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

Saturday, 28 December 2013

A House for Christmas

It looks like we have a house! On Christmas Eve, our very kind friend, Dr. Macori visited three houses in Mwanza and then returned to one of them on Christmas Day with our other very kind friend, Bishop Charles. They think it's a good house for us, and we are now in the (slow) process of sending the money to them to secure it. We know that it has three bedrooms and we just found out that it is furnished ... beds, chairs, a table! As we don't have any furniture of our own, this is a great blessing! The church there in Mwanza is incredible; we heard that yesterday, they had a group of people at the house, cleaning and sorting it out for us! It makes such a difference making the drive to Mwanza knowing that we have a house at the other end ... and even one with beds in it! And knowing that people we don't even know are already preparing for our arrival is just amazing too!

Many of you have probably read Amisadai's blog all about our Christmas. We have been thinking so much of friends and family we miss over the Christmas season ... we are sorry that we haven't been able to communicate personally with many of you, but want to send our love and greetings all the same! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Happy Christmas! Thank you so much to those of you who sent cards and parcels!
I just wish you could see the excitement it causes! Thank you!
Christingles at the (English-Speaking) Christmas Carol Service

Christmas Eve puzzles (thanks, Dad!) with Andy and Angela before guests arrived
Christmas Day Lunch - roast duck and lots of British trimmings!

This Christmas, we were able to give Lucy a fantastic Christmas present! Thank you to many of you that have stayed with us here in Tanzania and been served by Lucy, and who generously gave towards this gift! Just before Christmas we bought an oven for Lucy and have installed it at Lucy's house so that she can continue to bake for a business after we have left. We are doing our best to get all aspects of the business handed over to Lucy at her home, aware that it will not be easy! But Lucy is keen and eager to make it work, so we hope that cinnamon buns and breadsticks and other things will stay on the Iringa market, and the business would continue to help Lucy and her children. Please pray for Lucy as she continues on her own, that orders would come in and Lucy would be able to meet them.

Lucy at home with her new oven!

Lucy baking for the Iringa Christmas Craft Fayre

Lucy's Jiko: Selling at the Fayre

Friday, 20 December 2013

High on a hill, a lonely goat heard ...

"So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen adieu; adieu, adieu, to yieu and yieu and yieu..."
Shocked, surprised, excited, overwhelmed – we were all of these on Tuesday. Amisadai, Louisa and I (unfortunately Rachel wasn’t feeling too well so stayed behind) went to the village of Ikuka, along with Andrew, to say goodbye. Ikuka is the second village this year in which we have done a stove project. We haven’t been so personally involved in this project because we wanted Jesca to have room to lead this project without our getting in her way. It’s been a sheer delight to watch Jesca grow and develop this project in Ikuka from nothing. She really has gone from strength to strength.

We were thrilled to have Jesca receive us so warmly in Ikuka on Tuesday. She whisked us off to visit the village chairman who was unwell at home with typhoid. He has been the epitome of encouragement and support – a real servant leader who has helped the project so wonderfully. After our visit with chairman Joseph, we dashed back to the village office for the main event. We would have been happy with just meeting the group, thanking them for their hard work and encouraging them to continue… but no not them! They were determined and had planned to give us a lavish send-off… quite frankly far more than we deserved.

So we took it all in and loved every minute of it. One thing that has characterised the Ikuka project is co-operation… in many ways it has been a model project. So we were thrilled to see so many of the group present (in the midst of their busy farming season) along with the village executive officer and the pastors of the Anglican, Pentecostal, Lutheran and Seventh Day Adventist churches. It’s been a dream come true to see villagers, the village government and the various churches all pulling together for the good of their village. So no wonder they sang for us “Unity is Power” – they have demonstrated it!

After the introductions, the sermon, the thanks from the officials and pastors, the stove secretary‘s report of the challenges and successes, it was gift time and we mean GIFT TIME! The whole group disappeared out of the room only to reappear shortly after amid shouts of joy with a goat, yes a real live GOAT! The three of us looked at each other, amazed and excited, as we readied ourselves to receive it. Then they also gave a dozen eggs, a chicken, a bucket of maize and some money. We were bowled over – such extreme generosity when we have only been a few times. It’s a real credit to Jesca and the way she has conducted the project that the villagers are so thankful.
Bringing in the gifts!

Receiving the goat
Then it was our turn, and although we did our best to say thank you, somehow it seemed inadequate to me. But they nonetheless gratefully accepted our thanks. They chose the name, “Redemption Jiko Ikuka” for themselves. It’s a fitting name as they are a sign and agent of God’s community redemption and transformation in Ikuka. We hope and pray they will continue to be this sign and agent, especially as they are treasuring and reading the Bibles we gave them in October.
The Ikuka Stoves Group
Andrew wrapped up the thanks and then we shared a great meal together to finish the wonderful celebration. After the photos, it was time to load up our goat, Johnson, as the girls named him, and set off for home after a long but special day.

So now we have a goat which Amisadai takes out to pasture every morning. She asked for a goat two years ago and now she has Johnson and is wanting to take him to Mwanza!


Sunday, 15 December 2013

Saying Goodbye

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” 
 A.A. Milne "Winnie the Pooh"
As the goodbyes begin, I can only be grateful for the lovely people that make these goodbyes so hard! We didn't realise how much we would end up saying goodbye when we came here, and it is never a nice thing to do. We have now said our goodbyes in Kimande and Itunundu. A farewell service and feast had been planned for Sunday afternoon in Kimande. It was lovely. At the church service, Mama Sungura (Christina) read a report on behalf of the group; as well as expressing their thanks to us, they gave a history of our time with them (reporting over 210 stoves made), thanking as well all the visitors that have come with us (Edwin and Margaret, Kate, Greg, Hugh, Lyn and Ellie and Gideon). They gave Acts 15:36 to us, "Sometime later Paul said to Barnabas, 'Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.'" So we know this won't be the last time we see them all! We have to go back! Then there was much singing and dancing (even with a generator so we could have loud music!). We were presented with gifts of rice and a khanga that was danced in and wrapped around us all amid much laughter, hugs, tears and dancing!  Ezekiel, Mendriad and Jesca were there with us which was great! And everyone stayed together to feast on rice and beans afterwards.

