The Mongers in Tanzania!

We live in Mwanza, Tanzania, serving with Emmanuel International and local churches on physical and spiritual development. Find out what's cookin' ... particularly on the fuel-efficient stoves Tim works on and Rachel cooks on!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The Terrifying Mzungu

That precious moment as happy parents give thanks for the gift of their baby, as God's blessing is bestowed upon the small child. But then the utter terror as those small, sweet dark eyes suddenly open wide to see a large, very white face just inches above their own! I know from personal experience here, that many babies and young children are completely terrified at their first sight of a mzungu (white person) and thus I was rather apprehensive when I was asked by the Pastor to hold every baby prayed for in the special service on Sunday. An honour. A recipe for disaster. But thankfully only two out of the eight infants screamed in terror during their blessing.

The mamas and their babies

Happy now!
It wasn't only these babies that had rather a shock that Sunday. Tim was also rather shocked as the singing came to an end, with the news that he was the preacher. He did very well, preaching a good sermon (appropriately on children) off the cuff, in Swahili. Amisadai said, "You did very well Daddy, even though you didn't know what you were doing!"

Our focus in going to this small church in Kisesa (where we earlier walked the Water Walk) was actually agricultural and not on children per se! We are preparing to run part of the conservation agriculture project in this area, starting in September, working with farmers on 8-10 plots in total. Tim is working really hard at the moment getting everything prepared for this. But it was very encouraging to see that children are important to this church. Through a large Sunday School and a recently started English Medium Infant School, it is evident that they value these children and are doing all they can to teach and train them well.


I am thankful for Sunday as a positive footing for getting to the blog. Truth be told, it hasn't been easy recently, and I never quite know how to write when it isn't! I don't want to put a glossy, everything-is-great coating on everything, but neither do I want to use this blog as a whinge and woe-is-me outlet! But reality is what it is and in it all, I do find that looking for the beauty in the tangled threads is easier when I come to write about it! (This said as I attempt to reteach myself to knit and crotchet with another project brimming in my brain, and find that Louisa is doing much better than tangled, fumbling me!)

As my tumultuous thoughts are rather rambling at the moment ... around a cautious, fearful Gideon (in the Bible) who needed nothing that he thought he did, a burned meal and a lot of smashed jars along with the deep questions like "why am I here?" ...  I will stick to the more easily explained tangle of our weekend.

One of the things I have been eagerly working on (with the able help of Joseph) has been a kitchen keyhole garden. I had just excitedly planted all my English herbs and started planting the garden's "medicinal" component (more about this later). My aloe vera (on whom I pinned many ideas and much potential) was carefully planted out with strict instructions to all around not to water for at least a week.  I planted various flowers and grasses to welcome my soon-to-be-beloved bees to their new hives (still under construction, but coming soon). 
The kitchen garden under construction

But disaster struck. A freak rainstorm in the dry season. An absolute deluge. Heavy rains. And it continued throughout much of Saturday. It flooded roads, washed the streets with piles of rubbish and carried mud and mire in its wake. I watched in helpless horror as my precious aloe vera lay in a pool of water, as the soil nursing those tender little seeds was washed away with the torrents. The day was very dark (the storm took the power out as well). My job list for the day was impossible with no computer, no oven and no garden. So we read the Hobbit aloud together. We went to bed early but only to be disturbed in the middle of the night by mysterious men with torches inside our gates, creeping around the perimeter of our house. I was imagining machetes while likewise creeping around the inside of the house, in the darkness, following their every step around the outside, as I planned our defense or escape route, ... but it turned out they were investigating the power cut and the guard had let them in. The rain stopped and the sun returned but the power didn't come back until Monday evening, by which time I was more than a little concerned for the 3-day defrosted contents of our freezer and frustrated with the lack of progress on various fronts.

But now normal service has returned. The phones are charged, we have computers again and our cookie and bread supply is restored. And on the subject of bread, I am left wondering again about Gideon, about a dream of a round loaf of barley bread that could collapse the tent of an enemy ... and thinking that I really don't need what I think I need.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Tadley Team Tanzania

The Brits have departed. Now in the quiet, tired, rather subdued calm as we clear up and finish unpacking our boxes, I am finally re-emerging and posting a rather overdue blog update!

