Happy October everyone!
Very soon after returning from our July trip to South Africa, the old truck sold and fundraising for the new truck swiftly came to a close - THANK YOU! In a short span of a couple weeks, Alan made multiple chapa trips (minivan taxis) to Pemba to wire the funds to Toyota and buy a plane ticket, to Chiure for a church conference, and again to Pemba in the back of a flatbed truck for his flight to Maputo where he would pick up the new truck.
He spent two weeks away from home, which included truck registration paperwork and insurance in Maputo, and then outfitting the truck in Nelspruit, South Africa for continuous off-road use in our remote location (bull bar, driving lights, canopy, roof rack, jerry cans, sturdy shocks and springs, and off-road tires). The return drive takes three full days, and on the second day he had to drive in a military convoy through the section of Mozambique that experienced political violence earlier this year. Thankfully that was uneventful...
Within a three-week window, Abby's teacher Kara came back from a trip to the States, Ellie's teacher Rebekah also came back, Alan returned with the new truck, and our teammates the Smiths returned from their furlough in the States as well. It has been wonderful to have our whole team back together in one place again, and we are full of gratefulness. Leading up to September, some of our regular activities and responsibilities had been suspended waiting on the new truck (studies out in villages) or waiting on teammates to return (team school). So September was very busy as we resumed all our regular routines all at the same time (whew!), and we also ended the month with a Provincial Women's Conference for women from Churches of Christ in the Cabo Delgado province (like a state in the US).
The women's conference is initiated and organized by the women from the two Churches of Christ here in Montepuez, and it doesn't necessarily happen every year - I think this was my fourth conference. Our team participates in different ways in different years, depending on what's needed or requested at the time. This year the conference was initiated, scheduled, and organized by Mozambican women here in town, and they asked my teammates Martha, Kara, and I to help plan the theme and lessons, and lead three of the teaching sessions. In all there were eight different sessions organized around the Armor of God passage from Paul's letter to the church in Ephesus, five lessons taught by Mozambican women, and three taught by American women. We used props to simulate a suit of armor (Mozambican style, of course) as we repeated Paul's metaphors over and over again to talk about how to remain strong with God. 66 Women were there from 17 different towns and villages, and the worship and learning together was encouraging. This year our team provided transport for the return trip for all the women who came in from churches outside of Montepuez (either rides home or chapa fare).
With the blessing of reliable transportation (we just can't stop saying THANK YOU!), we've started our studies again in different villages. I have a bi-weekly rotation of studying with women in three different groups (Nkororo, Newara, and the Chipembe village cluster) in addition to the weekly women's study here in town: the women in Nkororo are going through the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew, and the Newara and Chipembe groups are going through a booklet of different stories, miracles, and teachings of Jesus. The groups in Nkororo and Newara don't have any women who can read, and the Chipembe cluster didn't have any women who could read either until about 2 months ago. So when we study together in villages, we do everything orally, reading and repeating the passage out loud together multiple times before we discuss what we're learning from it. When I study in Newara, I go with Delfina, a wonderful godly woman from here in town who can read, and she and I take turns reading and facilitating. In the women's Bible study here in town however, there are five women who can read, so my teammates and I are in the teaching rotation with those women; the women in town just finished the booklet with the stories and teachings of Jesus and are starting a booklet with major Old Testament stories.
Alan has resumed either bi-weekly or monthly studies in the Chiure district (with teammate Jeremy Smith), Nakhuka cluster, and Chipembe cluster. The group in Chiure and the Nakhuka cluster are studying godly leadership while the men in the Chipembe cluster requested to go back and do an overview of the Biblical narrative since God has been blessing that church with growth and they have a lot of new believers who haven't heard all the stories yet. Alan is also about to begin a seminar for believers from the different denominations here in town that will cover a survey of the whole Bible. The seminar will take place on four different Saturdays over the next few months.
