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

Saturday, 18 November 2017

The Warm Heart of Africa

They call it the “warm heart of Africa.” A small, land-locked country stretching along a beautiful lake, otherwise known as Malawi. I went there to represent Mwanza in our nine-membered Emmanuel International team (representing Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and the UK and Canada). I can wholeheartedly agree with the country nickname, after the warm welcome we all received.
Meetings on the veranda!
Brought together by Richard McGowan (Director of EI Canada), we were hosted and wonderfully looked after in Zomba by Paul and Helen Jones (Country Directors for Malawi). We had a week of sharing ideas together as we worked to draw together a framework for proposal writing. During the week, we were also able to have some field visits to see different projects they are working on in Malawi. It was very encouraging to see and hear so much of what each of the different countries are doing and exciting to explore how we can work better together. Here are some photos from some of our field visits!
CA Maize growing as part of a solar irrigation project
A Community Womens group (Promise) showing their educational khangas

The Promise women

Teaching food processing and nutritious cooking

A women's village savings and loans group

A tree nursery incorporated in the Watershed Project

Mamas in Dar es Salaam

The last few days before returning home, I was staying with the Nkone family and meeting again with the Upendo wa Mama group at the UTSS (Under the Same Sun) office. It is such a privilege to be with these women! Together for just two days, we made some beautiful recycled paper jewellery and learned how to sew embroidered gift cards! One afternoon was spent discussing training they would like to receive from a local small industries development organization. They will be attending training in various food processing skills all through next week. There was also opportunity to pray with one mama deeply struggling with issues in her difficult life and see God work miraculously in her.
Varnishing the beads

Making cards

 Meanwhile in Mwanza...

Meanwhile, Tim has been amazing looking after everything at home! He is now wrapping up this semester's teaching at the Bible College. On Thursday, he, Peter and Pastor Mbuke were interviewing candidates to take on roles within our team; we are really thrilled to be getting another agricultural trainer and beekeeping assistant working with us! Tim and the girls went to Nyamililo Church last Sunday and were warmly welcomed. This is a church with which we are assisting in a conservation agriculture project. Tim preached from Luke 17:11-19 when Jesus healed ten lepers, talking about how the work of Jesus touches people physically, touches the community, as well as transforming people spiritually. The agriculture project has progressed well from last year with the  blessing of good rains this year. The church demonstration plot is growing maize, ground nuts and pigeon peas. Tim was pleased to see Pastor Tito had protected the plot with a fence to keep the animals out - something we don't very often see!
Church Demonstration Plot
The church was delighted to see Amisadai - they had prayed for her in her illness. After enjoying lunch, they stayed to chat to people - there was mutual language learning as they learned Kisukuma while those they were with learned English! Amisadai went to talk with a young woman who had led one of the choirs singing in the service. This beautiful young woman in her early twenties, full of the life of God, has lost three pregnancies at 6 months. Please join us in praying that Jesus would touch her physically so that she and her husband could be blessed with a child. Tim and the girls left later that afternoon touched by the kindness of the church, eager to return again soon!

So we have to say, we find Tanzania to be a pretty warm heart of Africa too!
Nyamililio Church

Pastor Tito

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Pests, a Permit and a new Upendo wa Mama

The rains have started! After the drought which preceded the recent dry season, this is cause for rejoicing! Farmers are now putting their conservation agriculture "classroom" training into practice as they plant. We are now working with farmers in 7 communities with around 130 farmers. So as you can imagine, Peter, our CA project manager is very busy! And there is always a new challenge ... and right now, the challenge is this ...

Pests!




These pests are proving to be a real problem in one village. The whole village has been plagued by these bugs which burrow deep into the root of the maize plant. By the time the plant breaks through the soil, the damage is already done. For these farmers who can only afford to plant once, to see a whole crop destroyed before it even comes out of the soil is devastating. We are praying for more consistent rain which we think will strengthen future plants against the pest.

There is so much going on at the moment, it is getting rather difficult to keep up on the blog! But here are a few highlights!

Dar es Salaam

We were in Dar es Salaam all together the other weekend with Victory Christian Church. Staying by the Indian Ocean was beautiful! Tim was teaching at the Bible School on the Saturday and then preaching for the church services on the Sunday.




