Ninswaliki 110

Buffalo, NY

Most Excellent Theophilus,

Christmas is upon us, that glorious time of year when it is cold and snowy outside, but all is warm and full of cheer inside, with the family and friends around a table that groans with the burden of delights mounded upon it.  Susan and I enjoy the festive season, and indeed, it is an absolute delight to be able to spend it with our children and family.  But the days are few and they fly by so fast, and we’ll all be on the road again.  Immediately after Christmas Emily and Andrew will go to the Urbana Missions Convention in St. Louis.  And the next day, Dec 27th, Susan and I depart for Mozambique.

2015 Thanksgiving Dinner

We have heard very encouraging reports from the field these past months.  Jacob and Amisse and their families have been in good health and are working hard together.  In October Amisse graduated from Bible school and in November dedicated a new church building in Balama.   Congratulations!  Gonçalves has been working well with the team for a few months now and in January I’ll write more about him.

IMM Balama Dedication 2015-11-01

Just days before our departure from Mozambique in late September, Mr. K called me to his home.  He is an elderly man and has sought to do what is right throughout his life  – but he needs Jesus, and now he is feeling that need more than ever.  At our last meeting we had a private conversation in which he expressed to me his concerns about the future, especially about the reality that he will soon face his creator.  His immediate concern was about an old debt that his nephew had with me, and especially about what repercussions that debt would have for him in the final judgement.  There wasn’t much time that day to talk, so we made a date to continue the conversation in January.  Pray with me for Mr. K and I’ll let you know where things stand with him next month.

And there is rumor of hunger in the land.  To my knowledge, it is not a major famine, but last year the harvest in staple crops was very poor throughout southern Africa.  Right now it is planting time in Mozambique and thus, three months before the first harvests.  This year basic food staples are in very short supply and very expensive.  Pray that God our sustainer would meet people in their need and that he would give us patience, compassion and wisdom in dealing with those who suffer the most.

Translation issues that need prayer:

In every language there are concepts that are difficult to communicate with the words available.  (e.g. what do YOU call the eldest grandmother in your mother’s lineage?).  Sometimes a word can be borrowed or a descriptive phrase used to explain the concept.  But sometimes the concept just isn’t there.  That is our situation with the idea of heritage and inheritance, heir and inherit.  Strangely enough, in the Meetto society we do not find the idea of passing something, whether material or positional, on to a descendant simply because of the relationship between the two individuals.  Obviously it happens, at some level within a family, but it is not explicit.  In the New Testament these are powerful concepts and we want to communicate them accurately.  Please pray with us on this.  You’ll hear more from us on this theme as we close in on the final checking of the New Testament.

Well, that wasn’t a very “Christmassy” letter (see, there’s a new word, and you knew what I meant!), but that’s where we are right now.  It has been a pleasure to be able to visit with so many of you in recent months and we go back to Africa a few pounds heavier, some around the waist, and some of the weight in our hearts as we once again say farewell to our loved ones.  But we rejoice in fast communication technology, the ability to travel and the promise of more reunions to come.  Most of all, we rejoice in God’s abundant goodness to us and the promise of his continued blessing on those who love him and are called according to his purpose.  He who calls us is faithful and will bring it to pass, not just for us, but also for those who long to know their Redeemer with a hunger that they cannot yet understand.

Thank you so much for walking this long road with us,

Together, we’re pressing on,

John and Susan


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29 Second message from Africa

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Ninswaliki 108


29 September 2015

Nampula, Mozambique

Most Excellent Theophilus,

When we drove out of Balama, spring was about ready to spring, but hadn’t yet fully sprung.  The first sign of new life is the blossoming of the acacia trees and there are about a dozen of them around our house.  For the last two weeks our yard was filled with a delicious perfume!  Other trees will put out their leaves little by little over the next two months as the temperature continues to rise, but for most of the countryside, it will remain a dry, charred, Mordor-like landscape until the rains come in December; not a bad time to be absent.

While we are gone, back in Balama, Jacob and Amisse have a couple of busy months ahead.  Amisse graduates from his Bible school program on October 2nd, and Jacob has his grade 12 exams in December.  I am really looking forward to them being able to give their full attention to the translation work next year!  Gonçalves will be coordinating a new revision team in Balama.  Pray for him that he will find favor and acceptance as he enters into this critical work.

