Greetings from chilly South Africa! We are posting this newsletter from a missionary guest house near White River, SA - Monday we flew from Pemba to Maputo, and Tuesday we crossed the border - we're here for dentist, doctor, and orthodontist visits, and of course we'll take a few vacation days while we're down here. It is our 'winter' here in the southern hemisphere, and while it might be hard for you to believe (if you're sweating up there in the northern hemisphere), we are wearing jeans and jackets and putting hot water bottles between the sheets in the evenings.
A little over a week ago we said our goodbyes and put this year's batch of interns onto the plane in Pemba. The group of six arrived on May 22, and they did a great job handling all the new experiences, and we really enjoyed having them here. They job-shadowed us through numerous village visits and studies, learned to speak some basic Makua-Metto, learned how to harvest and process rice and carry water on their heads and cook xima, and each of them spent a weekend with a Mozambican family without any other English speakers. Our kids also loved being with the interns (how fun to have a new audience to entertain)! The internship is an opportunity to give students interested in missions an experience of what serving as a missionary actually looks like on the ground. To read more about the internship check out Alan's recent post, 'Stuff Interns Say' here.
The studies with the three different women's groups north of town are still going strong, though each group has a very different personality, which I'll describe:
The women in the Chipembe cluster have been following Jesus the longest, and there is a feeling of some maturity. That church cluster has been growing and multiplying quite a bit, so there are a number of new women, which has doubled the group size.
In Newara, some days the babies are so fussy and the children so loud and some of the women aren't getting along with each other that I wonder why am I coming? But then other days it seems like we are all on the same track and all hearing each other.
The new group in Nkororo is only 6 women, they are all so kind, though some are a little shy. There is always at least that many of their neighbors sitting nearby while we study, and a sweet group of children, too.
Several churches here in Cabo Delgado have made a big push towards planting new churches and it seems like this year will see some real numerical growth. These new church plants are starting without our direct involvement and it has been exciting to see the churches do this mostly on their own. The church in Chipembe has been adding new people - lately it seems like every time we go up there, there is another baptism or a new person that has started worshiping with them, and it excites us to see the way that this church cluster has been engaging the community and dealing with complicated issues like witchcraft and demon possession. A few weeks ago an older woman who had been very ill joined the church, and then, just a few days later, she passed away. It was very encouraging to see the body of Christ join together to help with the funeral; Alan and three other church members spoke at the funeral and talked openly about the choice this woman made in choosing Jesus. Funerals are a very important part of the culture and it was encouraging to hear community leaders speak highly of the way the church stepped in and cared for this family well.
More often than we would like, things in Africa do not go according to plan. A few weeks ago Alan went to Pemba with a to-do list of things that can only be accomplished in our provincial (state) capital. Unfortunately, though, someone cut the fiber optic cable south of here and the internet was down for the northern half of the country, which meant that the bank was unable to make any transactions and therefore we couldn't get any of our personal or work fund money out that day. Also, because of a change in the law, we have had to apply for Mozambican driver's licenses. Unfortunately, Alan's still has not come in yet (after 6+ months in process) and with the internet down, there was no way to check on the computer to see why. Then, the car inspection had to be postponed because one of the tail lights stopped working suddenly. Alan then waited at the post office for over an hour for a customs guy to show up so he could clear a teammate's packages, but the customs official never arrived, so eventually they just let Alan take the packages anyway. (In his planner, Alan wrote the word FAIL next to that day!) Thankfully, though, the next week our teammate Chad was going to Pemba, and he was able to get the money out for us (the driver's license, though, is still MIA!)
Back to the internship - besides their experiences following us around this part of Mozambique, we also take the students to a neighboring area that could be a potential site for a new mission team. They collect information on the demographics of a people group as well as looking at the practical logistics for foreigners to relocate to that area; this year Alan took the interns up north into Tanzania. They spent three days with the team serving the Makonde people who has been in Africa for about 3 years now. It was helpful for the interns to hear from a different team about their experiences getting over culture shock and what life is like for them at that stage of ministry. Travis Trull and Alan led the interns on a survey of the Makua-Metto people there in Tanzania, and since Alan doesn't speak Swahili, he really enjoyed using his Makua with many people up there. They learned a lot and tried to figure out what kind of ministry would best fit the Makua people of Tanzania. Overall, it was a great trip, though the added drama of radiator problems on the trip home meant that Alan spent about 20 hours behind the wheel that day. The girls and I were very glad to have him back home safely!
Sometimes our friendships here require us to do some unusual things. Two weeks ago Alan got a frantic call from Germindo after dark; he had been returning from visiting a new church plant when he was forced off his new motorcycle by a couple of men with machetes. On the phone he asked Alan to go by the police station and pick up an officer to help out immediately. On the way to the site of the robbery, Alan would block the road and the police officer, carrying his assault rifle, would stop each motorcycle they came across to see if it belonged to Germindo. They spent a couple hours looking and informing village leaders to be on the lookout for the motorcycle. The next morning, we got a phone call from a church member who had been out searching since dawn and found the motorcycle stashed in the grass along the side of the road. Alan and Germindo drove out and brought the motorcycle back to Montepuez, though thankfully it was only a little dinged up and needed just a few minor repairs.
We recently made last-minute changes to our travel plans. Our plan had been to drive down to South Africa for a medical/dental/orthodontist/car repair trip down to South Africa, but there have been several incidents of political violence in the Mozambican province of Sofala, which we would have had to drive through. This is a good distance from us, but definitely something that we are watching closely. That situation coupled with our recent car problems led us to decide to fly down to South Africa instead.
We are so thankful for our friends who are fundraising to help us buy a new 4x4 truck. Our truck is 10 years old and all the kilometers on bad African roads have made it start showing its age, requiring a lot of time and money in repairs. If you are interested in helping or want to read more about the reasons why we are looking forward to having a new car, click here.
Our team is all over the map right now - the Smiths are on furlough in the US, and our teachers Rebekah and Kara are also in the States for a short time to visit family and friends. So we have spent a lot of time with the Westerholms lately, including a LOT of little-girl sleepovers, which have been very fun. But of course we're all super excited for our team to be full again in August and September when everyone returns home!
Thanks for keeping us and this ministry in your prayers; our main prayers right now are:
- For all parties to work toward peace in Mozambique
- Continued maturity for disciples and continued growth for the churches
- Safety during this trip to South Africa, also for our medical/dental/orthodontist needs to be simply met
Grace and Peace,
Rachel and Alan