Greetings from Montepuez!
We're in the middle of the rainy season here and most days we're enjoying thick cloud cover. It's a nice break from the intense tropical sun, but unfortunately that doesn't mean a break from sunburns for Alan (insert sad face). We had a VERY needed restful holiday break - we intentionally didn't schedule anything between Christmas Day and New Year's Day, and spent the time resting and playing together as a family, which was very healing at the end of a pretty intense year for us.
I'm writing this to the hum of the generator as severe flooding down in the middle of Mozambique has knocked out major power lines for the northern half of the country. We've been over three weeks without city electricity and we're so grateful to have a generator to run our fridge and computer and lights - we're also running the teachers' electricity as well as serving as a charging station for many of our friends' phones and a few extra computers, too. We haven't seen flooding rains in our region yet - the rainfall has been even and steady - but an area south of us received strong winds that blew down a number of houses and church buildings (the village of Milamba and surrounding areas).
Since our last newsletter we continued with our regular village visits, but every year when the rains begin mid-December, our ministry time shifts a bit. Our Mozambican friends are busy in their farms planting and hoeing, and sometimes we're limited in where we can go - just a couple weeks ago, thick slippery mud on the road to Khambiri forced Alan and Goncalvez to turn back and miss a meeting with a cluster of churches. So we schedule fewer village studies and spend time on curriculum development and long-term planning for the year.
We're happy to report that the bridge construction finished on Christmas day! Alan and the project leader Will Zweig (a Peace Corps Worker in our area), were amazed to see the work come together and we're so grateful that the actual construction only ended up taking three months of intense building. It was completed just as the Montepuez River began to rise and the work during that last week or so had to be done while dodging men, women and children who needed to alreadyThanks again to everyone who supported this effort!
In December we finished up the three different women's studies for 2014. On the last day of our study in the Chipembe cluster, when we finished studying, we all piled together into the truck and drove to Nakuka to join the women in that church cluster for an Ikoma - a girl's initiation ceremony. The Chipembe women and I enjoyed also having Amber, one of our teachers, and Kara, one of the new Peace Corps Volunteers in Montepuez, join us for the overnight trip. We stayed up into the night singing, dancing, napping, singing again, and holding an advice-giving session for the young girl whose parents are part of the church in that village. The next morning she was bathed by the older women, dressed in brand new clothes, presented to the community as an adult, and after everyone gave her gifts, we prayed over her. When it was all done we began the four hours of driving to drop off all the Chipembe women before driving back into Montepuez. We were exhausted, but it was so much fun!
Over the last few weeks Alan has been going with several church leaders to the village of Nikokwe. It is a place that the church has tried to reach out to before, but there had been resistance for religious reasons in the past. This time, though, has been different. There is a man of peace there, and he and his family have welcomed all of us with open arms. They'll be discussing baptism next week and hopefully there will be a new church plant there soon - please pray for this village.
One interesting dynamic of the rainy season this year is that Cruz and Armindo, two young men that Alan has been discipling for the past few years, have been back in Montepuez on break from school, and we've been able to see a lot more of them than usual. They've used some of their school holiday time to teach and do evangelism on their own in a few different places, and it has been exciting to see them grow in confidence and take more and more initiative.
When Monte and Beth Cox and Evertt and Ilene Huffard visited our team in May, they counseled us and the Mozambican church leaders that it was time to begin naming deacons to serve and lead the churches, and that one of the biggest needs of these churches is in the area of communication and collaboration between churches. There are about 50 Churches of Christ in Cabo Delgado and the distances between the members of this young movement continues to be a substantial barrier. Just as the early church selected deacons to address a specific problem they were facing (Acts 6), we were all encouraged to let that be the way to address our challenge as well. After presenting this plan to some key church leaders, Jeremy, Chad, Alan, and two Mozambican missionaries (who've been living and working with the Churches of Christ in Cabo Delgado) began the process of teaching about deacons and facilitating the selection process in the 13 church clusters. While this process hasn't been without its hiccups, it has been a joy to see churches select their own leaders and for us as American and Mozambican missionaries to get to lay hands on and pray for these servants. Alan said that the selection process in the Chipembe cluster was one of the highlights of his life. It was a beautiful day, and he was so encouraged to watch the young churches' maturity in choosing leaders while still having such openness and honesty that members felt free to speak directly to them and promise to hold them accountable.
Unfortunately, a third Mozambican missionary has been hostile to these plans lately. After initially agreeing to this process and promising to participate he has started putting up roadblocks and has threatened to divide the church. It has been sad to watch him burn up his influence with many people as lots of church members are saying his actions are driven by greed and a desire to hold onto control and power over the church. Please pray that God would change his heart and that the church would find a peaceful solution to this.
Also, please pray for us as we renew our residency documents. This year we are eligible (again) for permanent resident status which means we would have to renew the documents every five years instead of annually. Unfortunately, the process is moving very slowly right now, for several reasons, one of which is that there is no electricity in the whole northern half of the country. Thanks for joining with us in prayer about this; these government documents are an important part of keeping us here, and permanent approval would make our travel plans this year a lot smoother.
When we looked at the calendar today, we realized it is about a hundred days until we leave for furlough (Yikes!). We've been talking about it more and more with our Mozambican friends, sharing the vision for teaching at Harding University to encourage/train more missionaries and disciple-makers on that side of the world. Most of them are excited for us, though we've had to make many reassurances that we'll be coming straight back home to Montepuez as soon as the school year is over. At one of the deacon selection meetings, someone made reference to our trip to the United States and asked how this would impact that group of churches. A number of members responded that since their leaders are now officially in place, the work of the church will keep going forward. May it be so!
Please pray with us for:
- Peace and unity in the church, especially among leaders
- Success in receiving permanent residency documents
- Steady rain and a good harvest in people's farms
- Continued peace in Mozambique and thanksgiving for peaceful elections last year
Grace and Peace,
Rachel, Alan and the girls