Thursday, November 15, 2012

november news

Hello from northern Mozambique!

Greetings! And happy week-before-Thanksgiving! We love hearing about what God is doing in your neighborhood, and we enjoy sharing with you what He is doing in ours. As one of the writers in Proverbs put it, "like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land."

Not long after our last blog post, we were happy to receive our teammates the Westerholms back from their furlough. And on the same flight, our first grade teacher, Rebekah Keese, arrived as well! Our girls were delighted to reconnect with Maggie and Jane, and Ellie and Maggie love having "Miss Rebekah" for first grade.
The last weekend in October our team, together with the Napai church here in town, hosted the first-ever Youth Conference for Churches of Christ in Montepuez. It was exciting and refreshing to see so many young people (about 90, roughly 15-30 years old) worshiping and studying together. Churches here are still tiny compared to the surrounding population, which means that seminars and conferences are a huge encouragement to believers as they sing, learn, and pray together in such a big number. The theme of the conference was the book of James, divided into five different sessions and taught by both Mozambican leaders and some of our team. Alan co-taught one of the sessions with Cruz, a young man he has been discipling. Several of the churches that sent young people were also assigned certain sections of the book of James to put into song; several times throughout the conference they would share the new song and teach it to the whole assembly. The response has been good; in the area north of town we have noticed more confidence and enthusiasm in the young people who went to the conference.

I treasure my Fridays with women in villages north of town. The two different discipleship groups are each about halfway through the Sermon on the Mount, and it is sweet to see them growing in confidence. It is fun to watch their eyes pop open at some of the ways Jesus describes Kingdom life (turning the other cheek?!), and also fun to watch them passionately discuss what they've heard. And it is beautiful to see their children already living a different childhood than their parents.

Looking at the calendar, we should finish up this round of the Sermon on the Mount by mid-January, when we'll take a break during February and March. That time of year many people move out to their farms to cultivate and weed their growing crops and to chase the monkeys and rodents away, and it is harder for people to get together regularly. (Those are also the months that some roads become a nasty, muddy mess!) We're praying about what's next for these two groups; we may decrease the frequency that we meet so we can start visiting with women in Nkororo who've asked to study together in their village.

The church in Newara has had some struggles; the two men have left the church, leaving a church full of women and one very, very old man who can barely see and hear. They are still very new to following Jesus, but we have been encouraged by their perseverance in studying and worshiping together, which is significant in a culture that, while matrilineal, is still very patriarchal. Maria, a new believer in the church in Newara, has been a midwife and traditional healer in that village for years, and she had kept the spirit-house with its white flag. We've had some conversations recently about her work and the spirit-house and its meaning, but I'm not from here and didn't grow up in a culture of spirit-houses, and my ability to ask probing questions and give instruction in this area of culture is limited. One of the best parts of this stage in our work here is that there are maturing believers who can appropriately challenge these parts of the culture, so I asked my friend Delfina, a sweet godly woman from the Napai church, to come with us two Sundays ago to worship in Newara. The church was happy to have an extra visitor, and she asked challenging but respectful questions and gave good godly counsel to Maria and the rest of the women.

Twice recently I've spent the night out in villages with women; once for an initiation ceremony for a girl in the church, and once with one of the discipleship groups north of town. It is fun to have the extended fellowship and worship time with women I love, but it is also humbling to be reminded of how difficult daily life is for Mozambicans, and that I did not grow up that way. I have tried to learn several of their skills over the years, but I still have not had much practice at extended hours of hoeing, the daily sweating over the fire to cook the shima, mastering the wrist skill required to sift the grain by tossing it up in the air with the basket and then catching the grain again while the husk floats away. They are strong and hard-working, but physical suffering is a daily reality.

Alan continues studying on Tuesdays with groups in Nekwaya/Kambiri/Nakuka and Nkororo. He has also continued going to the Chiure district with Jeremy to study with leaders there. Alan and Jeremy developed a 4 week curriculum to teach the overarching story of the Bible. The study focuses on four trees from scripture: the tree in Garden of Eden, Moses and the burning bush, the Cross, and the tree of Life in the book of Revelation. These trees serve to frame the larger story of redemption in the Bible. And as people here often use trees to give directions "turn right at the Mango tree," and "turn left at the tall coconut tree," they encourage the participants to tell the story in a way that helps people find their way home.

In October, Alan co-taught a seminar in using storytelling and oral strategies to produce better Bible translations at SIL/Wycliffe in Nampula. Translation teams for seven different Mozambican language groups participated. It was a great and stretching experience for Alan to step out of his usual routine and use some of the tools he uses in ministry and apply them in a different way - to Bible translation. Overall the seminar went well and the teams produced some texts that were easier to read and captured more of the way those languages are spoken on the street.

On the family business front, we've had one trip to Immigration in Pemba for Alan and I to renew our annual residence documents, which is not so stressful as it used to be (though more expensive!), but alas we have only completed 19 of the 37 steps required for us to get Mozambican drivers' licenses. Ok, I am exaggerating... just a little bit. The girls are doing great, loving school and their lovely teachers. Ellie turns SEVEN this weekend and has four loose teeth, and she is so excited about all of that. Abby is still a voracious reader with a tender heart, and is WAY too tall if you ask my opinion. Katie is our clown who is trying to learn how to tell jokes; she loves preschool, and we are so thankful that she has been a LOT easier on us in the potty-training department than either of her sisters were!

We are looking forward to getting together with our team and a couple other American families next week to celebrate Thanksgiving from afar; our traditions have grown to include not only a fairly traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but also a piƱata bash, a half marathon, and lots of time skyping with families in the US!

We are thankful to participate in God's work in this corner of his world.

We are thankful to be blessed with such a dedicated, loving, servant-hearted team.

We are thankful for health and healing.

We are thankful for God's loving Kingdom that is already inaugurated but still coming.

We are thankful for dear friends, in Mozambique and in the States.

As we wrap up, please pray for our Mozambican friends in the "time of hunger," the annual three to four months (November-February) before the harvest (March-April) when food supplies are diminishing. And pray for the rains (December-March) to be strong and steady but not flooding.

We love and miss you!
Rachel for all of us


  1. I really love the Bible lesson built around Biblical trees. What a wonderful way to help someone make their way home!

    I always enjoy reading about you amazing life being lived in service to God. Many blessings!

  2. This was really fun to read. So many exciting things happening! Kelly