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

Saturday, 22 February 2014

The "Chinese" Mongers

With all the blogging that the girls have been doing this week, there doesn't seem much more to say! It has been a rather slow week and seemed pretty mundane with schoolwork after all the adventures of last week and our special visitors the week before! But thank you to all of you who helped with Amisadai's "Daylight Hours" survey! It proved to be a great lesson in science, geography, math, social studies .... Her results are now on their blog (see here!). So thank you for making it interactive and fun! 

Here are a couple of photos that we missed in the blogs about last week's adventures...

Dr Isaac and Tim

Mama Robin on the back and Dr Makori back right.

Mama Robin, (the lady in white) came to visit us at the guesthouse on Kome Island, telling us about the mama's group that is now running there. It is essentially a Village Savings and Loans Scheme in which the group works together to save and loan money for their own small businesses. Mama Robin wanted us to go and be formally introduced with the local village chairman before going to the group, but it was a fair distance away, necessitating transport... i.e. pikipikis (motorbikes). I wasn't too convinced that the idea of our whole family tearing along the bumpy tracks on the backs of pikipikis was a good idea (and it wasn't cheap getting lifts on these things!). So I stayed behind with the girls while Mama Robin took Tim, Dr Isaac and Dr Makori  to meet the official. As it turned out, he was having his chai and wouldn't be disturbed, so rather than hang around waiting, they all came back after signing the ever important visitor's book.

The plan was to go to the Mamas' group after lunch at 3:30pm, but lunch still hadn't arrived by then, so we headed off on foot to the group meeting place in the shade of some trees and a house. As we walked we had our first experience of being mistaken for Chinese! With all our blond hair, that was one thing I never expected! But walking through the village, many people were saying "Look! The Chinese are here!" Others were saying we were Koreans! I guess many of the people there on the island have never seen people that looked quite like us and they had seen people from China and figured we were pretty similar!

We were thinking that I would share something with a small group of Mamas, but we were all astounded to find a huge group of people, men and women seated on the ground waiting for us! Businesses represented there included fishing, farming, sewing, chicken keeping and goat-herding among others.

"WEE" came the introduction cry from the leader and there was a loud "WAA" in response! It was all very formal ... and I completely chickened out! Tim came to the rescue and did an impromptu entrepreneurial seminar using the Parable of the Talents. He is amazing - and his Swahili heaps better than mine!

They all thoroughly enjoyed it and are keen for lots more! Mama Robin set the group up herself and they would love some guidance and help. We are looking forward to an opportunity to go back .. and having read Acts 4:29-31 again, I am resolved to be braver! But really, these entrepreneurial and innovative people have a lot to offer the people around them, and could be significant agents of change!

The "Mamas" Meeting

On Sunday, back in Mwanza, we were privileged to be at the first service in the new building of Bishop Charles' church! The church has been working on a new building for quite some years now, and people from Basingstoke and Tadley (UK) have visited it and also supported it! It is not yet finished, but the roof is on and it was wonderful to worship there! It is big enough for 1200 people, so we are praying for this lovely church of 400 to grow in both faith and number!

Mkuyuni Church: The new building!
We were excited that our weekend night guard, Joseph, wanted to come with us. He said it was his first time in a church and he loved it! He asked for prayer and shared his desire to become a Christian. He wants to continue coming to church with us and has started reading the Bible we gave him later this week.
Joseph and Louisa

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Giving Life: The Clinic on Kome Island

Rickety wooden shacks, rickety wooden boats, a mountain of bright red coke bottle crates and a depth of lush green trees. This was the sight that met that our eyes as our boat came slowly to shore. We arrived at Kome Island, the second-largest Tanzanian island in Lake Victoria, with a surprising population of around 27 000 people. There are three main tribes on this island, the Wasukuma, Wajaluo and Wazinza peoples, but Swahili (thankfully for us) is the common language!