Mama Sungura reads the group letter
Presented with gifts
(Simoni, white shirt with the stick, recovering from his gunshot wound was able to join us!) 
And then on Monday, we had a final farewell meeting with the stoves group and Andrew was able to join us for that. We were able to thank the group for all their hard work and encourage them as they continue. There have been some difficulties in the group, but we were so pleased to see that they are sorting things out. Simoni led a Bible study, reading the first chapter of Joshua and charged the group to carry on after their Moses (Tim ) leaves them... but as Tim pointed out, he isn't planning to die soon! The group appreciated the fact that there will be hurdles to cross (like the River Jordan) but there is real determination to face them and move forward.

Farewell to the stoves group

The group is now advertising on their door!
"ANNOUNCEMENT! We are selling fuel-efficient stoves. 5000Ttsh"
With mobile numbers of group members to call!
A piece of chalk advertises the stoves on the mud of the stove house
It was strange leaving our little house; we left everything just as it was, as Jesca will now be using the house for the remainder of the project. So we just took our few personal belongings and swept the floor as we usually do and locked the door behind us. Goodbye.

Farewell to Pastor Castory's family
So now back in town, we have been finishing the term's schoolwork, tying up project work and now the packing up for moving has begun. And we have found Advent in the midst of it! And that is important! This week we caught up on our daily advent reading from our family Christmas book and Tim and I caught up on reading together "The Meaning is in the Waiting" by Paula Gooder. It is good to focus on what is important. We also decorated a large bit of tree we cut off in the garden with red bows and paper and cookie cut-outs; the advent calendar wall hanging is now hanging and the nativity scene is set.
I'll finish with a quote from our advent reading which encouraged me to readjust my eyes looking for those important glimmers of light.
"... it is through weaving light into the shade of our present world that he evokes wonder by the wisdom of his counsel (wonderful counsellor); shows the power of God in the world (mighty God); cares eternally just like a parent (everlasting father) and is the source of all well-being for God's people ( prince of peace). Jesus lived as wonderful counsellor, mighty God, everlasting father and prince of peace in the midst of our broken, despairing world, shining in the darkness and bringing hope.
It is this light shining in the darkness for which we wait and the season of advent calls us to readjust our eyes in that darkness so that we can see glimmers of the Light of the World, glowing and pointing us forwards to that ultimate time in the future when everything will be fulfilled and in the words of John Donne's prayer .. 'there will be no darkness or dazzling but one equal light.'"

The trees in Kimande are growing well!

Friday, 6 December 2013

It's Good News!

We have some good news! After months of waiting and our permit to live and work in Iringa expiring, with help from good friends in Dar and Mwanza prodding and probing, we finally received our new residence permit this morning. This allows us to work anywhere in Tanzania under the umbrella of the TAG church, which is what we needed to move to Mwanza! A big relief!

This week we have Ezekiel from Magozi staying with us here in town. We picked him up as we passed through on our way home from Kimande on Monday, and he is working on some experimental designs of stoves for testing purposes. Tim wants to see if we can improve the efficiency of the stove even more. So we have had evening rounds of Golf (card game) as many of you who have stayed with us could guess! And last night we all watched (and Tim translated) the Nativity Film which was much enjoyed with POPcorrrrrn!

Ezekiel at work on the experimental stoves

Ezekiel's experimental jiko designs!
We are going back to Kimande early Sunday morning (after some busy baking and selling with Lucy for the annual Christmas Fayre here in Iringa on Saturday) and this will be our final farewell. The seven of us (Mongers, Jesca, Ezekiel and Mendriad) will all be together in our little house for the last time which is rather sad. But it is good that we have such a team and we pray for them as we go that they, especially Jesca, will flourish in the work after we have gone. We will worship with the Pentecostal Church in the morning and then have a farewell service on Sunday afternoon with the Anglican church. On Monday we will have a farewell meeting (with cake of course) with the stoves group.

We should be back in Iringa on Tuesday afternoon and we will be able to focus on things here in town like finishing school, getting into Advent (unlike what appears to be the rest of the world, we haven't thought about Christmas yet!) and of course, getting ready for The Move.

With four weeks then before we are scheduled to drive to Mwanza, with a houseful of "belongings" in some bags and yet-to-be-found cardboard boxes, no idea how we will get it all from A to B and no house to move into when we do get there, I am wondering if I should start panicking yet. Or at least starting to pack! There seems so much to sort out in a very short time ... and I haven't even thought about what we will do for school after Christmas! I just keep quoting my mom, "Don't worry, it'll be fine!" And I'm sure in the end it will. It's just at the moment, we are so tired and really just want to stop for a while. Stop to-ing and fro-ing between town and village with its packing and unpacking, stop late nights of hurried lesson planning of graphing cubic volume of river water and Queen Anne's contribution to the Stuart Dynasty. Stop busy morning lessons of distracted spellings and maths, stop worrying about how many sheets need washing for the next beds in both houses and how to feed everyone another meal... I said to Tim I feel like one of those ancient computer games, Pac-man where you keep trundling along a narrow maze gobbling the next thing in front of you, unable to see ahead of you and wanting to stop, but the timer keeps ticking and you can't stop until you win or get eaten. I'm hoping for the former not the latter! And I'm sure I'm not the only one feeling like this at the moment!

