drilling company to fulfill their contract with us.)
We have loved having Robert, Allison, and Miriam Berger as teammates this year, and it’s hard to believe that our girls are wrapping up their school year with “Miss Allison.” Allison teaching the two classes of team children has blessed us tremendously and kept us from extra stress and exhaustion in a year of high stress and multiple transitions for the whole team. Robert has also been helping our team configure maps of the churches in our area in addition to caring for their baby daughter Miriam while Allison is teaching. Since we moved to the land we’ve been next-door neighbors with the Bergers, and we will really miss having them here. Looking ahead, we’ve been praying for God to provide teachers for the coming year, and we received great news this week that Kara Tobey, one of our former interns, and Rebekah Keese will be joining our team this fall to teach our children for the coming school year!
We are thankful for the ways God provides; He is so faithful. Lately we’ve been asking Him to provide us with some rest and rejuvenation while on furlough, which is coming up soon. We are very much looking forward to treasuring our long-awaited time in the States with family and loved ones that we miss so much (and hot showers, broccoli, strawberries, Chili’s, and leaving the girls with grandparents are all bonus)!
Please pray with us:
· For believers to grow in Christ-likeness, teaching their children and neighbors to do the same
· For health for our family
· For the well-drilling company to return and finish putting a pump on the well
· For safety and rest in our furlough travels, no lost luggage, and that our children will sleep well on the planes April 28/29!
See you very soon!
Rachel and Alan Howell