Farewell, From Tonga
With a sad heart and tears in our eyes, Edie and I must say our goodbyes to AFM and the Tonga Project. We are leaving the mission field and returning to the USA. This news must be coming as a shock to many of you. However, David’s eighty-three-year-old mother is not in good health, and David has made the difficult decision to return to Oklahoma to care for her. She has been a widow for six years, and last year she was in the hospital two times for extended stays and needs daily assistance. We chose to stay in Mozambique until a replacement missionary family could be found to take our place.
This is not the end of the Tonga Project but only the start of a new chapter. A Brazilian couple in their thirties who worked with AFM in Guinea Bissau (Northwest Africa) in 2022 has already arrived in Maxixe to take our place in Mozambique. We picked them up from the airport on April 28, 2023. Their names are Geovan and Daniele Machú. They both speak Portuguese fluently and can jump right in and take leadership of the Tonga Project.
We have been missionaries with AFM for eight years and have had the privilege of working on two different projects. We reopened the Ama project along the May River in Papua New Guinea in 2015. In 2019, we became the first AFM missionaries to serve at the Tonga Project in Maxixe, Mozambique.
As we look back over the years, we need to uplift God and not ourselves for all the accomplishments that have taken place during our ministry. We don’t consider ourselves more spiritual than others, but we were willing to serve in a foreign country and devote our lives to building up people, and God did something wonderful through us. We have built a few church buildings, but our most precious accomplishments are providing practical, spiritual training for promising church leaders and laypeople. We think it is strategically wise to invest in people. Besides, we get great joy in doing so.
The men and women we have trained have been far more effective missionaries among their people than we ever were. The number of converts through their labors has far exceeded ours. Plus, they continue to multiply God’s kingdom even after we are gone!
If we break down our ministry into categories, we could categorize our mission work in two ways. First, we met people’s physical needs, like feeding the hungry, giving clothes to those in need, helping the sick with medicine and hospital care, and building homes for homeless people. Second, we focused on the spiritual needs of our church members and leaders. We have handed out Bibles and SDA hymnals and conducted Daniel and Revelation seminars, Bible studies, and leadership training. We have also taught people the power of prayer and of the Holy Spirit, especially when praying intercessory prayers. We have discovered that we enjoy watching our students apply our teaching as they win souls for Jesus.
Edie loves carrying evangelistic books in her purse, giving them to everyone she meets. She has given away thousands of books to people in vegetable markets and grocery stores, on the street, and at public toilets, police checkpoints and government buildings. We know some of the books have been instrumental in leading people to baptism. But most are just seeds planted, ready to be watered by the Holy Spirit. Our goal has been to plant the gospel seed everywhere we go and to prepare young people with the skills necessary to grow sprouts (with the help of the Holy Spirit) into strong church members and train them to be soul winners, too. This process can repeat itself over and over again!
During our eight years of service, we have experienced our ups and our downs; our successes and our failures. In Mozambique, the Lord blessed us with the opportunity of distributing food to the hungry and helping to build two houses for widows and four church buildings. Through the Holy Spirit, three souls chose baptism, and more are still receiving Bible studies. Through supporting the Calebe Missão, we have seen another 100 baptized. our successes and our failures. We have had many opportunities for fear and the testing of our faith. We have endured scary robberies, a few close calls when traveling by canoe, and we narrowly missed head-on collisions by car. David was held by an angry, violent drunkard, and we have received multiple death threats. We have been sickened countless times by malaria, endured COVID-19, and David had a bout of typhoid fever. But through all these, we can testify that the angels of the LORD surrounded us in their care and delivered us from injury, sickness and death (see Psalms 34:7).
Seeing the successful gospel work of our two Bible workers, Fernando and Júlio, whom we trained in 2022, greatly fills our hearts. It is as if God sent us to Mozambique for the purpose of training them. We gave them three months of intensive studies of our 28 Beliefs, taught them how to preach, how to pray, how to tell Bible stories, how to give Daniel and Revelation studies, and how to rely entirely upon the power of the Holy Spirit to open hearts and minds to the gospel.
Then we sent them to the field. Fernando went to the village of Nhamaxaxa, and Júlio went to the town of Mabil. For the past 13 months, these young men have been diligently knocking on doors, praying with people, and giving Bible studies. We met with them weekly to monitor their work, provide encouragement, answer questions, and teach additional skills. Within a few weeks, both gave three or four Bible studies six days a week. We had to counsel them to ensure they had a full day’s rest. They currently have about 68 ongoing weekly Bible studies, four small groups, and four children’s groups each week, besides Sabbath services. They have already led 12 people to baptism.
About eighty-five percent of the people in the 12 area churches are in their teens and twenties. Each year, they gather and organize a three-week-long evangelistic work called Calebe Missão.
In 2023, seventy of them went to help Fernando in Nhamaxaxa and gave hundreds of Bible studies, resulting in 43 more baptisms. Suddenly, a church was born, and they needed a church building. Providentially, AFM was able to buy the land on which the campmeeting tent had been pitched, and we have begun building a concrete block church. Fernando has been acting as a pastor and teacher for them. He has done a fantastic job. The Holy Spirit has been blessing his ministry and answering prayers. They meet Wednesday and Friday nights and all day on Sabbath. On Sunday mornings, they have Pathfinders. Between 50 and 60 attend church. The church doesn’t have electricity, so when it is night, they sit in the dark under a tree and read their Bibles by flashlight.
In the town of Mabil, Júlio has raised a group of 17-20 believers ready to begin worshiping on Sabbath. In March, we purchased land not far from the center of Mabil. It took six weeks of intensive prayer to get the needed authorization signatures from Mabil’s chief to build a church on our new property. We hope construction of the church will begin in June and be completed by September. The youth are already planning to have another Calebe Missão at the end of the year to help Júlio fill up the new church that will be built. We anticipate a rich harvest of souls!
What else did Jesus do through our ministry? While working at May River, Edie and I both had the privilege of teaching three classes of men and women to read the Bible in the Tok Pisin language. God also enabled us to build eight churches out of jungle materials, assist with preparing nearly 1,000 souls along the May River and Ama for baptism, sponsor a dozen Bible workers in the villages, purchase hundreds of God-Pod solar-powered audio Bibles and hundreds of printed Bibles, distribute bales of clothes and bags of rice, construct a fuel shed and an AFM missionary house (interior not completed), bring solar panels and lights to the villages and complete the construction of a huge dugout canoe. The May River church was rebuilt, Sabbath School classes received quarterlies, and children’s classes thrived. God also led us to begin a Discovery Bible Study class in our living room to teach church members to give Bible studies. We were never perfect, but as we look back, we thank God for the good He was able to do through us despite our many shortcomings.
In Mozambique, the Lord blessed us with the opportunity of distributing food to the hungry and helping to build two houses for widows and four church buildings. Through the Holy Spirit, three souls chose baptism, and more are still receiving Bible studies. Through supporting the Calebe Missão, we have seen another 100 baptized.
We will never know until heaven the full results of our work in Papua New Guinea and Mozambique. But we can’t take credit for these accomplishments. None of this would have happened without our supporters and prayer warriors making this possible. And, most importantly, without the Holy Spirit, we would have had no success at all. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your support over the past eight years.
Our final desire is for you to support Geovan and Daniele Machú as you supported us. Goodbye, until we meet again in heaven!