Dear friends:

I regret that much time has passed without an update from me on events in our ministry and our personal lives. Important things have happened that should have been shared. In May, Julie and I returned to Africa after my heart operation in February. On 24 June, our daughter Gracie married Jaime Rodriguez in Colorado. On 15 September, our third granddaughter was born to son Benaiah and wife Katelyn. In-between, life was hectic with completing purchases for the Mission in South Africa last May, arranging a second wedding for Gracie and Jaime here in Nampula in July, getting our truck loaded with supplies back to Mozambique in August, and, most recently, undertaking the massive task of preparing for 400+ church leaders from all over Mozambique who, in just six days, will descend upon us for the 22nd annual Fiel Conference which in recent years has been hosted by us on our own property.

Our daughter Gracie with husband Jaime Rodriguez at their Nampula wedding celebration in July. We thank God for bringing this man into our lives! More details to come at another time.

The Nampula wedding celebration.

A family photo at the Colorado wedding. From left to right: Benaiah and Katelyn Woodrow, Charles and Julie, Gracie, Kent and Anna Woodrow, Sarah Beth, Andrew and Jennifer Woodrow.

On 15 September, Benaiah and Katelyn blessed us with our third granddaughter, Cora Rose Woodrow.

The trip from Pretoria to Nampula was an eventful one involving a small “tragedy” when our truck was seriously damaged pulling up to the border, then marvellously “healed” two days later just as we were about to resume the long and arduous journey to Nampula. For two days I was in the depths of despair over the damage to the truck. The injury occurred at the rear end of the truck, tearing apart the cargo area, ripping open the tarp, and exposing the load to theft at any point along the journey, even while the truck was moving. I have watched with my own eyes thieves doing this in the middle of the capital city as a wounded truck lumbered down the main highway connecting the capital to Nampula with the thieves unloading its moving cargo to their gang members along the side of the road. But God had pity on us, and through the kind help of the customs officials inspecting our load, the damage was undone in less than an hour with no fees charged.

The rear end of our truck was ripped open at the border when a pole projecting from another truck hooked the rear hoop of our cargo area and tore the frame, tarpaulin, and rear tailgate apart! Not a good way to travel through the badlands ahead!

The customs inspectors used their forklift to force all the pieces back into place, then we secured them with our tie down belts, and topped that off by welding the tailgate and side panels permanently closed until the end of the trip.

Now the fully repaired truck only awaits a paint job to be as good as new!

Normally, one expects the agony of extortion when dealing with a fully loaded truck and government officials who have such power over things, but, through the prayers of friends in Pretoria, this time the exact opposite happened! Without requesting any compensation at all, the officials offered to repair the truck with their own equipment, and the inspection ran normally with no attempts at extortion! Truly, for us, the customs inspectors seemed to have been angels in disguise! I was transferred from despair to exhilaration at the Lord’s provision, and I am happy to now have an entirely different feeling toward customs inspectors!

What constrains me to send this brief note is the upcoming conference. With six days still remaining, during which time we normally have an additional 50–60 people register, we have 385 people signed up to attend. This year could see our highest attendance ever, topping last year’s participation of 403 leaders.

Preparations are coming along well and, through the generosity of our supporters, the money is on hand to cover all the expenses. But we request prayer that God would bind the evil one whose efforts are often so obvious and threatening in the days leading up to this important event, and especially that God would grant our speakers much grace and unction as they present the crucial teaching on our theme.

The main tent has been erected and now we are adorning it with curtains.

Because of the large turnout, we have erected the side tent as well.

The theme is “The Power of the Gospel” and the messages will include six expositions by our guest preachers on justification by grace through faith in Romans 1–4 and two messages on the power of the gospel and on the privilege of preaching the gospel.

I will bring four messages on “The Marvellous Grace of God” and on “Biblical Faith.” Two fine Mozambican brothers will supply two messages, “The Work of Grace in the Life of Naaman” and “Beware of False Gospels!”

