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!