Ministry Update: Fellowship of Believers in Christ (April 2018: Quinta Graça: “Land of Grace”)

Charles Woodrow reports on recently acquired property in this tenth installment of news from Nampula.

During the past two years one of the most exciting and formidable challenges associated with opening the hospital has been the need to arrange acceptable living conditions for the many missionaries who will one day be working there.

Several years ago I began looking for a suitable piece of land I could purchase both as a financial investment for Julie and me and as a means of guaranteeing that future missionary personnel would have an affordable place to live. Nampula is the second largest city of the country and during the previous ten years the local economy was booming so that renting an acceptable home in the city became prohibitively expensive. Buying property on which to build was becoming more and more difficult as all land within easy commuting distance was being bought up by speculators. I was convinced that if we did not act boldly in purchasing land soon, when it was finally needed there would be none available within easy reach of the hospital.

The property in its early stages of development.

In 2015, after months of checking out unacceptable possibilities, I was offered what seemed to be the perfect plot just 6 miles from the hospital and ten minutes away on the best highway passing through Nampula. It is in a strikingly scenic location, a great asset for people who care about esthetics. The only problem was that at 20 acres it was four times the size I thought I needed, so I have had to pay more than I originally planned for purchase and development.

Mountain scenery near the property.

Developing the property for housing has taken two years—but it is now ready for the first homes. My workers have cleared and landscaped the terrain, completed 1300 yards of boundary wall, put in 450 yards of drains, built 1200 yards of roads, constructed a bridge and low water crossing over the stream, drilled a borehole for water, brought in power from high voltage lines 750 yards away, installed a power transformer, and mounted 22 street lights and lamp posts for area lighting. Soon we will lay down the water mains. The total cost for all of this has reached $280,000.

Pond area before (above) and after (below) improvements.

Now, all that is left is to build the missionary homes, assuming there will soon be missionaries!

Because the property is much larger than I first wanted, in addition to missionary housing, we expect to use the middle section for conferences and seminars. The city has approved plans for a large kitchen and two sanitation blocks. We are hoping to move all the Fiel, Ekklesia, UIFEC, and mission conferences there in the future.

View of the property in 2017.

The story behind acquiring this land has been full of divine interventions, and during the intervals of God’s silence, the experience has been harrowing. You can imagine that buying land in Africa is risky at best, where fraud is everywhere and so many things can go wrong, and at worst is downright foolish. So I prayed much for guidance in purchasing this parcel. God finally caused three previously closed doors to open simultaneously, allowing me to buy the land if I wished. The circumstances seemed too extraordinary to be the product of mere chance. Believing the Lord was guiding, I plundered our retirement fund just as Julie and I were approaching the age when we might need it.

It turned out that many people coveted our land and had tried to buy it over the years. They were not happy when a foreigner ended up with it, and within days of my purchase it became the subject of no less than five attempts to wrest it from me. For months while the courts deliberated I lived with the possibility that I was going to lose the $160,000 I had sunk into buying and developing the property to that point. The first case fell apart under the corruption of the official directing it who found himself suddenly stripped of his legal powers because of other shady deeds he had done. Two of the four cases that actually made it to court dragged on for over a year before being dismissed as groundless. I am now waiting for the third and fourth judges to dismiss the last cases for the same reason.

Front wall under construction. Gate reads, “Quinta Graça.”

We have called the property Quinta Graça, which means “Land of Grace.” So far, it has indeed been an exercise in dependence upon the grace of God. Zerubbabel’s cry as he raised the temple, “Grace! Grace to it!” has often been my prayer as well for Quinta Graça while forging ahead with expensive plans in the face of bitter adversaries who desperately wanted to take it all away!