But now as I write, this has got me thinking about Advent; what was it like for Mary and Joseph at that first Christmas? They also had a long journey to make ... moving to Bethlehem. And they didn't have a comfortable Land Cruiser in which to travel and pack all their belongings. I'm thinking we can't get much in our vehicle, but I know we'll get more than we would on a donkey. Mary and Joseph didn't know where they would stay when they arrived; I'm sure we will do better than a small cave with the animals when we get to Mwanza. And I have the significant advantage of not being heavily pregnant through it all! Mary and Joseph are not thinking about what they will get out of it all for themselves. I'm thinking about myself, what's in this for "me" ... my rest, my time, my... my ...my. Mary and Joseph are valuing something above their own personal comfort and personal security. And isn't that just how Jesus came? He came to creation, giving himself to a people that would not recognize him, that would ultimately kill him. He came as a baby, completely dependent, to share our life and ask us to share his. He demonstrated how none of us are designed to be complete without what others (including Himself) have to give us. It's not about me and my. It's about sharing our life! And that's good news!

And now reading this through, that last paragraph all sounds great, but it still feels rather easier said than done!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Making a Racket and Heavens Open

I drove slowly through the maze of mud houses, avoiding trees, thorn bushes, goats and other various obstacles and enjoyed making the loudest racket I ever have! Honking my horn and waving to all, I was with a group of guys from the Tanzania Assemblies of God church in Kimande, one of whom was shouting into a microphone. We had a generator and huge speaker tied to the roof, a CD player inside and a mass of tangled wires inside and out that would seriously stress out my brother-in-law, James! We were blasting Tanzanian singing and drumming along with the honking and shouting. It was great! It was a village announcement that the big movie night in Kimande was about to start! We very quickly had an entourage of children chasing along beside and behind and before long we had to stop and get a load of them off the Land Cruiser!

Let's go shout it out!
We watched the Jesus Film on both the Friday and Saturday evenings, in different locations in the village. We had over 600 people come to watch; it was great! There were two moments with very funny reactions! One was when Jesus and his disciples collected up the miracle catch of fish ... the audience, many of whom fish in the river here, were in collected awed amazement at the sight of so many wriggling fish! The second was at a very serious moment as Jesus broke bread with his disciples at the Last Supper before his death. At this moving and poignant moment, the entire audience broke out in incredulous laughter as Jesus snapped with crunch what everyone thought was a soft chapatti! Then again as Peter broke his bread, there was a loud "snap" and everyone roared a second time! And then John ... you get the idea! Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing and many recorded the showing on their mobile phones. So we hope that many will continue to watch it in their homes and hear the truth of the words of Jesus, that it may bring life and hope to many in the village.

Kimande kids excited about the film night!

Making the most of all the equipment (generator, projector, speakers, computer, big screen etc...), before the film, we showed a photo video for the benefit of the stoves group, showing all their hard work so far. They all loved seeing themselves up on the big screen and we hope it was encouraging for them to see the progress they have made since that first day in July.

It was lovely to have Simoni come for the second showing. Simoni is part of the stoves group and as I mentioned last week, he was shot in his home by armed robbers one night. He is doing remarkably well and the wound is healing without infection. The bullet passed straight through his upper leg. He lives in Itunundu so we drove to pick him and his wife up so that they could join in. They were so grateful, indeed so grateful to be alive.

In the middle of Friday night someone arrived at the hospital with arms machete-slashed at both elbows. Again robbers in the night. With all this going on, we were very conscious of all the expensive equipment in our home - very publically known about! We are thankful to God for keeping us and everything safe! We were also thankful for safe-keeping as we were sat on the ground in the dark watching the film, because during the prayers, a scorpion appeared near Chupe (a young woman who came with us from town along with Mims Knowles, the occupational therapist at Neema Crafts) and then at the end of the film, Jesca stumbled across a snake underfoot. Both snake and scorpion were quickly killed, and although it may seem a small coincidence, as stones were hurled at the head of the snake, we felt strongly that God was with us!

On Sunday, we attended a full church service in every sense of the word. It was full of people (the church now over double the number that it was in July). And it was full of activity, celebrating baptism, communion and an ordination as well as the usual singing and sermon. So it was good, but also a very long, hot sit, squashed close on wooden benches! We were more than ready for the ugali and beans, further celebrating the Pastor's ordination, at 2pm!

On Monday, we had a meeting with a small number of the stoves group. Unfortunately because there was another funeral, very few were around, but we went ahead with our Seminar on Selling. We were encouraging them to think about how to be proactive and profitable with selling the stoves, as this is one of their struggles at the moment. We had some fun little dramas and brainstorming and it seemed to work, as that afternoon, Mama Esther had a stove displayed for sale by the main road near her house, with plans to ask her husband to write a sign for her.

Tim's sketch as a good tea salesman!
The sad news while we were there was to hear that it is fairly certain that Bruno has been murdered and that the police have been bribed to keep away. There is still no body, so there can be no funeral or closure. We continue to pray for the family as they mourn.

The good news is that life has been transformed for one of the young men in the Ikuka Stoves Group! Obed had what many described as a "bad character." He was stealing, getting drunk and smoking pot. He wasn't at all interested in God or Christianity. But he accepted a Bible along with others in the village in October and he started to read it. He has now turned his life around! He became a Christian, he has stopped stealing, drinking and smoking and is now part of the Church in Ikuka!

The other good news was that the rains came... not on Friday night, not on Saturday night, but on Sunday, after all the outdoor meetings!

"For as the rain and the snow (ok, no snow; we were absolutely, completely, unbearably dripping hot by Sunday) come down from heaven and do not return without watering the earth and making it bud and sprout so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth; it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish the purpose for which I sent it."  (Isaiah 55:10-11)

We read this chapter of Isaiah many times in the very beginning of our work in Kimande, and it was wonderful to hear it again, read in Swahili at the church meeting on Sunday. And then reminded on Sunday afternoon of the promise of watering and sprouting of seeds sown, as the heavens over Kimande opened ... preparing the ground for rice seeds soon to be planted.

