Medical missionary Charles Woodrow of Grace Missions, serving along with his wife Julie, reports on sustained and very encouraging gospel progress in Mozambique.
In July we had another rewarding Fiel Ministries 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 in 2017 had a total attendance of over 750 leaders — the highest so far!
The intention 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 to the church by the Reformation.
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 significantly changing their understanding of the gospel and Christian ministry.
We are revelling of late in an increasing number of gifted men, whom 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 served as the main teachers.
Valoi delivered a stirring and challenging message on Martin Luther and the Reformation, with insightful applications throughout. He spoke on the need for reformation in the evangelical churches of our land and the qualities Martin Luther manifested, that we need to develop in our own spiritual lives if we too hope to minister with the effectiveness of that mighty servant of God.
Another choice servant that came to our attention for the first time at this year’s conference is Stélio Custema. Unknown to us, this young Bible teacher, 27 years of age, has been devouring books at our library for years and recently paying a heavy price for proclaiming the truth among his local churches. His ministry has become the talk of many in his denomination. He has a strong following of young people influenced by his teaching.
I had perhaps the most satisfying post-conference seminar ever, which proved to be life-changing for at least three of my participants. All three are medical students and members of the same denomination where Stélio has been gaining attention of late.
They are banding together with Stélio in making a strong stand for the true gospel of salvation by grace through faith.
This indigenous organisation, 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 Nampula and the capital, hundreds of pastors and church leaders nationwide 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, 1,300 miles away at the southernmost tip of Mozambique and also in the nation’s northernmost cities. 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.
Grace Missions is privileged to be an intimate part of Ekklesia’s work, through supplying them with all the equipment needed for their extensive endeavours, 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 books distributed free of charge to readers in Ekklesia’s various reading circles.
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 endeavours 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 time of writing, the men are now in Brazil completing their first in-residence training module.
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 45-50 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.
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.
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 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!
To free me up from the many administrative responsibilities that now consume my time, the Lord has provided Hannah Malone, who arrived this January. We pray that she will be the provision, or part of it, that we desperately need to enable the medical evangelistic work to resume, 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.
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 we are developing as the future site of the many conferences of Grace Missions, Editora Fiel, Mission Ekklesia, and UIFEC (a youth organisation 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 1,300-yard boundary wall, put in 450 yards of drains, built 1,200 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!
We are excited as we look back at the progress God has been granting. We feel that every ministry is poised to blossom, or even boom, in exciting ways beyond what we have ever experienced before.
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!