Charles Woodrow presents the latest news from our ministry based in Nampula, Mozambique. You can read this newsletter online here.
Dear friends:
Read the two-minute version in red below.
Julie and I have been in South Africa since my last newsletter went out at the end of January. We expected to be back in Mozambique by the end of March, but after four months away, never-ending delays, obstacles, and unforeseen events still prevent us from even projecting a date for our return to Nampula and home!
Julie and I have been in South Africa since January.
We expected to spend the first month at a flat on the Indian Ocean where I could do extensive Bible study, reading, and writing on important matters relating to our church ministry in Mozambique. Indeed, that month was highly successful in accomplishing all my desires.
The first month was for studying and writing.
We planned to spend the second month securing and exporting supplies needed for the medical work back in Mozambique, which included the Mission’s brand new 8-ton truck and a 2019 Toyota pickup. That is where we encountered many bureaucratic difficulties greatly prolonging our plans. When we thought we were about to leave, we were chagrined to see that the repair job done on our old Bedford truck did not hold up for even 50 miles. The truck had been stranded in South Africa for over 18 months already because of needing a minor repair for an oil leak that ended up costing over $3000 and then because of closed borders due to COVID. Just when we thought we were a week away from leaving South Africa, the truck had to be returned to the shop once more where it remains until today. No parts are available in South Africa. Twice we have had parts flown in from the UK, a lengthy, expensive, and taxing process, but they did not resolve our problem.
We then procured supplies for our medical ministry in Mozambique, and encountered bureaucratic delays and truck problems.
In the midst of these battles, one month ago, Julie’s mother suffered a broken hip at the age of 87. Frailty and lack of will prevented her recovery, and she passed away two weeks ago. Julie returned home at once to help care for her elderly father. Weakness in his lower extremities precludes him from caring for himself, but arranging the long-term home health care he needs has become a challenging task requiring my assistance. I leave for the States later today. We both hope to return to South Africa within three weeks, but only God knows when we will make it back to Mozambique.
Sadly, Julie's mother passed away. Julie went to the US and I will now follow her.
Back of these non-stop difficulties, we see another hand at work. It may be the malignant hand of the evil one hindering us in every way possible now that we are on the verge of opening the hospital, in which case we must request fervent prayer and redouble our efforts. Or it may be that God has some other purpose for these setbacks and we need to be flexible and willing to change our plans. Please pray for wisdom to correctly respond to this situation!
Is it God or the enemy delaying our return to Mozambique?
Non-stop efforts to reduce our delay in returning to Nampula and our mission field has prevented me from preparing a newsletter, but now that I have given up altogether on the prospect of returning home apart from an act of God, I am writing to request your prayers toward that very end!
Please pray that we can make it home.
Please pray that the Bedford will finally be definitively repaired in my absence with no further hemorrhage of money just because of an oil leak!
Pray that the old truck will be repaired.
Please pray for success in setting up home health care for Julie’s father!
Pray for care for Julie's father.
Please pray that the ridiculous demands being made by the South African Revenue Service before we can export the $100,000 worth of mission supplies will be circumvented (more information below).
Pray for solutions to exportation hurdles.
Please pray for the appeal of the decision made by the lower court to return my property to the man who once owned it five years before I bought it and whose complaints had already been heard and rejected by 8 previous tribunals (more information below). In total, I have invested $325,000 of my retirement fund purchasing and developing that property for the Mission, based on guarantees provided me by the municipal authorities. That is money which will be lost if the lower court’s decision stands. If Julie and I can die in the traces, something I pray for every day, we will never need retirement money, and that is what we were counting on when we spent our retirement funds as we did. However, the Mission is losing what is now, thanks to our development, a very valuable resource for the Lord’s work!
Pray for my appeal of the judicial decision to return our property to its previous owner.
With that introduction, the rest of this letter will cover the following topics:
  • The new religious law in Mozambique (good news!)
  • COVID in Mozambique and our hospital, still serving as the COVID treatment center for north Mozambique
  • Projects relating to the church, launching our pharmaceutical company, opening the clinic, and establishing the surgical hospital – all on hold until I can return to Nampula!
  • Details about the court case for those wanting more information. This is an interesting story!
Toyota pickup
Julie and I cannot believe we have the luxury of an almost new, air conditioned, comfortable vehicle while still living in Nampula, Africa! Thank you to all the contributors who secured this wonderful blessing for us!
Read on to learn of the religious law, COVID, projects in Nampula, and details of the court case.
