We live in Mwanza, Tanzania, serving with Emmanuel International helping local churches in physical and spiritual ministry.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Easter Celebrations in Kayenze

This year was the first time we as a family had celebrated Easter in two continents. Rachel and Amisadai were with Tadley Church in the UK and Louisa and I were in the village of Kayenze for Easter Sunday. Louisa and I had a fantastic Sunday!

We have been working with the church in Kayenze for nearly 3 years now,  helping them run conservation agriculture and beekeeping projects in the community, but this was the first time we’d had the privilege of being together for Easter. Easter, for Christians is the most significant Sunday of the year, as we celebrate Jesus’ victory over sin and death and the new life, hope and peace he has brought. And what joy it was to share this day with our very enthusiastic brothers and sisters in Kayenze.

Kayenze Church gathers at the lakeside
Louisa and I arrived just before 9am, the official start time of the main service, but the Sunday School was still in full swing. Some had been there since 7am when they began with prayer! This church has come such a long way in the time we have been involved with them. 3 years ago there were often just 15 people present and now on Sunday it seemed close to 100 people. Easter Sunday was also the first occasion of trying out the new PA system which has been loaned to them. Thankfully, they haven’t worked out yet how loud the speakers go – a common experience here!

Kayenze Church
At 9:20am we began the service, PA in use but with surprisingly few squeals, but most importantly with voices together in heartfelt unison. I then stood to preach, and we looked at how the disciples had gone from wondering whether they should look for another job to discovering that they (and we also) have actually been given a new job… that of spreading to others the results of Jesus’ resurrection.

The resurrection is the dawning of a New Day of light and life
(painting by Anita Skinner)
After that and dedicating a couple of babies, you might think it was time for a cup of tea and hot cross bun, but instead we walked down to the Lake (just 80 metres away) so that 22 people could be baptised – 5 others had become Christians in the service. Louisa was in great demand, being pulled into the lake more than once, as many of the baptised wanted her in the pictures as part of their record of the day! I was wondering if we might need to come back in a couple of weeks and pray for healing from bilharzia!!
Baptism in Lake Victoria

Before we went for a soda and biscuits with the newly baptised, there was time – and in Tanzania there is always time – to make good use of the new speakers to dance and celebrate one last time!

As we left Kayenze, Louisa and I were grateful for the privilege of sharing Easter with these lovely and life-filled people – yes, we’d sincerely touched something of the joy of Easter.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

The In-Between Time

I realised it has been a long (really long!) time since I have written on this blog. For the past few months, it has been a strange "in-between" sort of time of waiting. And so I keep waiting to post on the blog. Waiting for when we might have some actual news. Waiting for results. Waiting for when all my unsettled thoughts miraculously flow into interesting and meditative prose! But the moment doesn't come, so I'll carry on regardless.

Our family has now been living apart for 10 weeks which does feel like a very long time! Something is clearly not quite right with Amisadai and we wait to get to the bottom of it! She has had good days and bad days. Although she is good at putting on a brave face and carrying on, this week she has spent more time in bed in quite a lot of pain. On April 27th, she is going to Southampton Hospital for a gastroscopy and colonoscopy. We really pray that this will give us some (quick!) answers for the way forward. We realise that most likely we are unfortunately not going to be able to go home now for quite a while. Tim and Louisa will plan to join us as we hopefully go to Canada mid-June and then have some more time together here in the UK in August before returning to Tanzania.

But we are not twiddling our thumbs while waiting and Grandma has been looking after us very well! Amisadai has been working to keep up with schoolwork at home. I have been able to get on with admin-type things, research and think about more creative things and start a proposal for project funding. And we've been able to meet up with many friends, including a visit last week to Julian and Zoe's ...

Allecott Farm

We had a great time on the Willford's farm in Exmoor National Park. Amisadai did well health-wise most of the time and was thrilled with the opportunity to get involved with the lambing and spent most of her week in the lambing shed or pairing up ewes and lambs in the fields.