In the last year or two, based on counsel from our mentors, our team has been transitioning more of our hours into intentional mentoring of leaders (like Paul mentoring Timothy). In town, Alan is intentionally focusing on two men named Domingos and Armindo with regularly scheduled time together. Outside of Montepuez, Alan has regularly scheduled time with Napoleão in Namunu and Cruz in Mariri, as well as a few men who are also part of his studies in different villages. Part of the wisdom behind this counsel is while God can use his people mightily anywhere he desires, we are not from here and even though we've been here ten years and learned two languages, we will in some degree always be outsiders and a little bit strange. And so to some extent our time is better used intentionally mentoring a handful of believers who are regular people in their regular neighborhoods, learning to love God, who can authentically show what that Kingdom life looks like in Makua culture. We appreciate your prayers as we try to discern the nuts and bolts of what that will look like.
We've written elsewhere about the five giants that oppress the Makua-Metto people. Earlier this year, Alan completed culture interviews and put together a series of lessons on the Giant of Magic - the system of witchcraft, divination and spirit possession that makes people live in fear. That series was well received by the churches and the team is committed to developing more lessons on the other giants over the next couple years. This past Saturday, Jeremy and Alan went down to Chiure to continue meeting with the group there and teaching on the giant of weak and selfish leadership and what it would look like to practice godly leadership. They're starting by looking at leadership lessons from the lives of the kings of Israel - comparing and contrasting Saul and David specifically. Our goal is to help develop Christians who exemplify faithful servant leadership in their churches and communities.
We've also been involved with a couple development projects lately that we're excited to tell you about:
A Peace Corps worker friend living here in Montepuez approached Alan to ask if he knew of a place that needed a bridge. He has contacts with an organization that helps people build pedestrian bridges in the developing world and wanted to know where that kind of bridge would make a big difference. We knew of a great spot near the village of Bandari where a bunch of our friends have trouble navigating in the rainy season. Every year people get swept away or attacked by crocodiles. Alan has gone to meetings with government officials and local leaders about this project, and we've been glad to use a little bit of our influence and to help. If all goes well we may end up building the bridge sometime next year. We came to Mozambique expecting to help build figurative bridges for people, we never expected that we would be involved in building literal ones! To get a better idea of the kind of bridge we're talking about, please visit Bridges to Prosperity.
Over the past few years we've been experimenting with ways to help our Mozambican friends farm in more sustainable and productive ways. We've tried several strategies from producing written materials to hosting seminars here in Montepuez but nothing seemed to have an impact. Alan was honestly about ready to give up on the project, but this year we've taken a different approach and are taking the seminars to villages who've shown interest. They are forming community or church farms where groups of 15-30 people will do a plot using these methods together. One of our friends, Gonçalves Ignacio, a faithful church leader who lives in the town of Balama, has been working his own farm with sustainable methods for a few years now. Over the past few months we've helped him go to these villages and offer this training. There are now 5 community groups whose members total over 100 people who've started using these methods this year in communal plots. Alan met with Goncalves this week and they laid out a vision for doing seminars and forming community farms in 10 different villages spread out across our province with the goal of having 100 families implementing these methods in their own farms by 2015. We're excited to see what will come of this project, and we'd appreciate your prayers about this.
The past few years, water has been especially scarce in our region during the driest months before the steady rains (September-December). Which is why we're very thankful that two years ago we had a bore hole drilled here on the land (thanks again to all who contributed to it). But when we returned from South Africa at the beginning of August the well wasn't putting out any water. At first we were concerned that our 67-meter well was dry, but we've discovered that the pump is not only broken but irreparable. Since the rains are still a few months away we've had to pay a truck to go and get river water to fill our cistern, but thankfully a missionary friend is down in South Africa and will be heading back this direction soon, bringing us a new pump.
Our girls are doing great at the moment - Abby is in fifth grade (surely I am not old enough for this?), Ellie is in second, and Katie is in preschool twice a week with Micah Smith. Kara Tobey and Rebekah Keese are doing a fantastic job teaching three classes (5th, 2nd, and kindergarten) to seven of the nine team children. This is Kara's and Rebekah's second school year with us, and we are recruiting for wonderful candidates to fill their shoes... but more on that in a future post!
Thanks for keeping us and this ministry in your prayers. We'd love for you to pray along with us about the following things:
· That God would raise up faithful leaders in the churches
· For peace with the upcoming Mozambican elections
· For good rains this year and a great harvest
· That we would be a blessing to our Mozambican friends and neighbors through our work in the churches and in the community
Grace and Peace,