Greetings from Montepuez!
We hope you are doing well and trusting in the Very Real Hope that we have because of Jesus’ Resurrection and Victory over death. Nothing can touch that, and because of that there is always joy.
We have been busy since our last newsletter – I am still trying to figure out what happened to September and October??? We spent July and August wrapping up the internship, sending off interns, continuing to study with village churches, hosting deacons’ meetings, becoming parents of a teenager (!!!), and preparations for the Bible School (developing curriculum and constructing temporary dormitories).
Then September began and we all hit the ground running! We were delighted to receive our teammates Rose Perry and the Smith family back from their furloughs and cook them lots of meals while they unpacked, recovered from jetlag, and got settled. And right away the Bible School opened the first week of September with our teammate Chad Westerholm teaching the inaugural course on the book of Mark. The goal is to provide more advanced training for Makua-Metto church leaders; so far our team has offered four different classes: three different formats in two different locations for a total of six courses. With the coming of the rainy season, the last class finishes up next week; after that we will sit down with different church leaders to evaluate this first year and discuss improvements for 2017. Though it has been a steep learning curve (especially in regards to housing and feeding the students), it has been exciting to see how hungry they are to learn. Adding up the number of students in each class there have been 84 total course completions: this is made up of about 45 different students from six different denominations. Please pray for us as we begin planning for next year that the school will be a catalyst for further church growth.
In late September, our team hosted 22 students and faculty from the HIZ program (Harding-in-Zambia) for a short visit. We spent four days giving them a glimpse of what life and ministry is like in rural Mozambique; they accompanied us to Bible study groups in remote villages, worshipped with us in village churches, and took tours of our local hospital and high school with our friends in the Peace Corps. Our team has never hosted an international group of that size, and it was a crazy four days, but it went really well and we hope we can recruit them some of them to return to Mozambique in some form or fashion!
Immediately after the HIZ group left we hosted a conference for Churches of Christ in Cabo Delgado on our team’s land. The local church leaders completely organized and led the three-day conference, but since it was held on our land, we were kept especially busy (=exhausted!) ensuring various behind-the-scenes tasks ran smoothly. About 250 people came from 5 different districts, including some visitors from other parts of Mozambique. Cambama, Alegria, Pinto, Goncalves, Napoleão, Chad, Jeremy, and Alan taught sessions on the theme of how to strengthen the church.
The only sad element from the conference was that the divisive church leader who has caused so many problems turned in letters again to the government to try to shut down this gathering. These complaints meant that throughout the conference there were several impromptu meetings behind the scenes as local church leaders and church leaders from another province tried meeting with him repeatedly to get him to repent. Unfortunately, he seems bent on continuing down this divisive path, and his false accusations have provoked even more meetings with officials to get to the bottom of the problem. We have pleaded our case and have turned in additional documents, and we are still waiting to be cleared of these accusations. Please keep this matter in your prayers since there are three residence visas on the team up for renewal this week. The local church leaders from Cabo Delgado continue to show a depth of maturity and patience in this situation that gives us great hope for the future – please pray for their endurance in this situation as well.
Because of the low levels of literacy in this area, over the years we’ve experimented with a variety of methods to share audio files on a large scale with church members (from MP3 players to iPod shuffles to solar powered players to hand-crank radios – all with your generous help). All of these have gone well (though some better than others), but they eventually wear out, and the technology continues to improve – even way out in the bush. Since cell phones are everywhere now, even in the most remote villages, Alan’s most recent project along these lines involved formatting 120 mini-SD cards with recordings of songs, scriptures, dialogues and sermons in Makua-Metto, and it has been fun to hear our friends listen to the programs on their phones. One of the first people to receive one of these cards, Pedro from Nekwaia, called Alan a week later to say that he had sat down with his neighbor and had listened to ALL the Nviriyane dialogues already – about 40 hours of programs walking through the core stories from Scripture in Makua-Metto.
My study time with women’s groups has continued over the past few months in six different rural locations as well as the weekly study here in Montepuez. We’ve spent most of our time studying different passages from the book of John, and in a few weeks we will wrap up with a women’s retreat-event before the rainy season when many people move out to their farms for the months of January and February. Tomorrow I’m heading out for three days with my teammate Martha to visit, worship, and study with women in two locations in the Namunu district.
Our weather is warming up and the earliest of the mangoes have ripened, which of course we’re all excited about. My girls are longing to play in the rain and I’m ready for the rain to wash away all the dust, but so far we’ve only had sprinkles. The kids love having Miss Rose back from furlough, and Miss Jessica (our new teacher returning intern Jessica Markwood) has been a big hit. Ellie is days away from turning eleven, and we are planning a big Thanksgiving party since we are so far away from our families. We miss you all!
Please join us in praying for:
· the upcoming rainy season to produce healthy crops
· perseverance for church leaders and continued growth
· final approval and stamps on all our residence documents
Grace and Peace,
Rachel, Alan and the girls