Charles Woodrow presents the latest news from Nampula, Mozambique. You can read this newsletter online here.

Dear Friends: Please note that the interesting story of this report is found in section 4.

Read the two-minute version in red below.

1. Julie’s Operation

This is a response for the many praying friends who have asked about the results of Julie’s shoulder operation.

Thanks for pray-ing about Julie!

After three weeks at the Indian Ocean, Julie and I returned to Pretoria on Monday for her procedure. A 15-day course of antibiotics had finally resolved the skin infection that forced the original delay in her treatment, but as the Lord would have it, the infection recurred just days before the scheduled procedure and again proved refractory to treatment. And so again the procedure had to be postponed!

But a recurrent skin infection has again cancelled her shoulder operation.

Fully eradicating the organism that so far has prevented the surgery will require a prolonged course of antibiotics. About the time that is completed, Julie is scheduled to travel to the States to help daughter Gracie prepare for her upcoming wedding this 24 June. After that, until October, a whole series of major events related to ministry in Mozambique will preclude the operation from being undertaken. So, with the surgeon’s blessing, we have postponed the procedure until October.

Now the repair will have to wait until next October.

The difficulty is that arthritic changes in Julie’s right shoulder have produced a serrated bony tunnel that is progressively sawing through one of the four major tendons or muscles that hold the arm to the shoulder. This happens little by little every time the joint moves, and it causes pain which Julie will have to continue to endure, though steroid injections so far have given much relief. The more troublesome problem is that in time the tendon will end up completely severed, making repair of the shoulder more difficult. The tendon is already cut entirely through in some places, but a few strands are still valiantly holding the ship together. Pray with us that the remaining fibers will endure until October!  

Pray that injections may relieve the pain, and that the tendon will last four more months without severing completely.

During the operation the harmful serrations will be filed down so they can cause no more damage, and the tendon will be sewn back together like new. Thanks to the marvel of modern surgical techniques, the repairs can all be done through arthroscopes, but the post-op recovery is worse than the illness, involving prolonged immobilization followed by months of physical therapy. However, the adage that “A stitch in time saves nine” rules in this instance, and we must address the matter as soon as we can.

Post-op recovery when it happens will be worse than the current disease!

2. Our Time at the Indian Ocean

During our three-week vacation at the ocean, I was disappointed to finish only a small portion of just one of the three major Mission projects I had intended to complete during our annual break. Routine day-to-day administrative challenges back in Nampula filled up almost all the time I had planned to use for these projects. Julie and I devoted one day for touring and sightseeing, and we enjoyed relaxing together with no interruptions nearly every evening, something that we normally cannot do in Nampula. The location is beautiful, with a grand view of the Indian Ocean just outside our apartment, so we thank God for this wonderful provision from kind friends who own the apartment, even though the working aspect of the vacation did not come up to expectations!

The path to the beach 100 yds from our apartment

On vacation we thanked God for good times of relaxation in a beautiful place, but unceasing admin tasks precluded finishing any of my special projects.

3. Charles' Health

A second reason I could not address the projects was that I spent an hour nearly every day swimming laps in the pool as part of my cardiac rehabilitation after heart surgery. My strength and endurance improved much, though ongoing anemia meant I had to spend twice the time resting between sprints as before surgery, and that made the workouts time consuming! But I heartily thank God for the fine opportunity where we were staying to enjoy such a pleasant form of rehabilitation!

While we love the Sight and the Sound of the Surf which we enjoy 24 hours a day from the balcony of our flat, we are not so keen about all the Sand, Salt, and Sun, not to mentions Sharks and Seaweed! At some beaches there can be too much Skin, too, but not at this one. It is private! But for these reasons, our annual pilgrimage to the beach usually lasts about 15 minutes!

Up close with all the S's

Daily one-hour workouts in the pool provided great cardiac rehabilitation after my heart operation.

After three months, my follow-up endoscopy last week confirmed that my duodenal ulcers are healing but not completely. Another two months of medical treatment is necessary. Unfortunately, the residual lesion is still bleeding, producing ongoing anemia that is not easy to correct because, despite taking good iron supplements, my iron stores are almost entirely depleted at only 15% of the lowest normal level. But I feel fine and strong except for diminished exercise endurance. Pray with us for complete healing of these ulcers with no recurrence.