Amisadai after "pairing up" the sheep on the quad with Will

Delivering lambs
Meanwhile I had the opportunity to go with Julian to a good number of his beehives and learn how beekeeping is done in this country. No crazy bee tales this time! Julian and I went to the National Bee Convention where I was able to meet the guys from Bees Abroad who support Julian to come and help us with the beekeeping groups. It was great to network with various people throughout the day, see all that is "out there" and attend a workshop on top-bars!
Julian's Honey Shed

Out to the hives in the Land Rover

The finished product in stock on the local shelves!
We had an afternoon at Quince Honey Farm, where if you are in the area (South Molton, Devon), is well worth a visit to learn all about bees! There I enjoyed afternoon tea (a cup of Earl Grey with delicious Honeycomb on a Teacake) and we met Paddy and Ian, the beekeepers who run the centre and also support Bees Abroad.

On our final evening, we had a fantastic barbeque with Dave (who also came out to Tanzania to help with the beekeeping) and Mary and were introduced to their rather adorable donkeys!

All in all, it was just wonderful to have the time living and learning with Julian and Zoe. We enjoyed walks with the dogs on the hills and drives across the moors. I went to a crafting coffee morning with Zoe's friends as they spun their own wool and her friend, Bev helped me hugely with ideas for the mamas group soap-making (with help from her goats, she has made her own goats milk soaps).

If you would like to stay in this beautiful spot, check out their website here, as the Willfords run two lovely holiday cottages on the farm ... very appropriately named "Honey Cott" and "The Bees Knees."

Allercott Farm nestled in the hills in the centre of the photo
The Exmoor Ponies
I am writing this blog on Easter Saturday. The in-between day. The quiet day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday where nothing seems to happen. For Jesus' disciples, it must have seemed like such a long day. Afraid, tired, grieving. Waiting confused. They didn't realise a new day was dawning. Tomorrow, Easter Sunday, the third day which is actually the first day, is the day we have all been waiting for. Risen. Life. A New Beginning. This is the Hope we now have. Easter teaches us to be patient during the in-between times. Even when we wait in deep grieving, despair, confusion or simply frustration, we know that He is alive. That all our waiting will be over with the dawn on Sunday.

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Dad and Daughter Time: Island Community Work

Louisa and I (Tim) were up early last Friday morning and walked down to catch the daladala (local bus) so as to make the ferry to Ukerewe Island on time as foot passengers (we’ve learned our lesson not to take the car ... see here!). We had been looking forward to this time (Louisa had special permission from her teacher to miss a day of school) and part of the excitement is the ferry trip. We booked ourselves and Joel Newby into the top cabin, splashing out with the extra 2000tsh (72p) each. And so we were ready for 3+ hour ferry trip and only 20 minutes past the scheduled departure time, we were off.

We settled into our “deluxe” seats, and Louisa tucked into a second breakfast of sweet tea and chappatis. Once she was finished she went outside and Joel and I continued chatting. After a while it occurred to me I should check on Louisa. But where was she? Nowhere to be seen! Had she fallen over board? I went up to the Bridge and asked if they’d seen her. “Oh yes, she’s up top!” Eventually I spotted her, happily playing on the top level, having climbed past the no admittance sign...
We reached Ukerewe in good time and docked at Nansio. And we were ready for work. We had been invited some time ago by the churches there to help them with entrepreneurship in the community. Since then a couple of things had come together to make this possible. My Dad’s company, the Isle of Wight County Press, had kindly donated some money for this project in his memory. Secondly, we have been joined by our new missionary, Joel who has business training. So our purpose was to introduce Joel to the leaders there so he could make preparations with them to begin a project that could impact the local community.

On the Friday and Saturday we visited different parts of the Island to view possible sites for new businesses and we held meetings with church leaders, dealing with plans, goals and expectations, as well as hearing their thoughts on potential opportunities.
Louisa as scribe for Joel as leaders rate their strengths in different areas
Meeting Pastor Ibrahim and family at his church
Their initial ideas for businesses ranged from chicken, goat and pig-rearing (they already have a small goat project), to providing a village community with cheaper water, to operating a machine to mill rice and maize, to even running a ferry to a neighbouring smaller island. We’ll see how many of these Joel will be able to help get going!

