January 2018: 2017 Year-End Letter to our Friends and Supporters
"The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands."
Psalm 19: 1
Many places here in Canada we are blessed to witness the Northern Lights regularly. They often begin as a green arc in the sky before they explode into different colours. While out photographing them one night, one of our former missionaries realized they are the Lord's rainbows in the dark. Just as He sent His rainbow after the flood as a symbol of His faithfulness, He has also placed spectacular lights in the sky that can only be seen in the dark as a reminder of His faithfulness during our night seasons. We at IMC are so grateful for you and your partnership in this family, as you have helped to shine a light in the darkness of poverty for so many around the world. Through the seasons that come in your lives this next year, may you be reminded of the Northern Lights and His faithfulness.
David & Joanna Morrison, IMC missionaries and Directors of the Bangula base, Malawi write:
God Is Bringing the Harvest….
Every farmer dreams of a bumper crop, a harvest worthy of all the toil and sweat of the previous years. Most Malawians in our region farm, either as their primary source of food, or as a way to get cheaper food, or to sell for profit. Every year there are challenges, some more devastating than others. After three consecutive crop failures, this year’s crop was relatively bountiful, bringing the price of maize and beans down to an affordable rate in village markets.
[Iris child enjoying the August ’17 harvest.]
On the Iris base in Bangula we have been experiencing a good harvest too, in terms of men and women who are ready to lead. Our management team (which is mostly Malawian) is maturing in character, leadership skills, and communication. Our national leaders are taking initiative in both church ministry and sustainable farming, producing more vegetables for the ministry and planting trees to harvest firewood so that we no longer need to purchase wood for that purpose. This year, we have also planted a large fruit orchard, including papaya, mango, orange and lemon trees, with the goal of providing a piece of fruit each day for every Iris child. It is exciting to see our national leaders crafting a mission and goals which will further the vision of Iris Malawi. This has been our heart's desire from the beginning, and we are encouraged to see this dream become a reality.
[Iris Africa Malawi Management Team.]
Within the children's homes we are also seeing a lot of growth in leadership. Our house parents have begun to take the lead in dispersing clothing and blankets in the surrounding communities. Many of our house parents are involved in caring for the sick and the lonely in the villages, both visiting and assisting with counsel and finances. Lameck Peter, who started as a translator, now teaches several Bible school classes independently. Patrick Mostishu has taken on the leadership of the Bible school, freeing Timothy to devote his time to his job as director of ministries and operations. Peter Nkhoma, who is our operations manager, confidently supervises construction projects, transportation, and staff management. Chenela takes the lead role in administration and accounting as well as expanding his horizons by developing a computer data company to generate employment and income for the ministry.
[Chenela training a man who has entered employment for the first time.]
[Lameck enjoying a traditional Malawi game with some Iris boys.]
The next generation of leaders are presently in training all over the base. Our Iris student graduates are learning and growing as they work in the Iris office, at the Iris Primary School, overseeing the Dreamriders secondary school sponsorship program, and working in data entry. They have also taken on leadership in our wound care clinic and our cerebral palsy group, as well as Sunday School and Kids' Clubs. It is wonderful to see these young men and women, who have grown up at Iris, begin to invest in the community and in their own futures. We know that this harvest will continue in generations to come.
[Exciting to see our ‘grown up’ Iris kids maturing in character and leadership.]
Education is not guaranteed in Malawi. Even those who get selected to college or university may be disappointed in what is available. At the moment we have four students enrolled in post-secondary education: Wonderful in agriculture, Tembo in accounting, Ruth at Teachers' College, and Thandizo studying science and technology. This level of education is made possible through donors who contribute to a post-secondary education fund.
One of the ways we have ignited this new leadership is by taking five of our national leaders to visit the Mully Children's Family in Kenya. We spent 5 days visiting and observing Kenyan leaders caring for widows and orphans in their own nation. We witnessed creative leadership at all levels, walking through fields of irrigated crops and greenhouses full of saplings, sitting in on a choir practice and Kung Fu practice (both of which were led by Mully family beneficiaries), and participating in evening devotions with hundreds of children. It was our pleasure to spend an evening with Charles and Esther Mully to hear their story and to be inspired by their faith; 28 years and 12,000 children rescued from the streets are a tribute to the grace of God. Our national leaders were deeply moved by the example and humility of the Kenyan leaders we met.
[Iris team together with Charles & Esther Mully in Kenya, March 2017.]
Though there are days when we can only see the worm eaten crops, we are reminded that God brings the harvest. “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows, he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” Mk 4:26-29.
Don Kantel, IMC missionary in Pemba, Mozambique writes:
The end of one year and the beginning of another is a good time to step back from the day-to-day and focus on the bigger picture.
In our residential Mieze children's centre, we are seeing a significant number of children who've been with us since they were very young now ready to move on from primary to secondary school. That's a very significant passage in their culture; and in the case of all our children, absolutely no one in their entire extended family would ever have progressed that far in school in the past. This signals a major break from the limited life and opportunities of previous generations, and the opening of a whole new vista for the future for these children...one full of opportunity, promise, and destiny in Christ!
