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!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Mamas' Pain and a Tree Planted

Last week we had a text from our friend Ester telling us that yet another person with albinism has been brutally attacked. She asked us to pray.

Brutal Attacks
Last Thursday, Munghu, a 35 year old woman with albinism, was attacked. Her left arm was hacked off below the elbow, her right arm mutilated and she was left to bleed to death. Her husband (without albinism) was killed as he tried to defend his wife and their two children. Munghu and her children are currently being treated in hospital.
Munghu recovering from the attack
Not long before, on August 5th, Pendo (which translated means "Love"), a 15 year old girl with albinism, was attacked. Attackers hacked off her right hand from below the elbow and disappeared into the darkness with it. Pendo has been recovering in hospital, in fear but "stable" condition. Police have arrested a neighbour who is a witchdoctor but they are still looking for two other attackers who have not been identified.

Pendo recovering from her brutal attack
Just a few days before this attack I was watching "White and Black: Crimes of Colour" a DVD produced in collaboration with Under the Same Sun (UTSS). It follows the undercover work of Vicky Ntetema examining the superstitions and fears surrounding albinism in Tanzania and the brutal consequences of these prejudices and the witchdoctors who prey on people with albinism for profit. Not easy viewing, but an important message communicated. So much good work is going on here to help people with albinism (PWA). Ester who works with UTSS is an incredible ambassador for PWA. Through the work of Ester and many others, children with albinism are protected and educated, awareness is spreading both nationally here and internationally about the awful truth of what is happening. And as efforts continue to push for change with the support of the UN, progress is being made to change the future for PWA.  But watching this DVD, I was struck by the effects on the whole family of a child with albinism. Families torn apart in tragedy, fear, grief and rejection.

Mamas Grieving
I have been talking with Ester about meeting with a small group of mamas of children with albinism. Just six of many mamas who have travelled the difficult and painful journey of albinism. Mamas whose young children have been brutally murdered or attacked. Mamas who live in constant fear of attack, constant fear for the life of their child. Mamas who are cursed and shunned by their family or village for giving birth to a child with albinism. Mamas whose husbands may have played a role in  horrific attacks. Mamas who have given birth only to have their husband leave them to find a wife who "is not cursed" to bear his children.

Jane is one such mama here. She has been given (by people of UTSS) a safe home in that same village where we walked the water walk and more recently held lots of babies. When she was eighteen and 5 months pregnant with her first child, her husband died. Grieving, she went back to her family and in time gave birth to her child, a child with albinism. She was immediately cut off from her late husbands family. Later, a man approached Jane and her family, asking to marry her. The family was delighted (it is incredibly hard to be a widow, particularly here in Tanzania and even more so if you have a child with albinism). But before the marriage took place, Jane was approached secretively by a friend of the man, who warned her that her future husband had dark intentions to kill the child (to sell body parts for witchcraft). Jane broke off with the man, but after escaping intruders in her home one night, she knew the life of her child was in danger, and her own life at risk as well. She now lives with her child in anonymous safety; she has been given training in sewing and is able to support herself and her child by sewing clothes which she sells here in Mwanza and also in her mother's village.

How we can help these mamas? For me, I think it will start with chai. But I hope that I can get to know some of these mamas, that we can read the story of Bible together, pray and share hope together. That we can learn new skills in crafts and cooking and set up small businesses that would support these women and their precious children.

A Tree Planted ...
Our tree planting work is now officially underway! Yesterday we went to Nyegezi Corner Church on the other side of Mwanza. This church has given us space on their land to start a tree nursery which will feed into the conservation agriculture project. We asked if there was someone in the church who we could train up to run this project and we have been given a fantastic young man!
Bahati Daudi
Bahati Daudi
Bahati Daudi (which translated means "Lucky David") is a young guy with just primary education who came to the city from a village in another region to "make a life". So many young boys do this. It is pretty heart-breaking. The city is full of boys on the street who have left their families and come from a village to "make a life" here. But sadly, it just doesn't work like this. So Bahati Daudi is here, with little education and no job, but he has a great heart - one to work and to serve! We are really excited about the potential for this young man and look forward to working with him and helping him set up this nursery as a growing business that will meet his needs, help our projects and also benefit the farms and homes of many people in Mwanza and the surrounding villages.

Bibles and Bags of Poop
Prior to Sunday, Tim and Daudi had built a fenced area for the nursery. And on Sunday, as you do, we arrived at the service with our Bibles and our bags of poop! With our bags of compost we also had seeds and metres of plastic tubing to plant the seeds in. Joseph, our young guard who is fast growing in his faith and also in the way that he helps us, came with us. He taught Bahati Daudi how to compost and then to plant the seeds. And with a few papaya trees and moringa trees in the making, we left the rest to Daudi. And a text from Daudi at 9am this morning told us he had already planted almost 60 trees!
Planting papaya and moringa seeds
The girls were super hungry! We crept (hot and a little stiffly) out of the long service which was still going strong at 1:45pm and got to work on the trees ... I'm not sure what time this photo was taken, but as the girls ran around with the kids, one of the mamas offered them lunch! (We got some later!)

