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!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Through Hives and High Water

Here are just a few photos of recent days to tell with a few quick words some of what's been cookin' here! While Tim has been in Dar es Salaam, the girls have been busy with extra things like a Swim Club BBQ, a School Fair, school production rehearsals, parent interviews... so keeping up with the changing car pool schedule for thirteen kids deserves a gold star here!

Back into beekeeping ... in Kayenze before Tim left, we were able to work on the beehive that never made it into a tree! We coated the top bars and hive with beeswax and honey and into the tree it went. I wasn't completely happy with how things ended up, as things (i.e. the hive and Samson) moved rather quickly and dramatically HIGH into the tree. The idea was to have low hives that were easily accessible to monitor and manage... even for women in skirts. But this hive is now pretty much out of reach for the season! But it is in the tree and the bees will love it up there! Come on, bees!

See Samson in the tree!
Oops! A bit too high!
We stopped off at a friend of Amon's before leaving Kayenze. His freshly caught fish were still squirming and twitching! Took a big 'un home for tea!
Miss Tilapia
The heavy rains here have created all kinds of trouble on the roads, all around our house, inside the downstairs of our house and even closing the airport runway when Tim was trying to fly home from Dar es Salaam!
Our "road" now after the rain. It becomes a real river when it rains!
Roads are disappearing! Louisa took this photo on our way home from our market.

We are on mopping duty throughout the day, every few hours every day!
Mama Penina is absolutely thrilled with some reading glasses! As we were talking about eye care for the children, I realised when Penina tried to read her Bible aloud, she really couldn't do it! Thanks to some reading glasses left here by Greg Whittick, she can now read (and manage her job as a teacher) much more easily! Little Maria was amazed when she snuck a pair of the glasses on! These were simple adult reading glasses and not suitable for her more complex needs, but she loved trying them on! I am so looking forward to the day she can see a specialist and get some prescribed glasses!

Meanwhile, Mama Saidati and Mama Wilson have arrived safely in Dar es Salaam after their long bus journey and are enjoying the Albinism Conference!
Penina with her beautiful girls, Dora and Maria
And I am off to meet them! I fly to Dar es Salaam early in the morning and have a day at the Albinism Conference. Then I am off on a bus to Morogoro on Saturday and looking forward to seeing the Dixon family before my seminar begins. From Monday to Friday I will be learning about the cultivation and usage of medicinal plants. Learning how to extract natural oils and make high-quality soap! And then it's a long 12 hour ride on a squishy, hot bus to get home again next Saturday. Prayers for no rain on the roads would be much appreciated! And prayers also for Tim holding the home fort and viewing all the aforementioned productions and performances!

So until then, through "hives" and high water, we persevere...!

Monday, 16 November 2015

Strength and Joy in the Turbulent Times

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Saviour.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.
Habakkuk 3:17-19

So much turbulence is shaking the world right now. Paris. Beirut. Syria. Burundi.... The atmosphere seems so sombre, although our world has long been broken and hurting. And in the midst of the vast turbulence, all of us face our own small or huge personal turbulent situations. I am just thankful that my strength is not in the governments of this world, not in the success of a crop, nor the rain or the sun. And pertinently for me, especially not in a house in the floods. All these will fail. I will fail. My strength and my joy are in the Lord ... no matter what.

I can't really get my head around my thoughts of the greater turbulence right now. My brain is tired from the lesser turbulence around me. As I write, Tim is stuck in Dar es Salaam, unable to fly in on time because of the turbulent waters in Mwanza. It has been a busy week. I can easily and quickly focus on the frustrations and all that has gone wrong. But while the turbulent waters swirl about, my desire is to keep them off-board. Being in a place of strength and joy rather than sinking with the waters. Treading the heights with the feet of a deer. Looking for the sparks of hope, the glimmers of beauty.

I am rejoicing for the opportunity that Mama Saidati and Mama Wilson have to go to an International Albinism Conference in Dar es Salaam this week! They are excited about representing the Upendo wa Mama Group, taking some of their handmade goods to sell. Some of my recent "turbulence" has come about from the busy preparations for this event. The mamas are enthusiastic to meet and make things to sell, but gathering the group together at one time for a profitable time has been a challenge and involved a lot of "waiting." And trying to keep quality a priority over quantity has also been a challenge!
A busy morning!
After various meetings and plannings during the week, which included ordering, waiting for and picking up our very own "Upendo wa Mama" rubber stamp, we met at the school to do final work on Saturday. As the dark skies thundered ominously, we realised the man with the key was gone! We couldn't get into a classroom to work. We found a spot out of the deep, squelchy mud of the compound, someone ran to borrow a mat, and we got busy on the ground. Again today, heavy rains thwarted plans. Missing all the mamas but one, I ended up driving boxes of soap with Mama Wilson through driving rain to a red container at a bus stand. I can't say I've felt much like we've had the feet of deer treading in the heights, but we do have reason to be joyful!