[Fernanda (left) and Maria (right) are two of nearly 50 young people IMC is supporting to attend the Iris Christian secondary school in Pemba.]
[The 1,200 students at the Iris secondary school in Pemba attend weekly chapel services.]
Similarly, the number of young people in our Noviane centre and among our village sponsored children who are attending secondary school is increasing every year. In 2018 several of these young people are expecting to graduate from Grade 12, and a number of these will continue to some form of post-secondary education. Again, this is completely unprecedented in the family histories of these young people. And it is testimony to the importance of the tangible and intangible enabling and encouragement these leaders of the future are receiving through IMC's programs and support.
Thank you for investing your resources and prayers in these young people...and, through them, in the future of their nation!
Steve Lazar, our IMC agent in Maputo, Mozambique and director of the Zimpeto base writes:
I am reminded of a story many years ago of a visitor who came; he arrived at the front gate and wanted to stay for 3 months. He had been in prison in Angola. His heart was to start a drug rehab centre. I had my doubts, but after prayer and counsel we gave him an old boat, $1,000.00 and a few boxes of pop tarts! In my mind I thought what a waste’, and yet our hearts desire was to be generous.
Three years later I met up with this man again. He took me across the river to his facility. He was now running a well renowned clinic for many youth from all over the world. He told me that without those gifts that we had given him he never would have begun.
This is Iris Ministries and IMC –giving and seeing life change for others. Investing in the poor and needy and seeing them grab hold of opportunities and fly. 2017 has seen more of the same – lives touched, students training academically in University, as well as students being trained in practical skills in programs that include carpentry and sewing.
[University graduates meeting with the director of Barclays Bank.]
[ Meeting with Bob & Betty Blanchette and daughter Renee in November 2017. The Blanchettes set up the Sewing and Carpentry programs at Zimpeto.]
Supporting our garden project sees produce for our kitchen and training for youth. Training our future leaders of churches in our quality bible school is a worthwhile investment.
In all of these ways, and many more, your gifts to IMC are touching many lives. Thank you for your generosity – you can never lose.
We also asked the IMC missionaries to share a glimpse into their personal journey’s in 2017:
• We arrived early November in South Africa, amidst water restrictions and a severe drought. After a weekend in Cape Town, we arrived in Worcester and it rained for two days – very unusual! We believe that this is a great blessing to begin time in the country that has called us ‘home.’ Reunions with the Iris Western Cape missionaries were sweet, and we are in foundation-building stage for the ministry to come. We are looking for the right place to live and minister, for networking connections (with other ministries and churches), as well as supporting the work of the base and the other missionaries. In the midst of building this foundation our focus is to stop for the one, whether it is in the streets of Worcester, with those we meet in the guesthouse we are currently staying in, or anywhere else. We are looking forward to Christmas in the southern hemisphere (without snow)! (Tony & Laurie-Ann Copple - Western Cape - Worcester satellite cluster - South Africa)
• This was my first year in Cambodia. I have truly enjoyed being part of what God is doing in this beautiful country! I have learned a lot about keeping my eyes on Jesus instead of suffering, to stop for the one, and never stop believing for breakthrough. One of my highlights, which happens every week, is worshipping Jesus with the kids in the slum. God’s name is being lifted up in a place where darkness tries to take over. His light is driving out the darkness through the children’s worship. (Brenda Dueck - Phnom Penh, Cambodia)
• 2017 is a year that has flown by! There are a number of highlights when I think about what God has done this past year. The northeastern region of Brazil’s interior is in the middle of a severe drought, the worst drought in over 100 years. In the last 6 years crops have failed and livestock have died. Our team prayed and cried out to God that he would send rain and for the land to be healed. Well, in February it started to rain! It rained and rained and many of the water reservoirs, which were previously dry and cracked, overflowed with water! Crops started to grow again and farmers had water for their animals.
We believe that what is happening in the natural is a sign of what is happening in the spiritual. We have started to do Bible studies in the local high school and have seen young people stirred by the Holy Spirit and return to Christ. God is raising up a new generation here in Brazil! Some other highlights include an evangelistic impact held in the city of Choró, done in partnership with other local churches, and a missions training camp that we held in January where we saw God stir young people’s hearts for missions. Another highlight has been our literacy program as we are seeing adults learning to read and write. (Jason Dueck - Fortaleza, Brazil)
• This year has been another year of perseverance. Continuing on, and holding the promises from God ever close to my heart. Diving even deeper into all the bitter-sweetness of life and culture that is Cambodia, and believing in his goodness and his faithfulness through every situation and circumstance. And through each season this year, I have really seen his divine goodness shining through it all. "But these things I plan won't happen right away. Slowly, steadily, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!" Habakkuk 2:3 (Jen Jewett - Phnom Penh, Cambodia)
• During our twelve years in Northern Mozambique, we’ve seen vast cultural changes happen in the lives of girls and women. Twelve years ago the majority of village girls were never enrolled in school. Today our urban girls expect to graduate from high school and many will pursue further education or training. Thank you for your support that has made this possible. We are so proud of these young women who grapple not only with new expectations but also the day-to-day challenge of integrating their faith into godly life choices. (Elizabeth Kantel - Pemba, Mozambique)
• The mission field continues to be a challenging and stretching place....but where does my help come from? My Father in heaven continues to consistently come through and provide for me. He has provided a great vehicle solution this year, and he provides support to the many that we serve alongside each day. We are not literally in trenches; however, some days feel like a battle, a long climb up a hazardous, steaming hot road! We are in a battle against the enemy. But where does my help come from? It comes from my Daddy in heaven! When we have no idea what's coming next, God already has a solution laid out! He is incredibly faithful to us in Malawi.