The team has been just fantastic! We had our pastor, Greg Whittick from Tadley Community Church here with four young people, Samuel, David, Lottie and Alex, also from Tadley. They will tell their own story here later, but here is a quick snapshot of all the things they got up with us ...

David, Samweli, Alex and Lottie with the infamous Vomiting Fish of Mwanza

Team Tadley 2014
They arrived on June 26th and jumped in immediately the next day with a seminar on discipling young people in the church. It seems this will be the start of something bigger; Tim will carry on with what Greg has started, working with pastors to help them see the potential and opportunity in training young people.

David leads "Set a Fire" at Mkuyuni Church
In their first full week in Tanzania, the team worked at two separate schools for children with albinism connected with Under the Same Sun. It was a special and moving time with these kids. A young boy shared his story with us. He and his brother and sister all have albinism and he told of how when living at home, they were woken by intruders in the night. He and his siblings managed to hide that night. But the next night, the men returned. While hiding, his sister was found and he was helpless as they cut pieces from her, including her tongue, and sat and drank her blood. Another girl, Elizabeti who is missing a finger, shared her story also. These kids, considered by many to be a curse, have lived a life of danger and rejection. They have witnessed and experienced horrific things as their body parts are sought after for witchcraft purposes. But it was beautiful to listen to these children share how God has saved them and to hear them share their hopes to become accountants and pilots and to help others like them. And it was wonderful to share some fun and laughter doing games and songs and crafts.

Arts and Crafts

Parachute Fun!

Greg's Famous Balloon Ministry!

Lunch with the children at Jellies School

After a 2-day trip to the Serengeti, camping in tents and seeing all the incredible wildlife, they were back leading services again for their second Sunday. They enjoyed a special service and lunch with the street kids of the city. It was great to all share a meal together; we all tucked into huge platefuls of rice and beans! The BMCC church is helping these kids get vocational training or more importantly, returned to their homes and reconciled with families. The work with these kids is also growing with Mwanza International Community Church; the work is ballooning really as more and more kids are coming to Sunday services! Girls on the street are also coming; one young girl arrived with her newly born twins (you can see one of them below). All are in desperate need of help, both physical and spiritual.
Pastor Zakayo (MICC) with the children at MICC
The team's second week was a trip to Kome Island. A 6-hour ferry got us all to our guesthouse, where the team experienced the joys of no running water and multiple meals of fish and saw some of the poorest living conditions they have ever seen. We "helped" in Dr Makori's clinic and did surveys in the area. The aim was to discover what the main sicknesses in the area are. From our research, the top problems were typhoid and amoeba and other stomach related illnesses (water-related) as well as the usual problems of malaria. The survey was also able to find out more about childbirth situations. Jountwa, one of the guys from Mwanza International Community Church, came with us and was able to offer counselling for people with HIV AIDS. We were able to walk around the village in the late afternoons/evenings, visiting people, praying with people and sharing the love of God with loads of children that followed us as we went! Samuel came into his element as he shared the gospel with his flock of children!  Greg and Tim were very encouraged after meeting with local pastors, talking about how the church can reach out to their community and how they can disciple young people. Tired and dirty, but healthy and happy, we returned to Mwanza via the night boat... an experience the team will never forget as they struggled over rocks through the sea of people both coming off and getting on the boat, all with sacks of rice and jabbing elbows on a narrow causeway jutting into the lake.

Attempting to board the ferry!

Greg leads the Pastors Seminar on Kome Island

Their work finished with some teaching at Console Nursery, the school run by Mama Minja for orphaned or needy children. We succeeded in our goal to get a smile from a little girl called Esther, whose father has died of HIV AIDS and whose mother is very ill with it. She is a malnourished and sad little girl from a very difficult home situation, but we coaxed a smile! 

