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!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Waiting

In this time of waiting for Easter, which for us has been a time of very difficult waiting with all that has been involved with our accident last week, I have been reading Jane Williams’ book, “Approaching Easter” and in particular, reflecting on waiting.

Think about all the waiting at that first Easter. Heaving crowds of people waiting. Waiting for the outcome of various trials. Waiting for people to make decisions. Waiting for important people to arrive. Waiting while crosses are sorted out. Waiting for men to die. The people couldn’t do anything. Just wait.

Jesus could do very little. He is sent from place to place. Passed on and pushed around. The disciples can do nothing but hide and wait. It must have been awful. And then Jesus has to wait for his own death on the cross, wait in torturous pain. And when he is dead, the disciples can only wait, wait for their own pain of grief to become bearable.

Don’t we often want to be rushing around and make things happen, to be in charge and make decisions? But to have things taken out of our hands, out of our control, to have nothing we can do but wait … this is difficult.  How do we face what cannot be changed? As Jane Williams says “we can all mature by accepting what we cannot change. As we look at the reality we are given, who knows what future we are being prepared for? If we choose to retreat from what we cannot change, to retreat back into a fantasy life, where we deny the reality of anything we cannot control, the chances are that we our making ourselves less and less ready to take up the next exciting challenge we might be offered.”  ("Approaching Easter" p. 112).

We are waiting again here. We seem to have done a lot of waiting recently. Waiting in a Bunda police station. Waiting for news on the life or death of a young man. Waiting for a police officer’s decision, waiting for papers and forms. Waiting for a vehicle to drive. It hasn’t been an easy week; we have felt that things were taken out of our control… our new house (now looking uncertain), our car, our money supply, our water supply, our power supply…! But in it all we had to wait, wait and know that it was in God’s control. We felt helpless when we heard that Evelyn (Pastor Zakayo’s wife) was involved in an accident just days after ours. It was not her fault, but she hit a motorbike, and within moments was surrounded by many men on bikes, threatening her, pushing and rocking the car. She was able to drive into a nearby church compound and quickly get the guards to lock the gates behind her. As angry men shouted and shook the gates, as the man injured bled, she waited. Waited for police and her husband to arrive.

On Friday, we heard that the family of the victim wanted to see Tim straight away on Saturday to receive the condolence gift. This is nothing legal as no fault is involved, but simply an expression of our sympathy. But the family did not want to wait for Monday when Tim was scheduled to go to the police in Bunda to settle things. This was unexpected and we were worried about this meeting for different reasons. We thought that the times of negotiations were over, that things had already been settled with the family. But it wasn’t quite so.

Tim would be meeting the father for the first time. At first, after the accident, the father had been incredibly angry, thinking violence would ease his pain. But through the patient work of Bishop Charles, talking with him during the week, he admitted that however many people he hit, he would never get his son back. He was completely peaceful at the meeting on Saturday. So while it was all completely out of our control, it was in God’s.

As the girls and I waited at home, Tim went with Bishop Charles and Pastor Jovin to Bunda again. They waited with the local pastors for the family to arrive. Then, after a very difficult and long start to the meeting with high, unrelenting demands for money, eventually agreement was reached and all was settled with the family (with us temporarily in debt once again to the wonderful Archer family!). But it ended beautifully with the father expressing his desire for our whole family to go to his home with his family and share a goat together; he said that Tim was now his son.

But now we must wait some more. We thought that once all was settled with the family, that the police meeting was just a formality, to get the papers, passport and license. But to make a long story short, the police have said that Tim must go to court this week. We don’t know why or when or how much and again, it is out of our control. We can only pray for a just judge and a court without corruption. Without the papers, we must wait to get our vehicle back, and without an end to this case, we must wait for closure. But we wait knowing that God is in control.

