Ministry Update: Fellowship of Believers in Christ (February 2018)

Greetings, friends, from Charles and Julie Woodrow!

It is our privilege to provide a brief update about recent events in Nampula.  This summary comes from a series of newsletters which you will begin receiving shortly where full details and many interesting stories will be presented.

But in summary, we are enjoying a season of abundant grace with unprecedented progress on each of our ministry fronts.

Pastors’ Conference and Bookstore

In July we had another rewarding Fiel Conference, our 18th annual meeting for pastors and church leaders, with 345 attending from throughout the northern two-thirds of Mozambique. This tied with the previous year for the highest attendance since the national conference split into two regional meetings several years ago. Together, the two conferences this year had a total attendance of over 750 leaders, the highest so far!

The intent of these conferences is not only to refresh and equip Evangelical leaders in their service to their congregations, but also to acquaint them with the rich legacy left the church by its Reformation Fathers. At this conference, Karl Peterson and I were encouraged by responses to a survey indicating that for some of the leaders the meetings and literature work are indeed changing in a significant way their understanding of the gospel and Christian ministry. The results of this survey and an encouraging testimony from one of the participants is included in the detailed reports which will be sent out soon.

Books available through the conference book store.

Key Men Shaped by the Ministry

We are reveling of late in an increasing number of gifted men God has raised up to lead the efforts at reformation within the Evangelical church in Mozambique. Especially exciting has been the meteoric rise of Ernesto Valoi, professor of philosophy of the local university, who has become an impressive preacher and advocate of the doctrines of grace over the past two years. This July he joined for the first time with three other accomplished Mozambican speakers invited previously to preach at our annual Fiel Conference alongside the international speakers and authors who serve as the main teachers. Valoi delivered a stirring and challenging message on Martin Luther and the Reformation, with insightful applications throughout on the need for reformation in the Evangelical churches of our land and the qualifications Martin Luther manifested that we need to develop in our own spiritual lives if we too hope to minister with the effectiveness of this mighty servant of God!

Valoi responding to questions after his message on Martin Luther and the Reformation.

Another choice servant that just came to our attention for the first time at this year’s conference is Stélio Custema. Unbeknownst to us, this young Bible teacher, 27 years of age, has been devouring books at our library for years and recently has been paying a heavy price for proclaiming the truth among his local churches. His ministry has become the talk of many in his denomination, including the regional pastor, who unfortunately is not impressed. He has a strong following of young people who have been influenced by his teaching, and his story, covered in my upcoming reports, is gratifying to read.

Stélio speaking on twelve features of a biblical message.

I had perhaps the most satisfying post-conference seminar ever, which proved to be life-changing for at least three of my participants. All of the three are medical students and members of the same denomination where Stélio has been gaining attention of late, though he first became known to them through taking the seminar. They are banding together with Stélio in making a strong stand for the true gospel of salvation by grace through faith. Their story is also outlined in the fuller reports to be sent soon.

This year’s seminar graduates. The three medical students are holding certificates in the right half of the front row. Stélio is the fifth from the left, standing.

Mission Ekklesia

This indigenous organization, led mostly by men whose understanding of the gospel was transformed through the systematic theology course offered annually by Grace Missions since 2005, is being much used of God here in the north and even throughout the nation. Through the Fiel Conferences in both Nampula and the capital, hundreds of pastors and church leaders nation-wide have been exposed to their effective, Biblical preaching, winning them the recognition and confidence of Evangelical leaders in far-flung corners of the country. They have been called upon to lead seminars at the capital 1300 miles away at the southern-most tip of Mozambique, and also in the nation’s northern-most cities.

An early Ekklesia seminar for church leaders.

Their most recent ministry was hosting the Crucified Youth Conference at our mission compound last October, attended by 300 young people from all parts of the province.

Ekklesia Crucified Youth Conference 2017 Group photo of participants.

Ibrahimo, Bila, and Valoi leading a recent Ekklesia conference.

Grace Missions is privileged to be an intimate part of Ekklesia’s work through supplying them with all the equipment needed for their extensive endeavors, thanks to what our supporters have provided us through our years of hosting the large Fiel Conferences. We also publish and distribute the books and periodicals written by the leaders of Ekklesia, and provide the books distributed free of charge to all the readers in Ekklesia’s various reading circles.

Ekklesia youth conference conducted at the Grace Missions compound.