More parachute fun at Console Nursery

Alex and Lottie work on making a clay stove (they later cooked on one!)
So it has been a full three weeks, but thankfully all stayed healthy and although it seemed impossible at times, all were fed and watered daily (note to self for the future... do not try and host a team after just moving house and with a small dodgy oven and without sufficient help or a washing machine!) The team was a great encouragement and blessing to us and many others and they have opened doors for the work of God here. They have worked hard, they have served and given so generously and have learned and received even much more!

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Planning to be Generous

We have recently been overwhelmed by generosity. Overwhelmed by people who give. Overwhelmed by how an opportunity to give results in so much more than one gift received.

Last weekend (Friday to Tuesday) we were treated to the most amazing hospitality from our friends in Victory Christian Centre in Dar es Salaam. They invited Tim to teach at their Bible School and preach on Sunday, and also asked Amisadai to play her violin for the Sunday service as we led a song together. They sent plane tickets to us and put us up in a wonderful hotel, a luxury I confess I had been selfishly coveting. After so many long day journeys to Dar and less than luxurious nights, this was such an amazing treat. We had incredible hot showers (yes, I confess I loved all the different flow settings as much as the girls!), baked beans and cornflakes for breakfast (not in the same bowl), a swimming pool and comfy couches. We were so spoiled! We were welcomed so warmly by Huruma and Joyce Nkone and the rest of the church. We shared a meal at the home of good friends, Martin and Esther; we met the fiancé of Samweli, a friend who goes out of his way to serve and help us; we generally received abundant love all round!
With the Nkone Family

Alice and Samweli

With Martin and Esther
This church gave generously. They have their own very great needs as they are working hard to build their own building and expand their work in many ways. But despite their own great needs, they gave so much; to us personally and for the work we are seeking to do in Mwanza. They planned to be generous.

As Brits/Canadians, just talking about money is awkward! But here in Tanzania, things are very different, and the longer we live here, the more we appreciate that what is culturally different is not necessarily “wrong”! People are comfortable talking about money. And people are incredibly generous. When the girls came up with their plans to raise money, although pleased they wanted to do something to help others, I was reluctant because I didn’t want to ask for money. But we went ahead as I told myself it was to benefit others, that loads of other people did this kind of thing, etc etc... But as the money came in, coming generously in from loving givers, I began to think more about it. Generous giving leads to the meeting of needs, to a valuable expression of community, to demonstrations of love and the blessing of the giver. Who was I to deny that? And we have been so encouraged by the generous giving of so many of you. One woman in the UK, touched by the heart behind the words of Dr Makori (in his interview on the Braithwaites blog), sacrificially gave much, and Dr Makori humbly and gratefully received, feeling keenly the bond of unity that reaches across cultures and countries in the simple but generous act. We are encouraged and moved by the hearts of children like Sophie, Samuel, Josh, Dan and Issac who have unselfishly demonstrated love in order to help. Following our accident and the many expenses that resulted, many of you have generously given and we are so grateful.

So I can only say thank you to those who have given so generously. But you must know that your gift does not stop here. So many good things result from giving! And in it all, I am encouraged to plan to be generous and see more of these good things!
And now for little "Monger Update" … some of you will have heard that Amisadai cut her ankle while in Dar es Salaam. Shortly before we were leaving for the airport, she gashed it on a sharp step in the swimming pool and the green and grimacing nurse (yours truly) managed to stick all back together with steri strips and bandages while blindfolding the equally green and grimacing patient and feeding her little sugar bags. Thankfully Dr Makori picked us up from the airport in Mwanza and cleaned and redressed it. The wound is now healing nicely!

We are settling into our new house… navigating various hurdles like the electricity company sneaking through our gates and almost cutting our supply! Some swift negotiations and all is now ok. Not so the shower and various other water problems which a workman has been attempting fix over the past two days… but he keeps forgetting significant parts and disappearing constantly to go and find something! I wonder if the end result may be worse than we started, but live in hope. The siafu ants meanwhile seem to be migrating away from the immediate vicinity of the house after some serious jungle slashing and a "safe" route laid with aisles of ash.

