Answers to Little Pray-ers

News from the Woodrows – August 31, 1992

Dear Friends:

The past month has seen a lot of changes here in Nampula. One Friday night three weeks ago I mentioned to Julie how different life was this year compared to last. We marveled how the availability of electricity and running water could produce such a change in lifestyle. Ironically, it was that very night that Renamo attacked the power lines supplying electricity to northern Mozambique. When we woke up the next morning we were back in the 19th century again. This time, besides blowing up the power stanchions near the hydroelectric plant hundreds of miles from here, Renamo sent a separate band of guerrillas to cut off the flow of emergency power that trickles in from the port city of Nacala during such crises. Thus in one night the city was completely cut off from external power. Without electricity, not a drop of water was pumped for days. Clearly the guerrillas are perfecting their ability to strangle Nampula and northern Mozambique.

So we braced ourselves for another long siege without regular electricity or running water. At first we were depressed. Under the best of circumstances we strain to keep up with all our commitments. It did not seem possible to carry on with this difficulty added in too. We tried to buoy our spirits by remembering how God had used these same obstacles to reveal His presence to us so often last year. However, any optimism this created evaporated after my first attempt to find kerosene for our lamps and refrigerator. It was the same old story – no kerosene anywhere in town, no electricity to pump it anyway, even if there were I couldn’t buy it without the manager’s approval, and he wasn’t in and no one knew when he would return.

However, once again God has brought such spiritual blessing from the present hardship we can identify with Paul’s words in II Cor. 12:10, “I take pleasure in distresses for Christ’s sake, for when I am weak, then am I strong.” It is when our own resources run out that we begin to see the mighty arm of the Lord taking over.

We did receive three months supply of kerosene within the next week. However, the greater excitement this time is what Kent, our three-year-old, has been learning as current difficulties have “driven” him to his little knees.

At his birth a retired couple enrolled Kent in the Bible Memory Association program. It has been a wonderful gift. For over a year we have been reading the first book to him, an acrostic of 26 short Bible verses, each beginning with a different letter in the alphabet. As little children do, Kent has practically memorized the book from hearing it read so often. Recently we happened to focus on the “L” and “I” verses. “Look unto Me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God and there is none else. Isaiah 45:22.” The picture that went with it was a little girl looking upwards. Kent said she was looking at God. I told him we couldn’t see God with our eyes but we knew He was there by the way He heard and answered our prayers. Then we read the “I” verse, “If ye shall ask anything in my name I will do it. John 14:14.” Even a little three-year-old is keenly aware of the difference electricity makes in life. As we read the verse, something must have clicked in Kent’s head because he suddenly burst forth with his first spontaneous prayer request. “I want to ask God for electricity so Mommy can cook tomorrow.”

At that point we were already nine days into the outage and there hadn’t been even one flicker of electricity. For a moment I thought we ought to back away from the developing showdown. After all, though Julie doesn’t bake when there isn’t electricity, she can still cook on the gas stove since God has granted that we enter this shortage with four full tanks of gas. I thought about cautioning against frivolous requests or explaining the nuances of the expression “in My name.” However, I knew none of that would be understood by a three-year-old and decided we would just have to let Kent pray for electricity and then leave it to God to back His promise in a way a three-year-old would understand. So Kent prayed then and there that God would give Mommy electricity so she could cook the next day. As you can imagine, Mommy and Daddy did some praying as well.

And God was faithful. The next day, at 6:00 in the evening, pitch dark for us, the building suddenly lit up. For the first time since the outage began, we had power. Everyone was shouting and chanting, “Energia, energia, energia!” Kent was out on the verandah with the rest of them dancing and singing. We called him inside and reminded him how he had prayed for electricity and how God had been present and heard, even though Kent could not see Him. The effect was dramatic. The thought that all this excitement and celebration was the result of his prayer was overwhelming. What awesome power he had discovered! It was as if he personally had produced all the electricity we were now enjoying.

After that, there was no stopping Kent from praying. When a problem arose his first suggestion was to pray. A short time later he lost Mommy’s measuring tape. After searching for it to no avail, he decided, “We need to ask God for another measuring tape.” He was appropriately impressed as God gave the same one back again when Julie found it a few moments later.

Later the same week we gave Kent a broken flashlight. Mommy and Daddy each have their own flashlight which they use in order to maneuver around the darkened house. It made Kent feel very important to have his own flashlight too. However, he promptly lost it. It seems we are always searching for things he misplaces. Often he leaves items on the common verandah where they are promptly carried off and never seen again by us. This does not make us happy.