When things are out of our control, it is an opportunity to see that God is in control. We have seen this so many times in the small ways that events have transpired during this week. I don’t need to try and make sense of it all; I can learn to be patient. I can realise reality as the disciples did… they, who thought they were vital to Jesus’ enterprise, realised, “since they don’t actually have a clue about what is going on, they can’t be as important as they originally thought… God has done something extraordinary without any help from them at all.” ("Approaching Easter" p.109)

After the resurrection of Jesus, after that time of waiting, the disciples were far less quick to speak and far more patient to wait for God; far more awed by Him. I hope that I can be like that after our time of waiting this Easter. 

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Beauty Woven in the Knots and Tangles

There was another thread being woven through our traumatic events in Bunda at the weekend. Another trauma. Yet despite all the pain embedded in the story, it is beautiful to see how our lives intertwine, to see how small our world is and how big the picture that our Master Weaver is perfecting.
The road to Bunda
On Saturday, while we were in that police station on the side of the road in a small place called Bunda, in that small room with the two wooden desks, a shortage of chairs and a bookcase of messy brown files, we had a phonecall. It was Sam Archer, the woman who had opened her home to us when we so desperately needed a place to stay; she asked us for a phone number of a police officer there. And this is the other thread ...

Ellen, an American woman living in Musoma (about an hour drive away) had received a message that she needed to contact the police in Bunda about her husband on a bus. This was all the information she had. No phone number. No details. Distraught and worried, she had contacted Sam in Bunda to try and get a phone number. Sam replied that she didn't know a number, but she knew someone that was in the police station right then. And here our threads intertwine!

We knew quite a few of those policemen by then and were able to give the number of a senior officer who was acting most fairly to us. Sam then came to the police station as well and was able to talk to the officer directly. The tragic story here was that the Ellen’s husband, Johnny, had been on a bus returning home from Mwanza to Musoma and along the way started to appear “drunk.” Before long he was unconscious and was removed from the bus near Bunda. He ended up in the same hospital that the victim of our accident had been taken to. Knowing he couldn't possibly be drunk, Sam went straight to the hospital to find him there and wait for Ellen (7 months pregnant with their first child) to arrive. It was very unclear what the problem was. It was increasingly worrying as he did not regain consciousness. He had none of his belongings; his passport, money, computer and other personal belongings were all gone.

Ellen arrived with some friends who work with them with SIL in Musoma; some stayed at the hospital and one came to the road outside the police station with Sam, where we were. He and the police were stopping busses and searching for the missing belongings or any clues. Nothing. Meanwhile concern for the Johnny's condition (still unconscious and on a drip) was growing and the need for better care becoming more urgent. Without a passport, things were complicated.

Just after we finished at the police station on Saturday afternoon, friends were able to get Johnny into the back of a car (nestled with the Archers' pillows), and driven to Musoma where he could be put on plane to Nairobi for better care.

Later in Nairobi it was confirmed that he had been drugged with something similar to Valium. He had been drugged on the bus with some wrapped sweets that had been handed to him and another passenger (most likely in on it too) by the guy sitting next to him. And then he was robbed of everything.

Thankfully, with good care and a quick diagnosis, he recovered quickly in Nairobi and by Monday afternoon he was discharged from the hospital.

It wasn't until after the events of that traumatic day that we realised that this couple had lived in Langley, my hometown. He had studied at Trinity Western University, they had attended a church we know, Willoughby CRC, and were friends with a number of people we know, some of whom are in my parents church. So as the church in Langley was praying for us in our trauma, in this strange twist, they heard about and were able to pray for this couple in theirs. Our worlds collided in a remote police station in a little place called Bunda. But God knew we were there. He knew Johnny would be there. And he had, those years ago, put the Archers there.

These things are not mere "coincidences." Our lives are coloured and woven together with great care. The work of art is not yet finished and there are still knots and pain in the making of it. But to see the beauty of the twists and joinings in this huge tapestry we call life is something to look for and treasure. A glimpse of purpose and beauty in what sometimes seems knotted and tangled.

Please continue to pray for Johnny and Ellen (who have given us permission to share their story here) as they recover and work through what has happened.


This song was given to us by some friends yesterday; in a similar way to glimpsing purpose and beauty in the knots and tangles, this songs leads us to look for the Light in the darkness, the lighthouse as we navigate through the storm.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Even when I walk through the darkest valley ...

