Greetings to friends of Grace Missions, Grace Medical Mozambique, Charles and Julie Woodrow, and Hannah Malone.
Here is the latest news from Nampula, Mozambique, written by Dr. Charles Woodrow.
We are thanking the Lord here in Nampula for wonderful events and important milestones that have lately transpired.
First, the 40 foot container of medical supplies for equipping the hospital was received last week.
After exhausting efforts to satisfy all the requirements of customs and the National Pharmacy Board that regulates importation of medical items, the container made it past customs and into our hands last week with no problems at all. Satisfying these requirements involved Don Dickey and his crew packing and completely unpacking the container three times to search out and remove nearly 100 boxes of supplies that were forbidden by the authorities on this first importation attempt.
Despite the great value of the material inside, customs accepted the prices we actually paid for the contents and assessed less than $10,000 in customs charges! A declaration from the central customs offices exempting part of the shipment from duties helped in keeping these charges so low.
Despite the tight regulations regarding importation of medical supplies, the container was handed over to us with no prior inspection demanded! The declaration we finally received from the National Pharmacy Board stating there was nothing in the container that should concern customs must have helped. The two weeks spent praying and camping out on the NPB doorstep in the capital in order to obtain this declaration was described in the last update.
But in the end, we must thank the Lord who heard the prayers of our supporters and ourselves and guided these supplies into our hands without mishap!
Second, our annual book order for supplying the pastors’ conference, many reading circles, and the book store arrived and by God’s grace has been paid for.
Since our last report, the annual book order from Brazil, which is a major undertaking each year, has been accomplished by our office administrator, Hannah Malone, and her team of volunteers. Over 1000 books were purchased just to supply the growing number of readers organized by Mission Ekklesia, the indigenous organization for promoting the doctrines of grace among the Evangelical churches in Mozambique. Grace Missions provides these books free of charge to the reading circles, but participants must read them and show up at the monthly meeting to discuss each book before receiving the next one.
Many more books were purchased to be sold at cost in the bookstore and at the annual Fiel Conference, where books are sold to church leaders at half cost. These are reference works, study Bibles, Greek lexicons, commentaries, classics of the faith that have endured for centuries, and new books by authors writing in the tradition of the Reformation fathers. This is a large financial burden for the Mission, but we are thankful that once again God has met these expenses through our donors.
Third, progress is being made for the 20th Fiel pastors’ conference in Nampula.
Our 20th annual conference for church leaders from the northern two-thirds of Mozambique is scheduled for 16-19 July, followed by two seminars for participants who can stay on an extra week to study expository preaching and systematic theology. We are moving the venue to the hospital property, and that involves a lot of preparation. The theme is “Planting Churches Biblically,” a topic that has stirred much interest. At the end of May registrations were already five-fold what they were the same time last year. We usually have 300 to 350 church leaders present, so I estimate we need to have facilities ready to host and feed at least 450 people and to lodge all the out of town participants. Please pray for effective messages and training sessions, and for logistics to run smoothly as we tend to so many people in an entirely new venue.
Please also pray that God will provide the finances needed to continue hosting this conference. Historically, the conference has cost the three sponsoring organizations $100 for each person participating. We recover less than ten percent of that expense from the church leaders themselves, and depend on contributions to subsidize the rest. We much appreciate the special gifts from generous donors that make this opportunity possible. Please continue helping us as we look to the Lord to cover the expenses of this year’s conference!
Fourth, we have finally broken through the barrier preventing construction of the cupboards, cabinets, and counters needed for the hospital to pass inspection and begin to function.
Since the last report, our cabinet makers have progressed in installing the cupboards and counters needed by the hospital. Until recently materials acceptable for use as surface barriers in hospital furnishings have not been available in Nampula, but now they are. We have found a team of skilled cabinet makers who say they can use the new materials in outfitting our hospital, so we are giving it a go. It will be a while before we see the finished product, but we hope we have surmounted this last obstacle in equipping the building to function as a hospital.