This was another occasion where Kent had been playing with his toy on the verandah. When the flashlight didn’t turn up anywhere, Julie was sure it too had disappeared in the black hole outside our front door. After a while, Kent suggested they ask God to help them find it. Julie grumbled that God wasn’t going to help him this time. Kent came to me and I said he could pray if he wanted to but God probably wouldn’t answer his prayer because He wanted Kent to learn to be responsible. Kent bowed his head and prayed out loud, but Julie and I were through looking. Not getting any support from us, Kent headed dejectedly to the sofa and flopped himself down. When lying on the sofa he likes to slip his hand down between the cushions, and doing so this time, what should he hit upon but his flashlight! He leaped up, waving the flashlight overhead, but the glow on his face would have rendered any flashlight superfluous. His excitement was far beyond what is normal when he finds some lost object. What lit his face was the thrill that never ceases to excite us, the joy and amazement of realizing God is there and has heard our prayers!

Like many a Christian parent before us, Julie and I were moved that God would manifest Himself to our child in so personal a way. It is hard to believe the Creator of heaven and earth would concern Himself with the prayers of a three-year-old. But then, why should God hear the prayers of any man? The greatest ruler to walk this planet with all his pomp and show still falls infinitely short of the glory of God. He is like the grass which sprouts today and withers tomorrow. At his zenith, the difference between him and a helpless baby becomes insignificant when compared to the gulf that separates them both from the majesty of God. In his conceit Pharaoh said, “Who is God that I should listen to Him?” As is so often true of the natural man, he had it turned completely around. The real question is, who is man that God should listen to us? Yet He hears the voice of His children. It is a reality we can never get over. And when we behold Him stooping even lower, hearkening to the artless prayers of His children’s children, our wonder and gratitude grows ever greater.

How wonderful it is to serve such a God here in Mozambique. And how blessed we are to have many occasions to see His faithfulness in response to prayer. Thank you for your part in keeping us here through your own prayers in our behalf.

By His Grace:

Charles and Julie

Provision on Petroleum Row

News from the Woodrows – March 1992

Dear Friends:

It seems life in Mozambique is never routine. The erratic course of recent weeks has led us through troughs of discouragement and peaks of exhilaration. If we could navigate such uneven waters while maintaining a sense of equilibrium, that would indeed be a spiritual accomplishment. The secret of course is realizing everything comes from the hand of a wise, loving, and mighty God, and learning to trust Him. In the words of a favorite hymn:

He whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

First, the bad news. Shortages in electricity, diesel, kerosene, natural gas, and water have worsened still further. Even the back-up systems which have enabled us to carry on work at home are beginning to fail. After five months of little to no city power, we have hit the rainy season which renders our solar panels nearly useless. Periodically we wrestle our storage batteries over to the home of friends who recharge them using their power supply. We ration our limited store of power by using it only for the office equipment and to keep a fan going during the hot sticky nights we are now experiencing.

Next our high speed modem went out, the device that enables our computer to talk with David Thornton’s computer back in the States. This happened just as I was about to send a lengthy report for the semi-annual advisory committee meeting held in January. Even using “express” mail, the report didn’t reach their hands until after the meetings were over.

Soon after the modem failed, both the computer and printer ceased functioning. Trial and error revealed the defect was in our inventor, the device that converts power from DC to AC. Thankfully, our supplies person, Stan Coss, had sent a complete back-up system for our back-up system, and after replacing the defective part the computer and printer began functioning normally, but the modem, alas, was down for the count. And so we are constrained to correspond by “snail mail.” For this reason, the report in your hands is actually a recap of the month of January.

Within the same week, the city electricity put in a rare appearance at our apartment building. Before we had time to dance a little jig, or even to clap our hands, it went off again, accompanied by a sizzling sound from the charger that replenishes our storage batteries when city power is flowing. The charger had shorted out, ruining it and tripping our master switch. Stan to the rescue again – I pulled the spare charger out of storage and we were soon back in business. However, we felt uneasy, wondering what was going to happen next.

Nothing else broke, but inevitably, we ran out of fuel for our gas stove which Julie uses when there is no electricity. Bottled gas has to come by sea all the way from Maputo. When it arrives, it is sold out within a few hours and then you have to wait at times over a year for the next shipment. By the grace of God we had been able to stock up when it came through nearly a year ago, but the dealer tells us he has no expectation for more. With no electricity and no gas, Julie is now cooking all our meals on the verandah over a charcoal fire.