Heading back to Safety, where there are no other S's!

Follow-up studies show my ulcer is almost healed but still present and bleeding, causing ongoing anemia.

Pray for final healing!

4. A Testimony in Favor of

Scripture Memorization

The third activity that consumed the rest of potential project time was three hours every day that Julie and I devoted to prayer and, in my case, review of memorized Scripture. Clearly this level of commitment is possible only when on vacation! And indeed, it did preclude finishing the other projects. But for the past two years, I have needed extra time for Scripture review as my brain cells slowly die off.  

Scripture review also consumed a lot of time on vacation.

For some reason, which I personally ascribe to the Holy Spirit, from the first year of salvation, I have had an undying desire to hide God’s word in my heart. As a new Christian, I was like a greedy miser. If I saw a good pithy verse that clearly laid out a vital doctrine or important Christian practice, I wanted it to be all mine forever, and that seemed possible only by incorporating it into the molecular makeup of my being. It may sound strange, but somehow this was how I thought and reacted where the word of God was concerned, and it continues through to today. I know of others with similar testimonies.

From salvation I have had a curious drive to memorize Scripture, which I ascribe to the Holy Spirit.

But during the first couple of years, it was distressing to note how old verses were forgotten as quickly as new ones were learned. How helpful it was to finally learn a method the Navigators recommend so that memorized Scripture is never forgotten. It requires having a good system for reviewing the verses that have been memorized in the past, and I have found that their system has worked wonderfully for me throughout 47 years. While my children lived at home, it worked perfectly for the hundreds of passages they learned, and also for the many people in our church who keep hundreds of verses in memory.

In my case, once learned, every verse or passage must be reviewed at least once every three months to stay in active memory, ready to be used by the Holy Spirit at any time while preaching or witnessing or praying or when personal conviction of sin or wrong attitudes is called for.

The Navigators have a method to keep from forgetting verses. It takes time, but works for everyone I know who uses it.

The Holy Spirit will use verses that have been hidden in the heart. I know!

I can testify that quenching the Holy Spirit de-rails this whole process. The verses are there, but they do not come to mind when they should. Mark 4:24-25 is very important, because there Christ warns that to receive more light (or more illumination – something the Holy Spirit does for us), we must practice what He taught us already. Christ says that those who practice the word will receive more understanding and light, while those who ignore what they are taught will forget even what they once knew. Even while sitting in the pew on Sunday morning listening to fine preachers, they will dwell in darkness. The Holy Spirit will not use the word being sown in their hearts. How dramatically I have seen this as a pastor, and how dismaying it has been to see it in a more limited way in my own life! 

But first we must strive to practice what we have memorized!

But when, at just the right moments, the Holy Spirit uses the word that has been hidden in the heart, it is marvelous! For decades I have maintained that while I have benefited from every kind of Bible study technique folks recommend – reading quickly through large sections, studying carefully individual verses with pen in hand, doing topical studies, consulting commentaries, learning systematic theology, reading the Bible cover to cover annually for years on end, preparing sermons, using concordances and Greek resources for word studies, reading the works of other Bible students, listening to sound Bible teachers – the single source that has been most rewarding for me and the last that I intend to lay aside, is Scripture memorization. Memorized Scripture has indeed radically transformed how I think about everything, and has guided innumerable important decisions in life that have had dramatic long-term consequences.

The results are so marvelous that of all methods for using Scripture, memorization is my favorite and will be the last I relinquish.

Just as one example, when I was about to embark on a nine year stint as a bachelor surgeon in the military making a lot of money every year, friends arranged a meeting with a Christian financial advisor who explained to me how I could invest all my surplus income during those years such that, when I was finally free to go to the mission field, I could live the rest of my life just on the annual return from what had been invested during those years of plenty. I was impressed with his presentation, but while he showed me the fine returns from his portfolio, the only verse I could think of was how riches take wings and fly away, while the surest investment would be the one mentioned in a memory verse I regularly reviewed, Luke 6:38. “Give, and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, and shaken together and running over shall men give into your bosom! For with the same measure that ye mete withal, it shall be measured to you again.”  

