Saturday, September 22, 2012

welcome home

Hello from northern Mozambique!
We treasure the time we had to spend with so many of you on our furlough this summer! We spent most of our time in Texas and Tennessee, with a road trip through Indiana, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Florida, and Georgia. We tried to see as many loved ones as we could fit into the calendar - please forgive us if we didn't make it to you! Overall, furlough was very rich and full of the blessings of getting to be with dearly loved friends and family; we deeply appreciated all the conversations, meals, and coffee, and we really enjoyed seeing how God is moving and working in your lives and neighborhoods. Going back and forth between Mozambique and the US, we feel we are abundantly blessed with more than one lifetime's worth of friendships, and we have so many "homes" in which to lay our heads!
We have been back on the ground in Mozambique for four weeks now, and are back into most, though not all, of our regular routines; life and work move more slowly here. We are so thankful for the love and hospitality of our teammates the Smiths who provided us with over a week of meals while we unpacked and got organized and cleaned all the dust. Coming home after furlough also means coming home to a nearly empty pantry and freezer; in addition to a supply-shopping trip to Nampula, since we returned I have made yogurt, sourdough, granola, mayonnaise, and chicken broth, frozen cooked chicken and ground beef, roasted 40 pounds of peanuts, and canned 68 pounds of tomatoes into 14 jars of tomato sauce and 22 pounds of cucumbers into 14 jars of dill relish. Whew!
And now for the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT... Many of you will remember that due to severe water shortages over the past few years, in late November 2011 we paid a South African well-drilling company $10,000 to drill a deep bore well here on the land. They drilled down to 66 meters, hitting two significant water veins, cased and capped the well and left promising to return to install the pump (part of the deal) in a matter of weeks. The weeks turned into months, and by the time we left for furlough at the end of April, they still had not returned to put the pump on the well, despite all our emails and phone calls inquiring/asking when they would return to complete the job. Many of you asked us about this on furlough and have prayed about it; we had come to a point where we were assuming that the drilling company would not return and that when we returned to Montepuez we would need to buy a pump and pay someone else to install it.
WELL, (ha ha) we landed in Pemba August 25 in the afternoon and got to Montepuez after dark, and enjoyed supper with our teammates. We slept our first night back in our own beds, and, we woke up (still very groggy with jet lag) to a phone call saying the drilling company was back in town. Alan got the guy on the phone, and he said he had the pump and would be over to the land shortly to install it! So, ten months after the drilling, we now have a functioning bore hole on the land filling up our tanks an cisterns as needed - thank you (thank you! thank you!) for all your prayers. I'm reminded of Jesus' instruction in Matthew 6 not to worry "because your heavenly Father knows what you need."
Living and working as missionaries is unique in that many of the things we use/need are not actually ours - the land, the house, the car, the well drilled for water. We rely on God to provide these things, often through his people (You!), and we don't forget this. We see his love and your love daily as we wake up in this house, as our children play on the land with their friends and go to school in the school house, as we use water, and drive the truck to this or that village. Our thanks go to our great God, and we also thank you for letting his generosity flow through you! So we are feeling more and more settled and "at home." After unpacking and cleaning, we have even been able to get around to some tasks that we didn't have time for between moving in and leaving for furlough; despite a few setbacks and frustrations, Alan has been able to get running water inside the house now (hooray!), and we finally hung our wedding pictures on the wall. We're working on getting hot water in the showers, hopefully it won't be too much longer. Abby and Ellie have been really good sports about taking cold showers; Katie, though, screams as if she's been seriously injured, so we've been heating up a bucket for her bath...
We were sad to say good-bye to Robert, Allison, Miriam Berger before we left on furlough, but were so thankful that they gave a year of their lives to come and be the first teacher to join the team, and we will miss them! We also excited to announce that we have new teammates; Kara Tobey arrived just a few days before us, and after getting settled she is now in her third week of teaching the third/fourth grade class. Kara was one of our missions interns from Harding University in 2009, and we are very happy to have her back! Rebekah Keese will also be arriving in a couple weeks (on the plane with the Westerholms returning from furlough) to teach the first grade class, and we are excited to have her here as well! I'm not sure Kara or Rebekah (or Allison and Robert) can fully understand how much we appreciate their faith and commitment to come and teach the team kids; education of children can be one of the biggest challenges missionaries have to figure out, with some missionaries making major career or field changes due to lack of adequate educational options.
This week we resumed several regular activities from before furlough; I started going north Friday to pick up the weekly women's study in two different village churches, and Alan went down to Chiure with Jeremy today to begin again their mentoring visits with leaders there. We've worshipped with three different churches since we returned; we gave them your greetings, which they appreciated very much, and they've asked specifically about those of you that have come to visit here. Two Sundays ago we shared a meal with the Chipembe/Omeringue/Nkunama church cluster and were served monkey meat with our lunch, which was a first for us, even after all these years. It's funny to me to watch my two year-old slurp down monkey meat complete with skin like it's an everyday thing. The church members clarified that it wasn't baboon (akhole) but a smaller monkey (nsapwe) "about the size of a cat" that one of the men caught in a trap. Just a little different from the meals we shared with so many of you in the States!
Thank you again for all your love and support and prayers; we miss you when we are far away!
Please pray with us for:
• The first annual youth conference coming up at the end of October in Montepuez
• Wisdom as we mentor disciples
• For God's reign to take root in hearts and bear fruit
• The Westerholms and Rebekah Keese arriving the first week of October
Much peace to you,
Rachel and Alan Howell