Next, the city ran out of kerosene, most likely because the demand has been so great during the months without electricity. We use kerosene lamps to light the house and keep the refrigerator working, but for nearly a month none of our regular suppliers have had any. So that the refrigerator may function as long as possible we use only one kerosene lamp to light the house after dark.

Concurrent with all this, diesel also has dried up, again because of the increased demand I suppose. There are two petroleum distributors in Nampula, who in former days only sold to secondary distributors like service stations. Today the fuel never even makes it that far. As quickly as it arrives in town, it is drunk dry by the railroad, the military, government agencies, trucking firms, and farmers. Even the hospital, which has priority status, is sometimes unable to buy fuel. For want of diesel, workers cannot be transported to work. One Sunday morning a woman bled to death in the delivery room because of a retained placenta for want of fuel in the ambulance to carry her to the city hospital just six miles away.

One might say that “miraculously” we have been able to carry on both the spiritual ministries and medical work unabated, despite so many threatening problems. In fact, the month of January saw our greatest output on the surgical service so far, with forty-five major cases performed.

God continues to prop us up materially and emotionally. Though there are shortages of everything, we always have at least enough to get by. Recently we had exhausted all but the last “untouchable” five gallons of our reserve diesel supply. For weeks there had been no diesel and now we had only about two gallons left in the Land Rover. At morning devotions Julie and I prayed that God would somehow provide diesel, and I loaded an empty fifty-five gallon drum into the back of the Land Rover before heading off to work. On the way I turned down the road that leads to the two petroleum distributors and saw it was clogged with trucks – tank trucks from the military and government agencies, commercial trucks piled with empty fuel drums, farm trucks with underground storage tanks dug up and chained to their vehicles.

I walked into the first office where the secretary confirmed the obvious. A shipment of fuel had come in, but they couldn’t sell any yet. There was no electricity to pump it from the railroad car into their own storage tank. When electricity appeared, they would start to sell, but only to those who had written authorization from the manager. If I wanted to join the crowd waiting for the manager to arrive I could, but no one knew when that would be, nor if the electricity would even be turned on that day.

The second dealer also had received fuel on the same train, but there were probably fifty men crowding around the counter. Just to work up to the counter would likely take an hour. Meanwhile the Land Rover was packed with hospital workers and patients needing to get to Marrere, and I had a full clinic scheduled. It seemed the only alternative was to go on to work.

That afternoon as I headed home, I again turned into “Petroleum Row.” It was still clogged with waiting trucks, but when I went into the office of the second distributor it was empty except for the secretary. To my surprise, before I could even introduce myself, she said the manager wanted to see me upstairs in his office, as if I already had an appointment. I began to detect an answered prayer. When I walked in the manager was on the phone explaining to a customer that there was no more diesel to be had, that they had sold out that morning within fifteen minutes of accepting orders. With that out of the way he told me he had a medical problem that greatly worried him and he feared it was even jeopardizing his job. In the course of explaining it to me he was interrupted twice more with phone calls from friends looking for fuel, and they had no more success than the first caller. In the end, his problem was easy to treat, though I didn’t tell him that, and it so happened we had the necessary medication at Marrere which I promised to get for him, which I did tell him. He was greatly relieved. Then he asked what brought me to see him, as if he didn’t know. I told him I wasn’t sure I had enough diesel for even two more trips to Marrere. No problem. Immediately he arranged for the fellows at the pump to fill my drum, and I didn’t even have to wait in line!

We thank God He has provided a way to His throne of grace through Jesus Christ. And we thank you for using that means to keep us going here in Mozambique!

By His grace,

Charles and Julie

Convoy Catastrophe!

Spring 1992 – Vol.7 – No.2

The day was clear and sunny, unusual for March which comes in the middle of Mozambique’s rainy season. A mixture of excitement and foreboding hung in the dry air as I pulled up to join the menagerie of trucks and cars waiting at the rendezvous site just a few miles out from Nampula’s city limits. Shortly the soldiers would arrive and our convoy would start its way to the port city of Nacala 125 miles to the east.

This was my fifth trip with an armed convoy, the safest way to travel overland in this country, but I looked forward to it with more concern than usual. Until 18 months ago, very few expatriates would even think of driving to Nacala because of danger from guerrilla ambushes. RENAMO, an opposition movement fighting against the government, had made the road one of their prime targets in an attempt to limit the usefulness of the port to northern Mozambique.

