January 2017: 2016 Year-End Letter to Friends and Supporters of IMC
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords
of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when
you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your
Righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
When you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.”
(Isa. 58: 6-9)
It is easy in these days to get overwhelmed by the injustice, bondage, and poverty (physical and spiritual) that we see in the world around us. What gives us great hope however is to know that the Lord has chosen us to partner with Him in loosing the chains, untying the cords, feeding the hungry, and clothing the naked. Iris Ministries Canada (IMC) wants to thank you for labouring with us in this mission to accomplish the fullness of what the Lord has called us to. We pray that as you move into 2017 you will see the richness of God’s promises from Isa. 58 manifest in your life and, most importantly, that when you call, He will answer you and say “Here am I.”
Don Kantel, IMC missionary in Pemba, Mozambique writes to us:
This past year has witnessed a dramatic and unexpected reversal of the previous few years' progress in Mozambique's war against poverty. Poor villagers on fixed or no income (who comprise 80% of the population) have seen prices for basic commodities double and triple in the past 12 months. Village children are noticeably thinner, hungrier, and dirtier than we've seen them for many years.
This situation has severely challenged us in Iris, as more and more people in truly dire need are looking to us for help. We are approached many times a day by desperate people we don't even know; and it has been very hard to have to say no when the need is so real. But we have tried to focus on the children, families and staff to whom we have made on-going commitments. Our primary concern is to ensure that the children and families our supporters have invested in are sustained during this difficult time and enabled to continue to walk into the fullness of God's plan and purpose for their lives.
As a consequence, we started giving our 23 Mozambican staff a monthly ‘bonus’ equal to 35-40% of their salary to help make up for the loss of value in their fixed income. This is enabling them to continue to look after the basic needs of their own families. We have also increased by 50% the weekly distribution of sponsorship money to our 55 sponsored village children. This is helping ensure that these children are able to continue in school and that their families are fed and clothed. We've also significantly increased personal assistance to children in particular need, especially with school-related expenses, both for our sponsored children and for their friends who are regular in church attendance.
It doesn't seem likely that this current situation is going to change for the better anytime soon, so we are prayerfully weighing each need and seeking to be obedient to Jesus' voice, realizing that commitments made today may have to be honoured for a long time into the future. We could do none of this without your support and prayers, and we thank you.
[Poor village children have been coming in increasing numbers to our Saturday morning discipleship program at Mieze. They receive a plate of beans and rice following the program; but these days, most of that food goes into a plastic bag to be shared with a hungry family at home.]
David Morrison, IMC missionary and Director of the Bangula base, Malawi writes:
The flood of January 2015 continued to collect its toll well into 2016. Fields buried in sand do not recover in one year. While trying to recover, insufficient rainfall during the 2016 growing season destroyed crops and produced an extensive food shortage. The Malawi economy continued to worsen, with rising inflation and further depreciation of the Malawi Kwacha which contributed to the overwhelming crisis. The food situation fluctuated between ‘stressed’, ‘crisis’ and ‘emergency’ depending on what volume of humanitarian assistance was currently at hand. This has clearly been the toughest food crisis experienced in our 14 years as missionaries.
[Children in Bangula waiting for a meal to be served at the Iris Africa church conference in July 2016.]
Earnestly Malawians prayed and were encouraged from passages of Scripture such as Jer. 17:7-8: “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He/she will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Even when we were unable to provide food, those who needed help gathered to pray and encourage one another. We are thankful to the Lord who provided over 2.25 million meals that we shared among the most vulnerable people in need. This is a remarkable answer to prayer and evidence of generous hearts caring for the poor!
[Children receiving food from the Iris Africa food distribution program.]
Another answer to prayer in 2016 was the promotion of several of our Malawian leaders. Timothy Makwalo is maturing in his new position as Director of Ministries and Operations. Recently, missionary Alison Walker, after training leaders at the Primary school, promoted Cosmas Banda to school principle, and McMoment Khwalala as the new deputy head teacher. Equipping Malawians to lead the ministry continues to be a priority for us as this moves us forward to a sustainable ministry.
