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

Friday, 29 March 2013

Scaling the Crags

The Easter Story. "Here we are offered that which makes and remakes the world, oursleves included. Here, could we but scale the crags, is the answer to our deepest questions, our most agonizing longings. And it comes, not as theory, not as explanation, but as a story which opens up to embrace or perhaps engulf us, sweeping us off our feet like a giant wave, carrying us off, out of our depth, away on the dark sea of God's passion. And still the figure at the centre beckons, woos, disturbs, frightens, and compels us. This story contains all that we are and feel and lays it bare before the presence of an overmastering love." ("Twelve Months of Sundays Year A" NT Wright).

A world is being remade. And me too! If you haven't read the story, get a copy (it's in Matthew 26-28) and see if you don't want to scale the crags as well!

Sometimes, when feeling out of my depth it's easy to think I'm on my own. And then what is my response? Well, last week I thought of hibernating. Really, sometimes the idea of curling up in a comfortable, cosy place and not thinking or worrying about anything seems very attractive. Not to worry about next term's school plans, or worry about my awful Swahili, or the nightguards, or even what to make for dinner. But then that doesn't seem much like scaling the crags. Which way do I want to go? Really I want to be out on that sea of God's passion, seeing the world remade. Oh yes, it sounds very exciting, but really, I want it to be easy too. But it won't be. And how prepared am I for that?

Even all the little things this month have been tempting me into hibernate mode. Tim seems to have been away more than he's been around, he's got a tooth infection and is needing repeated trips to Dar. We've had tummy bugs, colds and throat bugs. Louisa's vision went peculiar, and her dilated pupils were worrrying us so she went rather suddenly to Dar to get it checked out. We've had little problems with rats and problems with guards ... all nothing serious, but just little things which have made me more reactive and less proactive. Just getting by rather than getting going.

Palm Sunday was a good reminder to keep walking, to keep waving, to follow the way. And yes, Jesus knew back then, and he has told us, where this Way leads. But that's ok. He loves us with that overmastering love and He will be with us. Now, Easter is another vivid reminder that God is at work, making all things new. "As that stone rolled away, a great door has swung open in human history." Why would we hibernate in doubt and weakness, when there is a King on the throne and a whole new world to explore with crags to scale.

To follow up on this blog ... Tim and Louisa have just arrived safely back from Dar. We've just shared some delicious hot cross buns that Amisadai and I made for their arrival on this Good Friday! And praise God, Louisa's eyes are fine. She stopped having the funny spells just after our prayer email went out! And the doctor couldn't find anything wrong , so thanks to all of you who were praying! Keep praying for Tim. Although it has lessened, the infection is still there, so the dentist couldn't do his job and has asked him to go back again in 2 weeks.
Louisa at the eye doctors

Fun riding in a bajaj!

Monday, 25 March 2013

Riding a Donkey and Driving a Pig

A hot, dusty road, branches waving, donkeys passing. Palm Sunday. It did cross my mind to wonder at the crowd's reaction to Jesus riding a donkey ... not just because as a King, surely he deserved a white horse, but really, someone trying to sit on one of these stubborn, dirty creatures and travel in a straight line between crowds of people? We see donkeys everywhere in Kimande, pulling carts or herded by small boys running with sticks. They make us jump out of our skin at night when they creep up by a window when we're sleeping or pop around a corner when we're cleaning our teeth by the bush in the dark ... suddenly screeching, "HEE-HAW!" But I have never seen anyone attempt to actually sit on one!

But yesterday in Kimande, we walked a straight line, walking with the Kimande Anglican Church, a small group of about 20, waving branches and singing. Walking in the footsteps of Jesus.



"Take up your cross and follow me"

After the service, we went outside under the shade of a large tree and with the help of Ezekiel, Mendriad and Jesca, did a fuel-efficient stove demonstration. We had set up "The Great Tanzanian Bake Off."  The three-stone fire pitted against the Fuel-Efficient Stove. Participant "chefs" were selected from the "audience". Each "mpishi" (chef) was given 400g rice, a litre of water, salt and oil, a cooking pot and a wooden spoon. Wind levels were high but the fires were started ...see the photo below for the trouble the 3-stone fire chef had! And after the countdown, each mpishi placed her water on to boil. The competition began. Could this new, strange-looking clay object really cook rice? Who would use less firewood? Whose rice would taste better? Now, actually it all sounds a lot better here than it really went, because the wood we had so carefully dried in the sun, got soaked in a sudden rainstorm. We had dried it again, but clearly not enough as the contestants soon realised. But despite it not being the most amazing of demonstrations, a good time was had by all and I learnt how to sing and drum Wagogo (local tribe) style in the process! And despite waiting so long for the rice to cook, they all agreed that the fuel-efficient stove cooked good rice faster, used less wood and gave off less smoke. Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood should have been there.