This church has a great thing going! Each department (PA, worship team, Sunday school etc.) is responsible for an area of the church plot. They can choose to do with it what they like ... plant maize, cassava, sugarcane ...
This area is about to be filled with water and become a fish farm!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Nane Nane and a Garden in Iraq

"Nane" is the Swahili word for "eight" (pronounced nah-nay). Consequently, Nane-Nane means "Eight-Eight" (ok, that was obvious!) Last week, Tanzania marked the annual eighth day of the eighth month with Nane Nane celebrations across the country, in the form of agricultural fairs. They are similar to a County Fair, almost like the Newbury Show we used to go to in England (well, almost)!

I was interested in the bee-keeping projects on display, as I get increasingly excited about all things bees! I bought some beeswax to attract my bees to their new hive, and also some homemade beeswax candles because ..., well, just because I am anticipating all that these bees will produce! They could have been a good idea for the power cuts, but when the power was out on Saturday, I simply couldn't burn them! I'm sure many of you can understand this!

Louisa has an audience as she tries her hand at the honey extractor
The big Water Buffalo
Tractors! A rare sight here!

This poor big billy goat gruff got in a bit of a tangle.
With all the work on my keyhole kitchen and medicinal garden (I will have to tell you all about it one day, but I am still waiting to see what has survived the storm), I was also very interested to see keyhole gardens demonstrated at Nane Nane. It was fascinating to see the different lotions being made from local plants and healthy nutritious solutions being offered to help various problems.
A Keyhole Garden at Nane Nane
After all our baobab discoveries in Iringa (remember the baobab smoothies and ice cream? click here!), it was interesting to see other people doing things with it. I bought a bar of Baobab soap which I am looking forward to trying my hand at making soon (mixed with the aloe vera of course!).
Baobab soap and the baobab that Amisadai has been pounding
I also bought some cassava flour (great for biscuits and breads) and checked out the great work of Phil, a friend of ours here, who designed this incredibly useful machine used in processing cassava, which makes a huge difference to the lives of many farmers here and you can read all about how here ....!
Phil's cassava press
All in all, we all had a fun and informative morning, particularly useful given that we are starting an agricultural project in a few weeks. But there is another "nane nane" I was thinking about this weekend. Luke Nane Nane (Luke chapter 8, verse 8 in the Bible). It is a nane nane agricultural story of a farmer who went to sow his seed. Some seed fell on the path and was trampled and eaten by birds; some fell on rocks and then withered without moisture; some fell among thorns which later choked the plant. And some seeds fell on good soil. And here is the "nane nane" bit, "it came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown!"

This is what we are hoping for with our agricultural project! With about 80% of Tanzanians dependent on the land for their livelihood, it is hard to underestimate the significance of agriculture to rural communities in Tanzania. The Mwanza region has a history of being unable to feed itself due to the unfavourable weather (low rainfall), adverse soil conditions and scarcity of land. So in September we shall begin in a “classroom” setting to train a group of subsistence farmers in conservation agricultural practices. Then once the rains come (in November, give or take a bit) we and they shall be ready for the practical work in their fields ... and the result we hope will be a significant increase the yield of their harvest! But while working with these eight to ten farmers over the course of the year, we hope many seeds will be sown deep into their hearts, and it is these seeds that will bear the greater fruit! 
The biggest gunia (sack) garden I've seen!
And lastly, with all this reflection on seeds growing and abundant gardens, there is a garden destroyed this nane nane of 2014. Iraq. A place now full of people brokenhearted and grieving, echoing the sound of mourning, wearing crowns of ashes and spirits of despair. What was once a garden (perhaps even Paradise, once the Garden of Eden) is now a place devastated. 

This sounds like something out of the Bible ... Isaiah 61 to be specific. But the words in Isaiah written so many hundreds of years ago for a people also exiled and grieving, can give hope for the situation today. There is comfort in the mourning, there is a crown of beauty for ashes and there are garments of praise in the place of despair. "For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations."

And just as my basil and cilantro seeds are starting to sprout up after the beating they endured in the storm, so too shall it be for our world that is currently in such a storm. As the world looks on, horrified at the brutal wreckage in Iraq and other places, we pray. For the storm to stop, for life, for strength, for hope. For a garden to grow, for righteousness and praise to spring up ... before all nations.

And meanwhile we must also tend our own gardens. For it is in good soil that sprouts come up and a garden grows. It is good soil that yields a crop hundred times what was sown. Sometimes I get so frustrated because I can't see anything happening (thinking here beyond just my basil and cilantro),  but that is because it all starts in a hole in the dirt. That's the best place to start, even if it doesn't feel so great. But that soil is important. Tend it and water it. Look for it wherever you are. Keep planting seeds. And remember the end of the story ... "it [the seed] came up!" Nane Nane.

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!