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 clay stoves Tim works on and Rachel cooks on!

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Jiko Progress

I think there is a name for it. It is that thing when you have so much to do and don't know where to start so you end up doing something that isn't important but makes you feel busy. Procrastination ... in a kind of justifiable way. I can be quite good at it. And I am doing it now by sitting down to blog a bit!

Super Seed Sort-out Session

But to my credit (or rather, my excuse is...), we have just finished a super seed sort-out session. With planting season approaching now that the rains are starting again and Tim leaving us all to be in England with his Dad on Wednesday, we had to sort it all out. So we had seeds all over the living room floor: lablab, jackbean, sunflower, pigeon pea, maize, beans, sorghum and the extra special canavalia brasilicus! It felt like Christmas as we packaged the seeds up and labelled and grouped and bagged them all for different people. Sorting a season of planting multiple crops for five farms in one evening! Brilliant!
Recent blogs of ours have been rather serious. But that is because things like murders and attacks, missing children, deaths and brain tumours are some seriously sad stuff. But this time, I'm happy to blog something positively encouraging!

Tree Nursery

We had a very good, (albeit very long) day last Sunday. We took Joseph (our guard and now also a project worker) and Esther (our agricultural trainer) with us to Nyegezi Corner church where Tim was preaching (and did a great job). Afterwards, we met with Bahati Daudi (who attends this church) and he showed us his progress in the tree nursery outside. There is still a long way to go, but he is doing well and next week I hope to take him, Joseph and a load of his trees to go tree-planting at the Kisesa farm.

Tim preaching in the newly enlarged church building! Always amazingly decorated!
Amisadai and Louisa check out some of the trees

Tim with Daudi (centre) and Joseph (right)
At this point, after a long service and tree nursery chat, we were getting rather hungry. Esther had invited us all to her house having arranged lunch preparations for us. But the pastor was also expecting us all to eat at his house. So we went there first! It was past 3pm when we were treated to an amazing spread of food at Pastor Isaac's house. But then, rather than go straight to Esther's for lunch number two, we thought it best to go first to Tambukareli Church where the stove group meets. I must confess that Tim and I were both prepared at this point for disappointment. We have not had the time we wanted to invest in this group since the initial training last November. And factoring in the fact that the kiln had collapsed in the heavy rains of December, expectations were not high. But we were so positively surprised!

Clay Stove Group Surprise

The group had fixed and rebuilt the kiln. It was brilliant! And they had continued to make stoves. And they were brilliant! We were thrilled with the way they had taken on the project and worked together and worked things out. The good quality clay and careful work produced some excellent quality stoves. No cracks!

The group shows us the stoves

A good meeting with the Tambukareli Stoves Group

And so to our great surprise they were talking about firing these stoves very soon and starting to sell! We had a good meeting discussing the way forward. Unfortunately with Tim leaving for the UK, this leaves me a little in the lurch and a little out of my comfort zone ... I will need to return in a few weeks to oversee the firing (a first for this group) and also do the training on marketing and demonstrating the stove. We have always done this together in the past ... a whole family effort with Tim doing the main chunk of the teaching, me doing the cooking demo, and the girls ably helping with dramas to teach the marketing aspect! So I will miss Tim in England and the girls at school ... and no Ezekiel or Mendriad to help either! But we are excited to be moving ahead with this group. We hope to get some group T-shirts made as soon as possible and are talking about how the group will move out to do village training when we return to Tanzania in August. And this will be a very good thing this year ...

As you have probably already read in the previous post, there is increased risk at the moment for older women accused of being witches. This is a result of the increase in attacks and killings of children with albinism and people using soothsayers to "discover" the cause of the murders or misfortune. But the women accused are often targeted simply because of their red eyes, a result of the smoke from cooking in unventilated spaces over a three stone fire. A village stove project run by a local church is a good platform from which to address some of the issues involved here. May the churches here shine light and truth into the darkness and wickedness of the witchcraft that is so prevalent.