An early example was memorizing Luke 6:38. A financial investor once impressed upon me the importance of investing during nine years of plenty so I would never need financial support later as a missionary.

That was a no-risk promise I could take to the bank! So there and then, I resolved to live on as little as possible during those years of plenty just as I was being advised - and give all the rest away. It was God’s divine financial plan, and I stuck to it all nine years I worked as a bachelor surgeon with no debts and almost no overhead. I earned a general surgeon’s salary but lived in a one bedroom single-wide trailer home, drove a 14-year-old used Plymouth compact that never aged, ate the cheapest food available in the super-market, and gave all the rest of my paycheck away, except for $150 a month which was my token investment in a retirement account just to show that I was being responsible. And to my surprise, I found that being a philanthropist to Christian needs brought tremendous joy and satisfaction that far exceeded anything I would have derived from living in a fine house or driving a Mercedes Benz or eating expensive food. And wearing designer clothes was never an option in the Air Force anyway!

I listened, but instead of investing in his portfolio, I lived frugally and invested my paychecks in Luke 6:38 - "With the same measure that you give, it will be given back to you." It gave much joy . . .

And when the time came to go to the mission field, I never went on deputation and never asked for money. Our home church just sent Julie and me to the field with no financial guarantees from anyone – and from that day to this, God has provided everything we have needed to meet all our personal needs and build and outfit a hospital and host large conferences and stock bookstores where books are sold for less than their cost to us, and to give away much literature every month for free and to support nationals developing their own ministries, and to spend our vacations in beautiful resorts on the ocean at no cost to us!  

. . . and the last 40 years have proven that indeed God's portfolio yielded the best financial returns!

Even when we have needed large sums of money, in excess of $100,000, it has been provided so quickly we have a hard time shutting off the flow soon enough. I am convinced it is because memorized Scripture was used by the Lord to point me in a direction I certainly would never have thought to go if left to myself.  

The Holy Spirit uses memorized Scripture to give sound guidance!

I make no claim to noble motives in that strategy. Knowing that I was going to need funding for a costly medical ministry, and that the returns promised by the financial advisor would still fall far short of that, I gave to others with the hope that God would one day provide much more than what the advisor’s portfolio could, and God has done that. The glory belongs to the Lord, because He supplied the promise and kept it, while I only supplied the desperate need that made an otherwise selfish sinner cling to that promise. And then I found much unexpected happiness in the process!

My motives were not noble. I just knew I needed a lot of money. God gave and kept the promise, I only supplied the need, but found much joy.

Because of the wonderful ways God uses memorized Scripture in my life, I have ended up sacrificing many other valuable spiritual methods because I will not resort to them without first spending the time that it takes each day to review once every three months all the verses that have been memorized over 50 years, which for me is 30 minutes daily Monday through Friday. It is a sizeable ongoing commitment, but the spiritual returns are such that I cannot give it up.

The time required to keep the Bible in memory may leave little time for other study methods, but the return justifies the sacrifice.

5. Scripture Memory Catechism

Accordingly, one of the three indispensable projects to have completed on vacation was the Scripture Memory Catechism I started compiling over ten years ago, hoping that other friends or my own grandchildren might benefit the way I have. I have done previous verse catechisms for the church and for my own children when they lived with us, but this is intended to be a more professional and extensive work.

One of the precluded projects was finishing Scripture memory catechisms in two languages.

Frustrated when I saw that it was rare even on vacation to have eight hours per week to devote to these large projects, I determined that Julie and I would remain on in Pretoria until all the major projects were finally completed. At home I am always desperately behind on scheduled responsibilities because after completing personal, family, and work devotions, the entire day is spent just handling things that come up from moment to moment. It seems nothing on my personal work list gets attention, let alone major projects requiring hours of uninterrupted study, unless I work through the night when no one else is awake.

If God permits, I hope to tarry in Pretoria until those projects are done, despite the needs back in Nampula!

However, staying away from Nampula is hard on us and on the people back home who we are supposed to be serving, so we will see what finally happens. Pray with us for wisdom and guidance in how and where to spend our time in the coming days.

Pray that God would guide and give wisdom for tough choices.

In the Good Shepherd,

Charles and Julie Woodrow

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