New Religious Law in Mozambique
In my last newsletter, I wrote about the proposed religious “liberty” law greatly restricting religious activity in Mozambique. The government circulated the proposed law inviting comments from Mozambique’s religious community. New restrictions on religious activity were to include the following:
A recently proposed religious "liberty" law worried me:
  • Religious people would be prevented from publicly practicing their religion. In order to meet they had to have their own building that was not shared by other tenants who might have to tolerate hearing their worship.
Public religious practice would be limited.
  • No new religion would be allowed to function or proselytize in Mozambique without first gaining 60,000 adult adherents, all of whom would have to appear before the government to present their legal ID documents and their petition to be recognized.
New religions would require 60,000 adult adherents.
  • Any new denomination or independent branch of a previously recognized religion would only be allowed to function or meet or worship corporately, including in private homes, after gaining 5000 adherents, all of whom would have to appear before the government with legal ID documents.
New branches of a religion would require 5,000 adult adherents.
  • Before it could function, any new religious entity (independent church, new denomination or association of churches) had to have a building suitable for them all to meet in (supposedly with capacity for the minimum 5000 adherents required by the law) and had to have a leader holding a degree from a three year religious training institute acceptable to the government.
Before functioning, a religious entity would need its own building.
My observation was that such a law could never originate in the mind of an African as Africans are among the most religious people on the planet. They worship and serve rocks and trees and rivers. Spirits are everywhere and control everything. In the past, such anti-religious sentiments as contained in the proposed law only came to Africa thanks to communism, but those sentiments were never effective in changing the African mindset. This proposed law was another attempt to do away with religion, but it did not come from communists, neither did it come from Africans in my opinion. I believed it was foisted on Mozambique by western globalist entities wanting to export their anti-Christian and anti-religious views to Africa. Though there are religious entities in Mozambique that seek to harm this country, such as the attempts of ISIS to gain an African foothold in the province just to the north of us, I did not think our leaders were against religion per se, or that they thought they could legislate a complete transformation in the African attitude toward religion. I thought the proposed law was something they had to float in order to satisfy globalist entities controlling financial aid to Mozambique, just as Mozambique is required to publicly promote abortions even though Mozambique law declares abortion illegal and Mozambique’s harried doctors and limited resources cannot support such nonessential medical activity!
Who was foisting this very un-African law on Mozambique?
Nevertheless, we requested prayer that this threat would not be realized, and now we thank God that when the government published the religious law that is to be passed soon by the parliament, every objectionable clause harming religion had been expunged! Religious entities can continue to function as they have been functioning to the present! Though I am no proponent of false religious activity, I am thankful that Christians can lawfully continue to promote the glorious light of the gospel of Christ unhindered in Mozambique. Mozambique badly needs that light, and Christ is worthy of being proclaimed and worshipped everywhere on this planet!
In answer to our prayer, all these objectionable provisions were removed from the law.
COVID in Mozambique,
Opening the Clinic
When I left Nampula, COVID had been gaining ground in an exponential manner. After at least six weeks without a single admission to the regional COVID treatment center (our hospital), in a short time we had reached a hospital census of 20 inpatients and five deaths per week. To our great relief, the exponential trend stopped at that point, and the hospital census actually dwindled back to almost nothing. At present there are only two patients in the COVID hospital, and deaths are again rare.
COVID cases in Nampula peaked January, but are back down again.
But in January, I had expected COVID to take over the entire hospital, and money was again spent needlessly preparing the facility for the expected surge. Plans to open the outpatient clinic were placed on indefinite hold. But now it appears again that Mozambique is relatively immune to COVID and we have three physicians and a dentist in our church prepared to work in the clinic when we can open, and a donor with HeartCry Missionary Society will supply the funds to pay the salaries for the doctors and all our ancillary staff.
So we would like to move forward with opening our general outpatient clinic.
Please pray that I can get back to Nampula and resume the work of opening the clinic to serve our community. Also pray that God would raise up a western-trained general medical physician (ER doctor, family practitioner, or internist) to oversee the Mozambican physicians who are all just out of medical school.
Please ask God to hasten this process and send another missionary doctor.
Projects on Hold in Nampula, Bureaucratic Tangles
Tata truck
Here is our brand new truck, loaded for weeks now and eager to be on its way to Nampula - but bureaucracy has thus far given a resounding "No!" to our plans. The truck has power clutch, power steering, power brakes, power parking brakes, everything! It is easier to handle than any of our other vehicles except the Toyota. I think I am dreaming while driving it! "Thank you" to all who made possible this gift for the mission!