From Pastor Isaac's, we went to Esther's home for lunch number 2 which by now was easily more like dinner, approaching 5pm! I just love the hospitality here ... No one really minds when it all happens, as long as the guests are served food. Or sodas. We had so many offers of sodas that day. As Amisadai said just before we got to Esther's house, "I am just so fizzed up inside, I don't think I can drink another soda!" Esther was probably pretty fizzed up herself and kindly served us mango juice!

Louisa LOVES Esther, and particularly loves her shoe collection!
I seriously don't know how Esther manages to walk in them around here!

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Kneading and Waiting

On Saturday I was with some hard-pressed lovely mamas of children with albinism. We were all shocked and deeply saddened by the recent murder of  little Yohanna with albinism. The previous day, 18-month old Yohanna's broken body had been buried beside the graves of his older brother and sister (also with albinism). He was buried in a deep grave built with bricks and mortar, iron rods and corrugated iron to prevent his grave later being robbed. His mother Ester still lies in serious condition in hospital in Mwanza, after desperately attempting to protect her baby from the five attackers who broke into their home with machetes. His other siblings (ages 3 and 12), also with albinism, are being protected, but their fear and grief is unimaginable.

I have written before about the evils of witchcraft. The horrifically numerous incidences of killings of people with albinism in Tanzania are the horrible and gruesome evidence of such evil. Every one of Yohanna's limbs was severed from his body, taken by his killers to sell for huge sums of money. Witch doctors will pay as much as $75,000 for a "full set" of albino body parts from which to make their charms and spells to bring good luck and wealth.

It has been suggested that the killings and tortures of people with albinism are linked somehow to politicians (using witchcraft practices to secure power or foretell the future), given the fact that killings increase around election years. Tanzania elections will be held in October of this year. Fear is rising as Yohanna is the second child this month to be taken. There has still been no sign of 4-year old Pendo.

The word is getting out around the world on the atrocities happening here. And it needs to. Please share! Many are working to put pressure on the government to act. On March 2nd people are gathering in Dar to protest the killings, the lack of action and the lack of prosecution of those responsible; to plead on behalf of people with albinism and pray for victims. Please pray!

Also complicating and worsening the situation, is that now there is an increase in vigilante justice, as people take matters into their own hands. Witch hunts are leading to the killings of innocent women accused of being witches. Last month, a 58 year old woman, Jane Bakiri in Tabora was attacked at night in her home by many villagers with machetes and knives and then burned alive. Older women, particularly those with red eyes (caused by the smoke over years of cooking on a three stone fire) are at risk from angry or frightened villagers seeking their own form of perceived justice. Tragic and unjust.

The mamas and I that met together on Saturday all knew the dangers, the feelings of helplessness amid such wickedness and corruption; they knew first-hand the fear. Mama Penina talked about the instant worry if she has a moment wondering where her little Maria is playing. I cannot imagine. None of Mama Wilison's five children have albinism, but she has it herself. She has grown up and lived with the danger. Yet they are so brave. Both Mama Penina and Mama Faith shared from Psalm 140; they have little confidence in their government, but every confidence in their heavenly Father.

That day we kneaded bread. We kneaded hard. They have been asking for some weeks now to learn how to use a small jiko (fuel-efficient clay stove) to bake bread. And so we did. And we talked. With my stumbling, inadequate Swahili, we talked about their children. We talked about our broken world and talked about a God who created us and loves us and clothes our nakedness. We talked about a good God who has a saving plan that started with another broken body. And we prayed.

We drank chai. And we broke the bread and ate together.
Shaping the bread dough

Eating bread and drinking chai
Mama Faith enjoys the bread and chai
Kneading and waiting. These two things are key in the process. Kneading to get the right consistency, to make the bread strong and prevent collapse later on. Hard pressed. Waiting. Waiting for the yeast to do its job and leaven the dough and make it grow.

And we do pray for this country and its government, that the leaven of the Kingdom would do its work. Even where governments fail, a little leaven will go a long way.

Working with the bread, seeing a product good and strong come out of a time of kneading and waiting, was a good reminder in the middle of a time of hard pressing and waiting. Not just for these mamas. Also for our guard Thaddeus who three days ago asked us to pray for his two boys. They are away at boarding school and the other night, Thaddeus received a call to say that both had run away and no one knew where they were. There is still no sign of them although police and family are searching.