The heavens open!


Thursday, 28 November 2013

"Please not a live chicken!"

Two blogs in one day must be a record! But here now we have a guest blogger! The following is submitted by Greg Whittick, the pastor of Tadley Community Church, adapted from what he wrote for the Basingstoke Community Church Focus Magazine. He was here with our other Tadley friends in October, and this is what he had to say about their time with us here in Tanzania!

“Please don’t let it be a live chicken!” I prayed silently as the pastor of the village church announced that they had a gift for us. Fortunately when the gift was paraded in it was a beautiful wooden carving, and some khangas (decorated cotton sheets) rather than poultry. I was left humbled by the generosity and hospitality of these subsistence farmers who do not even have a reliable water supply, let alone mains electricity. I was also struck by the paradox of a place which lacked most of what we regard as the necessities of life, but which had three massive mobile phone masts and an accompanying generator.

Ellie, Greg, Hugh and Lyn receiving their gift
Five of us from Tadley were in Tanzania visiting the three Tadley families who are based there, starting with Martin and Esther Shaw who live and work in Dar-es-Salaam. From Dar, we travelled five hours inland to Morogoro where Matt & Amy Dixon and their children are based.
From Morogoro we travelled another six hours to Iringa where the Monger family live and work. There we swapped stories of life at home and in Tanzania, visited various projects, gave out Bibles in one village, ran a seminar at a Bible College, and spent time with the Mongers. They are running three village-based projects to introduce fuel-efficient stoves that have a range of benefits including reducing lung and eye disease, improving diet, lessening deforestation, and helping girls to be in school. We spent two days and nights in Kimande where we met some of the people Tim and Rachel work with, spoke in two of their churches, and were touched by the generous hospitality they extended to us in their homes.

Greg (right) with Lyn, Ellie and Hugh in Mendriad's home
We also managed to spend an evening at the wrong party, having been invited to Jesca’s (Tim’s assistant) graduation party.  After spending an hour and a half at a party where everybody made us welcome, shook our hands, took our photos, and gave us drinks, we were surprised when the graduate who arrived wasn’t Jesca!  We then went and spent a couple of hours at the right party, celebrating with Jesca and her family and enjoying eating some of the eight chickens we had earlier transported (alive) from Ikuka. On returning, the host of the first party was very keen for us to rejoin it, an invitation we politely declined.

Squashed in the back of the land cruiser with eight live chickens!
Yes, there were some squeals and not all from the chickens!
We were also hugely impressed by the way the whole Monger family was involved in the projects, and by the way in which they have adapted from a Western life to living in villages with limited fresh water, no electricity, and the various inconveniences and dangers they cheerfully face on a daily basis.

Tim and Rachel have integrated the gospel with projects that make a significant difference to people’s lives: it was so good to see stove-making and disciple-making happening together. We also met up again with some young men whom we previously met a couple of years earlier, and it was encouraging to see the way they had grown in godliness, stature and confidence in the intervening period. The challenge for us now is to see how God is leading us to incorporate these principles into our life and mission back at home!


Fuelling Growth: The Fuel-Efficient Stoves Project in Tanzania

Click here to see the latest issue of Down to Earth from Emmanuel International UK. This issue features the Tanzania Stoves Project!

Down to Earth Nov. 2013

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Rivers and Rafts, Pain and Armed Robbers

I am making the most of our electricity at the moment, to get an update up on the blog! Tanzania is on limited power for a while now and we are never too sure when or for how long we'll have it!
We have just returned from a great time down by the river! The EI Tanzania team (Wingfields, Sharpes, Dan, Jesca and our family) went to Masumbo for a team retreat. We (the Mongers) left a bit earlier on Friday to have an afternoon of River Investigations for our current school topic. The girls will tell you more about this later! I'm not sure how many teachers in the UK go to such extremes on field trips with their classes, but I ended up in river water up to my neck, fully clothed, for the sake of scientific enquiry!
Crossing the river
Measuring the river

Our River Investigations
The rest of the team arrived in time for tea on Friday after which we had some fun games before the kids went to bed. Then we had our first session looking at our story as a part of God's Story. The highlight of Saturday was the challenge to get our whole team (including all five children and Jesca and Dan who can't swim) across the river. We had poles and jerry cans and string and Andrew, who clearly thrived in Scouts and knows every knot under the sun! We all made it across - we did get a little wet, but only Andy fell in the water! We were all keeping a keen eye out for the hippo, as we found his footprints on the bank on the other side.

Preparing to make the river raft

It floats! Success! (see the hippo prints on the other side!)

Hippo prints!

We celebrated Dan's graduation from University with a special cake. (Please pray for Dan; he was at the hospital today and has been diagnosed with Typhoid). We had some rather hysterical rounds of Pass the Pigs, which we introduced to Dan and Jesca for the first time! And with times of sharing, worship and prayer and lots of eating, a good time was had by all. We headed home on Sunday morning, in time for the Ordination Service at the Cathedral in Iringa, which lasted a whole five hours! I confess I stayed at home with the girls to get ready for school, but Tim was able to support the pastors from Ikuka and Kimande who were being ordained.

Dan sharing his graduation cake with Andy!

We are now getting ready for a big event at the weekend in Kimande. There are big village-wide meetings planned with the churches to show the Jesus Film in Swahili on Friday and Saturday evenings. We are excited to be working with two of the Kimande pastors for this and praying for God to be working in the lives of many through this weekend. Recently we have seen so much pain, sadness and wickedness, and we are praying to see this "sadness come untrue." We are still praying for the family of Bruno, the young boy that went missing a few weeks ago. He hasn't been found. This week, Simon, a member of our Kimande stoves group, was shot by armed robbers who broke into their home in the night. He was shot in the leg, so it is not fatal, but he cannot walk. In a very short space of time, there has been so much death, including the child drowning and the suicide, as well as the mango tree incident, armed robbers, and bandits on the road (Jesca was unable to return to town from Ikuka a few weeks ago as no one dared travel the road because of armed bandits). We long to see God's transformation in these places. To see his light driving out the darkness. We hope that this weekend we can encourage the churches as they seek to share this light in their community.