Apparently they had been effective in their campaign of terror. When we arrived here one year ago the road had been relatively safe for months. Only occasional motorists traveling alone, perhaps at night, perhaps stranded beside the road, were being attacked. But unpleasant stories still circulated from former days and lingering fear held many captive within the city.

From what we have learned, the guerrilla’s strategy was to destroy one of the lead trucks in a convoy using a bazooka. If they succeeded, the wreckage of the truck blocked the narrow road jamming up cars and vehicles behind. From their hiding places in the grass or trees alongside the road, the bandits would begin strafing the cars with machine gun fire, intending to wreak maximum destruction to life and property. Drivers and passengers would pour from their vehicles, diving into the bush, hopefully running away from the guerrillas. Sometimes the government soldiers fired back from their positions on the trucks. Other times they were the first to flee, leaving the civilians defenseless.

Because of a change in political strategy, RENAMO had called an end to such attacks not long before our arrival. So we had grown accustomed to traveling freely to and from the port as we arranged transport of two sea containers shipped via Nacala. Now our church in San Antonio had sent three barrels of food and more medical items which had just arrived and needed to be claimed.

But an unexpected turn of events made this trip quite different from previous ones. Peace talks between RENAMO and the Mozambique government had fallen apart. RENAMO responded by intensifying the war in the bush. In the two months since our barrels had left the States, the Nacala road had been ambushed five times. In one of the attacks a foreign relief worker was killed when the armed convoy she was traveling in was strafed by enemy fire.

Upon hearing this I met with one of the senior Canadian relief workers in Nampula. His trucks loaded with grain from donor nations were particular targets of RENAMO and had suffered in two of the attacks. More than anyone else, he knew what was happening in the “war zone.” He said that while the guerrillas were indeed ambushing small armed convoys, there had never been an attack on the large, heavily armed convoys organized four times a week. He was confidant that as long as I went with a large convoy there would be no problems, but traveling alone was out of the question. This advice, along with the fact that I was “providentially” able to round up an additional 20 gallons of diesel at a time when fuel was hard to get, persuaded me to make the trip.

So here I was, parked in the shade on the outskirts of a large clearing with twenty-five to thirty trucks and cars, awaiting the soldiers whose arrival would signal the start of our journey. With me in the Land Rover were nine passengers from all strata of Mozambique society. I had picked them up at various places beside the road in an attempt to fill every seat before reaching the rendez-vous point. In the past my car had been pressed into service as a troop carrier, something I later learned was particularly dangerous. The enemy aimed their biggest shells on vehicles carrying soldiers in order to decrease their ability to respond.

As we awaited the arrival of the soldiers I went over my checklist again: tool kit, spare parts, fan belt, fuel filter, tire repair kit, air pump, cans of fuel (unavailable in Nacala), extra water. The tires, oil, battery, radiator, and clutch fluid had all been checked and topped up before leaving home. Car problems en route had to be avoided at all costs. As I went down the list, however, I was mindful of Proverbs 21:31, “The horse is prepared against the day of battle, but safety is of the Lord.”

Looking about at the vehicles parked in the African sun I was struck by what I saw. It could have been a scene from Alfred Hitchcock. If cars had personalities, this was a mean and sinister lot. Most were big, ponderous trucks. Some had heavy steel shipping containers strapped to their beds. Others were loaded down with grain or machinery. All were covered by dirty, dark tarpaulins carefully tied down to conceal whatever was beneath, as if they were part of a gigantic smuggling operation. Indeed the aim was to conceal – but from the guerrillas. No driver wanted his cargo to stand out as particularly tempting.

The trucks looked aggressive. Whether new or old, all bore the marks of hard use. Most were battered and lacking parts here and there, like the proverbial junk yard dog with the missing ear and torn muzzle. One could readily imagine the damage came from angry encounters with others of their own species. As usual, there were the two or three flat beds with rusty, aging gas tanks, dug up from underground, fastened to their chassis by chains and ropes. This is Mozambique’s version of the fuel truck and it looks particularly menacing, as if ready to explode over the slightest insult.

There is in fact good reason to fear these trucks. Their drivers travel foot to the floor over treacherous roads with their heavy cargoes, striving with each other as if the trip to Nacala were indeed a mad dash through enemy territory. Often they travel two abreast on the narrow asphalt, one attempting to overtake his grudging rival. They may continue this way for hundreds of yards, never heeding the great danger to potential oncoming traffic.