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.

He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.

He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. 
You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life,

and I will live in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23)

Tim read this Psalm aloud for us as a family on Sunday morning, following what has been a difficult few days... passing through a valley of death. We have been afraid, we have not known the way, and we have felt in the presence of the enemy. Yet our Shepherd guided us, he renewed our strength, he let us rest, he protected and comforted us, and he even prepared feasts for us. Truly we feel that His love and goodness is pursuing us.

This is a rather long account... and many of you may have already heard it, but I feel I need to tell it all here.
We were driving home to Mwanza from Musoma on Friday afternoon; it was a beautiful drive, close to the Serengeti, with flat open roads and almost no traffic. At 1:45pm, in the middle of nowhere, a truck was approaching on the other side of the road when a teenage boy suddenly ran into the middle of the road. It was instant and awful, as we hit the boy head on, at 80km/h. Tim was driving and there was absolutely nothing he could have done. Sobbing, we had to just drive on, leaving the boy's body on the side of the road, not even knowing whether he was dead or alive. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, to just leave a person dying on the road, but yet at the same time, I am afraid I would have struggled to go to his broken, bleeding body. Coming from our culture, driving on feels so very, very wrong, but it is what you must do here. You must not even get out of the car but go straight to a police station (or to a hospital) to report the accident. It is dangerous to stop at the scene; friends or family of the victim could arrive wanting blood for blood or money; a crowd would gather and we would be defenceless in such a situation.

Shaken and horrified at what had just happened, we drove on. As soon as we had a phone signal, we phoned our friend, Mama Kileo, a Supreme Court Judge in Dar es Salaam, to get her counsel on what we should do and what we should expect. We then stopped at a police checkpoint further down the road. They had already heard about it and were looking for our vehicle. A police officer got in the car with us to drive to the police station not far away in a place called Bunda. It was just a small building - two wooden desks in a small room with a shortage of chairs and a messy bookcase full of brown files.
We were suddenly in a very foreign situation. There were lots of policemen, confusing and repeated conversations and lots of waiting. Eventually, Tim sat down with a police officer to write up a statement. Tim's phone came in useful to look up a Swahili word online, as there was a reoccurring, obviously important, but unfamiliar word the policeman was using. The uncertainty from not fully understanding was worrying as we knew this was not a good situation. While sitting there, we witnessed another accident as a local bus hit a motorbike right there in front of us. The motorcyclist was crying in pain as people scooped him off the road and put him on the back of another motorbike with a third man holding him upright from behind to get him to hospital. The girls were very worried, frightened by a couple of the policemen who were telling them their dad was a bad man who had killed someone and they were going to lock him up. We could only reassure the girls that God was with us. And they knew this. One police officer asked Amisadai in Swahili if she loved Jesus (knowing that we were Christians), and she was able to confidently reply that she did. She asked the police officer if he loved Jesus and he replied "No. But I have five wives, so Jesus would never love me." To which she replied, "Actually he would. Jesus loves everybody. "The Lord is our Shepherd. We will not be afraid.

We were so thankful to have Judge Kileo at the other end of the phone; she also spoke to a high-ranking official in the Home Affairs Department in Dar es Salaam, who supported us through everything.We were so thankful to Bishop Charles (in Mwanza) who arranged by phone for two local pastors to come and help us; they were such a great help as things got more complicated. At around 5pm it was confirmed by the hospital that the boy had died of his injuries. Even when I walk through the darkest valley...
Members of the boy's family came (wanting compensation), and we realised that things were not going to be resolved quickly; we would certainly not be able to go home that day. Our car, which had the bull bars, front bumper and bonnet damaged and the windshield badly cracked, was impounded and Tim's license taken. The police asked Tim for a family member to come and be a guarantor if they were not to lock him up. We had no nearby family or even friends, but Pastor Stephen, whom we had only just met, agreed to bail Tim, pledging one million shillings if he failed to return the next day.