The Ekklesia men have come to the attention of Paul Washer and HeartCry Missionary Society who sent their Africa regional director to get acquainted with these brothers over a year ago. HeartCry is now an enthusiastic supporter of their endeavors and has opened to them excellent opportunities for further development. Other impressed foreigners have secured full scholarships for three of the men at a Reformed seminary in Brazil from which they will earn post-graduate degrees in theology and pastoral ministries while studying mostly from Nampula. At this writing, the men are now in Brazil completing their first in-residence training module.

The encouraging stories of this growing sister ministry are presented in exciting detail in my email reports you will receive soon.

Church Planting

Our little church plant is not so little any more. More and more mature Christians have gravitated to our congregation, looking for a church that proclaims the sovereignty of God in salvation that they have come to embrace through the extensive ministries of Grace Missions, Ekklesia, and the church itself.

Timóteo Bila, founder of Ekklesia, was recently chosen to join the leadership board. Ernesto Valoi has also joined the church and will likely take a place alongside our other leaders before long. And solid men and women like Stélio and the medical students who have been exiled from their former denominations and ministries are joining with us. We now have 45 to 50 adults (plus children) meeting on a typical Sunday, and the tendency so far seems to be that the new people bring more new people with them. It is a happy time of growth for our congregation which has been small for so many years despite much ministering and activity.

Monthly fellowship meal after the Sunday service.

It has always been our intent to strengthen other churches through our work and never to draw off the cream of their own membership. We continue to uphold that policy, but despite our intentions, we are now experiencing this effect to a limited extent as the ministries of the church, Ekklesia, and Grace Missions become more and more widely known among laymen. In the past, our ministries were directed exclusively to church leaders and so were not a means of drawing away from their own churches those who benefited.

Grace Evangelical Hospital

During the past year, much progress has been made toward opening the long-awaited surgical hospital. Belinda and Don Dickey have provided dynamic leadership States-side since November 2016, when Belinda was appointed the Executive Director by the hospital board. She has secured a 40-foot container-load of vital supplies that should fully equip the hospital, dental clinic, and laboratory, yet more equipment keeps coming such that it appears a second container is already necessary.

In March we requested a pre-inspection of the hospital by the local department of health. The inspector had some astute observations to make that will require re-configuring a couple of important sectors, but was still pleased with all that he saw. He said our hospital will be the largest and nicest privately owned facility in the province and was convinced that everyone who could would soon be seeking to have his operation at Grace Evangelical Hospital. Unaware that we are a charity hospital, he said we were poised to make a fortune from our facility.

A view into the surgical ward.

To free me up from the many administrative responsibilities that now consume all of my time, the Lord has provided Hannah Malone who arrived this January to begin what we all hope will be a life-time of service alongside Julie and me. We pray that she will be the provision, or at least part of it, that we desperately need to enable the medical evangelistic work to resume soon with me as the lone physician.

Even before the hospital opens, Aquiles Junior will inaugurate the dental clinic which should be ready to function in another month. Aquiles is a lifelong member of our church, one of our best preachers, and a dentist. He is the son of Arnaldo, well known to readers of our newsletters as the first fruit of our evangelistic ministry 27 years ago, a founding member of the church, and one of its leaders from the beginning.

Aquiles at a recent church social.

Quinta Graça

This newest project of the mission got underway toward the end of 2015. It is a 20-acre plot of land near the hospital which I personally bought and am developing for use as the future site of the many conferences of Grace Missions, Editora Fiel, Mission Ekklesia, and UIFEC (a youth organization founded by the young people in our congregation), and also as the site of up to 18 homes for missionary families whom we expect to join us in coming years.

We have cleared and landscaped the terrain, completed a 1300-yard boundary wall, put in 450 yards of drains, built 1200 yards of roads and bridges, drilled a borehole, brought in high voltage lines from 750 yards away, installed a 50 kVA power transformer, and put in 22 street lights and lamp posts for area lighting. Soon we hope to have the water mains in place as well.

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

Conclusion

We are excited as we look back at the progress God has been granting recently. We feel that every ministry is poised to blossom or even boom in exciting ways beyond what we have ever experienced before. We look forward to informing our supporters of much more that God is doing in the reports soon to come. But we hope through this brief summary you are already encouraged and will join us in prayer for Nampula and Mozambique, that God may continue to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think!