29 Seconds

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Ninswaliki 104

Most Excellent Theophilus,

From whose womb did the ice come forth, and who has given birth to the frost of heaven?The waters become hard like stone and the face of the deep is frozen.      Job 38: 29-30

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Pennsylvania is cold right now.  The Susquehanna River is choked with ice and the ponds that we swam in just a few months ago are now only fit for ice skating.  It doesn’t do this in Africa, and it has taken me some time to get used to the idea of cold that just doesn’t go away when the sun comes out.

But we have had a wonderful time these past months, including many adventures in an aging car.  We did not travel as far as we had planned.  I think we are getting older.  And I confess, we have not been the correspondents that we wanted to be.  Some of you haven’t heard from us at all during this time, while others are weary of seeing us so often.

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Since October we have been hosted in this house in Laceyville, Pennsylvania, just across the street from the church.  It was a real treat to have a home in which to host visitors, especially our children.

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The Christmas season was a wonderful time with our children and extended family, getting involved in the church, singing in the choir and so much more.

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But then, in early January Laura went back to Buffalo to teach school, Mary and Steven to Williamsport, Emily back to university and Andrew has gone to Spain for a semester abroad.   When they all left Susan and I were feeling quite blue.

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As we go back to Mozambique we have some changes before us.  I am very thankful for Ian Lund standing in for me as field director in my absence.  But then in the next few months I will be turning over my director responsibilities to Serge Razafinjatoniary who will live in Johannesburg and direct the work in Southern Africa from there.

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One of my last duties as director will be to participate in the dedication of the Sena New Testament in Beira.  I will continue on, serving as a translation consultant for our programs in Mozambique and in the Southern Africa region.

Our plan is to go back to Balama to live and be close by to encourage Jacob and Amisse as they close in on the final stages of checking the New Testament in Meetto.   The entire text is now in draft and Lord willing in the next few years we will be able to see it through the final checks, recording and preparation for publication.

Thank you for a refreshing time at home and for standing with us in prayer as we return to Africa to continue on in bringing God’s Word to those who still have not heard.

Pressing on,    John and Susan

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Ninswaliki 103 (Post Script)

4 September 2014
Stevensville, PA

Most Excellent Theophilus,

Yesterday I sent out a letter, Ninswaliki no.103. I made two errors. First, I presumptuously stated a phone number contact that I had not yet experimented. My apologies. I will indeed work to get a semi-permanent phone number and when I do I will let you know.
Secondly, I had promised to attach the following story which many have found encouraging. This was the account that Zacarias, our cook, related to me on a Monday morning about six weeks ago.

Back in Nampula, Zacarias arrived and related his adventures of the weekend. He has visited a remote village in Meconta District, that is, to the east of Nampula, about 40 km away. I can’t remember how he first landed up out there, but he now has a small group of believers meeting and he goes out to see them every few weeks for more teaching. This past weekend he wanted to go out again, but as he doesn’t have a motorbike he was looking for someone who could go out with him and give him a ride. It was then that he discovered that João was staying with his brother, in Zac’s old house. Apparently there was another round-up of political undesirables and so João had to disappear from his own house. João has a motorbike, and so it was very convenient for both of them – Zac who needed wheels, and João who needed to get out of town and be unseen for a bit. They went to the village in Meconta District and had a grand time preaching. Apparently this is one of those many villages in the Nampula hinterland that has not a hint of evangelical presence in it. The people were all ears and uncommonly welcoming and they spent most of the day together. Later in the day, as they passed through another village on the way back to Nampula, they suffered a major blowout. They didn’t have the necessary tools with them to fix the flat and so sought out the local motorcycle tire repairman and he set to fixing their tire. While waiting, the local village leadership approached them with their typical suspicion of strangers and asked them why they were there. They responded with blunt frankness, “We’re evangelists, on our way home from preaching the gospel in the next village.” The village leaders were likely driven by jealousy, and not wanting to be outdone by the next village, they urged them to preach there as well – right now! So, within minutes there were gathered a huge number, most of the village, as João and Zac shared the gospel with these people. Zac noted that João, as a convert from this familiar background and being familiar with their holy writings, preached with uncommon boldness. Again, it was a village without any church of any kind and after their presentation Zac asked for a show of hands and virtually everyone raised their hand and said they wanted to know more. Zac is not so naive to believe that all these understood and believed, much less were interested in obeying the gospel, but the elders of the village did ask them to please come back and share more as well as to secure formal governmental recognition for having started a gospel work in that village. By the time all of this was over, it was getting dark and the tire was fixed. Plans were made for a return visit and they made their way back to Nampula.