We give thanks that the last two months were very productive.  They didn’t start out that way.  Through many dangers toils and snares we were able to finish the checking of 1&2 Timothy with Jacob and Amisse.  They were so pleased when it was finished; with themselves and with their work.  It was a major victory in sorting out working relationships and rhythms.  In August, I was also able to check the Joseph Story (Genesis 37-50) with the Ngoni team in Nampula.  They have had a long slow start, so it was a thrill for them to have their first major portion of scripture available for the Ngoni people.

Susan and I are on our way to the US and Canada for the next three months.  In mid-October we will attend the bi-annual Bible Translation Conference in Dallas, TX.  A few weeks after, in mid-November, we participate in the Seed Company annual staff meeting in Arlington, TX.  During the interval, we will fly out to the west coast to catch up with family, friends and supporters.  Following is our travel schedule.  If you are somewhere on the route and haven’t heard from us yet, you surely will soon.

Oct 2-4:  Ajax, ON, Westney Heights Baptist Church Missions Conference

Are you in the Toronto area?  Join us this weekend:

Oct 7:  Buffalo, NY, Public School 33

Oct 11:  Laceyville, PA, Braintrim Baptist Church

Oct 12-20: Duncanville, TX, Bible Translation Conference

Oct 22 – Oct 26:  Vancouver, BC

Oct 27 – Oct 29: Portland, OR

Oct 30 – Nov 10: Central California

Nov 11-20:  Seed Co. Staff Meetings, Arlington, TX

Dec 27: Depart for Mozambique

Yes, we are crazy; just the schedule makes me dizzy.  Do we really expect to do this?  But fear not, we live like this all the time, and in Africa there are no coffee shops on the way!  I think we’ll survive.

Without a cell phone number, we’re still,

Pressing on,

John and Susan


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Ninswaliki 107

July 2015                                       Balama, Cabo Delgado, Mozambique

Most Excellent Theophilus,

We have been back in Balama for two months now, getting back into the swing of life in rural Africa, back to the translation desk.  Ah, the glories of sitting at a desk for ten hours a day!  It has been a challenge to get our little house cleaned up, but noth2015-07-05 home againing that a sack of lime and few cans of paint couldn’t solve.  (Except for the roof, but that’s another story… and we have five more months till the rains.)

The town hasn’t changed much since we have been gone.  The biggest changes are the arrival of electricity and internet.  This is largely due to the massive investment in the nearby graphite mine.  The high school across the street now offers classes up through grade 12, and with electricity, night classes as well.   Water? Well… that’s where water comes from, the well, and still carried by hand into the house.

But it is the advent of electricity and internet that has allowed us to move back to Balama 2015-07-05 Maririagain.  Gone are the days of hiding out in the village to learn the ways and customs of the locals.  Now, as a translation consultant, I have responsibilities that take me to the far corners of Mozambique and beyond, and I need to be constantly in touch with several translation teams as I was in the past while serving as field director.

It has been a challenge to get back into the routine of working with the Meetto translation team again.  Jacob and Amisse have been on their own for a long time and to have me close at hand is relief for them in many ways, but also a bit awkward.  The Meetto NT is completely drafted, but there remains a lot of checking by exegete, community and consultants, before it can be published.  This phase of the work can be very tedious and requires extreme discipline to be able to finish.  Pray that we’ll be able to find a good rhythm and be able to work through the material and see the NT complete in good time.

We are very pleased to have a new couple working with us in Balama.  Sam and Elizabeth Pflederer arrived in Mozambique in March and moved to Balama with us in May.  Pray for us as we seek to be good mentors to them. The Pflederers write a good letterer.  You can read it at the following link:

Pray too with us as we explore new methods checking scriptures orally in order to obtain a broader contribution from the community at large.  Ultimately, we know that the scriptures will be listened to far more than they will be read, and so we are looking at new ways of working throughout the drafting and checking process that would lend themselves to the translation of a Bible that is understandable and pleasing to the listener first, but also to the reader.

