Well, we’re back home in Mozambique! We’ve been on the ground here for about six weeks now, and we are so grateful for the love and prayers and support we received from so many of you as we wrapped up our teaching year in the States to move back to Montepuez.
We felt energized and encouraged by the year stateside; we spent the summer traveling around to visit many of you before locating in Searcy, Arkansas for the school year. Alan taught Bible and Missions classes at Harding University and at Harding School of Theology, I was taking classes at HST for my master’s degree, and we spent much of our time mentoring and recruiting college students for missions and ministry. The girls were enrolled in school in Searcy, and they handled the transition so well – we were so grateful for that gift of grace and for your prayers over them! We also cherished our time with the Donelson, Downtown, New Heritage, and Fernandina Beach churches; we were thirsty for those connections, and we were deeply refreshed in our relationships with YOU, both old and new.
And it is hard to believe it is over! We came back to Montepuez at the beginning of the dry-cool season complete with thick layers of dust in the house, but after about a week and a half of scrubbing and trying (sometimes successfully) to repair all the broken things, our house began to feel like home again. We were very surprised at the ease of speaking Makua after a year away – even our Mozambican friends have commented on how we didn’t forget Makua. We have delighted to reconnect with our friends here; several have commented on how they weren’t sure they believed we were really coming back, and several also told Alan that he’s looking fat and very white!
The critters and creatures have also welcomed us back; within six weeks we’ve run over a black mamba on the way to a village church, killed a rat in the house, Alan has already had malaria, and Abby has caught too many baby geckos to count (she catches them and relocates them to the rooms in the house where we have the most mosquitoes). Our teammates Rose Perry and the Westerholm’s and our friends the Wakefield’s welcomed us back with more than two weeks of dinners, and our Mozambican friends have brought us peanuts and pumpkin and beans and corn flour and cassava. Our first Sunday worshipping in a village, the church served us xima (stiff cornmeal porridge) with fresh pork (usually only for special occasions), and I was tickled to realize my plate included part of the jaw bone complete with two large teeth (that was a first). The girls are enjoying reconnecting with their friends, going barefoot 24 hours a day, and rediscovering all their old books and legos.
It was an eventful year here in this part of Mozambique while we were away; many of you gave generously to the famine relief program during the hunger season. Over $140,000 was raised to help provide rice to families whose food had run out due to the lack of rain the previous year; we have heard so many people express their thankfulness – your gift has been received with gratitude. The church deacons and our teammates worked extensively to get the food where it was needed most in an organized manner; many Mozambicans have especially mentioned our teammate Jeremy Smith’s tireless efforts in the rice distribution, and we are so grateful for his loving service.
An ongoing conflict in the churches that we work with here also climaxed during the year we were gone; years of struggle with unhealthy leadership came to a head and resulted in a messy break from that faction. Although that has been deeply painful for many of the people involved, it seems that the small group of divisive individuals has split off to do their own thing while the majority of churches are forging a path forward together. This has meant that several church leaders are finally feeling empowered to grow in using their gifts (instead of being squashed – hallelujah!), but these are also learning experiences and come with some growing pains, so please pray for those leaders with us. Several areas in the province have had an explosive number of recent baptisms (from a few to dozens to over a hundred), and we are so excited to see God calling people to himself! However, our years here have also taught us that the long hard work of transformation by the Holy Spirit that follows an initial decision is where we need to dig in with the bulk of our prayers and our time - please pray with us in this too.
Since we are starting up again after a longer-than-normal furlough, and since it was such an eventful year that we were gone, we have been doing a lot of listening as we reconnect with our Mozambican friends. We have made a lot of visits to hear their different stories of their experiences and to seek their counsel as to how and where we should be working to help the church grow well.
A couple weeks after our return we received seven interns from Harding University; Alan was tasked with organizing the internship program during the fall semester, and we enjoyed getting to know this group of interns before they stepped off the plane in Pemba. They come as learners, like in a job-shadowing role, and they have been good sports! They have not been shy to try out life in Mozambique, and we are thankful to have them with us for the summer.
Our teammates the Smiths are on furlough in the States; and we were so thankful to be able to see them for a few days at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures before we left for Mozambique! Our teacher Rose Perry is also on furlough in the States to return in August, and soon after that she will be joined by Jessica Markwood. We are pumped that Jessica, a former intern, is returning to join our team as a teacher with plans to transition into agricultural work.
Please join with us in praying for:
· wisdom for church leaders as they stretch and grow
· all the new believers to follow a path of true transformation
· final approval and stamps on all our residence documents
Please know that we love and miss you; having a longer furlough with more time with those we delight in made it sadder to leave. We are thankful for all the ways we can communicate BUT we feel spoiled by all the time we had with you face to face!
Which makes me think of last Saturday. That day we were at a very big wedding; the grown daughter of our carpenter friend was getting married, and since he is one of the kindest, most generous Christians in our town, the wedding was very well attended – most of the denominations in town were well represented and had even organized lively singing groups. It was an all-day celebration with lots of worship and singing, and I was moved by the unity and togetherness on display. I don’t mean to naively describe a superficial unity; I know that each denomination represented that day has their own (very real) struggles and dysfunctions, groaning like in labor pains. But to see the different churches worshiping together is a taste of God’s New Creation, already begun but not yet complete.
May you live daily into the Reality of that Hope!
With much love,
Rachel (and Alan and the girls)