January 2020: 2019 Year-End Letter to our Friends and Supporters
"With God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)
We are living in a world that is being continually shaken. Perhaps you have experienced a shaking in your own life this past year? We desperately hunger for more of God, the God of the impossible, who moves on behalf of His people.
It has been a year of storms, floods, displacement and loss for the poor of Mozambique and Malawi – a year filled with seemingly impossible situations that have motivated us to pray more, trust more, and expect more. It has been a year of opportunities to be there in the storms, thanks to you our Iris family. Your support and prayers have enabled our teams to run into the destruction and bring provision and the good news of the Kingdom of God to many; “hope and a future.” God has done the impossible in the midst of the shaking, and He has used you. Whatever is going on in your own life today, God is able….
Don Kantel, our IMC agent and missionary in Pemba, Mozambique writes:
Many aspects of the Lord’s work stand out in 2019 through our ministry in Pemba (Mieze and Noviane), Mozambique. In particular, we registered and supported six young people in our long-term care in university degree programs, another 16 in vocational programs, and 57 in secondary school. A second highlight was our response to April's devastating cyclone that saw over six feet of rain fall in six days. We immediately provided food supplies, clothing, school supplies, mattresses, etc. to replace what was lost in the flooding by families in our care. Then we began a long-term project to repair or replace houses damaged or destroyed. Several houses were repaired, and five new houses were built for children and their families in our sponsorship program.
[Our project built five new houses in 2019 to replace houses of children in our 'Stop- for the One - Canada' : Child Sponsorship Program. Their houses were completely destroyed in April's devastating Cyclone Kenneth.]
Our ‘Stop for the One—Canada’ sponsorship program continues to be an incalculable blessing to needy children (and families, as well). The visible difference between sponsored children and others still completely mired in poverty and suffering is both striking and heart-rending. Our sponsored children are healthy, happy, progressing in school...and all know the Lord! In God’s economy, the $35/month to sponsor a village child or $50/month to sponsor a child resident in our Mieze and Noviane children’s centres creates benefit and blessing out of all proportion to the actual dollar amount. We are so thankful to all of our sponsors…and we always welcome others to join us in this special ministry.
[Some of our happy Pemba village children receiving their monthly sponsorship support.]
All of our projects are undertaken in Jesus' name, and all praise goes to him alone!
Steve Lazar, our IMC agent and director of the Zimpeto Base in Maputo, Mozambique writes:
As the year draws to a close, it is always good to reflect back. I am continually reminded that the only difference between me and those who God calls us to serve in Mozambique is where we were born. Every parent in Mozambique has the same aspirations for their children as I have – to raise them up in the ways of the Lord, have a good home and ample food each day, a good education, good health, and a loving family environment. IMC projects and your support allow many of these aspirations to be attained.
One of our sweetest stories in 2019 is of a widow (Elena) who is part of our Hulene (garbage dump) community in Maputo, Mozambique. Elena has been helped by IMC for more than 10 years. She was baptized by Heidi Baker in 2002, and was a regular attendee at our church in the dump for many years. In 2012 Elena became disabled and was unable to leave her house. We immediately put her on the food box program. Her family would come each week to collect her box. In 2018 we learned that she was unwell - her family had abandoned her and was not passing the food on to her, and her house had collapsed. We rebuilt the house this year and have arranged for a neighbour to pick up Elena’s food each week. We are able to give the neighbour a little help as well, as she generously helps us to oversee Elena on a daily basis.
The milk program sees dozens of babies loved and fed. Our Mozambican nurses and staff oversee the program on a weekly basis. Nothing is more precious than seeing a weak skinny baby become fat and happy; milk, love, prayer and care – all part of the program.
Our teaching this year has focussed on the importance of family. God never created Children’s centres, yet they exist. In the 18 years that we have been leading the Zimpeto base (where we began with 500 children) we have brought 600 children into the centre, and have reintegrated 900 children back into family homes in the community. We believe in family and whenever possible want every child to be in a loving and caring environment with a family member. It is a huge blessing having seen a generation of children pass through the centre and be blessed in so many ways. Thank you IMC for sharing this vision over all of these years.
