Correspondence excerpts from Charles Woodrow

The family is well, recovering from an exciting month with a house full of visitors the entire time. First, Constantia Park Baptist Church in Pretoria sent a couple to run the bookshop during the Fiel Bible conference. They were here for three weeks. Community Bible Church from Nashville sent one member of their team two weeks ahead of time to update all the administrative work for the book shop. Just before the conference we had all the speakers and leaders come (five people, including Martin Holdt, the pastor at Constantia Baptist Church in Pretoria), who stayed with us as well. As soon as the conference was over, the full Community Bible Church team arrived, 12 more people plus the two pilots who flew them from Johannesburg. That made 23 people living in the house. It was quite comfortable, and the CBC people said there were no inconveniences. We seated all 23 people at two very large dining room tables with room to spare, everyone slept in beds, and the four bathrooms seemed to be adequate. We still have seven beds to make, so our sleeping capacity could increase even further. The team got to all their appointments riding in the Bedford (the large transport truck) which we configured as a troop carrier, putting the frame and canvas over the bed. It was ideal for the job as they could see Nampula as if from a tour bus.

The CBC team arrived a full week late as their flights were cancelled due to a strike by South African Airlines that began two days before their expected departure from the States. So they were with us only four days. However, they had a good time, and the facilities were so suitable and the opportunities to minister and experience Africa so plentiful that they have determined to bring another team next year to take full advantage. It was the first time for us to host a large group since moving into the house, and it worked wonderfully. We are expecting to have many such experiences as word spreads about the good possibilities here.

For us, the great benefit was all the expertise these people brought with them, as well as the keen interest the visit has generated in their respective churches. The book shop ran well at the conference; and after the main CBC team left, two women stayed on to teach me to use Quicken and Excel for our finances and the bookshop respectively. They bought and installed the software, only a couple of the many “goodies” the team brought with them. So we are now fully computerized in both areas. That is a great leap forward, especially with the finances. The team also brought all our JESUS film equipment with them with no customs charged, as well as the hymnals, and there was no shipping cost involved.

The kids were thrilled to have so many friends on hand and joined in all the activities going on during the visits. They were the interpreters for most of them. The visitors toured two orphanages, visited our worship services, led the Missionary Fellowship service on Sunday evening, visited the museum of African culture, traveled into the barrios to visit the homes of some of our church leaders, went to the local scenic sights, hiked in the bush, bought African curios at the flea market, toured Nampula and local environs from the troop carrier, and had their last dinner at a nice outdoor restaurant. They were scheduled to run the kitchen at the conference and do two work projects at the orphanages, but those had to be canceled when their flight was delayed and the trip shortened. The people who arrived before the conference helped with the nursery, kitchen, and book shop. The group from CBC had planned to do a short concert at various locations around town with the pastor preaching an evangelistic message and other team members giving testimonies, but that also had to be canceled from lack of time. We had the generator and sound system for all that, as well as the truck, but we’ll have to try out that ministry the next time.

The Fiel conference continues to improve every year. We now have four local missionary families running it as well as the team from Editora Fiel in Brazil and a missionary from South Africa. We have already planned and scheduled the next conference, and it should be even better. Among other things, we plan to host a parallel conference for pastors’ wives which will be entirely planned for their benefit.

This year we had 190 people signed up to attend, though not all of them made it. Seventy- four out-of-town leaders signed up to live at the conference site the entire time, with the others staying with friends in town or in their own homes. People from all over are now calling the conference the most significant ministry going on to the church at large in Mozambique. We have had that conviction from the beginning, and I think we are only beginning to see the potential it has. The New Tribes missionaries, who have entered Mozambique in the past year, have traveled the length and breadth of northern Mozambique doing surveys. They say everywhere they go the evangelical leaders are virtually unanimous in telling them salvation comes through keeping the law. However, one New Tribes missionary returned last week quite excited. In the middle of the bush in the province to the south of us they came across a pastor serving a mudhut congregation who vigorously denied salvation by works, insisting rather that it was a miraculous work of grace accomplished by God in the hearts of His elect. He also had a respectable little library and a Geneva study Bible. When they asked him where he got his books, he said he got them from attending the Fiel Conferences. The missionaries were so encouraged to find that little oasis of truth in the midst of such spiritual darkness amongst professing evangelical leaders they looked me up on their return to Nampula to let me know.