Through an initial call to our friends the Galvins in Iringa, and then a series of phonecalls, through the amazing network we know as our large family of God, as darkness fell and the police were all leaving, we made contact with some Australians living in Bunda. We were allowed to leave at 7:45pm (with instructions to return the next morning), and tired, hungry and worried that we were, this lovely family took us all in at a moment's notice and gave us a safe and comfortable place to sleep and food to eat. While the enemy was at work to destroy, a feast of delicious spaghetti was put before us. He lets us rest in green meadows. He prepares a feast for us in the presence of our enemies.

Yes, we were worried; worried about the stench of the alcohol that had permeated the police room, about corruption and bribery with the police, about the possibility of revenge from the family, about a potential court case on Monday, worried about meeting the family of the boy now dead and how one could ever negotiate money over a life. We were worried about how long it would be before we could go home. He is close beside us. He renews our strength, He comforts us; we have all we need.
On Saturday morning we left Amisadai and Louisa in the care of our wonderful hosts, to play with their very fun kids. Bishop Charles and Pastor Jovin set off very early from Mwanza to make the 2-hour journey to Bunda. They were an incredible support and much needed help. Jovin spent a long time in conversation with the victim’s family. Bishop Charles came with us, the police and a representative from the family to the scene of the accident. I found this difficult; Tim actually found it helpful for himself as we could clearly see in the skid marks on the road that he could not have avoided the accident. It was a mere 9m from where the point at which Tim applied the brakes to the point of impact. He was also sobered to see what could have happened had he lost control and gone off the road; with the truck on our right and a steep embankment immediately on the left; the reality was that it could have been fatal for us as well. Your rod and your staff protect me.

We returned to the police station where we stood outside in the shade of a tree to talk with the family of the victim. We have heard that the Mara people can be aggressive and difficult to communicate or work with and even government officials can be scared to deal with them. The police wanted no part in our meeting. But God was at work here. We now had an army of people all over the world standing with us in prayer. And these Mara relatives were calm and peaceful, attributing no blame or accusation. They just asked for us to pay the funeral and burial costs and monetary gift of condolence. No negotiations were necessary. No charge would send this case to court.
But we did not have the money with us and there was not a branch of our bank in Bunda. But the Archer family, our generous and kind Australian hosts, lent us the entire amount. This meant we were able to settle the issue there and then as everyone involved signed the agreement that the money was a gift and that what happened was an accident for which we were not at fault and that no charges would be pressed. Thumbprints were stamped in ink. I have all I need.
We were still however embroiled in the slow-paced procedures of the police. We were still not sure that they would release Tim in order for us all to go home. There was talk of more to come on Monday, there was talk of keeping the car for a week. But in it all, the police were treating us well, and one of them was a member of the local church! And then suddenly within the space of half an hour, everything was done. We have since found out that our friend in the home office was talking with the Mara Regional Commissioner and also the Regional Traffic Commissioner. We think God worked through him at this point! Our car passed inspection. It was agreed that Tim would return on April 14th to retrieve his passport and driving license and sign the final forms to close the case. So he was given police bail again, and we pray nothing arises to complicate the case before this date.

We returned to collect Amisadai and Lousia; and again, a feast was prepared for us. And at 4pm we were on the road home. It was a difficult drive home. We drove through a terrible rainstorm with lightening and hail; there was very little visibility and people were running on the roadside. Memories of the impact were fresh in our mind. But God kept us safe and our windshield intact. He guides me along right paths. I will not be afraid.
Within ten minutes of arriving home around 7pm, a friend (who we have only recently met) came with a feast of quiche, bread, fruit and vegetables. And within another five minutes a man from our insurance company arrived at our house and all is set for the car to be fixed this week and the cost covered. My cup overflows with blessings.

We have truly seen our God at work through the prayers and actions of His people all over the world and are so thankful for a powerful God and being part of his large and loving family. We have been overwhelmed by the support and help of people, many of whom were complete strangers, but yet brothers and sisters in Christ.
We are amazed at the miraculous way that God has been our Shepherd in the midst of a dark valley. We have truly felt as helpless as sheep, but completely in his hands. This tragic event could have been so much worse in so many ways, ways that we are even still realising now. We have seen and felt keenly the fragility of life and the strong power of darkness seeking to destroy.

