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

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!