Now the bus tickets are bought, the soap, Christmas cards and necklaces are boxed up and ready to go. The two mamas leave early in the morning. We have prayed together as a group for their safety as they go. I can't even imagine how it must feel as a woman with albinism, who can neither read or write, who has never travelled to Dar before, to be embarking on this trip! I pray it will be an encouraging and life-changing time for both of them. They have been through terribly turbulent times and my prayer is that they could find real strength and true joy. I can't wait to see them in Dar when I arrive at the conference on Friday!
Bottling the homemade soap
And finally, to finish with some more strength and joy in turbulent waters... water is such an appropriately apt analogy for me at the moment as we vigorously fight the rising floods downstairs every few hours! But while I still struggle to find joy in the basement, this church in Kisesa quickly found joy in the remains of their ruined building. They have been building a church, and had just put the roof on. But the high winds of the other week tore off the roof and the flooding torrents tore through the foundations. And yet the people sang.
The temporary building

The now-roofless frame. The rebuilding begins.
They know where there strength and joy is found. Yes, they see the problems, and I'm not talking about just their own building problems, but also those of their community, faced with harsh weather conditions, poor soil, and a lot of witchcraft. They see misplaced strength and a lack of joy. We are looking forward to working with them in Kisesa, reaching out from where we have been working at the demonstration farm at the School, to the rest of the village.

So yes, these times are turbulent. The history of our world has always been turbulent. But yet we can rejoice and have strength. In God, when all else is failing around us, we can rise above and tread the heights with our feet like the feet of a deer. And this is my prayer for friends, and also suffering strangers, in turbulent times now.

Singing in Kisesa Church from Rachel Monger on Vimeo.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Celebrating Guy Fawkes Demise and Magufuli's Inauguration

We hit the road at 6:45am on November 5th. This felt decidedly wrong when it had been announced the previous afternoon that it was to be a national holiday in honour of the new President's inauguration. So with school suddenly cancelled and the rain coming down, it felt like I should still be in bed. But to the village of Malya we all went ... along with Peter. No fireworks here, but time to plan for a Beekeeping Project!

It was a long and bumpy 3 hour drive (although the rain stopped and the roads were slightly better than the ones to Kayenze the day before) but at the end, we were warmly rewarded with lovely hot, sweet milk and chapatis from Mama Gloria. We were ushered to the church building and proceeded to be amazed at the excellent planning of Pastor Kayuli and this group in Malya. Often it can be a challenge getting people together and even more of a challenge to get people together on time! But here, a well-prepared group of people were sitting waiting for us!
Tim shows the Top-Bar Beehive as he explains about the project.
We had the village leaders, we had existing beekeepers, we had interested beekeepers and we had a womens group. Except for the carpenter, who was travelling and entered the meeting briefly by mobile phone, it was exactly the people we had wanted to meet with, all in the same room at the same time!

It has been over a year since we visited the church in Malya, and it was then that they asked us about the possibility of a beekeeping project, an undeveloped concept in our thinking at the time! So it was wonderful to be back, to see their excitement and enthusiasm, and see a plan develop! They will gather 15-18 people to form a community beekeeping group who will train, work and meet regularly together as we establish the project with the help of Julian Wilford from the UK. While we work with the Malya group, we will also help them to establish their own tree planting project which will work well with the bees.

It was great to see Lucas as part of the group. This young man has just graduated from the Church Planting School in Kisesa and so was part of the missional and agricultural training Tim gave there last month. It was also lovely to meet some of the women from the Upendo Group set up by the church for very young women as well as older mamas and widows from the village. I think we were all rather excited about making things out of beeswax together in February!

After a quick tour to see the bees in the tree project plot, we were all ready for bowls of rice and ginger beans. We left at 2pm for the long drive home, and arrived back in Mwanza rather tired, but just in time to get to a Bonfire Night party with British friends in the evening. Brilliant fun, complete with hot dogs and potatoes cooked in the fire, eaten with hot chili and guacamole and cheese! Finished off with toasted marshmallows and hot chocolate. We didn't have fireworks, but we did have four rationed mini cake sparklers from Wilkinson's (thanks to a surprise parcel quite some time ago). A wonderful end to a fruitful day!
Mama Gloria and Lucas take us to the bees in the tree
(this after avoiding the snake in the tree opposite, but I didn't get a photo of that!)

We finished off our busy and bumpy 485km week in the landcruiser by going with Joseph to the church planting school in Kisesa early the following day. There we planted more trees and encouraged Joseph who is single-handedly taking on the planting for us there and facing his own frustrations!
Planting an avocado tree
Our third snake of the week!
(He didn't really eat it and it was really dead!)
If you regularly read this blog, you probably know much of the ups and downs of our Beekeeping Endeavours! But if you want a synopsis of the happenings and want to know a bit more about the plan, check out the "Down to Earth" article we wrote for the latest EIUK monthly news.