What did you keep busy with the last time your car was in the shop?

Pressing On,
John

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Ninswaliki 103

2 September 2014
Stevensville, PA

Most Excellent Theophilus,2014-08 Chocas

The tropics are behind us and we’re back in North America. It is obvious that our timing was poor. The summer is also behind us and cool weather is coming.

We have done a lot of moving in our years but I would have hoped that the experience of years and moves would have made us resilient and immune to the vagaries of a nomadic life. Not so. This last move seemed to me more difficult than the others. Perhaps it was because we were packing up our house completely, whereas in the past we always maintained our house or moved in stages. It was sentimental seeing the teapot, my books, the sewing machine and so many other little things that bring stability to our lives go into boxes.

Acton Island 1Our last months in Mozambique were nothing less than hectic. They were rewarding days, but exhausting, none the less. But it is a pleasure to be back and see our children and family once again. Our first stop was a reunion at the lake, and then it was immediately off to help Emily and Andrew get settled back into school. Now we are in Stevensville with my father. He celebrated his 89th birthday this summer. Last night he was up late finishing his article for the local paper so I asked him to write something for this prayer letter too.

He offers the following:

 

Knobby at 89When my wife returned from her mission work in India to prepare for our wedding (1956), she returned with a trunk full of hand carved memories and left all of India’s problems in the Punjab. In contrast, when John and Sue return from Mozambique, they bring all of their problems back with them in a little lap-top box which seems to keep them busy all the time. It not only keeps them informed but it also gives orders. Hey, praise the Lord for progress.    R.F. Iseminger

That’s my dad. He inspires me. He had a stroke twelve years ago. It slowed him down, but didn’t stop him. One of his games in life is to toss his quad-cane down the stairs every morning, hoping to find it standing at the foot of the stairs waiting for him as he eases himself down while holding on to the bannister. And today he did it! I witnessed it. The cane came crashing down the stairs and then he shouted, “Hurrah! I did it!” It was really standing up and waiting for him. Four thousand tries and then success. Persistence.

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Our children are all doing very well. Steven and Mary live in Montoursville, PA where Mary continues nursing at the hospital and Steven works in the gas industry. Laura is teaching ESL in Buffalo, NY and is closing in on finishing her MA. Emily is in her fourth year of Occupational Therapy at Misericordia U. in Dallas, PA and Andrew is in his second year of Intl. Business at Grove City College.

We have been abundantly supplied with transportation and housing for the next months. God is good, and so are his people. We look forward to catching up with as many of you as possible in the coming months and rejoicing together with you in God’s goodness.

Rough schedule for the next months:
Sept 7-13, Lake Rosseau (out of contact)
Sept 14-Oct 7, Scarborough, ON
Oct 8- Dec 5, Laceyville, PA
January – traveling, even to the west coast…
Feb – Returning to Africa via the UK.

We don’t have definite dates set for visiting churches, so if you would like to see us (or not see us!) at a particular time, please let us know as soon as possible. We are experimenting with new technology and we are led to believe that the following telephone number will work for us wherever we are, in the US or Canada (or even in Mozambique?).