[Timothy Makwalo serves at the Iris Africa Director of Ministries and Operations.]
[From left to right, Comas Banda (Primary School Principle), McMoment Khwalala (Deputy Head Teacher), and Alison Walker (Missionary from Australia).]
We are encouraged by the signs indicating a new direction for Malawi’s food security in 2017. The rains have begun and seeds have been planted. Pray with us for sustaining rains that will produce an abundant harvest in the New Year.
[Iris children, together as families, planting maize in their garden at the Iris Africa base in Bangula, Malawi.]
[The latest addition to our Iris family. This young man brought us great joy when he arrived with his brother in September 2016.]
[Iris kids creating birthday cards for their friends.]
Steve Lazar, our IMC agent in Maputo, Mozambique and director of the Zimpeto base writes:
Another year has flown by. God has been teaching me much about miracles this past year. Jesus did so many amazing things here on earth, and over 2000 years later we still see the same miracles happening right here – the deaf hear, the blind see, the lame walk. Here in Zimpeto the ‘other’ miracle is that of bringing up children, attending to widows, sick, hungry and the uneducated and, as Psa.133 says, to “lift the poor out of the dust.” This type of miracle is a marathon, a race that is life-long. With each life touched, we see His glory come.
IMC supports a wide variety of projects here. Several university students who have been sponsored by Canadians will finish in 2016 - a doctor, a financial banker and an engineer. We are building a new small house for our widows and using the former home for bible school accommodations for an ever increasing number of women studying at Zimpeto. Mozambique is a country where men are men and women stay at home. This is changing and we are encouraged by the bible school where more than half of the students are women. God is raising the status of women and placing them in positions of authority in the work place, government and the church.
[Visting community children with our food box program.]
[Bible school students working in kitchen.]
[Widows house construction.]
We also asked each of the IMC missionaries to share a glimpse into their personal journey’s in 2016:
• We’ve had an amazing time at Zimpeto this year. The sewing program is going well, in fact so well that if I (Betty) go to the sewing room on my day off, some of the girls follow me in, all wanting to sew. It’s a joy to see them excited about sewing. It’s a safe and happy place for them and they are learning a skill at the same time. The boys in the carpentry workshop are now able to work independently on small projects without Emilio or I (Bob) supervising them. They have made significant strides this year. (Bob & Betty Blanchette - Maputo, Mozambique)
• There are a number of things that stand out from this last year. I married the love of my life, Lane Fernandes this last September! We have been focusing on discipleship here in the interior regions in Ceara and have seen the church here growing. Another highlight was seeing one young man who gave his life to the Lord last year do the Harvest School in Fortaleza. He went to India and Nepal on outreach and is now a full-time missionary with us here in the sertão! (Jason Dueck - Fortaleza, Brazil)
• What a deep joy it is, to get to be a part of what the Lord is doing in Fortaleza! I am profoundly stirred by the way that the Lord leads SO perfectly. This year we had the privilege of hosting our second mission’s school in Fortaleza, and it was a busy, stretching, rewarding, full, rich time for us. After the school we sent out teams to Nepal / India, Cambodia, Amazon and Piaui. As I think back over this last year, I am so stirred at the simplicity of our primary call and goal in life. We were created to love the Lord, and be in relationship with Him. Abide in Him….Always…And for me to always remember that really there is no place that I would rather be. (Jenn Dueck - Fortaleza, Brazil)
• Slow and steady in Cambodia! It's been a year of lots of transition, change and breakthrough. And through it all God has been so good and so faithful. This year we've seen more miracles and breakthrough than ever before - in our staff, with the government, on outreaches in the province, and in our slum with the children. We are going into this next year will hearts full of joy and expectancy, our eyes focused on Him, and hearts burning more than ever for the Cambodian bride. (Jen Jewett - Phnom Penh, Cambodia)