Besides picking up the mission’s new 8-ton truck and pickup, we have two truckloads of supplies worth $30,000 that we need to get back to Nampula in order to complete construction of the guesthouse for visiting physicians and the pharmaceutical building we must have on hand before we can legally import medications for our patients. However, bureaucracy in South Africa is at the moment rendering it impossible to export anything.
We face bureaurocratic obstacles to importation from South Africa.
Back when we were building the hospital and exporting material worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, friends of the mission established a South African trust that functions as a legal business and exporter in South Africa. We get many great benefits through this trust. We are exempt from all South African taxes which saves us 15% on everything we purchase. Our status as an exporter and shipper allows us to cheaply export and transport all our goods free from any middle-man fees. A free trade agreement between Mozambique and South Africa allows us to import all South African goods into Mozambique exempt from customs charges. Finally, special arrangements the mission has as an investor in Mozambique further exempts us from certain Mozambique levies such that we can import both of our vehicles for free instead of paying up to 100% of their cost in taxes. Over the years, we have secured many importation benefits that are highly advantageous for the mission.
We are registered as a trust in South Africa with exportation privileges.
However, while the law secures all these benefits for us, during this trip bureaucracy has taken them all away by imposing paperwork requirements that are impossible to meet. One requirement is that we must have a letter from the manufacturer for every item we want to export under the free trade agreement stipulating that the manufacturer made the specific item in our possession. This is a tedious burden both for the exporter in requesting hundreds of letters from hundreds of manufacturers and also for the manufacturer in preparing hundreds of letters for the goods leaving their assembly lines. Thus, the bureaucratic requirement nullifies the laws passed by the legislatures of the two countries which allow us to import goods to Mozambique free from customs.
Onerous paperwork requirements make it difficult for us to enjoy our right to export free from customs.
While I am prepared to forego the great savings we are entitled to just so we can finally get home, another problem that for the moment prevents us from exporting any of our goods, which in the aggregate are worth over $100,000, is that the registration number for a trust is two letters and six digits – but bureaucracy now insists on a registration number of 13 digits in completing the customs paperwork. Nothing else will do, according to the bureaucrats. And so, despite the fact that our trust is a registered exporter with full rights of exportation according to the South African government, the bureaucrats are blocking us from exporting anything purely on the grounds that their computer only accepts 13-digit registration numbers from exporters.
Another hurdle is that a new computer system requires a 13-digit registration number, whereas our registration number has only six digits.
We are of course appealing this bureaucratic quirk, but no action has been forthcoming thus far, and so more delays.
This problem remains to be solved.
Finally, in August (assuming we are back home by then!) we will be hosting an American surgeon and his family who believes the Lord may be calling them to our medical-evangelistic ministry. Please pray for God to clearly reveal His purpose for them during this visit, at least where Mozambique is concerned!
An American surgeon will visit in August with a view to joining us long-term.
Court Case Details and Prayer Request
Quinta Graca from the air
For those interested in knowing the details of the litigation surrounding our land, the following information is supplied. It highlights the great risk of buying land in Africa where wars, government changeovers, and corruption are the norm. Knowing all of this, I pursued this purchase only after much prayer and after the Lord affirmed three “fleeces” I set before Him as conditions indicating His approval of the plan. I have probably never prayed as much about any decision I have made in life. To put it in perspective, though I prayed much about the decision to marry Julie (which should have been a no-brainer, but I prayed for months!), that decision was nothing compared to the prayer and fasting that went into buying land in Africa!
Buying land in Africa was a weighty decision for me in 2015.
The land I purchased in 2015 had belonged to another owner until 2010 when he lost the undeveloped farmland due to failure to notify the city authorities of his ownership when the federal government enlarged the city limits of Nampula and gave the city jurisdiction over his land. Notifying the city of his ownership of land in their jurisdiction was his responsibility, but he neither lived on the land nor used the land, and he gave no attention to his legal responsibilities connected with the land. It was occupied solely by squatters who had long used it for subsistence farming.
The land's previous owner had neglected his legal responsibilities.
Since the city did not know the land had any legal owner, they sold it to someone who wanted to develop it. That developer soon lost interest and four years later sold the land to me. In the meantime, the original owner discovered his land was in legal possession of someone else and notified the city government, but they said it was too late to do anything about the matter. He then took the case to several courts, but they all refused to uphold his claims. The city accepted these outcomes as confirmation that they had acted properly. They never nullified the deed of the first owner because they did not know about it when issuing their own deed, and then, after the courts upheld the action of the city council several times, they said there was no need to nullify the deed. The court decisions had taken care of that. Consequently, since 2011, my adversary has gone from court to court showing his deed and insisting that the land be returned to him. This has been repeated 8 times unsuccessfully, and so the city continues to consider it pointless to correct the paperwork detail that was omitted out of ignorance back in 2010.