Phone number: 570-665-9448

Back in Mozambique, we left the Nampula administration in the capable hands of Ian Lund. Do pray for him. Jacob and Amisse are in Balama, just finishing the draft of the Meetto New Testament. We return to Mozambique in February and in March I will turn over the director role to Serge Razafinjatoniary and then we will move back to work with the Meetto team to bring the NT to completion.Balama, MZ

Please pray for Benjamin. Benjamin was our host when we moved to the village of Ntete in 2000. He is a very capable man and worked with us for many years on the translation team. In 2011 he foolishly abandoned his wife, his church and the translation team and ran off with a lady of ill repute. Years of agony have gone by. Now Benjamin is back with his wife, Caitana, and showing signs of repentance and seeking restoration.

May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and keep you,

Pressing on,
John and Susan

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Ninswaliki 102

7 August 2014
Mueda, Mozambique

Most Excellent Theophilus,

The publication of God’s Word into a new language is no small thing. Last weekend Susan and I, along with many others from around the world, joined with the believers of Mueda to celebrate the dedication of the New Testament in Makonde. We first met Benjie and Rhoda Leach in Portugal in 1991 when we were there together learning Portuguese. In 1992 they began working among the Makonde people in the very north of Mozambique, about 200 km NE of the Meetto area where we lived. The road they have walked has not been an easy one. They have seen God work in deep and powerful ways over the years and it was a privilege to be able to share in the celebration with them.

To describe the event or to encapsulate in a few words what has taken place over the past 22 years can’t be done better than to simply quote from Benjie’s latest prayer letter, written three days ago. Also, please take a look at the websites of the two Peace Corps volunteers who did the photography. Their photos and comments are priceless.

And as for me and my house, we’re
Pressing on,
John I.

Following is Benjie’s letter:

Subject: Jottings, 4 Aug ’14. Not a Grasping God.

Dear Ones,

This time around I’m going to put a list of hot, and not-so-hot, prayer items at the end of these jottings. First, here are a few thoughts from our big day here last weekend. Last weekend but one now, I suppose. Anyway the Makonde Bible dedication day here in Mueda on 26th July.

Before that Big Day, which was indeed truly big…I’m not good on crowd figures, but over a thousand people there, 2,800 bibles sold, 4 mini-sermons, 9 singing groups, 2 theme songs, 5 readings, banners, bunting and wall murals, 14 pillars, 120 seated guests, 4 small (but not very small) plane landings, 5 goats and 30 chickens, 300 cupcakes, 2 photographers, the governor’s representative, 3 bishops, Uncle Tom Cobley and all…

Anyway before that big day, and as I said in my last jottings, we took some testimonies from volunteers about the way in which previous versions of the Makonde Growing Bible has impacted their lives. If it has. We’ve just transcribed the film clips to make subtitles, so they are once again on my heart. Many told stories of radical change: from wife beating to love in the home; from drugs, drink and disintegration to steadiness and safety; from problem making in the community to problem solving. But one man said something which stood out for me as a profound reflection on the nature of our God. It was that he had understood from the Makonde scriptures, especially from John 3, that God is not a grasping, keep-it-to-yourself God. Rather, he is a giving God.

What he said was not couched in learned theological language but in terms drawn from the raw end of Makonde values. One of those values is that people should share (one of the worst things to say about someone here is that he likes to ‘eat alone’). Anyway this man, Samuel, said that from what he has understood in the Makonde Scriptures, God does not have a grasping character (the kind which likes to eat alone). So, because of his love for us and desire to bring us in to heaven, he did not hang on to his Son. This realisation has gradually changed Samuel’s life. It has given him such joy, and a certainty of faith which he longs for his friends to share so that they can be together where he is heading.