The truth is, the overwhelming risk in the journey to Nacala is from recklessness, not guerrillas. This was the other reason for deciding to make the trip despite the recent ambushes. No matter how active the guerrillas are, they have never on this particular road inflicted as much mortality as the drivers themselves, though perhaps the potential is there. So the danger of ambush does not add considerably to the risk one is already taking.

On my first trip, one of the soldiers draped across a tarpaulined flat bed fell asleep and rolled off the speeding vehicle. Miraculously he did not die, at least not at that moment. On my third trip a car only a few places ahead of us failed to hold the road on a curve. Bodies flew across the field as the canvas covered jeep swerved and rolled. The two adults riding in front died at the site. The two little bodies thrown from behind were rushed unconscious back to Nacala from whence they had just left. Then, in the midst of the confusion, as cars backed up along the road and people streamed from their vehicles, a big semi (rare in this country) with no side mirrors and apparently no brakes, came roaring through, horn blaring. That he sliced through the tangled mass of cars and people, averting disaster, must have been purely the grace of God.

Thinking on these things I once again ask for His protection as I have done often this day. Then, after a 45 minute wait as the convoy grows longer and longer, the soldiers come speeding up. Waving their weapons about, the men scramble down over the sides of their military vehicle and up onto the cargoes of various trucks in the lineup. A 35 millimeter cannon and shells are loaded onto an empty flat bed, and in a few moments we are moving out.

No sooner are we on the road than the dangerous jockeying and jostling for position begins. Everyone has his own theory as to which part of the convoy is safest. Some say near the front; in order to slip through before enemy fire takes out a truck. Some say near the back, so you can stop and turn around when trouble breaks out ahead. Some say near the soldiers and cannons since the guerrillas are afraid of them. Some say far from the soldiers and cannons, since those are the vehicles they’ll try to take out first.

I do not second guess the guerrillas. My strategy on these trips is prayer and cautious driving. And to avoid fretting over remote but potential risks, I sing hymns. Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” puts reality back in perspective. “Day by Day” is the one I find myself singing now. “The protection of His child and treasure is a charge that on Himself He laid,” provides welcome reassurance. The hymns, the beautiful African scenery, the warm sun, and a car full of animated passengers keep me relaxed. It does not seem like anything could go wrong.

But at the twenty mile mark the convoy slows to a crawl as it zig-zags serpentine-like through a long section of potholed pavement that continues on for many miles. A good bit of our time we travel with two wheels off the road dodging deep, gaping holes that extend clear across the narrow ribbon of asphalt.

It is during this Mozambican slalom that I first hear a rhythmic hissing that seems to synchronize with the revolution of the rear tire. I lean my head far out the window and am relieved that the sound stops. However, a few more collisions with tire mauling pot holes and does not stop. With sickening dismay my ears soon register the unmistakable slap-slap-slapping of flattened rubber on pavement.

There is nothing to do but pull off the road. Within moments, before I can even get the jack under the car, the convoy has passed. We are alone. Feverishly, like a rather uncoordinated pit crew, we set to work getting the tire changed. Even the women run into the bush to find large rocks for blocking the tires.

I lose 30 seconds trying to remember where I hid the key to the spare tire which is kept bolted to the hood by a large padlock. For a few agonizing moments I think I may have lost it. Finally it turns up in the tool kit.

Next I am chagrined to remember that the jack furnished with the Land Rover is the screw type. You literally screw the car up with a wrench. It seems to rise only a fraction of a millimeter with each revolution. This, coupled with the fact that the Land Rover has to be jacked very high to clear the tire, makes the experience like one of those dreams where you are running as fast as you can while going nowhere. Meanwhile, in my mind at least, guns are poking out from behind every bush and every sound resembles the click of cartridges locking into place. Thanks to the jack, which was not designed for use at the Indianapolis 500 nor for changing tires in a war zone, it takes a full twenty minutes to complete the job. God graciously spares our lives, no doubt by striking the guerrillas with temporary blindness as He often did in Old Testament days! But unfortunately, by now the convoy is hopelessly out of reach.

Nevertheless, we decide to continue on in hopes of catching it at Namialo (Nah-mee-AH-loo), the 60 mile rest stop. This is a small community of about 2000. It is a huge cotton plantation actually, and perhaps differs from the plantations of the old south only in that towering Eucalyptus trees substitute for stately old oaks. It provides a convenient half-way point where the convoy to Nacala awaits its counterpart heading to Nampula. It is here that the soldiers change vehicles, riding back to the city they just left.