I've so enjoyed giving career counselling to our young adults in the next phases of their lives this past year, and I look forward to sending them off into more fruit bearing activities this coming year; exciting times ahead! I choose to look at the good and be thankful every day for the children God has placed in our lives. Last year I wrote the following: "I also see much hope in how IT will provide many jobs in the near future." And now we have a data entry business on site! Yes and amen to IT in rural Africa. (Sarah Masson - Bangula, Malawi)
• This year has flown by. One joyful report is an update on the child I mentioned in my October update. She will be returning home in time for Christmas. I knew that was the plan and I wanted to support the mom in being able to continue providing good nutrition for her child once she returned home. My idea was to have the mom come to the centre and educate her on what types of food to feed and what strategies to use for feeding her daughter. Our reintegration team (similar to social workers in the west) has been making arrangements with the family to ensure the child is returning to a safe home and family situation. The grandparents are now involved with the mom to care for the child, and social welfare is also now involved as well to look after the nutritional needs of the child.
It is not what I pictured but it is what God has arranged and it is way better than I could have ever arranged! The family has been strengthened by coming to work together, and the local resources have been utilized to ensure this child is well looked after. I could not be more pleased. This situation reminds me that God's ways are always better than our ways and I am so thankful to see His work. He has utilized the Mozambican systems. He has lessened the dependence on outside help. He has strengthened the Mozambican systems and empowered the Mozambicans to care for themselves rather than relying on others to care for them. He has arranged for this precious girl to return to a loving supportive environment with resources to care for her needs - her physical and emotional needs will be looked after. (Gloria Mulder - Maputo, Mozambique)
• I have been in Sydney, Australia since June 2017. Although these past 6 months have not looked like exactly as I had envisioned, it has been a season of growth. As a small team, we have spent the past few months building relationships and connections in the community. We have done outreach to the homeless and starting to build a bit of a rapport with people and local organizations. It is very different being in a westernized culture and learning different ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I have been focusing on ‘stopping for the one,' asking Jesus to highlight someone while I am out and about in my day, and finding someone to encourage and pray with. As I plan for my return back to Canada in the new year - I am excited to see how Iris Sydney continues their pioneering work in the heart of Sydney. (Krista Noack - Sydney, Australia)
• Feliz Natal & Novo Ano! (Portuguese for 'Merry Christmas & Happy New Year'). This past year in Mozambique has been full of excitement, improving literacy, faith, love and challenges (more of which can be found on our blog: natashachristina.com). It is so exciting to see our girls learn how to read, to watch their new front teeth push through, to hug them in times of tears, to act out Bible stories together, to see their faith grow, to care for them and to love them through teenage angst. 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 and we are so grateful for the opportunity God has given us to be with them. This past March we were also thrilled to welcome our baby boy, Mateus! Raising a baby in a developing nation has its challenges, but oh so many blessings. His Mozambican sisters couldn’t be more in love with him and spend time fighting over whose turn it is to hold him, play with him, and hug him. 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)
• 2017 was another year of stretching, yet great joy! We moved to the village and I was finally able to start the children's ministry that was on my heart. Sunday school was begun, with numbers sometimes over 30, from babies to 13 years of age. Additionally, 3 kids' clubs were soon to follow. On one of our Boys club days we taught on the Holy Spirit, and the lesson focused on raising people from the dead. We carefully wrapped our 'dead' person in toilet paper from his head to his toes. After we prayed and declared, "in the name of Jesus, LIVE!" He broke out of his 'funeral wraps' and jumped up! I tell you, we have so much fun! These kids, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are going to be village changers, town changers and nation builders, in the name of Jesus! God is on the move in this generation of kids, doing great and marvelous things! As the kingdom of darkness increases, so too the Light of the world increases! Pray for Sierra Leone....a nation close to God's heart! With Adoration to Who He is, love always…. (Sue Silva -Freetown, Sierra Leone)
Please follow the below link to download a CD from United Pursuit; our gift to you this New Year: http://www.mediafire.com/file/cc3cc5cx143kgbb/Divinely_Beautiful_-_United_Pursuit_-_2017_Christmas_Album.zip.
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)