Here is an excerpt of a report I recently sent to my home church elders. It covers events of the past four months here in Nampula.
My email list is reconstituted and loaded again in the cloud. I do plan to resume prayer letters, but some urgent matters are pre-empting that effort. To buy a little more time and patience, I am sending this unillustrated and very informal report to key people who are still patiently waiting for me to get past the communications problems.
The time this summer with the entire family reunited was a great blessing. We never thought we would all be together again in Mozambique assuming a multitude of factors rendered it impossible, especially the price tag in terms of airfare for such a two- to three-month blessing. But when I attended the Louisville conference last year, I was amazed at how inexpensive the round trip ticket from Nampula to St. Louis was, something like $1,450. So we decided to jump on the low fare opportunity and contacted our kids to see which of them would be free that summer. Everyone was, plus Kent and Anna said they had already determined to raise funds for Anna to visit Nampula anyway, and a supporting church in Fort Worth always pays for one child to return, so that left only one ticket to cover on our own!
Even before the gifts materialized, we bought all but one ticket while the prices were advantageous. The one ticket that we did not buy early ended up costing twice as much as the others because of missing the low fare window!
Kent and Anna
But the entire time together was greatly blessed by God. We all felt that nothing we did could have been improved upon. We were especially thankful that Anna liked Mozambique so well and both she and Kent would love to return to work here long term. However, they are also happy to do other ministry and want to have direction from God in their decision. Kent and Anna took advantage of every opportunity to experience all that goes on in Nampula, and they are fully informed (almost) as they think about a future here. The one important aspect they did not encounter are the trials and aggravations and disappointments that can and do happen locally. We have seen several missionary families quickly lose heart and quit because of coming with expectations of unmixed bliss and success and then suffering from disillusionment. So that is a concern arising, ironically, from the fact that God so blessed this summer for us all.
Another great blessing of the summer was all the time it gave Julie and me to get to know Anna, and vice versa. We only met her two days before the wedding and had almost no time with her because of all they had to do in preparation for the wedding and honeymoon. We have spent two holidays together since then, but nothing could come close to this opportunity of living together for two months through all the wonderful experiences God gave us in South Africa and at home in Nampula.
After returning to Covenant Seminary in August, Kent found out he had been selected by the faculty as “the rising senior with great promise.” The recognition comes with a full scholarship for the last year, something much appreciated by a young couple trying to work their way through seminary!
The conference this year, which the kids helped prepare, was wonderful from my point of view. Because I knew the family was going to be together, I did all the preparations I could before they arrived. Consequently, there was not nearly the pressure on me in the final weeks before the conference that I usually face. During the conference itself, and a few days before it, I had so much work that I slept at most three hours a night, and several nights did not get to lie down at all, but apart from those final days, conference preparation was not demanding. The kids were a great help relieving the pressure of the final days of preparation, especially Kent and Anna, and they found the work satisfying. I also have two full time administrative assistants who help a lot, but so far it still has not been enough. We are closer to the end of our worklist, though, than I ever have been before.
The conference was attended by 348 church leaders and wives, the second highest attendance so far. With the Maputo conference, there were close to 700 participants this year.
You already heard that the land I purchased a year ago for missionary residences is now firmly in my possession, although my adversary continues to keep his cattle on the property. My lawyer says it will be straightforward now in the face of the court’s decision upholding the City Council in their annexation of the land five years ago to legally force the cattle off the property, but I am still contemplating the best way to deal with the matter given that my opponent will also be my neighbor until he sells the land remaining to him all around mine.
The land is twenty acres in size and is in a scenic location just ten minutes from the hospital. It has two hundred meters of frontage on a brand new highway, and that part of the property should be worth a great deal of money in the future. I am hoping after subdividing the land I can get several times my investment back from selling that portion, hopefully enough to cover our retirement needs when we cease receiving support as missionaries.
As I write, the men are drilling a borehole at the property. They are only twelve meters deep and have already encountered much water, they say. They feel confident it will be a very productive borehole. That is helpful, as the borehole here on the Grace Missions property is only marginal and may not be adequate for the hospital. At least we will be able to ferry in water if need be.
