January 2022: 2021 Year-end Letter to our Iris Family & Friends
All praises belong to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For He is the Father of tender mercy and the God of endless comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:3 (TPT)
David Morrison, IMC’s legal agent and Director of the Bangula base, Malawi writes:
In December, Joanna and I took a break from the intense heat and met some friends at the top of the Zomba Plateau, 1,700 metres above Bangula. The sound of the mountain wind rustling through the trees was soothing, feeling the cool breeze on our faces, refreshing. The trees were waving their branches in the rhythm of the wind, and flowers danced in the breeze, all showing little resistance apart from being rooted. Here I reflected on the past year, a difficult one filled with both joy and grief.
[Looking out over Malawi from the Zomba Plateau at dusk.]
Our Iris family has suffered the loss of Ruth Khofi (Children’s Home mom) and also our long-term leader and friend, Peter Nkhoma. The bible school community was also shocked by the sudden deaths of two student pastors. More tears, more loss. Difficult times usher us close to Jesus, reminding us to fix our eyes on Him, to not look back, and to fight the good fight. Our team was stretched as many had to step into new responsibilities with hands on the plough, shouldering new burdens. Mother’s Day is celebrated in Malawi on October 15th and tears were shed even as gifts were offered to Rejoice, our new house mother. The provision of another does not erase the loss of the first. What could we do but bring this grief to Jesus, and remember with gratitude the love that has been shared.
[Rejoice (centre) together with the Iris girls of Village 2. Rejoice joined the Iris Children's Home team in April.]
Yet, in all this loss, the comfort of the Lord was present. A highlight of 2021 was being together with our 50 church overseers from all over Malawi who gathered for several days twice last year to worship the Lord and be encouraged by the Word of God. These men and women were thirsty and hungry for renewal and a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and they received. They are the shepherds for the 460 Iris churches established in the rural villages throughout the country. Much is required of them as they face the pain and suffering experienced by many church members, including hunger, sickness, loss, persecution, and unrest. These men and women are on the front lines, carrying the Gospel as they courageously serve the least.
[Iris church overseers from all all over Malawi gathered at the Iris base in Bangula in June and December for worship, teaching, and fellowship.]
The Iris Bible School was re-opened when the pandemic restrictions eased, and we invited 30 women from all over Malawi to come. Women’s bible school is always exciting as many have never been away from home before. Their lives at home are shaped around work - cutting and carrying wood, fetching every needed drop of water from the village well and then carrying it home on their heads, sweeping away endless sand, caring for children, growing food, cooking over a fire, and washing clothes by hand. Bible school is the first and perhaps only break these women will ever have, and it is such fun to watch. We celebrate their rest and their learning, which may be the same.
[Women's bible school class in July 2021.]
We have so much to give thanks for. Our Iris family has been healthy despite the covid pandemic. The Iris orchard produced sweet mangoes, oranges, and lemons. Out of the gardens we harvested onions and sweet potatoes. Two Iris youth graduated in accounting and another in journalism. We celebrated the joyous wedding of Thandizo and Chimlana. Emerging leaders were empowered and have grown in their leadership through boldly facing new responsibilities. Timothy, our Malawian national leader, faithfully led the Iris Malawi team through the ups and downs and is worthy of the respect and trust given. Financial gifts allowed us to support more students in post-secondary education programs, build three homes for Children of Hope families, provide metal roofing for Iris churches and give hundreds of thousands of meals to the poor.
The events of 2021 have illuminated our need to lean into our faithful God, yielding without resistance, so we can dance like the flowers in the wind.
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Steve Lazar, IMC’s legal agent and Director of Iris Zimpeto in Maputo, Mozambique, writes:
As we begin a new year, we give thanks for who God is and for what He has and is doing. Though my wife (Ros) and I are not yet able to return to the base, our Maputo team has done exceptionally well under the leadership of Augusto and Clara Lopez, as we continue to oversee from Australia.
All of our programs have continued to run, and new projects implemented amidst pandemic restrictions. The addition of the community housing program and university education program support has enabled us to continue helping hundreds each week. We are proud of Augusto Lopez, who graduated in 2021 with a degree in electrical engineering.
Joao, one of our youth who grew up on the base, has worked hard to care for his extended family. By building this young man a small house (and others similarly), they can establish roots in their local areas.
Jesus always led by example. Dinez, one of our community pastors, washes cars by day while studying to be a mechanic. Providing a house for Dinez and his wife has allowed them to take in others needing the loving care of a family; this is the gospel.
The infant milk supplementation program supports many undernourished babies and their moms. We provide prayer, supportive counsel, milk, and food until the babies reach their goal weight. Baby Cristo was born in August; her mom died shortly after giving birth. The infant’s grandmother took over Cristo's care. The grandmother cannot work, so we supply food and milk to keep them both well. This is pure religion – caring for orphans and widows.
[One of our missionaries visiting with Helena; one of the widows we provide for.]