Fifth, we have made good progress on the guest cottage for short-term medical teams.
Work on the guest cottage resumed and we will soon be doing the inside finish work.
Sixth, the recent Ekklesia church plant is thriving, along with the parent congregation.
In January our church commissioned Timóteo Bila and Ernesto Valoi, the cream of our congregation and leaders of Mission Ekklesia, to establish a church plant across town. They were joined by Osílio, another participant in our church and long-time friend of Bila, who had just recently come to Nampula after completing a seminary degree in Brazil. These three men have been shepherding the new church for five months with the help of other excellent brothers, the fruit of Bila and Ekklesia’s ministry through the years. Eleven participants from our church who lived on that side of town enabled them to start with an instant congregation.
We are delighted to report that God is steadily adding to their numbers, drawing young Christians who have been searching for a place where they can grow in their relationship with Christ and their understanding of the Bible, as well as other people who have come to salvation while attending their services! Their first baptism was celebrated a few months ago at the Grace Missions compound with both congregations present and leaders from both churches officiating.
In all, we gave up 16 regular participants in the establishment of this new church. Though we enjoy coming together at seminars and special events, the distance separating the two congregations makes it impossible to experience the regular, close fellowship we always prized with one another. However, the Lord has lessened our sense of loss by recently sending many new visitors to the parent church. Already Sunday attendance is higher than it was before the plant was undertaken! All the chairs are filled, we have to bring in benches during the service to seat everyone, and we are wondering if it will be necessary to move outdoors where there is more space. We still have a good supply of experienced teachers and disciplers, and if all the new participants remain there will be plenty of work for them to do!
Seventh, Julie and I made a successful trip to South Africa where I preached at a couple of mission events, Julie had two cataract excisions, and the mission purchased a truckload of equipment needed to finish the guest cottage and to host the upcoming Fiel Conference.
While in South Africa Julie had operations to remove cataracts from each eye. The outpatient procedures were successful, and she is amazed at the clarity of everything around her. After the first operation, when she had one good eye and one cataract, she was surprised by how dingy the world looked when seen through the bad eye. With the lens implants she no longer needs glasses after nearly 50 years of using them! The wonderful results of Julie’s procedure and my own operation a year ago make me proud to be a surgeon, even though I myself have not helped anyone for a long time! Beyond this, we are again thankful to God who hears and answers the prayers of His people! And to her ophthalmologist, who is a missionary-minded Christian and enabled Julie to have the two procedures for a fraction of what they cost in the U.S. We have not had family health insurance for years, so the low expense was an important benefit!
Eighth, our second son, Andrew, and his bride of one year, Jennifer, have travelled to Africa to spend two months with us, along with our third son Benaiah who finished his first year at Covenant College.
While we were in South Africa the kids arrived from the U.S. We all spent one week at the Kruger game reserve and another at a beach home on the Indian ocean that some friends lend us every year. Now we are back in Nampula where Grace has been working since January, revelling in the delight of having four of our seven children (plus in-laws) together with us in Africa. That is a blessing we expect will become increasingly rare as the family grows older and larger. The most important benefit of the visit is that we enjoy so much knowing Jennifer. She is a lovely Vietnamese girl, comes from a missionary family herself, and makes friends with everyone so easily. Believers Fellowship Bible church in Fort Worth paid Benaiah’s air fare, as they have done each year for one of our children the past five or six years. What a wonderful gift to provide a missionary family!
As I end this update, I want to thank again the people who for years have prayed for us and given us the funds to do all that is taking place. Please rejoice with us in what God is doing and pray that these many projects will produce gratifying results that will glorify God, strengthen Christ’s church, and bring many lost souls to saving faith.
In a separate email which I hope you will open and consider, I will be promoting a special opportunity to encourage church leaders serving the area recently ravaged by cyclone Idai which gained world-wide attention because of its unprecedented ferocity and the destruction it worked on the victims in its path.
Thank you for your interest in our ministry!