I finally saw last week the decision of the Administrative Tribunal regarding the land, and it appears they were trying hard to close the door to further challenges by my adversary. The language refusing to stop my project was quite strong, as in 2012 when another man owned the rights to develop the property. No one can own property here because of the residual communist influence where the government always owns the land. But the City Council’s contention that the land now belongs to them and my work could not be stopped was strongly upheld by the court, as was the case in 2012 for the man who sold the rights to me. My lawyer says my adversary has nowhere left to go. I am trusting he is correct and am immensely relieved.
I hope to begin construction of the first house before the year ends. I will be using the money I received from the sale of my home in San Antonio. The idea is to sell the new house as a condominium, meaning selling the dwelling but keeping control of the overall development. My hope is to take the income from the sale to build the next house, with the extra left over going into developing the general project (streets, public lighting, etc.) I am saving the most scenic part of the property for missionary housing after I have paid for all the infrastructure.
Whether I actually have time to accomplish any construction program remains to be seen. But those are the hopes I have for clearing the way for missionary physicians whom God may call to our hospital project.
We continue to enjoy peace and contentment in the church, apart from one couple who have complaints. In the past year we have had three noteworthy conversions (transformations) and that has been exciting. In the past few months we have received seven new members, all of whom have shown good signs of genuine belief and have grown in knowledge and understanding.
The Mission Ekklesia work carried on by four fine Mozambican brothers is making good progress. There are twenty or so men in attendance at the reading circle that meets in the hospital, a large number coming from our own church which gives benefit to us. Three of the Ekklesia leaders preached at the conference and each did a very good job. Two were men who came to the doctrines of grace through the post-conference seminar years ago. One spoke on the Puritans and lessons the church in Mozambique can learn from them. Two spoke on different aspects of the husband-wife relationship. I preached two messages on biblical faith (the “virtue,” not beliefs), which I thought were extremely important. I spoke on the importance of faith in the Christian life, the definition of faith derived from the Scriptures together with the many popular but false views about faith, the source of saving faith, and the manifestations of biblical faith.
In the reviews by the participants there were no comments made about my messages, but many said all the messages were wonderful and wanted all the speakers to preach again next year. So I hope that includes my messages. To my way of thinking, the topic I asked to address was more foundational than the others and has everything to do with most of the problems in the Mozambican Evangelical churches.
I have suggested to Karl that I preach next year on the doctrine of sin and the believer as there is much confusion about that leading to an acceptance of carnality in the church that goes well beyond what a biblical understanding would permit.
The post-conference seminar where I teach an intensive six-day course in systematic theology was also well attended this year—too well attended. I had thirty students, more than I could adequately handle as there are so many tests and homework assignments to grade. But there was again this year an outstanding man, Ernesto Valoi, who alone made the whole effort worthwhile. He has joined the leadership team of Mission Ekklesia. He is a professor of philosophy at the local university, was educated in Europe, and has only come to the doctrines of grace over the past year through Bila’s Mission Ekklesia book ministry. He scored 99.6% on the fifteen tests and 100% on the final and clearly showed mastery of the doctrines. He is 32 years old and remains a humble man despite his academic abilities. He was raised in the home of a witch doctor and for five years slept every night in the hut reserved for incantations and rituals. I look forward to hearing his testimony someday. We used him as one of the MC’s at the Fiel Conference this year—the first time he has done that.
We had a second man who also did extremely well, scoring 98% on the cumulative tests and 100% on the final. He was a young man who had not known the doctrines of grace before but enthusiastically comprehended and embraced them at the seminar.
HeartCry Missionary Society and Paul Washer
I may have written that HeartCry Missionary Society (Paul Washer) sent Sean Reece, their Africa regional director, to the Fiel Conference to get to know the men of Mission Ekklesia. I originally wrote them asking Paul Washer to be one of our conference speakers this year. They declined, saying these days they send Paul Washer overseas only to speak at ministries they are already supporting. So I told them about Mission Ekklesia, as HeartCry sends funds only to indigenous ministries. And they responded by sending Sean Reece to get to know Ekklesia.
Sean much appreciated the conference and went back an enthusiastic supporter of Mission Ekklesia and our work. He got Paul Washer and the whole board excited. Sean says Paul wants to come to Nampula himself, so maybe we will get him next conference. We will soon send him an official invitation.