Trying to light the 3-stone fire!

Ezekiel (with Louisa's hat!) supervising the jiko

Singing in Kigogo
With all this exciting activity, it was 3:00pm before we had lunch at Pastor Castory's house. We were all rather hot and hungry by this time and devoured our rice and beans! After lunch we measured up our "new" house for laying a concrete floor and adding windows and doors. We are now really looking forward to moving in!

We then drove back to Magozi and the next adventure was buying two pigs. As you do on your way home after church. They were church pigs, probably given in the offering and our friend Marco (in the Magozi stoves group) was in charge of selling them. So we bought two. Now eight months ago, I said I would never, ever again do this. Travel in a vehicle on the long Pawaga road with a squealing, wriggling pig. This time there were two. So I took the best seat and drove. And our wonderful friend Ezekiel came with us, taking the back with the pooing pigs. It stank! We set off into the thunderclouds and drove through a dramatic rainstorm. Thunder and lightening, rain slashing into the windshield, puddles splashing over us and I felt a bit like Noah without a boat. In this kind of rain, it's impossible to see anything, including those gaping culverts and all the other potholes. But we made it back with all, including pigs, intact. It was then a half-hour job just getting the two pigs down to our pig banda! What a squealing, strenuous struggle! The end of a long day out; it had started with our 7:20am departure and finished almost 12 hours later as darkness descended. And it was then followed with ... more rice and beans.
Pig Number 1
It was great having Ezekiel to stay with us. It's been a long time since we've all played Golf (card game) together. And last night we thought it most appropriate to play Pass-the-Pigs as well. And  this morning, Ezekiel was able to go with Tim to the Iringa District Council to talk to the Officer of Rural Development about the future of the stoves projects in the area.

It was a good day. Remembering Palm Sunday, remembering the humble entry of a King, remembering the road He walked and remembering the way we follow. Walking on. Waving.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Tilapia, Coffee and Cheese

Three girls are happy to have Tim back again! After his return from Dar (as I wrote the last blog), Tim then headed off again, this time to Mwanza with Andy and Andrew. It is almost 1000km to Mwanza, so a long 2-day drive there and then back again after three days. But they all enjoyed their time together. Andy went to advise a Canadian team on water projects. Andrew and Tim went to meet with TAG (Tanzania Assemblies of God) church leaders about the possibility of us moving there to partner with them. They were well looked after by the church and their host, Godwin Makasi (who cooked a mean tilapia!), and were even able to explore possible housing and school options. Exciting times!

Three Men and a Dirty Land Cruiser
In the meantime, the girls and I have been busy with all kinds of educational fun! We had a great time doing pottery with Lexa at Neema Crafts last week and returned yesterday to take the finished work out of the kiln (see the girl's blog for more on that).

Maneno examines his pottery in the kiln
Finished jars of clay!
We had a fantastic time at Masumbo with David Moyer who gave the girls (and me) a lesson on the coffee process ... watch this space on the girls' blog for more on this super interesting outing later! This all ties in with out rainforest study which is providing us with a wealth of interesting facts! We are reading a fascinating book by Michael Dawson who grew up with the Yanomamo in the Amazon rainforest. He went with his parents and nine brothers and sisters and the book is full of his amazing adventures with 30m anacondas, toe-biting piranhas and jaguars!

David teaching the girls about coffee
We are continuing to learn about cheese and although feeling rather "cheesed off" with today's mozzarella disaster, I was very happy with our latest cream cheese. With it, we made cream cheese icing for cinnamon buns with Lucy. Yum! We are hoping Lucy may be able to start making these delicious buns to sell around Iringa. The sewing afternoons continue and we are busy starting projects, again for Lucy to sell for some income support for her children's school fees. And lastly, we are making slow progress on our keyhole and bag gardens. We are finally ready to plant seeds next week after a lot of digging and waiting for the rain to stop!

Working hard in the garden!
Now we are enjoying being together before Tim dashes off yet again! He's off on Wednesday, back to Dar es Salaam to finish sorting out his bad tooth before returning on Good Friday. While keeping busy with preparing for the new stoves project when he is around, he has also had a varied month of preaching in both Swahili and English. A sermon for a small Pentecostal village church, another for an international city church, then to a small Anglican village church and finally an international church made up of mainly expats!