Friday, 15 November 2013

What is Mycorrhiza Fungus?

The last blog shared of the heaviness of the past week or so. But despite the battles there is much to be thankful for! On Saturday, we came back from Dodoma (which Amisadai has just written about on the girls' blog) with Gideon Massaka, a guy who works with Sunseed Tanzania Trust, an organization also doing stove and tree-planting projects. We visited them back in Spring 2012, and now Gideon came to us to see what we were doing.  So early on Sunday we all headed to Pawaga with Jesca.  

Gideon learning the stove-making process

During our time in Kimande, Gideon was able to attend the stoves group to learn the three-day process of making our portable clay stoves. We hope that he will be able to grow the work he is doing in Dodoma, to help more people there with what he has learned here. He also led a great afternoon seminar on Mycorrhiza (mycor - fungus, rhiza - root), a fungus which by attaching itself to the roots is used to improve tree and crop survival and growth. We invited the stoves group and also our entrepreneural and green-fingered neighbour, Mama Teresa and were very relieved with a good turnout… an hour after the starting time!
Gideon teaching the Mycorrhiza Seminar
More about MYCORRHIZA ...

This slideshow shows the practical work we did with Gideon, preparing the mycorrhiza, this fungus that is then used to inoculate seedlings to encourage them to grow and thrive. The seeds planted in the soil are watered daily for three months and then the beans and maize harvested. The soil left is now rich in mycorrhiza and ready to be used for seeds. A small "pot" of regular soil is topped with a layer of this rich soil and a seed can be planted in it. The small pit of soil is enough for 5000 trees. The seedlings can then be planted out in the fields, and the roots full of mycorrhiza feed the soil for the crops planted there. Brilliant! So much soil here is being destroyed through bad use and regular burning and this fungus is an amazing gift from God that easily and freely replenishes the soil for the benefit of crops and trees.  

One evening we met with the two pastors of the Anglican and Assemblies of God churches in Kimande, planning a big weekend event at the end of November showing the Jesus film in Swahili. It is great to see the two pastors working together for their community! We were also able to meet with the original stoves group in Magozi (and meet with the church for the first time in ages!). The group needed encouragement to carry on. We facilitated discussion using an “asset-based approach” (excuse the jargon!)  seeking to overcome their hurdles. Definitely made steps in the right direction! 
Gideon headed back to Dodoma on Thursday and we now have two weeks without any visitors, which is a first since May! We really enjoyed our time with him; it was interesting and encouraging to hear of the struggles he faces and his joys and successes doing similar work in Dodoma, yet from a Tanzanian perspective!  It was great to see the strength of his faith and his vision for the future of his country.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Meaningless! Meaningless! A Mango Tree in Darkness

On Sunday afternoon, ten-year old Bruno went to play with his two friends from the village. Bruno is a boy from a family in the small Anglican church here in Kimande. A family that the whole village is now rallying round and many are praying for.
The three boys wandered over to the shambas (rice fields) and like many boys their age, they got up to mischief. There is a large mango tree out there, and the mangos on this tree are now temptingly lush. But this mango tree is on a man's land, a man who many fear has done again what he has done before. The last time was just last year; this man caught a boy stealing a mango from his tree and he murdered the boy and buried him in the ground. The whole village searched for the missing boy only to find his rough grave. So this week, again, the whole village began searching for a boy. We heard that it may be that  Bruno ran away and escaped the man; that his two friends were beaten but not killed. But as Mama Elisabeti said to me, many were searching for a grave. The sadness for me was not only in their sadness but also in their lack of shock at the recurrence of this horrific event. Horrific also are the stories we hear from people about the police. They tell of police that have wanted money in return for their help. And even if this family could somehow get money if it was asked for, there is the chance that the man with mango tree could have already bribed or threatened the police to stay away from the case. So much evil and corruption. So much sadness.

Many are searching. Mama Esther, the pastor's wife, our neighbour, prepares food for Mama Bruno and the family as they search. We could only pray. We left yesterday (Wednesday) while searching continues.

So much sadness. The last time we were in the village, we saw the silent, heartbroken grief of a young mother on her knees in the Itunundu church as we prayed for her after her three-year old child  drowned in the river.

So much sadness. Also on that last Sunday in Itunundu a young girl was overcome by evil spirits that wracked her whole body, fighting to control, to destroy. And on Sunday, this time in the Magozi church, a young woman is wrought with evil spirits, screaming to be heard.

The power of evil in darkness and the pain of death. The heaviness it carries is real and strong. We have felt discouraged and sad. I felt so tired I felt sick. A heavy, completely drained, searing headache, energy-less, futile tired. Tensions in the stoves groups added to it all. Rumours of theft and usurping gossip sap enthusiasm and the drive to continue. The verse that came to mind was Ecclesiastes 1:2-3, "Meaningless! meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless! What does anyone gain from all their labours at which they toil under the sun?"  And really there was a lot of toil and an awful lot of sun this week.

I jumped to the end of the book of Ecclesiastes to find the meaning. And there it was ... after the bit in chapter 12 about clay pots shattered and the wheel broken at the well (there is still no water at our water point and washing our dirty bodies once a day with a very small jug of water and saving every last drop from washing up for sloshing the pit sometimes adds to the futile thinking). But the conclusion of the matter: "Fear God and keep his commandments ... for God will bring every deed into judgement, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil."