Our world is small and birthdays come but once a year, but not many people get to enjoy a Grandpa's 90th90th birthday party.  Susan and I didn’t want to miss Dad’s party.  He turned 90 on July 11th.  What a day to remember!  Our thanks to those who specifically helped to make it possible for us to attend.

Our children are doing very well.  LaMy girls 2015-07ura is teaching in Buffalo and just weeks ago completed her MA.  Congratulations Laura!  Mary and Steven have moved to Cincinnati.  Emily is doing an internship at a rehab center in Niagara Falls and is living with Laura this summer.  Andrew spent the last school term in Seville, Spain and the summer in Mozambique, doing an internship with Mozambique Fresh Eggs in Nampula.  It was pleasure to have him so close for a few months.

Susan and I need to attend several conferences and staff meetings in October and November, and as such will be returning home October through December.  We look forward to seeing many of you then.

Frustration we have in spades, but we are encouraged by the fact that God sent us here and has kept us alive this long.  He certainly has a purpose to perform in us and through us.  Thank you again for joining us as we strive to bring God’s word to the people of Mozambique.  And so we continue to…

Press on,

John and Susan 



May 2015                                                         Nampula, Mozambique

Most Excellent Theophilus,

Jared  Smoker 0832 Jared  Smoker 0801 Jared  Smoker 0828Jared  Smoker 0879 Jared Smoker 0949 Jared Smoker 0990 Jared  Smoker 0179 Jared  Smoker 0363I don’t often get nostalgic about African cities.  Today I’m in Nampula at my favorite café, sipping a “stronger than death” expresso.  Inside, the café resembles a scene from a Humphrey Bogart movie; smokers caressing their coffee cups and gossiping about everything that matters in the city.  I am on the veranda where the air is clearer.  At the next table sits Phil, the man who seems to know everything, pumping a newly arrived businessman for information while getting his daily caffeine fix.  Across the street is the cathedral.  I’m sorry I don’t have more reason to frequent that building.  It is without doubt the most tasteful piece of architecture in the entire country and acoustically is one of the best buildings I’ve ever been in.  Keep in mind, I live in Africa and don’t frequent the cathedrals or concert halls of Europe.

We have lived in Nampula since 2006.  The city has doubled in size since then, now up to around 800,000 denizens.  A city that is in massive growth will show certain growing pains, the details of which I leave to your imagination.  Nine years ago there were five flights a week servicing Nampula, all going to Maputo, the capital.  Today there are at least seven flights a day, with daily direct flights to Johannesburg and Nairobi, and frequent flights to many provincial capitals.  The city water system was designed back in the 60’s to accommodate 50,000 residents.  Last year they upgraded the system so now most people in the city have access to water not far from their home.  Nine years ago the highest education was grade 12 at one high school.  Today there are six universities, including a law and medical school.  Nine years ago motorcycles were a rare sight, as expensive as a used car.  With a change in licensing law, 50cc motorcycles proliferated and now are almost as common as pedestrians.  It is rare for more than one person in a household to have a paying job and so most residents still live under thatched roofs, cook over charcoal fires and faithfully go to school and dream of a better life.

But this has been our home and now it is time for us to leave and move back north to Balama where we were before 2006 and where the Meetto Bible translation program has continued on in our absence over the past nine years.

The biggest challenge in recent months has been to divest ourselves of our mission center in Nampula.  We give thanks to God for YWAM who have agreed to purchase the facility and keep it operating as a training center for missions.  On June 1st they take over, and we, along with another mission, will maintain our head office there as renters.  Please pray for a peaceful transition and also for the many staff workers that we had to let go through the transfer.

Our next job assignment is not so much to return to the Meetto translation program as it is moving into a full time consulting role.  As a translation consultant, I will have responsibility to support several other Bible translation programs in northern Mozambique and beyond.

Our children are doing very well.  Laura is teaching in Buffalo and will finish her MA this summer.  Mary and Steven have moved to Cincinnati.  Emily is in Buffalo living with Laura this summer doing an internship at a rehab center in Niagara.  And Andrew is in Nampula, Mozambique.  He spent the last school term in Spain and is now doing an internship with New Horizons and Africa Fresh Eggs in Nampula.   Susan and I are, as always, weary of moving, but excited about what God has in store for us.  We need to attend several conferences and staff meetings in the October and NovemJared  Smoker 0562ber, and as such will be returning home early October through December.