And remembering World Water Day today, here are a number of photos taken as we looked at and thought about getting clean water to communities ...
Pastor Ibrahim's church have already dug a well

Potential site for a community water project

Louisa pulling hard to draw water from the church's well
On Sunday we were privileged to go to Nansio Revival Centre, joining the church for worship. Joel preached superbly on Lydia, the Godly Entrepreneur (Acts 16:12-15). They were so delighted to have some support, and are expectant that those living in difficult circumstances can be helped to start businesses which also will in turn bless their local communities. 

As Louisa assessed the weekend, "it was a lot of fun!" I think part of the fun for her was being able to use different forms of transport across the island, but don’t tell her mum!

There’s a long way to go for this project – please pray for Joel as he makes another visit shortly and continues to make preparations – but as Louisa and I walked back up the hill to our home, with our shoulders aching from carrying our backpacks, we were very thankful for a productive and enjoyable trip!
Fish and chips!

Time to relax!

Monday, 27 February 2017

From the UK Half

Apologies! The blog has recently been seriously neglected!

Rachel and Amisadai are now in the UK while Tim and Louisa have stayed in Tanzania. Amisadai is undergoing tests and seeing doctors to try and get to the bottom of what has been going on with her health. We have been here two weeks now but many blood test tubes later, don't have a whole lot to report yet! After a rather difficult journey, Amisadai is actually doing much better now we are here ... which is good, but a little unhelpful and confusing! We are making the most of special time with Grandma and have enjoyed seeing cousins and friends. It feels extremely cold here, but we are very grateful for warm clothes and shoes lent to us by kind friends for our time here! In between appointments (medical and social!) Amisadai is working to keep up with schoolwork assignments!
In Doha Airport: Not so good

At Grandma's with Roast Beef Dinner: much better!
It was very special timing to arrive in time for my Grandad's funeral. He passed away, sadly just a few days before we arrived. Last week, it was really wonderful to have the unexpected time with my parents who came over from Canada, and then on Thursday with all the extended family at the funeral. It was a really special day, honouring a wonderful man who has left us such a rich legacy of faith, love and prayer.
Wonderful memories of fun with Grandma and Grandad!
Meanwhile Tim and Louisa are doing a grand job of looking after each other! The first week was half term and wonderful friends made it a very fun time for Louisa! Last week it was "back to school" and Tim had a busy week of teaching at the college. They were in Kayenze on Sunday where Tim was preaching on Romans 8 and are thankful and happy to report that it has been raining! Farmers have now been planting both in Kayenze and Sengerema so please join us in praying for the germination and growth of these seeds, for good rains and a fruitful harvest to come.

Before coming to England, I was at the ECHO Agricultural Symposium in Arusha with Peter and also our Iringa colleagues, Andre and Jesca. At the time, it was hard being away that week with so much going on as travel plans were being arranged for Amisadai, who that same week also went down with malaria, and then with my Grandad weakening and passing away. It seemed hard to focus on pigeon peas and weeds at the time. But ECHO is a fantastic organization and in hindsight, it was a great time with other people doing similar agricultural work to us. It was great to have all we are doing reinforced and encouraged as well as good to learn new things and feed thoughts and ideas for future work.

It was exciting to pick up on the buzz about pigeon peas this year!
We are already pigeon pea enthusiasts! I could write a whole blog post on them ...

The medicinal garden at ECHO inspired me to persevere with this in Mwanza!

I came back with Chaya cuttings, excited about working with our farmers with this "spinach tree!"
It has been rated Number 4 in the top leafy plants for protein and I could write
another whole post about its benefits and uses!
We learned all about this aggressive and terribly damaging weed,
Parthenium hysterophorus. Watch out for this wicked one!
As I close this post, I must say how incredibly grateful we are for wonderfully loving and supporting friends everywhere! So many with Tim and Louisa in Tanzania. So many here in the UK with Amisadai and myself. And many others encouraging and supporting us from other places! Thank you all!