Happily, we catch up with the convoy at the rest stop. They are still awaiting the soldiers coming from Nacala. I am uneasy traveling without a spare tire over roads so full of dangerous pot holes. Another flat and we would be forced to abandon the car in the road. Next time I will bring both spares. Now I must leave the convoy parked on the shaded main street to search for someone with a tire tool. This is Mozambique however, and there are no service stations in so small a community. I try the train yard, but of course they know nothing about tires. I drive out to the general offices of the plantation and finally after speaking with some vice chiefs I am granted permission to have the work done at their maintenance shop.

Happily, they do have a tire tool. Unhappily, they have no patches or cement. Happily, I have patches and cement. Unhappily, after removing the inner tube, we discover it is ripped beyond repair and I have brought no spares. We have spent twenty minutes in vain. Then, driving back toward Main Street I discover the convoys have already met and left. Once more we are alone.

Having gone halfway into the “war zone” there is nothing to gain by turning back, so we continue on in hopes of catching the run away convoy by running even faster, though this is like planning to out jump Knievel.

God, however, hears our prayer, for we once again meet the convoy at Monapo (Moh-NAH-poo), the 95 mile rest stop where the vehicles are regrouped prior to heading into the jungle, the most dangerous section of the road. Though this territory does not quite fit our image of jungle, the descent from the inland plateau down to the coastline of the Indian Ocean is accompanied by marked changes in terrain. The flat bush country, pierced here and there on the horizon by huge shards of granite-like boulders thrusting themselves out of the earth, gives way to hot, hilly, dense forest which is completely unpopulated. The guerrillas move freely in this no man’s land and it is here that most of the attacks take place.

We are now nearly three hours into the journey, having covered all of 95 miles. The once menacing convoy has shriveled to only a third of its former size, some vehicles having peeled off for other destinations, but most having sped impatiently on to Nacala without waiting at the rest stops. The remaining soldiers massed into a single empty truck and the rest of us fall in behind.

However, this is a brand new, shiny blue truck and travels fast. I hold the accelerator to the floor and recklessly pass vehicles ahead of me in a vain attempt to keep up with the speeding soldiers. Eventually the blue truck and I have left the others far behind, though the soldiers are actually 600 to 800 yards ahead of me with the gap increasing steadily. This is typical of discipline and organization here. Soon I only catch glimpses of our military escort from the crests of hills. There is no one in front, no one behind, as we travel through no man’s land.

Thankfully the road in this section is well maintained. We move fast and after a suspenseful 45 minutes catch sight of the Indian Ocean far below and in front of us. Soon we reach the welcome outskirts of Nacala with its mud and grass huts lining the road. My first stop after discharging passengers is at the telecommunications center where I call Julie who is waiting anxiously at home.

It is hard to believe our lives could change so much in only a year. Some things of course never change. We are glad that relationship and trust in the immutable God is a reality for all His people no matter where they roam. Indeed, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in men. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.”

This is a reality that never changes. It is a reality increasingly underscored by life in Mozambique.

Hospital Attacked!

News From The Woodrows – November 6, 1991

Dear Friends,

Fear not thou, for I am with thee:
Be not dismayed; for I am thy God:
I will strengthen thee, yea, I will help thee,
Yea I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand,
Saying unto thee, ‘Fear not, I will help thee.’
Isaiah 41:10,13

It was over ten years ago that one of our good friends, Betty Rich, first brought my attention to these verses. It was the Lord’s promise to Israel as they passed through difficult days. What an encouragement it must have been for Isaiah to hear the omnipotent God say, “Fear not, I will help thee.”

We don’t hear the voice of God as Isaiah did. But if actions speak louder than words, then surely there are times when God thunders this very truth in our own ears. For us, October 12, 1991, was one of those times.

That morning I headed out to Marrere as usual, stopping by the city health headquarters to pick up a truckload of nurses and technicians needing transportation to the hospital. The first indication that things were not right came as we headed out of town. We encountered the usual traffic on the way to Marrere, only today the vehicles were coming back at us still laden with workers. At the turnoff to the dirt road that winds up the hill to the hospital, local people were restlessly milling about. They stopped the car to warn us that there had been an attack at the hospital just two hours earlier. Renamo guerrillas had raided the hospital. Equipment had been destroyed. Patients had died.