• Our Iris core values describe our distinct calling. We are consistently challenged by our leadership to teach and model ministry from this perspective. As Iris has intentionally planned for and encouraged second-generation leadership, these core values have been formative and set the standard. This year has personally brought me great joy as I’ve seen our next generation leaders equipped and stepping into new challenging positions. National and missionary servant-leaders, growing in character and maturity, are running with the batons being given. It’s both humbling and an honour to participate. (Elizabeth Kantel - Pemba, Mozambique)
• Malawi is suffering. I see many things that Canada dealt with over 40 years ago in terms of health care, infrastructure and development. I also see much hope in how IT will provide many jobs in the near future. I am hoping that someone will tune into this kind of market and education
for the young people. Natural disasters continue to put people into the most desperate situations. Severe drought after disastrous flooding in 2015 has ruined all food production for two or more years. Deaths have increased locally and random violence seems to be increasing as we hear the local news. People are more desperate than I have seen in my six years here in Malawi. We call out to our Father in Heaven for people to take refuge in Him and believe in His saving grace through Jesus. Pray this with us for Malawi and the world, "Though you (Malawi) have not seen him, you love him and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls." 1 Peter 1:8-9. (Sarah Masson - Bangula, Malawi)
• “A long obedience in the same direction” would summarize this year for me. Sometimes we don't get to see the fruit and we just know it is a time for keeping on. The light bursts through the clouds from time to time, just enough to fill us with hope. In a year of drought and suffering, four children came 'home' and many grew in faith and stature. That is my hope, my ray of light. (Joanna Morrison - Bangula, Malawi)
• I have recently returned to Mozambique after being away for several months. One moment that stands out to me was one Thursday evening when I was walking to children’s church. A boy whom I remembered (from when I was here before) came up to me and asked if I knew his name. I did and told him what it was. I also included that he had three brothers and I listed off their names as well. He smiled, satisfied and walked off. I smiled too. I was touched that he cared that I knew his name. I realized too that we all have that need inside of us. We all want to know that we matter and that we are remembered. We want to know that we are known by someone else. I pray we all have people who know us well. May we also know that we are known by God and may we know Him well. Thank you friends, family, and supporters for knowing me and coming along in my journey. May we continue getting to know each other despite the miles apart. (Gloria Mulder - Maputo, Mozambique)
• Feliz Novo Ano! (Portuguese for Happy New Year). This past year in Mozambique has been full of excitement, improving literacy, faith, love and heartbreak (more of which can be found on our blog: natashaevan.blogspot.ca). The seventy female orphans and vulnerable children entrusted in our care continue to wiggle their way deeper and deeper into our hearts and lives. We are so full of hope and excitement for what the future holds for each one of them. We're also very excited to announce that our family is growing; we are expecting a baby in March 2017! All of our girls are thrilled and can't wait to have a new little sibling bouncing around the dorm. It is true that this beautiful yet poverty stricken country of Mozambique both captures the heart and devastates the mind. We continue to press forth full of encouragement for a brighter tomorrow that begins today. (Evan & Natasha Richmond - Maputo, Mozambique)
• 2016 was a year of extremes. From sickness, robbery, fire and broken relationships, to building and teaching leadership, evangelism and witnessing the Light that was bringing transformation to the villages, it was a growing and stretching year. Through it all God was faithful in bringing the victory and expanding His Kingdom in Sierra Leone. My prayer is from Psalm 25:4 “Lord, direct me throughout my journey, so I can experience your plans for my life. Reveal the life paths that are pleasing to you.” Amen! (Sue Silva -Freetown, Sierra Leone)
Please follow the below link to download a CD from United Pursuit; our gift to you this New Year:
We bless and thank you for your faithful partnership which is making it possible for us together to be a channel of the Father’s love and care for so many.
Grace & Peace to you through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Janis (on behalf of the IMC Board of Directors)