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Amisadai Evacuated Again!

Life has continued in its normal irregular fashion and I'll a give a few updates in a moment. But it has been strangely hard to focus properly with Amisadai's health problems. She has continued to have these strange episodes, with dizziness and pain and occasional blacking out. She is up and down with it, but it's been a bit of a worry! So to cut a long story short, she is being flown back to the UK for tests which we hope will be conclusive and find a way to bring her back to normal.

The tentative plan after talking with the insurance company and medical team yesterday is that Amisadai will fly back with Rachel on Sunday (12th) and stay with Tim's mum in Basingstoke while we sort things out. Tim and Louisa will remain here in Mwanza, Tim carrying on with work here and Louisa at school, which seems the best plan as we have no idea how long Amisadai will have to remain in the UK.

It hasn't been easy knowing what to do. I (Rachel) have been long booked into a Agriculture Conference (ECHO) in Arusha, so the plan is that I will still go to that tomorrow, staying until Saturday. Tim will stay close to home work-wise and we hope Amisadai will be able to finish this week at school before half term. But we take things a day at a time ... she has been in bed again today while Tim took Louisa to the Nyamililio Church near Sengerema. (After Tim had preached and Pastor Tito had preached on Psalm 67, they had another look at the a-maize-ing crop at the church before having lunch at Sharach's house. The picture below doesn't do it justice but the cob Louisa is holding is enormous! They have just returned home after their ferry bumped into another one when docking! It took awhile to get going again, but all's well that ends well!)
Healthy crop of maize
So, friends in the south of England ... we look forward to the possibility of seeing some of you! Everything is very uncertain, but we value your friendship, prayers and support! It will also be lovely if we are in time to visit my Grandad when we get back. He has gone into hospital this week and is very poorly with probably not much longer to live.

Despite the disruption and uncertainty, we are all thankful and relieved that things are moving in the right direction!

Meanwhile, in regular life...

Fantastic Fabrics!

The Mamas Group met again yesterday and Louisa joined us as well for another day of making some amazing fabric! They are fantastic! I was feeling slightly stressed yesterday, and was struggling a little to stay cool with rather chaotic activity involving rather a lot of splashy dye! With mistakes made, too many people with hands in, bundled fabric was dropped in the dye. But at the end of the day, I took a deep breath and realised everything actually came out vibrant and good in the end! It was sad to say goodbye for an undetermined time, but as they prayed at the end for Amisadai, it was precious to know their love and care for us.

Louisa enjoys learning how it's done!

Samantha works with Mama Wilson folding the fabric

What would you do or love to have made with one of these?

Permits and Photos!

As is often the way here, a fair amount of time goes into bureaucratic matters. It has been the season of forms and filling out, and chasing documents as we sort out different work and residency permits. Then with new Canadian regulations, the girls (as dual citizens), are no longer allowed to enter Canada on their British passports so they need Canadian passports. And then Tim and Louisa's British passports expire in a few months, so we need to apply for new ones for them too...

The funny thing is what a palava getting passport photos has been! The different application forms want different sized photos with unique specifications. The poor photo shop in town has been struggling to cope with our family photo requirements. They don't have a computerised system for printing photos to varying specifications. We are talking here about a guy with a camera who hangs a dirty white sheet behind you in the doorway of the shop and shoots. Then with the ruler I lent them, their own pair of scissors and my diagrams of size and proportion, it was trial and error to get what we need. It took several tries and a fair bit of time over three trips (it was closed once)! And now we have piles of little photos of varying sizes of our heads!

Working with the Bishops

We had a really positive and also pretty important meeting on Thursday with the new Bishops and their assistants. Also with Joel and Samantha, Bishop Charles and Pastor Zakayo, it was an excellent time of sharing about our work in community development through the church and how we can best work together.
Zakayo sharing at the meeting