We hurried on to the hospital. The risk involved in finding out quickly who and what had been hurt seemed more bearable than the suspense of not knowing. As we entered the hospital, signs of the attack were everywhere. Windows were shattered. Halls, offices, and wards were strewn with the debris of overturned and broken equipment. There wasn’t a locked door downstairs that had not been broken down as the guerrillas ransacked the building. The premises were still mostly abandoned. Few of the patients had returned after their early morning flight into the bush.

As I ran up the stairs to the surgical ward I was amazed and relieved to find the storeroom for the Grace Missions and COCAMO supplies had been untouched. After the raid last 29 December COCAMO had put a steel grate across the doorway, but it was incorrectly installed and couldn’t be locked. Behind the grate the original door didn’t even have a latch. It was held shut with a padlock and hasp attached by only three screws. Apparently the guerrillas didn’t notice this, since they left the door alone though the presence of the only burglar bars in the hospital clearly indicated it was a room of some importance. The medicine and other supplies within would have been worth far more than everything else they carried off combined.

The treatment room at the entrance to the surgical ward was a mess. The door had been broken in and the cabinets ransacked. Five feet away was the door to the surgical block – untouched. Patients cowering on a nearby veranda said they heard the soldiers shouting to each other about getting into the surgical suite to carry off the equipment and medicines there. According to the patients, they pounded the door again and again to no avail, though it is no stronger than other doors in the hospital. After examining the door later, I am somewhat incredulous. Either God “helped” it in a remarkable way, or the panic stricken patients were mistaken in their perceptions. In any event, our thanks and praise to God for His deliverance is undiminished. It is remarkable that the guerrillas carried out so much destruction yet completely missed the two most valuable areas of the hospital, and the two areas in which Grace Missions has heavily invested. Truly the Lord our God helps us!

After checking out the patients who had trickled back to the wards, I headed off in search of the ones still hiding in the countryside. There were rumors that at least two surgical patients had died during the confusion. Indeed, the stories of the patients were amazing. Anywhere from 30 to 300 guerrillas came marching out of the bush at the first light of dawn. A few had rifles and there was one bazooka. Most carried spears, machetes, bayonets, or bows and arrows. Upon reaching the hospital they began firing the rifles into the air. Pandemonium broke out as patients awoke to the fearful sounds of an attack. Everyone who could do so fled. One man who had just had an emergency operation three days before to remove gangrenous bowel pulled out all his tubes, catheters, and IV’s and dashed from the building. Though he was making an excellent recovery, he had hardly moved a muscle since the operation, somewhat frightened by all the contraptions hanging off his body. As he fled across a field near the hospital, adrenaline surging through his veins, people saw him suddenly keel over, dead. Most likely he was the victim of a pulmonary embolus, a rare postoperative complication that could easily have evolved under these circumstances.

Another patient, this one a frail old man, had undergone major abdominal surgery the day before. He arrived at the hospital significantly anemic. This was aggravated by a greatly prolonged operation with constant oozing of blood. He ended up with a hematocrit of 21, about half the blood cells a healthy American has supplying oxygen to his body. In this state, he scrambled from bed, ran down the second floor corridor, vaulted over a wall onto a roof below, then leapt another fifteen feet to the ground, ran across the courtyard, through the gate, and into the bush. When I found him later that morning he was still breathless, at least a mile from the hospital. Fear is a powerful stimulus. One wonders what might be accomplished for good if we only feared the right things. “Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn ye whom ye shall fear: Fear Him, which after He hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, fear Him” Luke 12:4-5. “And by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil” Proverbs 16:6.

Patients who couldn’t flee sought hiding places wherever they could. One debilitated TB patient managed to conceal himself atop a wardrobe where he remained unnoticed, but from which vantage point he had a good view of the systematic ransacking of the hospital. The guerrillas snatched everything in their path, even the dishes, food, water pitchers, pajamas, and clothing of the patients. Thankfully Renamo has recently altered its strategy in carrying out such raids. A few years ago, as part of their terrorism campaign they wantonly massacred people who couldn’t flee. Now that Mozambique is moving to free, open elections, in which Renamo will be allowed to participate, they can’t afford to continue such tactics. In this attack, many of the soldiers were scrupulously polite and reassuring to the patients as they robbed them and the hospital, telling them they wished them no harm. Indeed, when the dust settled, the only death was that of the one surgical patient.