I won’t run on too much more here, but did want to jot down the briefest summary of what the four main speakers, two self-elected, said at the dedication. Each said something wonderful about what this giving God has given to the Makonde people. The first talked about a book like no other, from a God like no other (that is, he is God not a man). The second, the wife of the paralysed missionary who first brought the gospel to the Makonde people in the late 80s and who heart-wrenchingly glowed throughout his visit, declared resoundingly and to crowd delight that although her husband was sick, the word of God was NOT sick. So we must press on. (This in a context where good health means that God favours you and poor health that somehow you’ve got it wrong.) The third, our favourite and most humble bishop, said that this was a gift which would bring benefit only when it is read and reflected, meditated, dug into, preached and spread. The fourth, the mayor of the town (a very big deal here) said something which I’ll keep for my list of prayer items below. But each of these four messages will be our prayer for many days, I hope years, to come. Maybe you can join us a bit in giving thanks and praying for these things amongst the Makonde people and for ourselves?

I’ll try and add a few first photos to this email. Actually 22. I hope you can skip through them rapidly. I’ve added captions and tried to make them reasonable small for sending. The originals are from the two photographers who came to help us with the dedication – peace corps volunteers from nearish by. They did an incredible job, and with wonderful tact. You can see a lot more pictures of the events last week-end on their blogs: http://rhexperience.wordpress.com and http://postcardsfrompopester.wordpress.com (you probably need to put your mouse over the address and press your Ctrl button at the same time as clicking).

Love, Benjie
01 Dedication Way
22 What will be the future
13 Dedication copy

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Ninswaliki 101

19 June 2014
Mwanangome, Mozambique

Most Excellent Theophilus,

You ask, “Where is Mwanangome?” That is a legitimate question. You can google it but it won’t show much, a fishing village among the mangrove swamps on the Nampula coast where we have colleagues working hard to translate God’s word into the local idiom. We have come to spend a few days with them, to encourage them in their discouraging work among a very lost people in desperate need of Jesus. After years of language learning and hard work they are beginning to see some positive response. Ibrahimu has been helping with the translation and has begun to ask the hard questions for himself about the claims of Jesus. Please pray for him and for his people.

Our ordeal with the court case is now over. We have been overwhelmed by the support given us during this time. It was comforting to know that come what may, hundreds of people were praying for us. The total cost of the affair was just over $6000. Most of that was lawyer and court fees, and still significantly less than the amount we were threatened with. We have already received a few gifts to help with those expenses. Should you feel led to help in this area, gifts can be sent to our personal account. Please let us know by separate letter how you want the funds spent.

But honestly, on the topic of finances, we are short of funds for scripture publication and the needs are many.

The Meetto team is out of literature and the call for scripture portions is getting louder. In Balama funerals are very important indicators of a person’s faith. But I had no idea what role they might play in church growth. For the past few years Jacob has been asking me to help him put together a “Manual for Funerals” in Imeetto. You can imagine my excitement about this project. Finally last year I told him that this project would be up to him. “You write it, edit and format it on your own and I’ll get it printed for you.” Toward the end of the year he presented me with a little brochure of four pages giving the order of service for a funeral, the prayers to say, the verses to read, sermon ideas and step by step what to do. It was nice, but to me it just seemed an extra piece of paper for the pastor to have in his Bible. I printed two reams of paper for him and had them delivered in January. He began to distribute them and now the reports are starting to come in: “Now we can have a church in our town! We couldn’t have one before because we had no one who was able to perform a Christian funeral. We couldn’t have a church if we weren’t able to bury people properly!” According to their cultural background, how one is buried is of the greatest importance, and so at that time young believers wanted me to do the funeral for their relatives to make sure it was done right. But what do you do in a village where there is no minister? You certainly can’t be a Christian unless there is someone there who can bury you! Can you? …and the missionary treasured up all these things in his heart…

In the Chuwabu language their only publication so far has been the Gospel of Mark and now all copies are gone. Recently some men from the districts, about 70 km from Quelimane, had seen a copy of Mark and so made their way by bicycle to town to get some for their own churches. They wanted 25 copies for their churches, but our team only had five copies remaining. So they took the last book and went to the photocopy shop in town and printed their own copies, twenty more, at a cost of three times what we can print them for! It is just as Amos wrote, “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land – not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.