Monday, 11 March 2013

Teeth, Rats and Chickens

After a rather unpredictable week, Tim is back with us again! Plans were made at the beginning of last week for him to travel to Dar es Salaam on Wednesday to visit a dentist. The girls and I then decided to go with him as far as Morogoro to stay with our friends, Matt and Amy Dixon (school has been rather difficult to keep routine recently, so it seemed like a good idea just to go for it)! We packed accordingly on Tuesday night ... after another un-routine day with a good EI prayer day. But we awoke on Wednesday morning to find that Amisadai was sick, rats had made themselves at home in our bathroom and the new guard we were expecting to start that day was in Dar. So we made the quick call that the girls and I had better stay behind. So after a hurried attempt to seal up the gnawed hole in the bathroom ceiling and all holes under the outside roof and then a lovely team lunch celebrating Angela's birthday, Tim departed. I laid out traps and secured all toothbrushes away (eww yuck... but no, this is not related to Tim's teeth problem!) and stayed close to home.

Tim had an infection under a tooth where he had a root canal done years ago. They drilled down and added medicine and told him to come back in two days. While he waited, he took our car in to get the AC fixed. An expensive job! But a very welcome one as temperatures in Dar soared even at 7am! The wait in Dar also made it possible to get some oats. Not so expensive but also very welcome, especially by our porridge queen, Amisadai! He went back to the dentist on Saturday and had a temporary filling put in, was given medication to clear the infection (good news) and needs now to go back in two weeks (not such good news). But during the trip he was able to spend time with Matt and Amy en route both ways, and also time with other friends, Martin and Esther Shaw, who have recently arrived in Dar.

Martin and Esther with Esther's Mum
He arrived back on Sunday afternoon. We were all very pleased to see him back (Amisadai had recovered by Thursday afternoon) and we had a great welcome planned! We finally had chicken again! On Friday, I had been to the Diocese and picked up eleven chickens from Mama Masawa, not all for us, and yes, they were all dead! So we roasted a little bird and ate with all the trimmings. And to top it all off, we bought apples in the market (a very rare occurrence) and had apple pie and fresh cream for dessert!

Elephants by the road on the way home

Monday, 4 March 2013

There's a Hole in the Middle of the Road

It was a good day. Absolutely unbearably hot. Sweat-dripping (actually "running"), fading-in-the-heat kind of hot. But a really good day. A bumpy, bottom-numbing, pins-and-needles-on-the-steering-wheel, long, two-hour drive kind of journey. I nearly drove us into a hole, a big hole in the middle of the road. Later, on the return journey, even in second gear we struggled as we clamoured up the rocks between the potholes. But it was a really good day! We went to meet with the Pentecostal church in Itunundu, a small group of about 25 people who have invited us to work with them to run a stoves project in their community. Tim preached on Abraham and there was lots of enthusiastic active singing. It was just good to be there.

Peering into the abyss. One of several culverts collapsing on the Pawaga roads.
We had a close call with the second!

Driving along on the way there, with the song "King of Wonders" blaring out (with us all joining in), it was so easy to see the amazing wonder of all that God has made as we drove down into the Rift Valley taking in the vast beauty of the area. And although the rains have not been a positive thing for the road, they have certainly helped the land which is now lushly green. God's glory displayed. And then later, walking slowly from the church to the pastor's house with Martina, a lady struggling to walk and work with a lame leg, yet who had just led us in such exuberant worship. Again, God's glory displayed. Yes, for all of us there are sometimes holes in the middle of the road; sometimes we can slowly work around it, sometimes we may even fall in, but ultimately in carrying on in all that we are given to do, in all this is God's glory. (John 17:4). God's glory revealed is an amazing thing!

Our possible new house in Kimande

As you might guess by Tim's boots in the photo, the heavens suddenly opened and there was the most incredible rainstorm. Deafening. Wet, very wet! We were concerned about the road back as we sat under the slightly leaking roof waiting for it to stop, but we soon realised that the storm was incredibly localised and when we got 20 minutes down the road to Magozi, there had been no rain at all. So apart from dodging the steadily-collapsing culverts, we made it home just fine in time for tea!

Saturday was busy with errands in town... including one very important errand at a café to reward Amisadai and Louisa for their school housepoints! We were also working on our new experimental "key hole garden" which we are testing in our own garden before attempting in the village. I will say no more as it is Amisadai's homework to write an explanatory text on its benefits and how to build one, so check her blog later! As you will see in the girls' blog, our cheese-making this week was focussed on the whey cheese of Scandinavia (and not terribly popular!). The patchwork is progressing slowly, we now have triangles sewn together and our next task is to start sewing the squares together. Lucy is enjoying it and it makes a fun joint activity for all of us.

Now, as we begin this week, we are sorting out a dentist appointment for Tim who seems to have a tooth problem. So he will be heading off to Dar es Salaam on Wednesday for an appointment on Thursday and return on Friday (miss you down the road, Mark Holley!). The girls and I are considering going as far as Morogoro to stay with our friends, Matt and Amy Dixon, while he does that, but it's all a little busy here at the moment and we're not too sure what we'll do!