David Morrison, IMC missionary and director of the Bangula base, Malawi writes:
Zikomo! Thank you! You have sown into the lives of many Malawians this year through your generous giving. We proclaim Christ every day, and many lives are being changed. Challenges continue here in one of the poorest nations of the world, yet we serve a God who can do far more abundantly than all we ask or imagine. In March, Malawi’s President declared a state of emergency after a powerful tropical storm settled over the region, unleashing torrential rains which caused substantial flooding, displacing 83,000 people, and causing death or injury for many. The Iris team were among the first responders distributing emergency relief supplies. Our women’s Bible school class, in session at the time, brought comfort and love to many disaster victims through encouraging words and prayer.
[Bible school women praying for flood disaster victims.]
While others lined up to receive handouts at temporary camps, Mary was salvaging what she could of her waterlogged maize crop. She borrowed a boat to carry her soggy maize from the garden back to dry land. This physically demanding work was not without risk, as crocodiles lurk beneath the surface of the Shire River. Yet Mary was determined to rescue all she could even though much of her crop was already rotten and smelly! After putting in months of hard work in the garden, this subsistence farmer (like thousands of others) was overcome with disappointment. Mary knew the risks of planting so close to the river, but fertile land is scarce and the banks of the Shire River provide some of the best soil. Mary was successful in recovering a portion of her crop and very grateful for the gift of relief food she received from Iris, thanks to your generosity.
[Mary, transporting her water-logged maize after the March 2019 flood.]
The 100 citrus and mango trees that were planted 4 years ago enjoyed the rain and have reached maturity. It was a joy to give the first fruits (sweet, delicious mangos) to 25 children with cerebral palsy and their families. These children attend a monthly support group at Iris where they receive encouragement and a bit of respite from their daily challenges. The kids have varied levels of mobility, but many must be carried everywhere. The support families receive through Bible teaching, wheelchairs, and physiotherapy exercises, are helpful in the children’s development. There isn’t another support group of its kind in the district.
[Children from the cerebral palsy support group enjoying the mangoes.]
There is also great excitement about the commissioning from Malawi Prison Fellowship and the Malawi Prisons Service to provide ministry to inmates at two district prisons in southern Malawi. A trained team of Iris leaders have now graduated their first group of 40 inmates at each prison from a program called ‘A Prisoner’s Journey’. There is much joy and celebration resulting from the changed lives of those who have encountered God under such difficult circumstances. God is near to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
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Below is a glimpse into some highlights of the past year from some of our IMC missionaries:
• It has been an exciting journey since moving to Asia last spring. Due to the timing of the cyclone destruction, I arrived and immediately worked to gather a team who then dedicated a tremendous amount of time and effort to purchase, sort, and package needed items, and ship three 40’ containers to both Mozambique and Malawi to bring assistance to those in devastation. This past summer we shipped another two containers filled with construction materials to build housing for the poor, and provided needed supplies for the people and school students. Seeing the Lord provide in miraculous ways time and again to make this happen has been the highlight. (Anonymous Missionary - Asia)
• This past year has been defined by God’s faithfulness in the midst of transitions and new opportunities. Changes have freed up our time to pursue the vision in our heart of establishing a discipleship centre for teaching, prayer and worship. The discipleship centre has become a safe haven where former Muslims who have come to Christ can freely study the Bible and pray. Throughout the week locals are being equipped in their walk with God, for a lifestyle of ministry, with strategic tools for evangelism, and filled with the presence of God. We have seen amazing unity in the Spirit and conviction in people’s hearts to hunger and thirst for more of God in every area of their life.
Having English as our native tongue has also afforded us the opportunity to teach in the Muslim communities. This past summer we hosted English camps for children, teaching each lesson through biblical stories, and displaying the love of God to these beautiful people. Many of these children showed a desire to understand more about Jesus and the need for His forgiveness and mercy.