The power of God is greater. Greater than these powers of death, corruption, evil, sin and sadness. Greater than powers of typhoons like Haiyan which has just brought death and destruction to the Philippines. Through what Jesus did on the cross (not just thinking of "me" as the song "Above All" below sings, but for all creation, for us for the sake of His Glory) the power of sin and death has been defeated. Yes, there is still pain in death and the evil of sin clearly shows that disconnect between what is and what ought to be. We can see that any human effort in "development" will never develop into anything unless we recognize what destructs and destroys and also what truly brings hope and builds up. We so want to bring this hope, "to announce healing to a world that has discovered its brokenness, to proclaim love and trust to a world that knows only exploitation, fear and suspicion" (NT Wright). But that doesn't mean it is easy. And Ecclesiastes makes this quite clear. As Pete Enns summarised,

Qohelet (the character speaking in Ecclesiastes): “It sucks being an Israelite.
Narrator: “Dude, good call. You are so right. Be an Israelite anyway.”

C.S. Lewis said that “in God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself.” And this is what this fear of the Lord brings us to. This reminder that on our own we can do nothing. We need to stay humble before him, seek him in all things, knowing that he gives us all we need and in him is our strength. It is not about us giving but about instead receiving.

God is with us in the darkness. And the Light drives out the darkness.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Moving Mongers to Mwanza

Yes, the Mongers are moving to Mwanza! As our latest newsletter wings its way to those of you on our mailing list, we felt we should say a little more about this than would fit on the newsletter page! So as we start to prepare for our move (which is approaching altogether rather too quickly!)  here is a little bit more for you about Mwanza and what we are doing! 

Mwanza is about 900km from Iringa, so it will take us a good two days to drive there. It is about 1000km from Dar es Salaam. It is the second largest city in Tanzania, a beautiful spot on the shores of Lake Victoria. The economy is dominated by smallholder agriculture and also fishing, although more recently, mining also.

Mwanza, on the shores of Lake Victoria
Mwanza has been in our thoughts since before we came to Tanzania over three years ago, and now the time has come to actually go there. It is hard to believe we are actually leaving Iringa; we very quickly grew to love it here and are going to miss so many friends here.  But we are looking forward to a new adventure and very much looking forward to working with friends, Pastor Zakayo Nzogere and family and Bishop Charles Mkumbo of the Tanzania Assemblies of God Church. We will be starting and establishing an EI partnership with the church and doing similar work to what we have been doing here... serving the church to help them meet the needs of the poor in the area. This means both practical needs (doing things like fuel-efficient stove projects and tree planting etc.) and also spiritual needs (theological training for pastors, church planting, sharing the Word of God with people etc.). We hope to do more training and equipping in both areas and build with the Tanzanian church there. There are many poor, rural areas on the shores and islands of the Lake that the church is seeking to help by planting churches, sourcing water, establishing schools and clinics and we are looking forward to being able to help in whatever ways we can.

With the Nzogere Family (Zakayo, Evelyn, Belinda and Brenda)
So we plan to drive, along with as much as we can carry, to our new home in the middle of January. We arrived in Tanzania three years ago with 18 bags, but we seem to have much more than that now! Andy and Angela have very kindly offered to drive up as well and help us with transporting our belongings and see us settle in! That's no small favour! We have a friend, Dr Bernard Makori who is now on the look-out for a house for us! We are praying he can secure a good one for us and then we can move straight in when we arrive! But we have already got a new postal address: PO Box 11298, Mwanza, Tanzania.

We are going to miss all that is so familiar and comfortable here, and especially so many good friends. We will be very sad to part with Mama Lucy, wishing she could come with us! She is such a special lady to our family. And also Jesca who we would have loved to travel with us to start new ventures in Mwanza! Of course our good friends from Magozi, Ezekiel and Mendriad, but they have keenly offered to come up and help with the training of our first Mwanza stoves group, so we won't be completely on our own!

So please pray for us! Pray for us as we pack up and say our farewells here. Pray that we can find a house in Mwanza, and that in January we would settle quickly into new relationships and new work. And pray with us for the stoves project work continuing here in Iringa when we have gone! Thank you!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Being Together ... when the roast fails and the shower explodes

The girls and I are feeling a bit sad and sorry for ourselves after saying goodbye to Greg, Hugh, Lyn, Ellie and Pat who have headed off with Tim to the beach before their flight at the end of the week. We have so enjoyed having them with us; it really has been like having a little bit of Tadley here for a while! We do miss you all in Tadley and it has been great to feel part of you all once again! Even sharing in sadness, with friends that are special but so far away. We are sending lots of love back to you all with this great group!

A great farewell meal at Sai Villa together
So today, the day of farewell, hasn't been the greatest day. Clearing up and hitting the books. Failed plumbing attempts and another visit from the vet for the rabbits, this after he just came to put down one of our dogs last week. It all wasn't helped by being stuck in a landcruiser in town for two hours either! This was the third day (for me) to be in town when the main road has been closed off for the passing of the President or Vice-President. Traffic jams at every road. The first time I managed to escape (more on that another time!), the second time we passed the time getting our nails painted, but this time, after finishing my shopping and heading home, I was well and truly stuck. In the landcrusier, boiling hot. I drank the yogurt I had just bought and prayed.

I won't say much today as I am hoping for some guest bloggers to tell of our Tanzanian adventures over the past week or two! But as you know, life here is never dull, and these past weeks were no exception! From the very day our visitors arrived. In honour of their arrival, I had planned and prepared a Sunday Roast Dinner. A very British Roast Beef. But then the oven stopped working properly. I decided to go ahead and just carefully watch things and control the temperature by careful positioning. But then as the joint was going in, the power went out. I scrambled to figure a Plan B. Scrambled eggs? But then, forty-five minutes later, the power came back on. Back to Plan A. Then, as the stuffing was going in, as the potatoes needed crisping up and as the vegetables were going on, the power cut again! I quickly got out the gas ring and started rapidly rotating vegetables. The gas ran out. I cut my finger. I thought I should have gone with the scrambled eggs.