Also for Tim's Dad and our whole family. We talked with Tim's parents yesterday, receiving the news that Dad's surgery to remove the brain tumour is set for March 10th. All felt that it would be best for Tim to be there. Suddenly the waiting from afar leapt into a blur of action as we changed Tim's tickets and tried to make fast plans for Tim to leave here on Wednesday next week in order to be with his Dad. So sad that we cannot all go together, particularly at such a "kneading" time, the girls and I plan to stay the rest of the month to finish things well here and pack up before our 4 months away. It's strange how things that seemed so important before, are suddenly not.

And so in the kneading and the waiting we remember we all have the opportunity to grow stronger. And we remember that it was through brokenness that we have wholeness.

Bread in process

Monday, 23 February 2015

Pea or Nut? Or Honey-Roasted?

Do you know whether a peanut is a pea or a nut? More on this a moment, but first for the honey roasted...

On the bee front recently, things have been rather up and down with seemingly more downs than ups. After initial victories, which climaxed while Tim was in Arusha, things then plummeted when we lost the lot. It was so discouraging. But it was so incredible to just watch the bees before we lost them.

The phrases "busy as bees" and "hive of activity" have taken on a whole new meaning! The bees were in and out of the hive, lovingly and faithfully tending to the larvae, those little grubs growing with constant food and attention. It was just fascinating to watch!

But then the activity slowed and it was obvious the bees were struggling. We had an awful invasion of siafu ants and a infestation of maggots in an old comb ...

One bee in particular was clearly suffering a few days later, unable to fly and barely moving on the side of the hive. To my amazement I watched as two other bees flew over to her and together they crawled along the floor of the hive, dragging the struggling bee to the honeycomb to eat. It was amazing to watch the determined, heroic efforts of these bees. Their devoted care for one another, their fight for survival. I have heaps more I could say and I think many more lessons to learn from the bees.

Sadly they didn't make it. But last Saturday, with help from our friend, Innocent, we coated all the hives again with honeycomb and slathered the top bars with the sticky stuff. And the bees did come! And it was a hive of activity for a whole week. But then two days ago they were all gone. I could not believe it! So I donned my wellies and carried my gas burner back down to the hives and melted wax and honeyed again. At the moment, there are plenty of bees about out there, ... and I just do so hope they stay! What a lesson in learning to bee patient.

Last week we had harvest day for our peanuts. I have to confess, before coming here I had never really thought about how peanuts grew! In answer to the title, the peanut is not actually a nut at all... but it is a pea. Peanuts are members of the legume family (edible seeds in pods), and grow underground (thus they are referred to as "groundnuts") unlike the "tree" nuts such as walnuts and almonds. They provide the best source of concentrated protein in the plant kingdom and as legumes, the plants are rich in nitrogen for the soil. This is why we like peanuts!

Our plants were doing really well until the mongoose discovered them. We think we lost about 20% to the greedy creatures, but are still left with buckets of big and beautiful peanuts!

So with my bees busy in the hive, I'm looking forward to some honey roasted peanuts! But I think after drying and roasting our harvest, I'm going to make some fresh homemade peanut butter and look forward to some peanut butter and honey sandwiches!
The peanut plant
All those nuts in the roots
Removing the peanuts
We harvested 7.5kg of nuts!
Drying the peanuts (using top bars from the extra hives as an enclosure)

Thank you for your prayers recently. Yesterday my cousin was able to come out of hospital in time for my Grandma's funeral which was today. And tomorrow Tim's Dad has an appointment to determine the course of action against the brain tumour. We found peace in the far away place but are quickly making plans for Tim to be less far away sooner. 