The post-conference systematic theology seminar I led was perhaps the most satisfying event I have participated in during my entire time in Mozambique, though the conferences are thrilling because of the good attendance and excellent speakers. I limited enrollment in the seminar to 20 men and filled every space, turning others away. They studied 11 hours a day for five days and a half day on Saturday, 25 hours of classroom lecture, 15 hours of discussion, 15 hours of homework and five hours of test-taking (13 tests). I was up late every night grading about 100 homework or test papers each day. But it was a rich experience seeing the men come to grips with salvation by grace through faith and all the ramifications of the true gospel. There were some good thinkers and spiritual men in the group, and for those men it was clear the conferences and books had plowed up the field ahead of time. Others were just beginning to think Biblically. But in every case it was a rewarding experience, and the men enthusiastically called for a follow-on seminar. I have kept the contact information for each of them, and I believe if I offered another seminar next month they would sign up two or three times the number of men we had this time, though I limit the conference to 20 because of all the grading I have to do. I believe this ministry is even more crucial than the conferences because here the men are compelled to interact with scripture and learn to think and preach Biblically. We looked at many hundreds of Bible texts, all of which were part of their handouts. Several mentioned the benefit they expected to derive from having so many scripture portions to refer to in their sermon preparations.

Before the FIEL conference I attended the Skogheim conference. I much appreciated the messages of the other men whom I was grateful to get to know personally. Besides preaching the opening message, the organizers gave me an hour to present a missionary report on Sunday afternoon. I got to make good friends from churches all over South Africa and visited with some good missionary prospects. The leaders seemed to go out of their way to give the Nampula ministry plenty of exposure. I trust we will be able to capitalize on that in future visitation times, though so far it has been easy already to get into South African churches, far easier than in the States. South Africa may be a better place for recruiting missionaries for Mozambique anyway.

As for the kids, they are staying active in the church youth ministry and in the missionary youth ministry. Kent and Sarah are progressing well with both piano and guitar. I bought Kent the software to put his music on the computer and he is getting proficient with that. He has a number of compositions. They really enjoyed having the music minister from CBC here, who is an excellent performer and solid Christian.

Julie was busy being hostess this past month. That is what makes her happiest, though she says in the future we need to hire a cook. We can easily do that as we have several working already during the conferences and seminars. Her pantry is well stocked with salad dressings, chocolate chips, snacks, flavorings, and all the other “loot” the visitors bring with them.
The guest house isn’t fully furnished yet, but it is getting there and looking nicer and nicer all the time. The grounds are also in nice shape. We often wonder at all the Lord has given us to enjoy, but the past month has caused us to understand better why God has so richly provided all the resources that have come through Grace Missions. We are hoping to host many more mission groups and expect that will redound to our benefit.
On a side note, Faustino’s murderer was convicted and sentenced to 22 years in jail, 24 years being the maximum penalty.

Charles Woodrow

Mozambique Evangel

October 2005

Dear Friends:

Our previous report updated supporters on our ministry to the Mozambique church through the bookshop, pastors’ conferences, and training seminars.  In the future we will be relying more on e-mail communications and updates through the web-site.

South Africa Visitation:
As reported last time, we need missionary associates to help develop the ministry opportunities God has granted here in Nampula. Praying that God would lead us to these people, we spent two months visiting South African churches in March and April. We had 22 meetings in 12 churches in the Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Durban areas. God did indeed lead us to a number of potential colleagues, some of them well qualified. One experienced church planter had served a term in Mozambique and still carries a burden of love for the people he was forced to leave because of circumstances which no longer prevent his return to the country. Another couple who would fit in well with us is already on their way to Nampula. They expect to begin work in December with a fine mission board, though it is not as likeminded in its doctrinal position as we are. A third mature, like-minded couple is attending Bible school part-time in preparation for missionary service while the husband continues his job as a chemical engineer. We thank the Lord for establishing these relationships and pray that in time they may lead to the help we need. In South Africa we also visited the Malawi brothers, Kwacha and Kondwani, who worked with us a year in Nampula. They are finishing their fourth year of seminary and are praying to know the Lord’s will for future work. I have only a few messages on missions, but one is especially well received, so I use it often on visitation. A church in Pretoria helped us by copying the message onto one thousand CD’s and mailing them throughout southern Africa. The first ten minutes is a brief report of our work and the associates we need. We have had several responses as a result of their effort and are thankful for the exposure that church has given us.

October 2005
In July I also attended a nationwide family conference supported by Reformed Evangelical churches throughout South Africa. Besides preaching the opening message, the organizers gave me an hour one afternoon to present a missionary report. The leaders made a special effort to give the ministry good exposure, for which I am most grateful. During the conference I got to visit with Christians from many parts of the country and from many professions, including health care providers and church workers. Pray that God will in time use these contacts to provide the partners we need in the Nampula ministry.
U.S. Visitation: The end of October we will be starting our oft-delayed States-side visitation. We are scheduled to visit 27 churches in 27 Sundays, beginning in Southern California and traveling east and north the length and breadth of the U.S., finishing up in Ontario in May. Our route and schedule is posted on our website, so if you see we are in your vicinity and you or your church would like a visit, please contact us.