We are grateful, so grateful. Yet we still wrestle with the fact that a young man is dead and his family are grieving. They are walking through a very dark valley. We grieve with them. But we can now only pray for them. This is an "only" for us, but it is everything with God. Pray that goodness and unfailing love will pursue them and that they would live in the house of the Lord forever.
We have seen, and we hope that through our story others can also see, that Jesus, our Shepherd, is before all things, that in that in Him all things hold together and that He is supreme! In Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers, or rulers or authorities or Bunda policemen. Our prayer is that we may all continue in our faith, established and firm, not moving from the hope held out in the gospel. (Col. 1:9-23)

So thank you so much to those of you who have been praying for us! Please pass on our thanks to those that have also been standing with us and share our testimony to the fact that God answers prayer!

Friday, 4 April 2014

Coming into Focus

Our focus is increasingly sharpening here as we look at Mwanza, ourselves and our role here in integral mission and development. When we arrived in January, it felt like we didn't really have a picture at all. Gradually parts of the picture have been added in, although much was remaining rather fuzzy! But over time things are coming into focus, and we feel now we are starting to see many parts of the picture more clearly. The next step will be zooming in on the relevant bits while always keeping the big picture in mind!

Events at the weekend helped us bring more into focus. We attended an exciting celebration welcoming the Archbishop of Tanzania to Mwanza, in honour of 75 years of the TAG Church. As part of the weekend events, there was a seminar over the two days encouraging people to get involved in starting development projects, which as you can imagine we found hugely encouraging and exciting! It was an excellent occasion (in Bishop Charles' new church building), but granted, a very full programme! Tim attended the Friday afternoon sessions which looked at how we integrate the meeting of different needs, the seen and the unseen.

All four of us were there bright and early at 9am on Saturday. The morning was set aside for seminars (on how to start and run development projects) and was to be followed by lunch ... which unfortunately didn't arrive before the Archbishop... so didn't happen! As the road was closed, everyone walked down the hill to receive the Archbishop at 1pm, and amidst much singing and trumpeting, all paraded back to the church and began the anniversary service. We were more than ready for the food when the service ended at 6:30pm after the Archbishop's 2-hour sermon! The girls did really well sitting still for such a long day!

Marching up the hill (the road was closed) with the Archbishop to the church building

Archbishop Barnabas Mtokambali
The next exciting event of the week was on Tuesday, when the girls had the opportunity to talk about their fundraising for the Lake Zone work on the Anne Diamond show on BBC Radio Berkshire. (Click here to find a link to it on the girls' SODIS Shake website). Most of you on facebook will no doubt have heard all about this as it was happening live on there! It was a much shorter interview than we were expecting; Amisadai was disappointed not to say all that she wanted to! But it was a great experience for them in the world of radio ... and hopefully raised some awareness and extra funds too! We are really grateful to the Braithwaite boys (from Tadley Community Church) and also Sophie Messer (from Aldermaston Primary School) who are championing our cause with their fundraising efforts! We are looking forward to our own Water Walk on Easter weekend and our SODIS Shake a few days before that. We are encouraging the churches here to join us and get involved too!

As I write this now, we are about 230km around the Lake from Mwanza, in Musoma. We have come to explore and take a little bit of time to relax and also to think... again sharpen our focus... on what we are doing. We went to explore the mouth of the Mara River, which supposedly is crocodile-infested, so we thought it would be a good adventure. But we didn't see a single croc! The man in the boat pointed up the river and said they were all hanging out up there but they'd be back in the morning!



The man in the boat
We headed back for dinner at our hotel; we had planned ahead, knowing how long it can take to order a meal here! So we came to enjoy our four servings of sausage pizza at 6:30pm, and we were amazed to see our food arrive straight away! ... only to realize something had gone wrong along the way and we had four sausages instead! So we ended up waiting over an hour for some pizza to arrive after all!