Friday, 20 February 2015

There will be No Need for Darkness and None for Tears

Yesterday I listened to this song by The Gray Havens ("Far Kingdom") and just cried, tears streaming. I cried for the shock and sadness of suffering for Tim's dad who this week was diagnosed with a brain tumour. For family hurting far away. I cried the sweet tears of goodbye for my Grandma whose funeral is on Monday and tears of sorrow for my Grandad left behind. For my cousin, who at the same time was hours in surgery. Tears of confusion wondering where we should be. And I cried tears of outrage and sadness for Ester, a mother in serious condition here in hospital with machete wounds from the attackers who kidnapped her 18-month old son, Yohanna with albinism. Tragically, like so many others, his little limbs were later hacked off for witchcraft and his mutilated body left a few miles away. Tears for the fear of many with albinism (including Ester's other two young children) and their families as the election approaches and the witchcraft practices escalate. Tears for myself, so helpless to do anything. Tears for a broken world.

But there will be no need for darkness and none for tears.

Inspired by the writings of C.S. Lewis and Jonathan Edwards, David Radford wrote this song, "Far Kingdom." The song poetically and musically expresses our longing for the world to come, but this a longing in which we find an earthly joy now. I felt that longing. A longing for a kingdom without tears.

As C.S. Lewis said, our life now is “an unsatisfied desire, more desirable than any satisfaction.” Our hope is not ultimately in this life (which will always have its darkness and tears), but in the one to come. And here in this hope is joy. There really is joy in the longing.

How much more we can know God now if we long for this eternity. How much more we will find our joy in Him today as we long for this eternity! How much more we will see the beauty in the tangles now as we look towards what is coming? If there was no suffering, would we know compassion? Would we know true love?

The compassion and love of Jesus is real and he wants us to share it. So in the midst of suffering, we pray for healing - healing for Tim's dad, healing for my cousin, healing for Ester. And in the midst of darkness, where evil and witchcraft penetrate, we shine the light. And in the midst of sadness, in the midst of the brokeness, we find joy in the longing and the hope.

May this eternal "not-yet" perspective always be now transforming us and others through us.

You turned my mourning into dancing, you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God I will praise you forever. Ps. 30:11-12

For more on the tragic attacks see the links below ... and then pray.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Tim ECHOS in Arusha

It's hard to know how to blog at the moment ... suffice to say for now, it has not been an easy week. But what I can do now is go back to the week before my Grandma died and before all the other things that happened in those five days, and recount the excellent time Tim had at the ECHO East Africa Symposium on “Improving Lives through Agriculture and Appropriate Technology” in Arusha.

It was his turn now to attend an Arusha Symposium. And while I would have loved to tag along, I had to content myself with his report back, some of which I now report to you! He, along with others from all over Africa and one person as far away as Japan, attended seminars on all things agricultural: conservation agriculture, green manure and cover crops, fruit trees, integration of agriculture and health, integration of agriculture and livestock, biblical basis to motivate rural change, small scale kitchen gardens and yes, even beekeeping! I'm not sure how interesting this all sounds to many of you, and a few years ago, I'm not sure it would have sounded so interesting to me. But when you see the reality of life for subsistence farmers working in poor conditions and then see the possibilities for these families and communities, you can't help but get interested!

Tim also went with about 30 others on a field trip to visit a farmer who is working to help Masai in his area provide enough food for their animals while also providing enough for themselves.

A young Masai boy gets a view from atop his donkey!

Masai house with crops and livestock
Masai house

This area has a huge problem with soil erosion due to wind and rain,
 as you can see by the dust in this photo
It was encouraging for Tim to see how what we are doing seems to be on the right lines. It was inspiring to see the huge potential for where we can go with the agricultural project here in the Mwanza area.

The symposium ended with a banquet with entertainment provided by this skilled Masai choir.

Masai Dancing from Rachel Monger on Vimeo.

The girls and I were pleased to get him home after his week away; pleased he had found the whole conference so enjoyable and useful, and extremely thankful he made it there and back safely. He was travelling with some friends and while driving back they were following a timber truck which was being overtaken by a bus which came too close to the truck. The truck ended up going off the road and as his load of logs slipped, flipped over. The driver and his passenger thankfully walked out, but it was a scary reminder of how dangerous these roads are and to be continually grateful for God's protection.

And so the agricultural work continues. We have faced some discouragements this week, but still hope to get to Kayenze later this week for a village seminar, inviting more farmers to join us next season. And we hope to get the next planting underway in the next few weeks in Kisesa and Kayenze.