“The road goes ever on and on…”  But we know that he who has called us is faithful and will bring it to pass.  Thank you again for standing and kneeling with us as we press on to bring God’s word to the people of Mozambique.

Pressing on,

John and Susan

Photos are courtesy of Jared Smoker, who grew up in Nampula and now lives in Lititz, PA.  You can find more of his photography on line.

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Sena NT Dedication in Beira

SelemaneSena is spoken by roughly 2 million people in the lower Zambezi valley.  In response to a request for help from the Mozambique Bible Society, the translation of the New Testament began in 1995 with John and Barb Heins of Wycliffe Bible Translators working with Luis Nyazeze, a retired school teacher and senior pastor in the Nova Aliança Church.  The team grew over the years with Silva Francisco, Arcanjo Branquinho and Jorge Bongece joining the team.  In 2001 the team organized a local association to support the translation, PRODELISE.  Jim and Virginia Vinton of Wycliffe joined the team in 2005.  The Seed Co. became involved in supporting the program in 2005.  Final consultant check and publication was handled by the Bible Society.

Jim & Nyazeze & FatimaOn March 21st Sena NT was dedicated in Beira.  The Bible Society of Mozambique, Wycliffe and PRODELISE jointly put the celebration together.  SIL and the Bible Society shared the cost and PRODELISE did all the organization and preparation.  Pastor Bongece did an amazing job of putting together and coordinating everything.   It was as formal a dedication event as I have participated in so far.  The Governor of Sofala was represented at the event, as was the Mayor of Beira and the Provincial Director of Education.  The Provincial Director of Justice was present with us.  In the Governor’s address she boldly spoke of the of the transforming power of the Word of God and of the urgency of evangelization of the entire nation, even to the remote rural areas, for it is the gospel that changes lives, transforms society and invites peace and prosperity.  These were indeed amazing and refreshing words and very appropriate to the occasion of the dediSBM Beiracation of the Sena New Testament.

Five thousand copies of the Sena New Testament were printed by the Bible Society of Mozambique.  There are 13 populous districts in three provinces where Sena is spoken.  Over the years the PRODELISE team has had an active information campaign with the churches in these districts that was coupled with a scripture community verification plan.  Now they are working on a plan to revisit these same groups of church leaders in the districts and ensure that the NT reaches the farthest corners and is sold out in as short a time as possible.


Thank you for your participation over these years in the support of the Sena translation team.  It has been a long road, but now the New Testament is published and available and we are confident that God will bless and prosper it, that it will not return void but will perform the work for which is was intended.

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Good things happen

3 March 2015
Nampula, Mozambique

Most Excellent Theophilus,

Our arrival in Mozambique was special in a strange way. We arrived in Nampula from Johannesburg, an easy flight of just over two hours. We were glad to be flying. By car it would have been several days and the flooding was very obvious even at 30,000ft. At the immigration desk they were training new people and as we have permanent residence documents it was easier than crossing the US-Canadian border. Customs officers were uninterested in our bags and one of the baggage handlers made his way in to the customs area. So, to save hassles later I engaged him and passed two bags to him. My hands were full as I approached the door and another dozen baggage handlers descended on us like pigeons on bread crumbs. One of them approached me and reached for the bag in my left hand. I didn’t recognize him but by his smile I felt I should have. I said, “I’m short on change.” He didn’t let go. I repeated, “That is, I don’t have any change at all.” He said, “That’s ok, God will compensate me.” As we struggled through the crowd, both of us holding on to the bag, I asked, “And how is it that God will compensate you?” He answered with confidence, “Tomorrow when I go to church I’ll ask God for a special blessing and He will bless me for what I have done for you today. You don’t ahve to pay me.” I immediately released my hand and let him carry my bag. This man knows his Bible, “In as much as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto me.” I’m home again, and God sent this humble servant to welcome me. Ian was at the car and I begged some change from him to pay my helper.

Pressing on,
John and Susan

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Another 29 Seconds in Beira

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