There will be workshops on eight common errors in evangelistic methods and an example of wooing sinners to Christ in a way that avoids the pitfalls that often lead to spurious conversions or shallow, self-centred or man-centred believers. And we will have two sessions devoted to six case studies related to problems that arise in the church when our evangelism fails to transform those who listen to us.

Please pray for the guest speakers, Samuel Quimputo, a gifted preacher from Angola who has ministered in Portugal for many years now, and Ben Lane, one of the two regional directors with HeartCry Missionary Society in Virginia, founded by Paul Washer, former missionary to Peru.

The outdoor kitchen and food serving tent is ready to function.

And please pray for me, that I may proclaim the marvellous grace of God and the transforming faith whose author and finisher is the very object of that faith, Christ himself! I am struggling to find out how to say all I want to impart in only four hours, and at the same time be open to the unction of the Holy Spirit which, when it falls upon a preacher, seems to make messages longer, not shorter! Only a small minority of our listeners are in agreement with the doctrine of these conferences, so they need to be both wooed and confronted with their false gospels at one and the same time. But who is adequate for such things?

Also pray for the Holy Spirit to guard my lips. Proverbs 10:19 warns us that “in the multitude of words there wanteth not sin” and 13:3 says “He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life, but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.” This is because the heart, which prior to salvation is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, is so intimately connected to the mouth in spiritual anatomy. According to the one who made us, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things” (Matthew 12:34–35).

If one’s heart is not bursting with good treasure only, when it breaks open during the passion of preaching, some disappointing and surprising things may be heard by the preacher himself! A preacher must strive to be filled with only good treasure when he steps into the pulpit if he is going to let the natural eloquence of a heart bursting with an overpowering impulse have sway, without whiffs of impatience, arrogance, a judgemental spirit, or a haranguing tone being sensed between the lines. Please pray for me in this regard!

Messages on the grace of God should be the most beautiful, enrapturing, and wooing words imaginable. For any sinner, surely grace is the crown jewel in God’s diadem of glorious attributes, and manifesting this grace to all heavenly creatures through his manifold kindness toward us is perhaps his chief purpose in creating the human race (Ephesians 2:7).

What an irony if grace were to be wielded as a club to hammer pastors who deny salvation by grace by demanding good works from their people in order to first merit that grace! While I am weary of the works-oriented mindset of the Evangelical church in Mozambique, that tone must never seep into these messages! Pray for me and my heart during these four days.

With the new dorm tent purchased for this year, we can now house 175 out-of-town leaders on our premises.

To close on the happy note of what grace preaching ought to do for us, let me include two testimonies of what I hope may happen on a large scale with these words from a young doctor who learned these truths four years ago and today is my god-son:

In the past I was anxious about whether or not I was saved, because until I took the seminar I had been taught that I was the cause and the maintainer of my salvation, that staying saved was up to me to accomplish.

Through the seminar I learned about true salvation, I gained peace within, and I was led to a greater fear of God. It was not like the former fear I had of whether I was good enough to be saved; rather I now saw how infinitely sovereign God was in both saving men and in keeping them saved. This brought peace, and helped me to serve God correctly, out of gratitude for the immense grace that had already taken hold of me and that would go on sustaining me in the faith.

I do not have written words from a young pastor who came to the truth at last year’s conference, but I can tell you his story. He grew up in a charismatic prosperity and health church pastored by his father, and at his father’s death he inherited that ministry. He travelled 500 miles to Nampula last year to attend the conference, his way being paid by another pastor who came to the truth at a previous conference of ours. During the meetings last year, he was overwhelmed with the glorious things he was learning. In tears, he called his wife and told her they had been doing everything wrong, and that from that day forward, all was going to change. He stayed on the second week to take the seminar offered by Equipping Pastors Worldwide and then stayed on the third week to take my seminar in systematic theology. He left Nampula determined to bring his entire congregation to understand salvation by grace through faith the way he now did, which he joyfully says has happened. This year he returns bringing three more pastors with him from the same group of churches, praying that they will be led to the same discovery God revealed to him a year ago.

Pray that God may make it so, next Tuesday through Friday, here in Nampula!

By his grace,

Charles and Julie Woodrow