Kome Island, Lake Victoria
We were visiting the island with Dr Bernard Makori, a member of Mwanza International Community Church, a doctor with a huge vision to help the people of this and other islands. He practices medicine in the city of Mwanza, but also on his own initiative and with his own money, he travels to these seemingly forgotten and neglected islands, setting up clinics and organizing mobile clinics to travel to the more remote and difficult places. The needs in these islands are great. The islands can be hard to get to (as our own journey proved... see here!), no one from the city wants to live here and they are the lowest priority for government help of basic things like water, healthcare and education. We were also travelling with Naha, a social worker who lectures in Mwanza and shares Dr Bernard’s vision to help meet the many needs on these islands where there are currently no social workers.
In 2012, Dr Bernard set up a clinic on Kome Island, which as a larger, more populated and slightly more developed island, works well as a base from which to operate mobile clinics on this island and to other smaller ones. He has set up the clinic with two doctors and five nurses who work there on a rotational basis. When we arrived, the nurses were away, running a week’s mobile clinic. They travel to stay up to a week in different villages on the islands and are able to get to 4-6 villages every month this way. 
The Kome Island Clinic

Dr Isaac, a cheerful, smiling man full of laughter, met us as we came ashore. He arranged our accommodation and meals for us and over the course of our time on the island usually appeared with a luscious avocado for us to eat! He was always busy, seeing us in between labour pains of a woman giving birth, early in the morning coming from the clinic and late at night after coming from the clinic. He was usually hungry and polished off our meals for us! But what a great servant of God!
A big health problem on the islands is due to unsafe water and poor sanitation. Cases of amoebiasis, worms, dysentery etc. are many. Another huge problem is HIV AIDS. The spread is rampant here; Dr Isaac said that around 33% of the population is infected. That is one in every three people! Fishermen earn a great deal from their catch and we’re told a good number spend that money quickly on local women and drink. We saw the sad truth for ourselves where we stayed at the shore guesthouse/bar. Other common diseases are malaria and typhoid and with people first looking to witchdoctors for cures, the sick are often very late to arrive at the clinic and suffering from advanced cases which can be fatal. There is also a very comparatively low survival rate in labour for both mother and child. The doctors talked with us about the problems they face and they have a huge and infectious vision to combat them. They want to offer much more education, as the lack of knowledge is a root problem. They want to see teaching on sanitation and healthy living increasingly spread through the clinics and schools. They want to do more sex education and teaching on HIV AIDS and also family planning. In particular they have a desire to start a ministry to the barmaids, reaching out to these women of whom many are involved somehow or trapped in prostitution. How amazing it would be to see these places of drunkenness and prostitution, so full of pain and shame, be transformed by the love and forgiveness of Christ!  Also, by increasing the number and frequency of the mobile clinics, they hope to be more available (more quickly) to remote patients and women giving birth.
They are not equipped to do operations and have no x-ray or other specialised equipment and also there is no ambulance for either water or land. They talked about the struggles they face trying to immobilise patients with broken bones when the only transport is a motorbike and dealing with emergency cases when there is no way out. But they just get on with doing the best they can!
Just talking to these two doctors is incredibly inspiring. They work with the very little they have, seriously lacking in resources and facilities, but making up for it in faith and effort. They do everything they can with what they have and are trusting and planning for much, much more! We share with them a desire to see people’s lives changed and transformed and we would be thrilled if we could work alongside. Over the next three months our plan is to visit many different villages both on the islands and the mainland, talking with people, listening to their stories about their work and the challenges they face. From there we will talk and pray about what our role here will be! This is just the beginning! While on Kome Island we were also able to talk to two local church pastors and also a women’s group… but their stories will have to wait for another blog!
So we are so encouraged to see these doctors reaching out sacrificially in a practical and skilled way to address health issues as they take with them the Giver of Life, the Master Healer, who offers a way of life that is LIFE!

Naha, Rachel, Amisadai, Dr Isaac, Dr Bernard and Louisa outside the clinic


Friday, 14 February 2014

Backpacks and Lifejackets: Our Island Trek

We thought that our journey going out to an island in Lake Victoria was adventurous enough, but it was nothing compared to the journey home! Some may dream of island cruises to celebrate Valentine's Day; well we will never forget our first trip to the island... although it was rather far from romantic!