He consequently lost the land when it was sold to a developer, who subsequently sold it to me. The original owner is now fighting in court to recover the property.
On the ninth attempt, my adversary took me to a court that is responsible for hearing cases of alleged theft and that has the power to return goods it determines were stolen. My lawyer laughed when he saw the complaint filed against me. There were two things that rendered it impossible. First, I did not steal the land but obtained it legally. Second, in Mozambique only the government owns land. The “deeds” are only agreements made by the government to let a citizen use the land for a specific purpose or time interval. He said it is impossible either to steal land or to give back land because the legal owner never changes, it is always the government. He said we did not need to do anything to defend ourselves, but we went through the motions, nevertheless.
After eight failed attempts, the ninth attempt was the weakest, according to my attorney.
My lawyer considered the case quite objectively from a legal point of view, but I took it personally and was much offended. To establish that I “stole” the land, my adversary alleged before the court that while he was prostrate in a hospital bed in Portugal in 2017 my daughter and I moved onto his property, built a wall around it, and when he came home from the hospital, he found two thieves blocking him from entering his land! This is a complete fabrication as we bought the land in 2015 and erected the wall by the end of the year! As for all my legal documents issued by the municipal authorities allowing me to possess the land and build all the infrastructure that is now there, including electricity, water network, a borehole, roads, buildings, drains, reservoirs, public lighting – all those documents were forgeries according to him.
The plaintiff's argument was filled with lies.
To further paint my daughter and me as villainous thieves, he asserted that Grace’s Mozambican citizenship was forged, that she was a ne’er do well harbored unknowingly by the Mozambique government under the false pretense of being a student here while in reality she lived a dissolute life-style like her father who frequented houses of prostitution. His complaint went on in such tones for many pages. My lawyer just laughed and laughed and said the case was not going anywhere. But later when we found out who would be hearing the case, he warned me that the judge had a reputation for rendering verdicts that were based on other factors than the law. After the first hearing, he warned me further that it was clear the judge had already made her decision before any evidence was presented, and nothing was going to change the outcome. He went from being amused to being very angry.
However, the judge, who is known for not following the law, sided with my adversary.
So that is the case that I have just lost. I think my adversary should be tried for perjury, but here the plaintiff can allege anything with total impunity since it is supposed the judge will disregard everything that is not proven. But the verdict is that I, the rich foreigner, have stolen the land and it must be returned to its rightful owner. My lawyer thinks the case will not be upheld by the higher court, but then, he is the one who once said it had no legs to walk on, yet it has just succeeded in carrying off the land and $325,000 of my retirement!
My lawyer says the appeals court will overturn the verdict returning the land to the plaintiff -- but could he be wrong again?
So, because this is Africa, I solicit your prayers that God will overturn this decision. The verdict was announced soon after I arrived in South Africa, and I have wanted desperately to speak to the municipal authorities showing them that it is long past time for them to do what they would have done back in 2010 and nullify my adversary’s deed. However, interminable delays and interruptions here have prevented that. Just when I was thinking of going back to Mozambique and leaving all the mission business unfinished in order to tend to my own affairs, it becomes necessary to support Julie back in the States as she attempts to see Dad Vawter properly cared for after the death of his wife!
Please pray for God to intervene!
The verse the Lord gave to me back in 2015 to galvanize my resolve to purchase and develop the land for church use after the three “fleeces” was Exodus 14:15 – “Why do you cry to me!? Tell the people of Israel to move forward!” At every turn related to the land for the past six years I have called out to the Lord, and then also repeated Exodus 14:15 – hundreds of times by now.
God used Exodus 14:15 to direct me to buy the land six years ago.
Recently I was lamenting to my host in South Africa my inability to return to Mozambique and tend to my own affairs because of the unimaginable delays and obstacles being cast down before me here. Mike Stolk, my host and the builder that erected our hospital, said the Lord was giving him a verse as he witnessed what was happening to me in South Africa. The verse was, “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” I said that was a great verse, but how could I know it was the Lord’s counsel for this particular occasion, aside from the fact that the Lord was leaving me no other choice. But then I asked where the verse was found. To my amazement, he said it was Exodus 14:14 – the other half of the passage the Lord gave to me back in March 2015 when I finally took the plunge and bought the land! I do hope that indeed Exodus 14:14-15 is the Lord’s word for Quinta Graça, both in 2015 and now in 2021. That will be quite a story, if it is borne out! Please pray to that end!
Now the rest of that verse offers hope that He will fight on my behalf in the current battle.
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