Sunday morning service at VCC

A Work and Residence Permit

Tim and the girls returned home to Mwanza on the Sunday night and I stayed on with Pastor Huruma and the family to begin working with a lovely group of women with albinism. I am thrilled to say that finally after a long and complicated procedure, with the generous help of Under the Same Sun, I now finally have a visa! It arrived just in the perfect nick of time this week, as I was about to fly out to Malawi! In the midst of a very busy and rather crazy week, Tim helped by taking my passport into Immigration and getting it stamped with my residence permit the day before I left! While still serving with the TAG church, this visa will enable me to volunteer alongside UTSS to help with their work with women with albinism. What a privilege!

It is wonderful to be working alongside the great team at UTSS. Rahab, who helps particularly with the women's group, travelled to Canada a year or so ago and as well as attending King's Community Church in Langley, also shared a meal at my parents!

New Upendo wa Mama

I was so delighted to finally meet these ten women in Dar es Salaam after waiting so long! All of them either have albinism or have children with albinism and are wanting to establish their group for support and income-generating. Their stories as similar to those of the mamas in Mwanza. They have chosen to also be called Upendo wa Mama (Mother's Love). In our days together, as we made the beads out of strips of old paper, we started reading Genesis about how God brings light and order into the darkness and chaos. We read about being created beautifully in the image of God for a purpose. It is a life-changing message. And my prayer is that as these women work together and grow, they would be a living demonstration to others of this truth.

Making beads together






Sunday, 15 October 2017

Boats and Baking, Painting and Pumpkin Pie

Out on the Lake

Last Sunday some of our team went together to BMCC Church. It was great to be back with Pastor Mbuke and this wonderful church and also good to introduce the new members of the team to them! After the service, we went on to have lunch together at a nearby restaurant on the lake. Often here, you can wait for rather a long time after ordering before your food arrives. The great thing at this restaurant, is that while you wait, you can go for a boat ride on the lake! It's a hard life!




Ukerewe Island

Tim was back on the lake on Thursday and Friday; this time for the four hour journey to Ukerewe Island with Joel. They were pretty chuffed to discover that a new boat had been launched which had a VIP lounge! Complimentary drinks included! Again... it's a hard life! On the island, they were meeting with local churches to discuss how the entrepreneurship project would run and could be shaped - particularly the upcoming training. It is not without its challenges, but exciting to be seeing this project move forward!
 Joel travelling VIP

At their hotel with Palapala (Director of Development) and various pastors

Baking Classes for Girls

While Tim was away, I had the privilege of going with Carol Nzogere to the home she has set up with others from MICC to help girls off the street. About 20 girls are staying there, from as young as twelve years old. These girls have been abandoned, rejected, orphaned and the life they have lived on the streets is horrendous. Three girls have their young babies with them. This home is offered to them for a set period of time in which they have a safe place to live, the opportunity to learn new skills, continue with some education and most importantly, be loved. Here they are shown the true love of Jesus. I went to start teaching a series of baking classes. We started with bread rolls and banana cakes. While I loved being with them all, the actual lesson was rather a disaster! The rains have started (which is a very good thing!) but with that comes an unreliable power supply. As the oven in the house was electric, it was on and off, then on and off again so baking proved disastrous! But it meant we had plenty of time to chat, while cooking (on the open fire outside) and eating lunch together. We also read the Bible together reflecting on verses in Deuteronomy 8 about a land in which bread is not scarce, about a life which is given by our Creator who can take us out of whatever wilderness we are in.

Upendo wa Mama Workshop

The painting and cleaning up of our workshop is now finished! Standing Voice have given us sole use of the garage, which with a bit of fixing up, is going to be good! On Wednesday, we moved all our materials and supplies in and can now focus on getting tables and chairs and also an oven and kitchen cupboard. Our only set-back was arriving to find the floor under water ... the rains come in (yes, a familiar problem!). But we have every hope this can be fixed! We set up the sewing machine and soon hope to start some sewing projects. Yesterday we got back to work, making African tie-dye again. Again the rains (which we want so much!) created havoc as we had the fire boiling a huge pot of water outside ... and the line outside ready to dry the fabric, when the heavens opened! We hung the twelve wet pieces of fabric up on criss-crossing strings in the garage and then sat in and under them to keep out of the rain! But there, all crouched on the floor in between diagonal walls of dripping fabric, we had a long and good discussion of hopes and plans for where to go from here and how the group can be a blessing in our wider community. It's great how God works things out when things don't seem to be working out!