We left early at 7:30am on Wednesday morning, with two backpacks, three lifejackets and six bottles of water. We went with Dr Makori and his good friend, Naha. The boat was much bigger than we expected, seating 150+ people and even with cooking facilities on board. They had huge pots of rice and chai cooking on charcoal stoves at the back of the boat. We were on the boat at 9am ready for departure but were delayed in the port for an hour. We finally docked at our island, Kome, around 4pm. It was a scrum getting off the boat, hoards of people clamouring over goods loaded (thrown) and chains and ropes! We scrambled over the rocks in the water to shore, lugging our luggage and keeping together!

Backpacks and lifejackets

Coming off the boat

First views of Kome Island
We found Dr Isaac waiting for us (more about him later) and he took us to our lodgings. We were pleasantly surprised, as we had been expecting the worst after Tim's last trip to an island a number of years ago at which the "hotel" was a rat-infested shack. We saw lots of the wooden shacks, which Tim nervously pointed out to me, but passed them by to stay at a nice brick built guesthouse/bar. Our rooms even had what Tim called an ensuite, although they didn't have a suite of any kind. Maybe you could call it an enhole. And we had an enbucket as well.

We ordered some "lupper" (lunch/dinner) when we arrived at 4:30pm and sat to wait for it. It finally arrived at 9pm! But it was very tasty rice and tilapia fish.

 After a good night's sleep amid the noise and activity of the island bar, breakfast was chapatis, eggs ... and fish. Lunch we ordered at 1pm... and that was so late it was dinner! We finally ate our ugali and yes, fish, at 6pm! But we had an amazingly interesting day! I think I will save all the amazing interesting bits about the island work for the next blog and get back to the backpacks and lifejackets of the journey for now!

We rose early this morning at 4:30am ready to return. We had forgotten our flashlights (torches) and it was no easy feat getting the four of us ready to go in the pitch blackness - even just aiming over the enhole was pretty tricky. And we didn't even bother trying to clean our teeth and spit! But we were out to meet our daladala ("local bus") at 5am for a different way home. The six of us sat there with a whole load of others crammed into one little vehicle... waiting for the driver. He arrived. Nothing happened. Some guys fiddled with the battery under our seats until life surged into the daladala. We were off. At breakneck speed over the bumps in the darkness. A little tingle of nervous apprehension! We sped across the island, arriving in time for the 6:30am boat. Still in total darkness, we clambered out of the daladala, bought our boat tickets and boarded the small ferry boat. We sat on metal benches in the darkness, waiting as antiquated pickup trucks and dodgy daladalas drove on. The state of the vehicles was unbelievable! On one truck guys were securing the back wheel with rope! Another had a terribly flat tire. Others were ridiculously overloaded.

The early morning boat

Watching the sun rise on Lake Victoria
The sun rose with us over the Lake. We crossed in an hour and got back on our daladala. There were more people now and I ended up sitting on a sack of something, near the two fish flopped on the floor with another man basically sitting with his bottom at my shoulder. Not a pleasant view. But going over the bumps, I guess his rear end did cushion my head! As we hit the road (quite literally) I couldn't see how we could make the journey in one piece. Overcrowded with bodies (and sacks and backpacks and lifejackets) we were hurtling along rough dirt roads. More than tingly apprehension now! Then bang! The front suspension collapsed. We figured that was it. We weren’t going anywhere. We all piled out onto the dirt road to wait. But men quickly hoisted the vehicle up, crawled under and with a strange amount of hard whacking seemed to get us in action again … I think they had done this before! We all piled in. Fifteen minutes down the road it happened again. More hard whacking. Piled back in (but this time I had a seat and no man’s bottom).

Suspension Problem

Fish beside my green sack "seat"

Overtaken by the truck who fixed his wheel together with rope!

... and again!