But somehow we salvaged a Roast Dinner and it was good to be reminded that that it isn't all about amazing food, but the joy of being together. It was wonderful! The oven deteriorated rapidly, and it became a challenge to keep up the catering for the nine of us. We ended up like little ants marching up the road with various food and bread dough, to cook things at Angela's house (she and Andy were in the UK for a few weeks). Then there were various toilets and sinks leaking, a shower exploded and it was time to remember again that it was all about enjoying being together and not pristine living conditions! Our visitors were all very understanding and kind! And at the end of the day we were all fed and all clean ... well, for the most part, anyway! And it was good to be together!

It has been wonderful having them ... they have done a lot in a short time with us and so please don't ask them how their "holiday" was! They have been such an encouragement to us and to many others as well. I won't tell you about the other adventures ... car-jackings, party-crashings and the like! But it has been a very good albeit rather busy time! 

Another adventure ... The Puncture in the Village

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

President's Party, Plumbing Problems and Tooting Tudors

It's just me n' the girls this week. Tim is in Dar, dropping Kate off at the airport for her African Overlander Adventure and also picking up our next visitors for their "Life with the Mongers Adventure." While in Dar he is also doing all those "Dar" things like getting the vehicle serviced and his teeth sorted.  Tim's Terrible Teeth Saga just keeps going! He assures me that he is fine and it doesn't bother him, but yesterday he was back in the chair, getting another hole drilled down to where the infection is and getting topped up with dawa (medicine) to clear it all up. He has to go back another three times for more treatment ... and so it goes on!

While he has been away, the girls and I were gearing up for our "Meet the President" occasion. Our church in town (Pentecostal Holiness Mission) is raising funds for a new building and invited the President of Tanzania to a large fundraising event during his visit to Iringa for the finale of the annual tour of the Uhuru Torch (the aim of the tour is "to bring hope where there is despair, love where there is enmity and respect where there is hatred."). It was a grand event, banquet tables elaborately decorated in honour of the Important Guest. He was to visit the church site first (which was also adorned with flags and meticulously swept) and then a reception was to follow at a local university. The church members were all to arrive at the church at 8am in order to be prepared with flags to wave before the President arrived at 9am. The girls and I were there. But then the disappointing news came in. He wasn't coming! Rumours of an attempted attack on the President the previous evening and his quick return to Dar that morning seemed to be the reason. The girls were most disappointed, but as the saying goes, the show must go on! It was actually a very long morning waiting for the Presidential party to arrive (which they did eventually, sometime after noon), but we were kept entertained by plenty of singing and dancing! But at the end of the day, saying I shook hands with the Minister of Land and Housing doesn't have quite the same ring to it!

We are holding the fort though, the girls and I. We have sold a pig (beloved Peppa) and we have kept various plumbing issues under control. Well ... put a bucket under the toilet cistern and a bucket under the bathroom sink and sidestepped the water springing out of the brickwork on the front path). Actually after three days, a plumber did finally arrive today and all problems, including a broken shower as well, are fixed. Amazing!

The other good news is that the Kimande Stoves Group had another 100 stoves ready, so have just done their second firing! Selling is now more of a priority ...

And we are wrapping up the Tudors and starting on the Stuarts at school, so I'll leave you with our Tudor Tongue Twister, courtesy of my dad ...

A Tudor Tongue Twister

A Tudor who tooted the flute
Tried to tutor two tooters to toot.
Said the two to the tutor.
“Is it harder to toot, or
To tutor two tooters to toot?”


Monday, 14 October 2013

Give us this day our daily ugali ...

Ugali is the staple food here in Tanzania. It is made by cooking maize flour with water to a thick porridge-like consistency. It is difficult to explain to those who have never tried it before. It looks like mashed potato, but is thick and stodgey with a granular texture. We don't think it tastes of much so it is much better with a good sauce to dip it into. This is done by taking a small bit of ugali, shaping it into a ball with your fingers and pressing a small thumbhole which is then used a bit like a spoon to pick up the sauce when you dip. Often the meal is communal; you all take from a huge tray of ugali and dip your bit in the shared bowl of spinach or beans. This is the usual meal for both lunch and dinner in the village, and a watered down version (called uji) is eaten for breakfast. It is a daily food and it fills you up.

Cooking ugali

Ugali is fine, but I'd probably still rather have a sandwich! Where I come from, it is quite usual to have toast for breakfast, a sandwich or filled roll (bun) for lunch and not uncommon to have some kind of bread for dinner in the form of a bread roll, burger bun, garlic bread or cornbread. Bread. Our daily bread.

So the Lord's Prayer makes sense for us. "Give us this day our daily bread." But it doesn't work for Tanzanians. "Give us this day our daily ugali" means more to our friends here! Actually the Swahili Bible says "Utupe siku kwa siku riziki yetu" translating "bread" as "provision." But Tim preached with his own "ugali" translation in his sermon last week and that resonated with people!

After teaching his friends how to pray ("The Lord's Prayer), Jesus tells a story. We will put this story in the African context. One night in a small village in Tanzania, a man who has travelled far arrives at his friend Ezekiel's house. Ezekiel is surprised to see his friend and feels terrible because he has no ugali to give him to eat. The shame of it! He must provide his guest the hospitality expected. Even though it is very late, Ezekiel goes to his friend Mendriad's house to ask for help. He asks for three cups of maize flour to make ugali. It is inconvenient for Mendriad. He has locked up his house and his family is all asleep. "Don't bother me!" Mendriad says. "I can't get up and give you anything." He tells Ezekiel to go away; he will not help.

Can you imagine a friend like this, who refuses to help? No! Of course not!