The painting begins
Clean-up after the painters!

Back to work! Making African tie-dye!
A new skirt made from the last batch of fabric! 

Canadian Thanksgiving

Today, we had the joy of celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving with friends - old and new! We truly have so much to be thankful for and there is nothing like a delicious feast of turkey and trimmings and pumpkin pie to remind us to reflect on this!
Carving the turkey with Jannetta and Jade
The Canadians (plus a few others!)

The girls are particularly thankful for half term now! I hope they will have a bit of time this week to start up their blog again ... they have their own news of new bunnies and our first efforts at milking our goat! We head off later this week to Dar es Salaam for time with our good friends at Victory Christian Centre I will then stay on to work with a group of Albinism Mamas there which is new and exciting!

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Back with the Beekeepers!

I had packed our trusted landcruiser full with loads of empty buckets ready for honey (yes, ever go in hope), new beesuits along with all the beekeeping paraphernalia (including jeans under my khanga and a long-sleeved top in hand for extra protection). I had water and a bag of chapattis and samosas for Peter and me to eat on the journey. We were off to Malya on Thursday.
Just outside of Malya
If I am completely honest, I was not feeling terribly confident about going to Malya for two days. I would have liked to have had Tim at my side for one thing, and the very real possibility of thousands of bees turning against me was not far from my mind! There were many things to be sorted out, both with the Mamas Group and the Beekeepers Group and I felt rather out of my depth with that familiar feeling that things just might not go as planned.

Well, lots of things didn't go as planned! Right from the start! But one thing we are all learning in this bee project is perseverance! And despite the obstacles, changes and delays (and very hot temperature!) we really had an amazing few days! It started with the Mamas Group meeting on Thursday. It was so wonderful to be back with these lovely ladies - a great reunion! They were delighted with the profits from their sales in the UK and Canada and had a good chat about how to make their money work for them, tied in with a small Bible study. They had lots of ideas. They really like the fuel-efficient stove and have asked to learn how to make cakes for weddings and parties. After sharing out half of their profits between them, they have decided to buy a female goat with the other half. And so next time I go, I have said I will take our male goat to mate her ... could be interesting! (But it is very exciting to be doing more with the goats!) The mamas are also happy to be sharing a shamba (field to grow crops). With some Conservation Agriculture tips, they are planting choroko beans which they will harvest in February. They were so keen and enthusiastic, it was great! We made honey soaps and prayed together to end a wonderful afternoon!

Peter and I were hoping to check a few hives in the late afternoon before dark, but our beekeeping secretary didn't arrive in time. I was then starting to feel increasingly ill, so ended up going straight to bed. It was small airless room with the ensuite hole and bucket of dirty water. A few boards clonked off the old bed when I lay down under my holey mosquito net and prayed, feeling just a little concerned about how I was going to get through the next day and the long drive home!

Prayers answered! The next morning I was up early feeling better, and Peter and I went to find a cup of chai from a local lady frying chapattis. Then we waited at the church building for the beekeepers to arrive. And waited ... and waited! Finally they all arrived and we began. Peter did a fantastic job leading the meeting and teaching. Again a time of good discussions with the good news that the beekeeping secretary has two acres of land that he is giving for the use of the group for reforestation. We will start a tree seedling nursery next month at the group chairman's land (with good access to water) and then trees will be planted out on this plot.