Conrad Mbewe, leader of the Reformed Churches of Zambia, is the man though whom 99% of HeartCry’s Africa support is presently channeled, so I sent two of the Ekklesia leaders who speak English and one of our church members to the combined Sola 5 / Zambian Reformed Church conference that took place during five days last week in the Zambian capital. I wanted them to see what God has been doing in neighboring countries and for them to be known by these important leaders. One of the Ekklesia men was the philosophy professor (Ernesto Valoi) and the other was a Reformed Baptist pastor (Ibraimo Hamido) who came to the doctrines of grace in my post conference seminar and has preached the past two years at our conference. The three Mozambicans were treated like celebrities as they represent the vanguard of the movement for reformation in Mozambique, and they had good personal interviews with all the leaders. Conrad spoke with them for 1–2 hours and wrote me afterwards that the time with the men was wonderful. I thank God for these opportunities!
The men returned home last Saturday excited about what has been done in Zambia in the past forty years. They said it has given them a new vision for what they should hope for in Mozambique. Valoi, the philosophy professor said it is a time for major decisions and radical action. He has wanted to use his position at the university to reach the intelligentsia of northern Mozambique, but the leaders of the Zambian Reformed churches, who were all engineers and laymen when they discovered Banner of Truth books and then all eventually began preaching and planting churches, have told the Ekkleisa men the most important thing is to read and then get as many pulpit ministries going as possible. Ernesto may be looking at a career change!
Sean has already written an article, at Paul Washer’s direction, about Mission Ekklesia to include in HeartCry’s magazine. Paul also told him to write another article about our hospital to assist in recruiting the Reformed doctors we need.
I may have mentioned this already, but Tim Challies, elder of one of our supporting churches, has offered to promote the hospital through his website when I can respond to an interview by him. I keep saying one day I will do that, and perhaps the time is coming to put all else aside and work on it.
After the finances are caught up, which will take all my time for one to two weeks, I will try to get my newsletters going to catch everyone up on the past two and a half years. At some point I will try to get a history of the hospital work written for Sean Reece from which he will write his own brief article for the HeartCry magazine. About the time that is to be published, I will see if I can do the interview with Tim Challies and get the hospital on his website also.
So that is what has gone on in the past four months. I am grateful to God for all that has happened.
Solar Eclipse in Nampula
As I am writing this we are experiencing a near total solar eclipse right here in Nampula (it was total in Madagascar, our bordering country just across the Mozambique channel). Benaiah got good photos of the sun at the time of maximum lunar coverage. We are following the eclipse through my welder’s helmet and two black Xray films.
The whole family got to witness a total eclipse down near the Zambezi river. I took a truckload of church young people there back around 2000. So this is the second solar eclipse for our family.
A Recent Conversion
A young woman (for decades we had no young women in the church, but now that is mainly what God is sending our way) requested baptism and church membership yesterday. She had attended a local Charismatic church all her life and was about to be baptized in that church. But she was also involved in an immoral relationship with one of the young men in the church and her conscience would not let her carry through with the baptism. She spoke to her uncle, a member of our church, who set her straight on what she had to do, and for that she thanks God. She dropped the boyfriend and started coming to our church.
During one of the first services as a Mozambican brother was preaching she felt God cleansing her heart from all its sin. It was the first time she had ever felt pure. She kept coming every Sunday, but eventually her parents insisted that she stop attending our church and come back to the family church or they would cut off her off from all assistance, something she much needed to pay her college bills. So she went back to her former church, but her whole life had changed while with us. She would have nothing to do with her boyfriend, she became obedient to her parents, and she was dead inside to her former church. Everything at church seemed meaningless to her. Her parents, grateful for the big change in her life that had taken place while in our congregation and recognizing that they had lost her forever to their own church, finally said she was free to return to us.
She has been coming again every Sunday for several months and yesterday asked for baptism and membership. Her testimony was part of the interview with the leaders. You can appreciate how encouraging it was to hear of God working through our little congregation. Counting this latest woman, He has brought eight people into the church the past year, two young men and six women. Three of the women have dramatic testimonies of God having turned their lives around in a way that brings much encouragement to the rest of us! Such excitement in a Reformed church is much appreciated!
In the Good Shepherd,