The girl’s sewing program is expanding to train more young women now that the new sewing room is completed. Young men in our carpentry program have made all of the wooden furniture for the new area.
Christmas is a very joyful time for the base and community, a time to share the love of Jesus and lift His name high. Our Christmas Eve service, Christmas pageant, chicken dinner, and presents for all make for an extraordinary time of celebration and joy.
Thank you for standing with us during this difficult year. Students continue to receive an education, the community fed, babies and widows cared for, bible school students studying and graduating as pastors, and houses are being built for those in need.
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Below is a glimpse into some highlights of the past year from our IMC missionaries:
• 2021 was a year filled with miracles from Jesus. I have stood amazed, time after time! Eleven containers containing hundreds of different items were shipped to Mozambique and Malawi. People accepted Jesus. A new church was planted. More than fifteen people were healed from sicknesses. And we were able to continue training people online and reach out to the poor in outlying areas. Jesus is my everything, and without Him, I can do nothing.
Thank you for your love, prayers, and generosity. Together we share in the joy of every miracle of God. (Anonymous Missionary - Asia)
• We have been in South Africa for over four years. By the grace of God, we stayed a year longer than anticipated. When you read this, we will have just returned to Canada, in part to care for Laurie-Ann's father. We will miss the bonds and partnerships with the local ministries and the people in the townships we served. We became family with the teenage girls that spent much time at our home during the restrictions in place due to Covid. We shared food, our wifi (so they could do their homework), and most of all, we shared a deep love between us. We encouraged some of the girls to take the Alpha course, and one chose to be baptized. When it didn’t work out for a pastor to do it, Tony had the privilege of baptizing this young woman, followed by our team praying and prophesying over her and her mother. Such rich times, now memories.
We are deeply thankful for your prayers, support, and encouragement these last four years, through the many ups and downs. Laurie-Ann is still doing well as a cancer survivor; we give all of the glory to God. (Tony and Laurie-Ann Copple - Western Cape, South Africa)
• We have been back in Canada for two months already. After serving in Fortaleza and the surrounding area for the last eight years, we left with many mixed emotions. So many memories flooded our minds during our last weeks there. We were sad to be leaving close friends behind, both missionaries and those we ministered to. In some ways, it still seems surreal that we will no longer be doing life together. We are, however, excited about this new season and all that God has for us. We sense that this will be a season of connection and of seeing the Lord awaken callings to the mission field and mission in general.
Our last few months in Brazil were filled with a flurry of activities that included translating documents, wrapping up the ministry and saying goodbye to dear friends, packing, selling our car, covid tests, passing on responsibilities, finishing my seminary application for my return to Canada, cleaning, killing cockroaches, chasing rats out of the house and much much more! Our fellow missionaries threw a going-away party for us, and many tears were shed.
Thank you to all who have been a part of our journey and will continue to be a part of our journey. We love you all. (Jason Deuck - Fortaleza, Brazil)
• Joy to the world was my greeting throughout the month of December! Since returning to our home in Malawi, I’ve been praying for our centre to reclaim our joy. I am proclaiming that the Joy of the Lord is our strength. There have been many losses this past year. As we daily decide to choose Joy, we are trusting Jesus to bring healing to our hearts and for joy to return.
Our family is glad to be back and reunited after being apart for so long. It has taken a few months to get used to life at the centre again. All of our Iris children have grown at least 6 inches, and many have become teenagers and grown into young men and women (all while I was locked down in Canada for 1.5 years). Our son Josiah is settling in and slowly making friends. Being born in a lockdown, arriving back to so many kids on base was a tad overwhelming for him at first. The Iris children at our centre have graciously accepted him, and together they stir up a lot of joy! Josiah loves to laugh and carries joy around the centre. I am finding my place as I evaluate the priorities in front of me daily, asking God to show me what’s in His heart for me each day.
Though Christmas is now past, please join me in recalling (and singing if you like) the timeless and ageless song, 'Joy to the World', and proclaiming Joy over our world! (Sarah Masson - Bangula, Malawi)
• This has been a year of growing and pressing on despite the loss. It felt a bit like a long uphill where you put your head down and focus and keep on pushing. There is exceedingly great joy in the breakthroughs, celebrating the graduation of four of our Iris students and participating in the wedding of one who faithfully waited for the right time. These are gifts along the path encouraging our hearts. (Joanna Morrison - Bangula, Malawi)
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We are so grateful to you for generously standing with us in ministry this past year. Your love, prayers, encouragement, and support enable us to continue serving the poor in Malawi and Mozambique. May you be drawn closer and closer to our Saviour as we step into this new year. He is the one who makes everything possible. Our partnership together is all to the glory of God!
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion endures throughout all generations. The Lord upholds all those [of His own] who fall and raises up all those who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to You [in hopeful expectation and You give them their food in due time. You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
Psalm 145: 13-16 (AMP)
With blessings and love,
On behalf of the IMC Board of Directors