We were then able to present a gift of new bee suits to the group from the Basingstoke Beekeepers Association! They were all so thrilled with the gift and the greetings from Basingstoke and they send back their love and thanks to the group there!
Mama Maria delighted with the suits!
The group happy to receive such a wonderful gift!
(Secretary Mathias on the left, Peter on the right)
Peter teaching the Malya Beekeepers
Finally, together we all went to the home of the family of "Chief" Edward, one of our beekeepers who sadly died last month. His father used to be the local chief back in the days of the tribal system before the modern local government was established after Tanzanian Independence. Out of respect, people in the village still referred to the son as "chief." We went as a group with some gifts of fruit and money to give our love and pay our respects to Edward's wife and family.

By this time it was midday and absolutely unbearably hot! Peter and I had so wanted to get out and check the hives, but the whole group was adamant that we shouldn't. It was far too hot in the sun for us and the bees ...and things would not go well! We had to agree. But we were encouraged with the good news that three more hives had been colonised! We were also pleased they had checked the hives two weeks earlier and although with the terribly hot and dry conditions there is little honey, the colonies are surviving!

So Peter and I said our farewells and headed back to Mwanza on the hot, dry road. The stretch of dirt road was not too bad, but there were sections that were terrible with unavoidable potholes. Then it was a challenge to find to the best bits of road, and in one place the pothole in the middle was enormous! I went straight to bed when I got home, but very encouraged with how things are moving so positively forward with these wonderful friends in Malya!

Reason here to pray for rain!



Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Anniversary Celebrations ... with a Cobra

So Tim and I celebrated 16 years of marriage on Friday! We are so thankful for these years which have been amazingly full, with plenty of adventures! We celebrated by heading an hour or so up around the Lake, to a beautiful spot called Papa's. As a charity for orphaned and abandoned girls, they house and school children and as part of the project manage sustainable agriculture and run a restaurant and accommodation. After a very busy time here and also following the long time apart and then little time alone together, Tim and I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity there just to rest and be together. (Kind friends had Amisadai and Louisa staying for the night.) The hours passed all too quickly, but we returned refreshed on Saturday afternoon!




We had a bit of excitement during our evening meal on Friday... there was a commotion not far from the restaurant veranda. Cries of "SNAKE" and sounds of much hitting ensued. Then the power suddenly cut out. We sat in the darkness with our chicken and fish as the commotion intensified and waited for the generator to kick back in. Then I ventured out to the commotion. Victorious cheers as the Maasai defeated the cobra. A quick photo. And then back to finish my dinner.

The dead cobra

The Maasai who attacked the cobra!



We did manage a walk to the top of the hill!

A view of Papas from the top of the hill
The Restaurant is the large shelter on the right,
there are two small bandas on the left - ours was the one on the right!

Back in Kayenze

We were so delighted to be back with the church in Kayenze on Sunday! We received such a warm welcome after our long absence! It was a much longer service than normal with the sermon running over an hour and half and then lots of singing and announcements after that! Pastor Amon is doing such a great job as the church takes the lead with running the agriculture project in Kayenze and surrounding villages. Amon is encouraging farmers and has done much of the new teaching with Peter and will take responsibility for refresher training for the existing groups in the villages.
Choir singing for the Offering

Working with Many New Farmers!

Peter has been very busy these past few weeks. He has been training new groups starting in the conservation agriculture project. Many people are interested and excited! About 60 new farmers have been trained so far this season in the new villages. This week he is doing some of the short refresher training with existing groups. And preparations are underway with all the farmers for planting, which we should be able to start soon. We are all praying for good rains this year!
Peter demonstrating with the farmers

Pastor Amon doing some practical teaching


Upendo wa Mama

Exciting steps forward with the Mamas Group! We met last week for a thorough cleaning of the garage at Standing Voice which we will be using as a workshop. Phew! What a crazy, dirty job! But we did well and prepared it for painting which was supposed to start on Saturday, but will now be tomorrow!



Stepping up for Sewing!

Also last week I picked up a sewing machine for the mamas, after some confusion when they went for sewing training in May at Mwanza Sewing Training Centre. Incredible to see the ancient machines they are able to fix up for a new life!

Fitting our machine with a motor so it is able to run as a treadle machine or with electricity!

A beautiful old machine sitting next to me while our machine was worked on!
There seems so much more to say as there is rather a lot happening at the moment! A rural island health update is needed and the girls need to update on goats and baby bunnies! Next time ...