Saturday, March 15, 2014

March 2014 Newsletter

We send you our greetings from lovely, green Mozambique.

The end of the rainy season is approaching, and it's beautiful here - this part of the world has been painted a lush new color.  We're thankful for the reminder of the changing seasons - every season will have a limit, an ending that makes way for a new and different season into which we can step. 

For those of you who may not have heard, on December 1st we experienced a home invasion.  Armed thieves broke through our front door in the middle of the night, fired a gun both outside and inside our home, and stole our laptops, an ipad, Rachel's phone and some cash.  Besides a few cuts and bruises, everyone, including our guards, was physically fine, for which we were and are deeply grateful, though emotionally we were very shaken.  It was awful and terrible and should never happen to anyone.  But in a strange way even in the midst of the violence and confusion we did not feel abandoned - God's strength was with us the whole time.  And the outpouring of love we received from our friends and neighbors both here and in the States was staggering; the beauty has outweighed the evil.  We've written more about it here.  We're now more than three months out from that event, and we're experiencing healing and peace, but we would still appreciate your prayers. 

In addition to healing from the emotional chaos of the break-in, we've had to reorganize and piece back together some other parts of our lives.  Thanks to several of you (THANK YOU SO MUCH!), we have been able to  replace what was lost, though unfortunately we've lost between 6-12 months of documents, pictures, and videos.  We are still in process of tracking down email addresses and old documents and getting our life back online.  Also after the break-in, Ellie's teacher, Rebekah Keese, decided to go back home early. We were sad that she left, but grateful for the year and a half she spent with us in Montepuez.  Amazingly though, God provided again in that loss.  Our teammate Martha taught the younger classes for three weeks until my recently retired Kindergarten teacher Mom, Evelyn Wilson, was able to come over and fill in the gap teaching for two months.  It is such a blessing to have her here with us (and we're excited that my Dad will be joining us for the last two weeks of her stay very soon).  We're thankful to both of them for their sacrifice in meeting this teaching need at our team kids' school.

The months of December through February are the thick of the rainy season, and our work changes considerably because of muddy roads and the vast amount of time our subsistence-farmer friends need to spend in their fields.  Several of our regular study groups suspend meeting until the harvest is over, so  Alan has been using that time to conduct research and interviews about poverty for a series of classes that he'll be teaching to clusters of church leaders all over Cabo Delgado this year.   He's also used these months to offer two different series of classes to a group of students from seven different denominations who live here in the city:  an overview of the Bible (November-December), and a study on the church's response to Magic, Divination, Demon Possession and Witchcraft (January-February).   The materials on godly leadership have been well received in Chiure, Mirate, and Namuno and he plans to use them with the church in Pemba in the upcoming months.

After our last newsletter my times studying with women continued up until the third week of December when we finished out with a retreat here at our home.  Twenty women from five different villages (plus of course a number of toddlers and nursing babies) came in for an overnight stay  to worship, eat, study, and celebrate another year of seeking God together.

During the rainy/farming season I have been visiting women in their homes with my teammate Martha, participated in an overnight girl's initiation ceremony in Omeringue, and driven with women from Montepuez churches to the Chiure district where I preached at two different women's meetings.  As the rains have eased up and the muddy creeks are drying, I began my weekly studies again this week.  This year, we are combining the study groups from Newara and Nkororo - both of those groups are small and young, and I am hoping they will encourage each other.  I will be going to study with the women in the Chipembe cluster less frequently since they are more mature and study regularly on their own now, and this makes space on the calendar for beginning to study with women in the church cluster of Nekwaya/Nakuka/Khambiri.  Because of the distance involved, instead of studying every other week together, I'm planning four 2-day overnight visits that will hopefully get us through Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.  The part I'm really excited about, though, is that each time I'll be having four mature women from the Chipembe cluster come down to Montepuez the night before for prayer together, and then we'll go teach the Newkaya cluster studies together.

At the end of February, we hosted a meeting here in Montepuez for church leaders with an emphasis on unity and prayer.  We also began the conversation with these men about how long our team should be here in Montepuez and what role we should take over the next few years.  The meeting went really well and those conversations will continue as we agreed to meet all together as a group every other month. 

As a team we are committed to doing our best to prepare the churches for our eventual departure.  Currently the Smith, Westerholm and Howell families have all committed to stay in Montepuez into 2018.  In order to help us figure out how long we should stay here as well as forming a healthy exit strategy, we have scheduled a "consultant visit."  Evertt and Ilene Huffard and Monte and Beth Cox (former missionaries who currently serve as professors of missions (and more!) with Harding University) will join us for the last week of May.  We are helping defray their travel costs, so if you are interested in contributing to that please send us a message through our team's website here.

Alan and the Peace Corps workers who are spearheading the bridge project in Bandari experienced a setback recently.  The goal is to provide a safe means of crossing the Montepuez River but this year has seen record rains, people are saying it is the most in 15 years, and the site originally chosen as the location for the foundation of the bridge was under water.  They've found a different site that should work well and hopefully construction will begin later this year (for more information read this post) 

The harvest is coming in for families all over northern Mozambique and Alan met last week with Gonçalves Ignacio to plan for his follow up visits to associations that are implementing sustainable agriculture methods on experimental communal plots.  Five community groups whose members total over 100 people participated in this program and Gonçalves will be meeting with them over the coming weeks to evaluate their results and encourage them to implement what they've practiced in their own farms.

While the rainy season has limited our travel locally, we have been able to use this time to travel outside our region.   In January, Rachel and Abby took a trip down to South Africa for dental work, and then in February, Alan and Jeremy went to men's missionary retreat in Kenya.  That was a great opportunity to connect with other missionaries in this part of the world and share ideas. 

Last year churches from all over Cabo Delgado spent the two weeks before Easter praying and fasting that God would defeat the five giants that oppress people in this part of Mozambique (Drunkenness, Magic, Ungodly Leadership, Unfaithfulness and Poverty).  Many people participated and some fruit was evidenced in the churches.  So, we're inviting people in Mozambique (and anywhere else in the world!) to join us again in a time of fasting and prayer.  The dates are April 6-19 and anyone who wants to join us in some or all of this fast is most welcome!

Thanks for keeping up with us and praying for the work here among the Makua-Metto.  We'd appreciate you praying with us about the following things:
  • Prayers for new teachers for the next 2 school years
  • Fruitful Consultant visit with the Huffards and Coxes
  • An abundant harvest of food for the year
  • For the followers of Jesus to grow in love, wisdom, patience, and joy
Grace and Peace,
Rachel Howell

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