Nevertheless, the experience was unnerving. All but two of my patients pleaded to be discharged, leaving the ward almost empty. As part of their propaganda to undermine use of the hospital, the soldiers left a photo of the Renamo leader with a message that they would be back to finish the job. Taking the hint, I returned later that night to transfer our most valuable items from the surgical block and to make repairs to the useless grates such that they could be securely locked. When I finally finished it was pitch dark. There was no electricity, due to other guerrilla attacks on the power lines bringing electricity to our district. The two young women left alone on the night shift didn’t even have a candle or kerosene lamp. They clung to each other in the darkness. No government soldiers had been stationed at the hospital to protect it even in the face of such an obvious threat. The two nurses dejectedly asked why they sat there waiting to be kidnapped.

I shared their frustration when I returned to the darkened city and saw, as usual, all the clubs and bars lit up. When external power is cut off, the city fires up its own small generator to furnish electricity to the “vital organs” of Nampula, which for some strange reason consists of all the local night spots but not the hospitals, schools, orphanages, or churches. The god of this world has his little day, does he not? But the God we serve is greater. We have seen that yet again in this gracious deliverance from Satan and his minions. Truly they can go no further than God permits. “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world” I John 4:4.

Well, this was just the beginning of an eventful month. There is much more to report. The rest, however, would be anticlimactic so I will save it for the next letter. But these events alone were a sufficient reminder to us of how much we owe to you who pray for us, write, and support us in this work. Thank you for taking your part!

In His grace,

Charles& Julie

Container Filled

Spring 1990 – Vol.6 – No.1

“And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.”

Recently brethren from Believers Fellowship emptied out the three mini-storehouses and one garage that stored our personal and medical supplies to complete the loading of the big sea container. Once again we had cause for praising the God who knows the end from the beginning and who sovereignly rules over the affairs of all His creatures. When the job was done just enough space was left for the items still on order.

It reminded me of the manna provided the Israelites in the wilderness. Whether they gathered much or gathered little, when they measured it out by the omer the one who gathered much did not have too much and the one who gathered little did not have too little.

Until the container was packed, we had no way of knowing just how much “manna” we had gathered. But when it came time to measure it by the container full, like the Israelites we had neither too much nor too little!

Our prayer now is that God would conduct it safely across the ocean, through the docks where theft is such a problem, and into Nampula over rail lines periodically ambushed by guerrilla soldiers.

Helping the Lost

Autumn 1990 – Vol.6 – No.3

One encounters serious problems delivering material relief to a people who have turned their backs on God at some point in the past and have since been given over to the gods of their choosing, to serve them in the fear and futility that attends such service, and to be shut off from the moral and temporal relief that true believers receive from God’s hand.

We have been in Mozambique barely four months, but the Lord already has opened our eyes to realities we would scarcely have understood before. Those who follow our monthly reports are aware of the difficulties we have had trying to help the orphan, Jacinto, whose parents were murdered by banditos seven years ago. In this newsletter we record the sad details of a much larger relief effort, together with our conclusions. I have little doubt that some will disagree with the following interpretation of the events described in the African journal, but I have no interest in concealing our philosophy, thoughts, and motives from those who are joining themselves to us in this ministry.

Material relief provided without preaching the Gospel is limited in its impact. The very moral deficiency of the culture through which one is working significantly blunts the effect the aid could have. We make no apology for using physical help primarily as a means of drawing people to hear the Gospel. Even if physical well being were our principal aim, in a society devoid of Christian influence the delivery of material aid alone is greatly hindered and its effect reduced. In order to make good use of mammon, one must at least be influenced by Christian principles. If our god is money, we will never have enough of it. We will earn it only to store it in a purse with holes (Haggai 4:6). God has plainly stated this principle in His word. It is woven into the fabric of His creation.

The Lord Jesus Christ said that preoccupation with such basic necessities as food and clothing instead of righteousness and serving Him is putting the cart before the horse. It is when we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness that “all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). If we believe this, our philosophy of relief work will reflect a fact that has already become obvious in our short time here: The Gospel must be preeminent. It must be the focus. Until it changes lives, there will be little to show for all the money and material help pumped in from outside.

This is not to say we abandon relief efforts. How can we? The love of Christ constrains us (II Corinthians 5:14). A Christian cannot grow calloused to the physical needs of others. God has said, “He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be answered” (Proverbs 21:13).

An enlightened Christian, however, will not respond after the manner of the world. The solution is not money, food, factories, roads, education, or physical health. The solution is repentance. Men must abandon the broken cisterns they have hewn for themselves, cisterns that can hold no water, and return to the true God who alone can alter lastingly the moral problems of our race (Jeremiah 2:13).