The greatest gift we received this year was during our transition back to Canada for the birth of our third child and first baby boy, for which we are so very thankful. As we look to the future and the beginning of a new year, we are seeking God for fresh vision, continued joy in His presence, and methods for sustaining the ministry in the Middle East. (Anonymous Missionary Family – Middle East)
• We’ve been in South Africa for more than two years now, and feel like we are South Africans in our hearts. We’ve rooted ourselves into the community and church, and are partnering with many local ministries. Other than work with kids in church, townships, kids clubs and farm kids, we also work with a group called Legacy Relay, where we share skills that they won’t necessarily learn in their school curriculum, which include music, science and art.
Our deepest and most personal ministry has been with our teen girls in Avian Park. One of these is ‘J’ (14), who has been faithful in her Mailbox Club leadership, as well as in her time with us. She is an incredible blessing to us. She has taught us how to tie a doek (a cloth headwrap), and helped us shop for needed health foods. We see her as a daughter and she knows it. Our bond has allowed us to share back and forth the things in our hearts. J comes from a family that struggles with drug abuse, alcoholism, illness, lack of food and an overcrowded home. We love to take J on outings with us, to church, the beach and to visit friends. She and the other girls are part of our legacy, as we are training them up, with Holy Spirit’s help, to be world changers in their own town. The children love them and are learning from them. (Tony and Laurie-Ann Copple - Western Cape – South Africa)
• It’s hard to believe that I am already writing another end of the year update! 2019 has flown by and we have witnessed and experienced the goodness of the Lord this year. As was mentioned in a previous update, we moved from the interior to the city this year. We are now at the Iris Base in Fortaleza. It has been good to connect with old friends and get God’s heart and vision for the base here in Fortaleza.
Some highlights in 2019 were participating in two mission’s schools (one in Fortaleza and the other in South Africa). It is such a blessing to see new missionaries that God is raising up to send to other parts of Brazil and the nations. I feel honoured to get to speak into the lives of these new missionaries. Another highlight has been seeing how God is raising up believers from the community (read ‘slum’ or ‘favela’) where we are currently working. Lane and I feel so blessed to be a part of what God is doing here in Brazil and in the nations! (Jason Dueck, Fortaleza, Brazil)
• It’s been a year of blessing and God answering my prayers and heart’s desires. Chenela and I were engaged in January, married in May, and are now expecting a baby! We definitely waited a number of years to take these steps, and can see how God has been in the waiting…. Take comfort from our story that God does listen, He’s always with you, and He loves to bless his children. We both will continue to serve in our roles here at Iris Malawi, and we are looking to 2020 with great anticipation!
Journalist, hospitality manager, tour guide, business administrator, financial accountant, plumber, business manager...these are a few of our young adult’s ‘soon to be’ job descriptions! It has been a pleasure (as always) assisting our young people in finding the right educational opportunities and making dreams come true; albeit slightly altered dreams. Many of our kids dream of becoming a doctor, nurse or pilot, but when we closely examine the potential for each, I have the responsibility of helping to guide them to the practicalities, while at the same time seeking to keep their dreams alive. Most have found passion in their studies and are very encouraged by their results. I am so proud of each one, and deeply grateful for the support that comes from donors who are investing in our students.God continues to bring in support when it is most needed, enabling yet another to go further in their education, and hence their futures. Please keep praying for our students who face all the challenges of college and university.(Sarah Masson - Bangula, Malawi)
• Weddings in Malawi usually take place when the couple is older and able to afford hosting the whole community. As our Iris family grows up, we are trying to create some new wedding traditions by encouraging young couples to make a commitment before God and family, followed by a simple lunch together. We have had three such weddings this year and we hope to see many more. (Joanna Morrison – Bangula Malawi)
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We thank all of you for your support, prayer, friendship and companionship as together we run the race set before us.
Janis (On behalf of the IMC Board of Directors)