Hello from northern Mozambique!
Our last newsletter was just before Thanksgiving, so we're a little overdue, but Alan has been blogging quite a bit lately about ministry and our life here - PLEASE check out his recent posts over the past couple months - you won't regret it!
Thanksgiving was a very fun, huge party with other Americans in the area; we had over thirty people at our house, and we enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, a slip-n-slide, worship together, a piñata bash, a dance party, and lots of Skype time with family members in the States. December was a REALLY busy month for us; our activities included a ten-day-stretch in which we kept the five children of some missionary friends while they took a trip to Portugal to see a new mission field. It was a circus with Alan and I keeping tabs on eight children ages two to fourteen, but we had fun and we all survived. We enjoyed a very restful, peaceful, tropical Christmas and New Year's with our team.
The rains started in December, and they didn't start timidly this year but with days and days of rain all in a row, which is great for crops (but hard to get the laundry dry). Having more available fruit has helped us bear the extra heat and humidity though: we had more mangoes in December and early January than we could handle, vendors are now selling pineapples at the market, and the vines in our yard are heavy with almost-ripe passion fruit.
In December I picked up the pace a bit with the women's studies in which I'm involved, both so our family could take off for Christmas and so we could finish our studies before the ladies needed to focus on their farms in January. I spent the night out with women three different times (twice with study groups and once for a girl's initiation ceremony). Then on January 4, all the women from the two different groups came into town to finish our Sermon on the Mount study together. All fourteen women participated (with fourteen of their smallest children, as well!), and we enjoyed studying, singing, dancing, eating, sleeping, laughing, and praying together. We reviewed Jesus' words again the next morning, and we practiced praying a blessing over each other for the next few months. I treasure my time studying Jesus' Kingdom words with those women; it is a privilege to share their lives with them.
Most folks plant sometime in December (corn, peanuts, beans, pumpkin, cucumbers, squash, rice, sorghum). About half of the women from north of town with whom I study move out to live in their fields during the months of January to March because the baboons (and a few other small monkey and rodent species) will steal and wreck their crops if they don't. So it is a natural time to take a break, and our plan is to start studying together again in April, Lord willing, once most of the harvest is in.
Over the past few months Alan has continued to work with churches and church leaders in Makua-Metto land. Since our last newsletter he has taught at least once in the following places:...(deep breath) Siwewe, Nkunama, Cambiri, Marera, Nkororo, Pemba, Chipembe, Mwankina, Nekwaya, Namuno, Napai, Ntekiani, Mirije, Nakuka, Omeringue, Chiure sede, Nacivare, Nrassi, and Namarekwa...(phew!).
Growing out of some interviews Alan has done over the past few years he has been developing teaching materials that address the intersection of divination, evil spirits and witchcraft in this area. Our Mozambican friends are surrounded by these practices and we've only recently felt like we've had sufficient understanding and cultural capital to start addressing them. These lessons have provoked a lot of good conversation and wrestling with what it means to be a child of God in this context. It has been encouraging also watching them pass on this teaching to others. Recently Alan had planned to go out with Chad to teach on this subject with church leaders in the Ancuabe district, but because of car repair issues, Cruz and Armindo, two young men that Alan is discipling, taught it in his place and did a great job! Not only has it been encouraging to watch the churches wrestle with this issue, it also is good to see young church leaders take initiative and ownership in passing on what they are learning to others.
Two weeks ago we enjoyed our annual team retreat in Pemba. We discovered a new place to stay right on the beach (but a little further outside of town), and we had several focused days of planning together. We have found that it's very helpful to get away together (Pemba is about 200km from Montepuez) so we can have uninterrupted and focused time to look at our vision as a team and to spend some time praying and playing together!
We've had a few days lately when we've felt a little discouraged and weary; this time of year is hard for everyone; the increase in mosquitoes brings an increase in malaria, and the increase in flies brings an increase in diarrhea, pinkeye, and skin infections. SO many people are sick right now, and it's sad. This is also the last 6-8 weeks before people can start harvesting some fresh corn, and so a lot of people are hungry, too. The roads are a muddy mess with huge ruts gashed through them from rain runoff, and it makes travel longer and more painful as we are thrown around in the car. So we pray for healing and we help our friends buy grain and we all watch the corn grow taller, knowing that in a few weeks, Lord willing, we'll be eating fresh roasted corn together.
Our girls have enjoyed playing in the rain and mud and eating mangoes nonstop. We were blessed to receive a number of Christmas care packages with LOTS OF BOOKS for the girls, which they were SO excited about! Ellie has now joined Abby as a devourer-of-chapter-books - we are ALWAYS on the lookout for new chapter books if you have any to recommend! They LOVE their teachers Kara and Rebekah (and we do, too!), and they love school. Katie turned three a couple weeks ago, and is quite the snuggler.
As we close, we'd love for you to join us in praying over these requests:
For the rains to continue steadily through March but without flooding
For healing for those who are sick right now
For vision and wisdom as we disciple and mentor
For God's Kingdom to come here in this corner of the world
For the truck and the pump on the well as both have been breaking a lot lately
Please know that you are loved and missed!
Much peace to you,
Rachel and Alan