No, a friend in the village would help. And why would he help? Jesus explains. "Even if the one inside (Mendriad) will not get up and give him the bread (ugali) because he is a friend, he will still give it to him." (Luke 11:8) The reason is not because the one outside (Ezekiel) keeps on asking and asking (as many translations suggest), but actually because the one inside (Mendriad) will avoid shame. Even if Mendriad didn't want to help his friend because it was inconvenient and easier not to, he would still do so because he would not see himself shamed by the whole village. That is certainly what would happen if people heard the next morning that he had refused food to a guest. In fact, the whole village would be shamed that a visitor to their village did not receive hospitality.

Living in the village, we have seen a glimpse of this story played out. We have received guests to our house in the village. English visitors. Now, before they came, they told us not to worry about feeding them. They didn't want to be a burden and were really not all that keen to eat ugali and spinach anyway. So they brought their own English sandwiches. We completely understood, but it was harder for our friends in the village to understand. To have special visitors and not offer them hospitality (ugali) is just not done here. It was shameful. They were worried that we, the immediate hosts, would look bad. Not only that, but the whole village would look bad! We had long conversations assuring them that our guests respected the people of the village and they need feel no shame.

The incident helped us to better understand this story in Luke. If we are the ones asking (like  Ezekiel), who is the one inside? It is God, the Father. Will God give us the daily bread (ugali)? Of course He will. Because He will not be shamed. He will do what honours His name. But God is not like the one inside who does not want to help. He is our Father and as our Father who loves us, how much more will he answer us? He doesn't just give three cupfuls of maize flour, he gives as much as is needed! And as Jesus says, to a child who asks for an fish or an egg, what father would give a snake or a scorpion? (We understand snakes and scorpions a bit better here in Tanzania too!)

So we see this link of bread (or in our case, ugali) here between the Lord's prayer and this story. And the asking for bread is in the context of other people; asking for bread in order to meet our need to be hospitable. We can see "being hospitable" not only as practically giving food or a place to stay, but also giving whatever it is that people need. We can ask the Father so that others can be given what they need. This is not just a prayer for ourselves, but so that we can share and meet the needs of others. How better can God's name be honoured and how better can His kingdom come than when he is able to give us what we ask and others experience His blessing? If we can attune ourselves to God through His Spirit and attune ourselves to the needs of others, then we can ask God for the very thing they need to know the peace and joy of the Father himself. And we can also ask how we might be part of God answering that prayer!

Sharing ugali in the evening

"When we come to the altar with our hands open, receiving the bread of life, the source of our hope and the sustenance for our spirit, we participate in the kingdom here and now." NT Wright 

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Baobab Icecream for your Fingernails

Kate figures that baobab is good for her fingernails. Well, good for the whole body really, but especially good for cuticles and nails! Sorry, you probably haven't had time to read the last blog post (about the Secret Vote) yet, and here's another one flying out! But it seemed more fun to write about baobab than do the lesson planning that I should be doing! So Kate has been pounding baobab in the pestle and mortar and soaking it ... hard work! She has made some delicious smoothies with different fruit juices. And now she has made the amazing baobab ice cream, including one with a hint of hibiscus. How delicious is that?
Kate sieves the baobab in the "cheka cheka"
It has been great having my cousin, Kate here with us for these past weeks! She has been a great help with school. She has been teaching French, and not just to the girls. She even has Ezekiel and Mendriad speaking French now; Ezekiel proudly greets us "Bonjour! Je m'appelle Ezekiel!" She has been teaching biology on "healthy bodies" (and yes, the baobab would come in useful here again!) She has been a patient and elegant model for the Tudor portraits and been a popular ICT teacher for Louisa. We are really going to miss her when she leaves us at the end of this week. She has coped remarkably with our rather chaotic, crazy life and been happy to muck in with everything!

Kate poses for portraits
This week Kate went with Andy on Monday to the village of Ihomasa where he is starting a water project. She faced her biggest challenge, being served a huge plateful of ugali and spinach! But aside from the ugali, she really enjoyed the opportunity to see the work being done with the water projects here. She was then with us all in Ikuka on Thursday. But apart from that, we have been doing quite a bit of school together in town, plus some shopping! And after being surrounded by Swahili for her first month or so here, we have been able to do some socializing in English this week! It was great to share time over a meal and games with Ben and Katy before they go to the UK to have their baby. We also had Andy and Angela round (for the infamous rabbit pie) before they head to the UK for a couple of weeks. And with two parties at the weekend, it's been quite a wazungu social whirl!

This weekend I had my third attempt at butchering a pig! A HUGE pig! So huge that it was almost impossible to get the pig into a wheelbarrow, let alone to heave it up to hang in the three! What a job! The pig belonged to the E.I. guards, and I joined Edgar (who I think could do the job himself now with the help of the laminated photos from the local Kingsclere Butcher!) for the task. So after my lovely "Full Monty" breakfast - a treat from my wonderful husband, very coincidentally bacon and egg and pork sausages, I headed over to help! Edgar and I were at the butchering table and all the cuts were passed on to Andrew who kept up with bagging, weighing and labelling it all. I have to say I find the job rather, well, maybe fun isn't quite the right word, but something like that! Is this very strange?! There is something incredibly satisfying about finding these cuts of meat in the inside of a pig and ordering it all! A mass of flesh and bone overcome. Fifty kilograms of meat cut and organized into identifiable parts. A good day's work. And good business for these guys! But definitely a muckier, smellier business than Lucy's baking!

Edgar and me with The Big Fat Pig
... by the way, the Baobab Icecream is easy to make. Just mix together 2 cups of milk with about 60g of baobab powder and 150g of sugar. We divided the mixture into two containers and added a glug of fresh hibiscus juice to one. Then just freeze. Next time we are going to try adding mango juice.

Baobab Icecream
And I'm curious to know ... how much does baobab powder cost for all of you my friends in other places?