Click Here to go to the article

And now for another exciting update! As I post this blog, we have just picked up 90 honey jars ready for the harvest! Now for some snazzy labels...

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Down the Road the Road is Down

You saw our massive rains on Monday. But you also saw our awesome land cruiser! Well, since we picked it up on Sunday, it has done a tough and rough 485km with us! It's been a busy week! On Wednesday, we ventured to Kayenze and we saw what was left of the roads. We knew our usual route would be pretty impassable. We found out late the night before that bridges were washed away on our Plan B route. So we went with the Plan C route.

Plan C Route
We left early with friends visiting from England, Cameron and Cath Spence, to Kayenze for a whizzing visit to various farmers in our agricultural group to check on progress with planting. It was great to have Cameron and Cath along and they patiently bore the bumping about on the road and trekking about on foot in the fields! We were all incredulous at some places where the road had simply eroded away, leaving up to 4ft drops and holes.

Thankful that the rain, which we had left home in, had stopped, we could see just how dangerous it would be with rain on the road, unable to see the crevices and holes. We saw a school bus which on Monday had been swept off the road and 150m down flooded fields where now people gathered with spades to try and dig it out. And we could also see the flood damage to homes beside the road. Sobering. Cameron was kindly hopping out from time to time to help navigate the tricky bits when turning around on rocky tracks, and although the journey took longer than usual, we made it safely back in time for school pick-up at 4:30pm!

The school bus stuck in the mud
Here are a few shots from the day, with some captions introducing you to some of the great people we are working with in Kayenze. They are putting into practice what they are learning, and together we are praying for a fruitful, improved harvest with more seeds to sow into the future of this community!

We first met with Amos. He has persevered through hardship,
re-planting where a herd of cows had trampled his seeds and gobbled his mulch.

We then met with Mama Meriziana. I think we will have to call her Mama Jackbean,
as due to her success, she is now the jackbean supplier! 
Cameron and Pastor Amon checking out the jackbeans! Meriziana is one of the few who
appreciate the benefit of the inedible jackbean which replenishes the soil with all kinds of goodness!
We travelled on to see Samson (right) and his family.
Samson has done a fantastic job, continuing to plant rows and rows of the different bean varieties.
Rows of beans intercropped with maize.
Sorting out the top-bar hive to put up in the mango tree.

A couple of guys whacking to death a boomslang snake in the field!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

A Land Cruiser from Down Under!

We now have a Project Vehicle! How thankful are we?

We are SO thankful! We have a Hard-top Land Cruiser! A rugged, durable vehicle, especially built for off-road driving! This has been something we have been looking to get since we arrived in Mwanza, and our prayers have been answered! Thanks to the very generous provision of funding from Emmanuel International Australia, we have been able to buy this well-cared for Land Cruiser in very good condition from a German couple leaving Mwanza last month. We want to say a huge thank you to the awesome Aussies who have made this possible! Thank you, Allison Chapple for all you did to make it happen!
Three Cheers for a Land Cruiser...!
This will make such a huge difference to the work we are able to do here. We want to be working with people in rural areas ... but it has been difficult making sure we had a vehicle in town for school pick-up which ranges from 2:15-4:30pm on different days. This has limited the distance Tim has been able to travel for projects and the time he has had in the village. And he won't miss waiting for daladalas and bouncing on pikipikis for getting from A to B! Also, especially with rainy season starting now, which makes the roads to villages so terrible, we really needed a tougher vehicle with higher clearance, able to take the beatings on the roads! So, yes! We are SO thankful!

We picked the vehicle up on Sunday morning and already we have put it to the test! Watch the clip below to see our drive to school yesterday... eeks!

Driving to School from Rachel Monger on Vimeo.

On Monday morning, we had one of the most torrential rainstorms we have seen here. It was loud and powerful and the amount of water was unbelievable! It was gushing in torrents like a mighty river down our road and through our property. We managed to get out to drive the girls to school, but even the main roads were terrible, completely flooded with overflowing deep ditches with small wooden bridges floating down the middle of the road. Yet, daladalas, small cars and motorbikes persisted in trying to navigate the chaos. We didn't realise at the time, but where we drove through, there were four deaths that we know of, where motorbike riders and passengers were washed away in the torrents. There were more deaths across the city and many homes were damaged or lost. It is tragically sad, and puts our leaky ceiling and flooding basement into proper perspective. But locking into 4-wheel drive, our Land Cruiser took us safely along the eroded roads, through the torrents, pot holes and mud.

It is hard to effectively communicate how much having a good vehicle means here. It means a lot. In many ways. And we are so very grateful.

Thank you EI Australia Team!