Visitors from Home:
The guest house is not fully furnished yet, but it is getting there and looking nicer all the time. Since we were unable to crank up long-term construction on the hospital because of visitation programs and the need to maintain various ministries single-handedly, there was time to supervise some small landscaping projects to combat erosion – putting in roads, curbs, grass, and drains. The cosmetic results surprised us. The residential section of the property not only functions better but looks much nicer.

We were glad for the improvements when hosting a succession of 22 guests in July and August. Constantia Park Baptist Church in Pretoria sent Bev Rowland during the Pastors’ Conference to organize and run the bookshop. Her husband Rod is a professional handyman, and he helped with setting up the conference and doing several jobs at home I could not have found time for myself. Community Bible Church from Nashville sent college student Ashley Myers to catch up on all the recordkeeping and number crunching for the bookshop. While they were here, we also hosted the five leaders and speakers for the Pastors’s Conference. As soon as the conference ended, the Nashville church sent a further delegation of 14 people, including the two pilots who ferried them the last 1500 miles. The team was coming to help during the pastors’ conference, but a strike by the airline company delayed their arrival by a week.

The family reveled in all the attention. Julie was busy as hostess, which is the thing that makes her happiest. The kids enjoyed all the activities and served as translators for many of them. For several days we had 23 people staying in the guest house, sleeping in beds and eating at tables; and the residence seemed to accommodate them all without strain. And our cabinet-maker has seven more beds yet to complete! Having so many visitors was fun, and we are keen to have even more.

Besides all the cargo the team transported free of charge cartons of Bibles and hymnals; all the equipment for showing evangelistic films; conference supplies; and a whole pantry-full of chocolate chips, snacks, seasonings, flavorings, and other treats that don’t exist in Nampula ‚ we also benefited from the expertise of some of the members.

Byron Yawn preaching at missionary fellowship.

Pastor Byron Yawn preached at the English-speaking expatriate worship service. We appreciated the talents of the music minister, Jamin Dunn, who was a special encouragement to the aspiring musicians in our family.
Susan Barrett from CBC with children from orphanage Susan Barrett and Sharon Blaze stayed on several days to computerize our bookshop records and all the finances for Grace Missions in Mozambique, probably the single greatest advance we have made in many years and one which would never have happened left to my own abilities. Emily VanDam, one of the single girls, offered to return as our secretary for six months, and the church has since undertaken to send her. So we have ample reason to hope for more visits from church teams wanting to find out what they can do to help on the mission field!

Jamin Dunn concert at the orphanage

Despite the confusion caused by the airline strike, the trip apparently succeeded from CBC’s perspective as well since they are scheduling a repeat visit next year.

If you want to organize a similar experience, here are some opportunities that were scheduled, though many were cancelled when the team arrived a week late:

1) Making evangelistic presentations in various neighborhoods during the day, using our troop carrier as a mobile stage.
2) Conducting outdoor evangelistic film showings in the evenings.
3) Taking an overnight trek into the bush to visit a rural African church.
4) Painting classrooms and dormitories at two evangelical orphanages.
5) Doing construction work at the Baptist Bible school.
6) Serving on kitchen, nursery, bookshop, and clean-up crews at the Pastors’
7) Attending our worship services, Bible classes, and youth meetings.
8) Leading worship and preaching at the Nampula English-speaking expatriate worship service.
9) Attending African worship services.
10) Traveling into the mud hut neighborhoods to visit the homes of our church leaders.
11) Shopping in the central market.
12) Visiting the bookshop, observing our various ministries, and touring Nampula from the troop carrier.

Troop carrier with cargo and passengers

13) Visiting local orphanages and health clinics.
14) Taking a scenic tour through rural Africa atop our troop carrier.

Presentation of traditional African dance and song

15) Enjoying evening campfires, group devotions, and stories of God’s grace in missions.

Some of the aviation enthusiasts were scheduled to accompany the MAF pilot on a long, low altitude cross-country flight.

Local pastors arranged special performances of African church choirs, traditional men’s and women’s dance teams, and musicians playing traditional African instruments. The last day we sponsored a crafts fair on the mission property where the team bought curios made by local artisans, and that night they enjoyed a farewell dinner at a tropical outdoor restaurant.

We thank God for granting us the friends, facilities, and equipment necessary to offer this experience. We often wonder at all the Lord has provided, but this visit from our first church team caused us to understand better His purposes in so richly supplying Grace Missions with these resources. We are hoping to host more mission groups; and as happened in this case, we imagine those visits will redound to our benefit!

In closing this report, we again thank our many supporters for your prayers and help. Your interest and faithfulness undergird these ministries and make them fruitful. Besides the various ministries to Mozambicans, we can now offer a service to those who have supported us so long. Community Bible Church has been one of our strongest supporters from the beginning. They helped send me to Angola as a medical student in 1977 and have been supplying our needs ever since. We were glad to host them; but as the ministries associated with Grace Missions multiply, pray that God would provide the colleagues and resources needed to sustain them.

By His grace,
Charles and Julie Woodrow