The March of the Siafu Ants
At the weekend we had a lovely visit from the Wingfield family who drove up from Iringa and will journey home down through the west side of Tanzania. The kids all had a great time playing again and enjoyed the treats Mwanza has to offer like bakery cakes and a swimming pool! With them we were also able to visit a church in the village of Tambukareli introducing and demonstrating the fuel-efficient stove. We are hoping to get a small number of people from this church helping us to begin some clay stove work and help us proceed with an actual stoves project.  
Tim looking deep in concentration while fielding questions
at the stove demonstration after the Church service

The Wingfields and Mongers in Mwanza
With their departure on Monday, we are now eagerly awaiting (and a little frantically preparing!) for the arrival tomorrow morning of our team from Tadley. Our pastor, Greg Whittick is coming with a group of four young people for three weeks. We will try and blog some of the things we get up to with them… exciting times ahead!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Through Cotton Fields to Malya and the Siafu Ant Situation

The road went on ... and on ... and on! We left home at 7am on Sunday morning, aiming to get to a place called Malya to meet with the church for their 9am service, at which Tim was preaching. But we were bumping along a dirt road for miles, passing fields and fields of growing cotton, until almost 10am! And when we did finally arrive, we were ushered warmly into the pastor's house for some hot milk and chapattis before the service. They wouldn't think of allowing us to continue with a service after our long journey without any morning chai! And the whole church welcomed us warmly when we finally appeared, not the least bothered that they had to wait for us for so long!

It was lovely to hear the Kisukuma singing. We are used to the Wahehe tribe singing in our churches in Magozi and Kimande, but here in the Mwanza region, the people are mostly from the Sukuma tribe and it is very interesting to hear the difference in singing style! The church shared their vision for serving their community; they are keen to start sewing projects for women and bee projects and tree planting. We would love to see this church known for these things, for their heart to serve and passion for sharing the love of God, particularly because at the moment they are known for their "disabled pastor" which is rather sad given the very "enabling" nature of both the pastor and his congregation. About thirteen years ago, Pastor Kayuli was fixing a water tank up high. The tank fell on his head, knocking him to the ground and seriously injuring him. He was in a coma for a long time, but miraculously recovered. But his body did not fully recover and he is left without the use of his hands and unable to move or walk easily. But he is a good husband to Shukuru (which means thankfulness), a loving father to their little girl, Glory (Gloria) and a Godly pastor to the lovely people in Malya. Enabled and we pray a man who will long be remembered for enabling others.

Rachel, Shukuru, Pastor Kayuli, Pastor Jovin (Mwanza),
a teacher from the local school ad our girls with Gloria

Pastor Kayuli greets the church

Malya Church

We had a walk around the church plot. We saw the great potential it has and the girls did their first cotton pickin' (there's a song here somewhere)! Land is ready for planting trees and attracting bees! We think this would be the first bee project in this area, so are very excited about this. They are keen to build a multi-purpose building for training of all kinds and already have mamas starting a small-scale sewing project.

Looking across the plot at the church building
Vision and potential!

In other news ... we are now in our new house! We moved in last Friday, after a few days of delays. We are all enjoying the lovely space, the sound of birds and insects instead of close neighbours outside our windows and very loud music! We are very grateful for this house and particularly for the outside space which is being prepared for bees, agricultural experimenting, a medicinal garden, vegetable garden and in which we have already planted Moringa and Neem trees!

We are still trying to sort out lots of niggles ... things like power and water were a bit of a problem for a while. After a prolonged week without shopping before the move (which led to a pretty poor and basic diet), things didn't get much better with no electric or gas for a little while ... we finally had food in the house, but no way to cook any of it! I know, where's a clay jiko when you need it? 

