Hello, friends, family, and prayer warriors!
God is proving Himself faithful time and again over here, we’re settling in to our responsibilities and relationships, and so far most things seem to be going well. We have completely been given authority over the kitchen now, which currently means we need to monitor the meals to make sure the right people are getting food and outside people aren’t sneaking in, we need to supervise the workers, and we handle all the finances (though we don’t do the shopping trip every week, just once in a while). Problems crop up pretty frequently in the kitchen that seem to stress out the other missionaries, but so far our peace has not been shaken and I’m enjoying getting to know the workers. I’ve been able to visit 3 of them in their homes and just fellowship, which has been amazing. One time we got to pray with a worker for a long time, and she brought in a girl who lives with her who had a hurt ankle, and after praying she said she felt much better. I eventually want to start Bible studies with the workers and disciple them in their walks with Christ. I’ve also started teaching English for the base workers, a few community people, and the pastors-in-training in the Bible school. All of the classes so far have been great—I have always loved teaching and it is so much fun to be back in it here. My classes had to start at a pretty basic level—”What is your name?” and the likes, but the people who come are all very excited to learn, and for the first few weeks I was told at least 5 times a day that I was a huge blessing to the base by teaching English.
We also got to have our first short-term visitor as the new hospitality staff on the base, and that was great. She was a lady from England who we actually knew from last time we were in Mozambique, as she visited Pemba at the same time we were there. She was very sweet and helpful, she got to go on the orphan food distribution trip and we took her all around the village, visiting people and introducing her to the people we’re getting to know. It was a very positive first experience as the hospitality staff, and we are looking forward to having many more visitors over our time of service here.
Jon has been helping a local pastor, Jose, to build a huge chicken coop to support his family and the 17 orphans he has taken in. Pastor Jose is a sweet old man with very few teeth, but a huge heart. He eventually wants to be able to take care of 70 orphans, and he encourages everyone in his church to take in orphans as well. The chicken coop project is coming along quite nicely, and you can see pictures of the progress on our website (and other new pictures as well: www.jonandcarla.com). Several people in the States (you know who you are J) have donated money to this project, and we are very thankful for that. Jon has also been spending time with many of the local pastors and has developed some great friendships.
This Tuesday we had the privilege of accompanying the jail ministry team on their weekly outreach. We plan on participating in this ministry every week from now on, and after seeing how powerful it is we are quite excited to do so! We joined Lino, a joyful barber with a huge heart for sharing the gospel, Dadinyo, a wood craftsman who grew up in the Iris center, and Miguel, a young man with enough English to translate for us. The team had been working with the local Youth With A Mission jail ministry group, but when the joint teams got too big they decided it was better for the jail to have two visits per week and split up.
We arrived at the jail in the early afternoon, a simple U-shaped concrete structure around an open dirt courtyard with huge iron gates. Once we assembled the blue-uniformed guard took our cell phones and unlocked the padlock of the chain wound around the iron gates to admit us. As we entered, we already heard jubilant singing in a room off to the left and went to join in. One man was sitting on an empty 5-gallon oil canister and banging on it like a drum, and that and the voices of the redeemed prisoners completely filled and reverberated within the room. More and more prisoners poured in from the courtyard until there were about 60 men and 2 women gathered, all singing praises to God at the tops of their lungs. The walls echoed with pure joy that radiated from the faces of these men, and I was amazed. Paul wrote the book of Philippians while he was in prison, and in it he says: “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” (Phil 4:4). Many of these prisoners had found that joy in spite of all their circumstances, and it was humbling to see.
Lino closed the joyful worship time and asked everyone to sit down, then he briefly introduced me since it was my first time to go and invited Jon to give the message with Miguel translating into Sena, the local language. Jon preached his heart out with excitement on John 16:5-11 but focusing especially on verse 7: “But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you.” He pointed out that this wasn’t said to people of the 21st century or people who never encountered Jesus in the flesh – it was said to His disciples. He talked about how the disciples had Jesus with them 24-7 for three years, they ate together, slept together, saw miracles together, but after all that Jesus said it would be better for them if he left! We can see how true this is because after Jesus was arrested, it is evident that the disciples were not changed people on the inside—they betrayed Him to His enemies, they ran in fear, they denied Christ in shame. Maybe while Jesus was walking with them He acted like an ever present conscience—just like you wouldn’t be nearly as tempted to retell the latest dirty joke to your pastor—but even though their actions may have been different for that time, their hearts were still unchanged. However, after Jesus was resurrected and left them, they received the Holy Spirit and found out what He said was completely true—it was better for them to have God inside of them rather than God walking with them! After that, they were fearless. After that, they were obedient to the point of dying for their faith. After that, they could face authorities and testify that Jesus was the Son of God and they were not ashamed of Him. They couldn’t do any of that without the Holy Spirit. Jon then shared how this gives us hope today—we don’t have Jesus walking with us, but He said we have something better, something that can transform our lives from the inside out rather than just modify our actions a little. Overall the prisoners responded very well, and it looked like the message really sank into their hearts.
After Jon preached, Lino invited anyone who had never received Christ as Savior to come forward. Hallelujah, 12 responded, picking their way through the crowded room to the front to kneel on the concrete floor, eyes closed, hands raised, hearts changed. We prayed for each one as they were transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of the Son of God (Col 1:13). It was so exciting! I saw genuine transformation in their eyes, and it was a “this is why I’m here” moment. They sang a couple more songs in their beautiful African harmonies, praising their Redeemer.
Lino then had me close in prayer for those who had court dates soon, that the judges would be just but that they could also see the changes in the hearts of these people, for the sick prisoners, and to just thank God for all that happened in our little service today. I did so with a full heart and a lot of joy.
Thank you to all of you who pray for us regularly, we really appreciate it. This time our praise reports would be:
- That God has provided for the chicken coop for orphans project.
- That the jail ministry is flourishing and people are hearing the gospel and responding wholeheartedly.
- That our duties over hospitality and the kitchen are going well.
- Jon is doing much better with his Portuguese, and communication is getting easier.
Prayer requests would include:
- Jon is still having trouble sleeping, and we’re pretty sure it’s a spiritual attack against us. Please pray for spiritual protection over us and that he would finally be able to rest.
- For more discernment. There are a lot of really tough decisions we have to make, and we really need to know God’s subtle leadings and when things are not of Him.
- This weekend we get to go preach at another pastor’s church, so pray that God would inspire us with the message and give us the language we need to communicate it. I think Jon will preach with me translating into Portuguese this time, we’ll see how that goes.
Thanks again, and keep up the prayers!