In March I had the privilege of consultant checking the Gospel of John in Koti. We then printed 100 copies for use in the church to get final feedback before publication. José, one of the translators, was with me last week in Nampula and told me the following story: One of the elders had a mother-in-law who was very sick. While he was at an evening church service someone came to him to tell him to go home as she had just died. When he got home he found his wife and the rest of the family crying and mourning the loss of their mother. He then asked, “Have you prayed for her?” “But she’s dead!” they answered, “This is no time to pray for her.” He then reached into his pocket and took out his copy of John and read to them from chapter 11, the story of the resurrection of Lazarus, and said, “Let’s pray.” As soon as he finished praying she sat up, alive and well! “And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea (Angoche) and all the surrounding country…”

Next month is the dedication of the Makonde New Testament, in Mueda. It will be a big event. We have invited the Governor of Cabo Delgado, a host of bishops and our own international director. Following that event we have our field team retreat and then Susan and I will be heading home for six months, arriving in Philadelphia on August 14.

Our children are all doing well. Mary is happily married to Steven. Laura is teaching in Buffalo and Emily and Andrew are working at Harvey Cedars, NJ. We can’t wait to see them, and you too. We have already been in contact with many in planning our time at home. Six months will fill up fast, so please contact us if you have specific dates, plans or limitations for us.

Thank you so much for your love and prayers. Through your faithfulness, God keeps us

Pressing on,
John and Susan

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Ninswaliki 100

24 May 2014
Johannesburg, South Africa

Greece!

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If you have been following us and our tales, you are aware that Susan and I left last month for a holiday in Greece and Turkey, in celebration of our silver anniversary (which, in matter of fact was actually three years ago). We made it, there and back again, and had a wonderful time.

We limited our travels to Katerini, Thessaloniki, Athens, Rhodes, Patmos, Ephesus and Bodrum, a couple of days in each place. We stayed the longest on Patmos, five days, because of the ferry schedule. Most of these places are tourist destinations because of the beaches, but we are a couple of old folks now and enjoyed ourselves in going from café to museum, to archaeological site, to ancient church and back to the café again. And besides, it was a cool spring and too early for the beach anyway. The time away from work was refreshing, and the new perspective on the New Testament that one gets from being there where it happened was invigorating. Even on a linguistic level, I enjoyed learning a bit of modern Greek.

I’ve already been asked about the highlight of the trip, but the fact is that there were many highlights: Celebrating the Ressurrection in the Katerini town square with a couple thousand Orthodox believers, getting lost in the narrow streets of old Thessaloniki, climbing Mars Hill and looking for someone to debate with, sailing by Cnidus, hiking on Patmos, climbing the steps of the theater in Ephesus, buying a Turkish carpet in Selçuk, and of course, eating. It was a glorious holiday and I would now consider myself a certified tour guide, so if you are thinking about a trip to Greece, consider my services.

But that wasn’t the end of the travels. Half way through our trip we were on Rhodes and our daughter Mary contacted us and asked about the possibility of moving up her wedding date from August to May 17, since we were “so close” in Europe. A quick consultation with the in-laws, Mike and Christine Wright, and then with the travel agents and we cut our trip short by just a few days and hurried across the ocean to Williamsport, PA where the Wright family was feverishly preparing for a garden wedding at their house.

The families gathered and Mary and Steven Wright pledged their troth and were married, by the pond, Steven’s dad, Pastor Mike, officiating, on a cool May afternoon. Two days after the wedding Susan and I were back at the airport. Tomorrow we arrive in Mozambique and will be back at work again.

While we were in Greece, I had Jacob and Amisse drafting in Revelation; appropriate, I felt, as much of our trip we were actually tracing St. John’s path. I look forward to getting together with them next month.

Thank you so much for your prayers and we look forward to seeing many of you later this year. We return in August for six months and will begin putting together our furlough schedule over the next months.

God bless you and keep you,

Pressing on,
John I

Steven and Mary Wright
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