The non-pizza!
We thoroughly enjoyed much of today sitting in the relaxed and peaceful atmosphere of Rehema (Swahili for mercy), a cafĂ© and crafts workshop/shop which aims to raise sustainable income for women and children in difficult circumstances. It was started by an Australian missionary and runs in cooperation with the Anglican Diocese of Mara. A beautifully encouraging place to be ... and great burgers and coffee!

And now as we head back to Mwanza, seeing things come into focus, we are excited about the possibilities ahead!

Women working in the Rehema craft workshop
Rehema Craft Shop


Can we push this rock into the Lake?


Being silly waiting for the sun to set on the Lake!


Watching the sun set on the Lake. Great focus!
 




Thursday, 27 March 2014

Thankful.

We have so much to be thankful for! A house, a car, a shower and a fabulous time with the King’s School Team from Canada!

Yes, it looks like we have a new house! It is a house built years ago by some Finnish missionaries on a plot of land owned by the Free Pentecostal Church of Tanzania. Interestingly, it seems that the Finns shipped everything for their new house over from Finland and we were amazed to see not only some fine wood panelling but also an old Finnish Aga and a beautifully finished wooden sauna! I can’t imagine ever feeling the need to warm up with either of these – I think just stepping out in Mwanza is enough of a sauna experience! But the house is good with three bedrooms and a study and also a large area outside for playing and planting a garden. We met with the FPCT administrator this afternoon and are hoping to sign a contract next week and move at the beginning of May! Thankful!
We are thankful to have our car back! It was rather bad timing, but our car broke down during the first week that the Canada team was with us. Although, as you can see in the photo, maybe having them around at the time was not such a bad thing! Thankfully, Mama Minja very kindly loaned us her Land cruiser to get us all about. And although it was terribly expensive, we were grateful yesterday to get our vehicle back on the road. And as for the water, I am very thankful to have water again! We have not had proper running water for over a week now, but today it has returned and so as soon as I have finished here I am going to enjoy a much longed-for shower! Very thankful!

PUSH!
And we are so very thankful for the fabulous time we have had with our Canada Team! We have shared many fun, great and meaningful times with them over the past three weeks. This week I was able to go with them to the Serengeti for two days. There, for the first time, we came up close with a leopard! It was so close lying there in the grass that we could have reached down and stroked it! Our guide was carefully watching the large beady eyes and took the cue when we should leave … NOW!  So beautiful and such a treat to see! Thankful!


Serengeti Game Drive

Looking Leopard
We had a real African adventure as we found ourselves standing out in the wild when our vehicle tire had a major blow-out.  And then again in the afternoon, when we started going up in smoke …  thankfully just a simple fuse problem and quickly fixed! Then on the second day we were waiting a long time with the zebras while several men took our wheel off and banged and bashed, fixing a brake problem! We had the full experience of camping in the wild in small tents under the amazing Serengeti sky, alight with innumerable stars. And then experienced the real African rains in a camp awash with rivers from the torrential downpour!  
Changing the tire in the Serengeti
Fixing the brake in the Serengeti


Tenting in the Serengeti
As well as bumping along through the Serengeti in an open-top gamepark vehicle, with the team we have crossed Lake Victoria in various forms of ferries. We had great fun traipsing the dusty, bumpy tracks across the island on the backs of piki pikis (motorbikes). A piki piki parade heralded by surprised cries of "WAZUNGU" as we passed by! And maybe not quite so much fun, we also bounced across the island squashed in dala dalas (local buses).

Across the island to the Secondary School

PikiPiki Parade

Dala dala across the island
But however we travelled, we certainly got around! With the team, we have been to an orphan nursery school, a “Village of Hope” for children without families, to kids on the street, to kids with albinism, to a church in the city centre and a church on the top of a mountain, to fishermen, to the elderly, to the suffering … So while we were sad saying our goodbyes today and are missing them already, we are so thankful for the time we have had with this team and for the doors that they have opened up here in the Mwanza area! Hearts of gratitude are surely a good thing and as the team left, there were many hearts full ... ours, theirs, many in the churches and also the hearts of those who have found faith or been encouraged. May we all take encouragement from what God is doing (in the midst of the difficulties) and share a heart of thankfulness!