And then there was the niggle of the biting ants which have us surrounded outside! These are siafu ants, otherwise known as driver ants, army ants or safari ants. They really are lethal! We are not talking about the little ants that we have been "eating" with our peanut butter as they make trails through our kitchen. These ants have large heads and pincers that are used by the Masai as sutures. They have powerful shearing jaws and draw blood when they bite you. The girls make a running-leaping-hopping dash to the car from the front door to avoid the vicious insects! We looked out the window yesterday to see our guard hopping about in a crazy dance, while frantically pulling up his trouser legs to get rid of the things! They climb up you, cling on to you and then BITE. They are all in the grass outside and I have read that one colony has up to 20 million ants. Tim thinks we are all exaggerating and making too much of a fuss, but he wears long trousers, socks and shoes.  On the positive side, these ants eat things like cockroaches and rats and that is a very good thing. But we hope some ash will soon solve the problem.

We live on the property with a lovely family; mama is going to work for us during the week, helping us in the house, and funnily enough, her name is Lucy! It is lovely to have someone helping with washing the clothes (the family was bringing us buckets of water before we had the running water) and the floors and dishes. And today, while a man took our oven to pieces on the kitchen floor in an attempt to fix it, she cooked us all some beans on the sawdust cooker outside.

On Friday we are off to Dar es Salaam. Tim has been invited by Huruma Nkone to teach at the Bible School there and then preach three services on Sunday. We are looking forward to catching up with the Nkone family on Monday and then flying back to Mwanza on Tuesday.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Feeling Finnish ... and other things

After our overnight get-away for some peace and quiet outside the city, we returned to celebrate Tim's birthday in the midst of the packing! The birthday treat was burgers at a local hotel! And later on, we had homemade pizza and birthday cake with our good friends, the Nzogere family. Please continue to pray for them ... on top of other things going on, as I mentioned in the last blogpost, they had an awful experience when thieves broke into their house the other night while they slept.


Five minutes down the road from where we stayed
Birthday Burgers

Birthday Cake (he asked for a standing giraffe cake, but got a coffee cake)

Celebrating with friends
People have been asking us if everything is now resolved after our accident. Everything has gone very quiet, but nothing has actually changed. The police still have Tim's license and the paperwork we need to get; they have not closed the case after saying that it must go to court. But we have not heard anything about a court summons! We met with our good friend in the judicial system yesterday, and she advised us to continue to wait ... she doubts it will go to court, but is talking to the powers-that-be about resolving the situation and closing the case. In terms of the actual events of the accident, we feel we have come through the other side, and thank God for his grace in all of that. We are very aware of the dangers on the road here, and appreciate your prayers for safety! Tim travelled Tuesday-Wednesday last week to Geita (about a three-hour drive west of Mwanza) with our good friend Huruma Nkone, and I confess to being a nervous wife at home!

I am sitting here now in rather a state of chaos in our living room. We were all set to move in the morning with the car loaded up and the kitchen packed up except for some bits for breakfast .... then a phonecall ... The front door lock is broken on our new house, which in light of recent events is rather a security problem! The landlord is saying to be patient and they will fix it. Apparently it is a Finnish lock however and they are struggling to do so! Maybe Friday. So the pressure is off for tonight, but I haven't the heart yet to unpack what we need for the extra day! But here is a little peek inside ...

The above picture is Kitchen 1 (with an electric oven with working bottom part). Adjacent to this room is Kitchen 2. This comes with gas oven (with working top part) and in case two ovens is not enough, we also have an old Aga! Hot!

Our Finnish living room, with its corner of wood panelling from Finland, paintings and photos of Finland and obviously very Scandanavian chairs! Feeling very Finnish.

Here are some "friends" we hope don't move along with us! This huge creature was inside Amisadai's shoe yesterday - a good reminder to always shake your shoe before putting it on!

And these little friends are a constant source of frustration around here. ANTS! They are just everywhere! Armies of them marching all over the place. You leave a single crumb for a minute, they head that way. You leave a lid just slightly loose, they all head inside. This is our peanut butter pot the second time that the lid wasn't tightened properly. They've been in the margarine, the bread, the cookies ...  and even, to the great distress of several in this house, the Special British Marmite. The nerve. I guess all this extra protein keeps us healthy.