We arrived at the next town (Sengerema) at about 9:45am where we had to pick up another mode of transportation to get to our next ferry. We found a taxi, and all happily fell into the car, only to find that he was seriously overcharging us so we exited to find another daladala. We found one, and piled in, with backpacks and lifejackets and significantly less water. After half an hour sitting in it going nowhere, a fight broke out. Police arrived. We were kicked out and our driver was taken off with the police. We found another daladala which was empty. But then sat in it for an hour (now pretty hot!) while the driver waited to fill it to capacity. Which he more than succeeded at. Now Tim had his knee up an ample woman's bottom (no, not mine!). Now was real fear as the dirt road was straight and the driver just stepped on it. We flew over bumps, careening on the road. I wondered how the tires could take such a beating ... until we came to an abrupt halt. Puncture! Yet another wait on the side of the road. Seriously cannot believe this journey!
Puncture Problem
We finally arrived at our next ferry at noon, in time to see it just untie the ropes and float away. We waited for the next one an hour later and enjoyed a rather peaceful calm crossing straight to the heart of Mwanza. We unloaded all backpacks and thankfully unused lifejackets into a taxi and arrived safely at home. We had thought we would be home in time for a latish breakfast at 10am. We delved hungrily into pizza at 4pm!

Waiting in the final ferry line ... with the lifejackets!

So we are thankful for God's sovereignty! It was definitely Him protecting us on our journeys ... as our safe arrival in Mwanza, you can clearly see, had nothing at all to do with human responsibility! And we are thankful for an amazing time on the island, which I will tell about next time!

How many husbands can top this for taking his beloved wife out on Valentine's Day?
(Actually, I think this was a real "love" adventure in lots of ways!)

Monday, 10 February 2014

The Toilet Seat Tale

Are you sitting comfortably? It's a toilet tale to be told. We were all a little put off by the toilet seat in our new house when we arrived. Someone had cleaned for us before we arrived and we also did clean, but Amisadai still couldn't bring herself to actually sit on the toilet! When Mom arrived (I think it must have been the second day), she, in true mama fashion, sourced and bought us some bleach. But she was defeated by the toilet seat. So in true mama fashion, she set off in search of a new toilet seat. We found one ... but the price seemed ridiculous for a flimsy bit of white plastic, so continued to search. Delving into little dukas (small shops) we looked and asked (not sure how it translates into Swahili, but I used a literal translation of "chair of the toilet"). To no avail. There were no others. We returned home.

But reality set in when nature called. Mom decided the loo seat was worth it and she may as well enjoy the benefit of it while she stayed. As Dad said, "some grandmas buy their grandchildren ice creams, but this one buys them toilet seats!" So we returned to the shop to make the purchase. But alas, at the shop (which we were becoming fairly familiar with as we were also frequenting it for buying hooks and wire for new curtains), the toilet seat was gone. We were assured more would be in by the next Monday. So we eagerly returned on Tuesday, only to be yet again disappointed. This toilet seat was proving more difficult to obtain than we thought. When we walked again to the shop later in the week, we were greeted by our familiar friends with the greeting, "the toilet seat is here!" Such a sense of delighted achievement over a toilet seat!

Result! Take a Seat!

It was fixed in place and Mama was given the honour of its inaugural use. The only disappointing factor was that we continued to have no running water and so it did remain at many times, a smelly toilet. The toilet saga could go on with leaks that needed a plumber... who took days to come and was beaten by water cuts which made a plumber redundant, followed by another plumber and leaks and water cuts again ....

The New Loo Look
Lovin' the Plumbin'

I'm not sure how one naturally flows (no pun intended) into other news following toilet seats, but I'll carry on ...

My wonderful Mom has also made some lovely curtains and seat covers and cushions which make our house feel more like home ... it is strange from a Tanzanian perspective as we sewed the curtains out of fabric they would only use for beautiful gowns! Strange wazungus!

The new curtains
Last week with Bishop Charles we were able to visit a couple of Pentecostal Bible Colleges that Tim has been invited to teach at. We were very impressed with their desire for theological training for all pastors. And with eighty students at one and over one hundred at the other (the majority of them coming from the surrounding villages) we saw how serious they are about it. We are encouraged about the potential fruit from the depth of their study for the people in the villages as they will hear and learn the Word of God. We also visited a Church Planting school; a long-term project aiding new pastors to start new churches in the Lake Zone, giving them a strong theological foundation for what they do. It is a building in process, but used all the while as a four-month base for the students' intensive training.

Chapel at the Bible College

The Church Planting School
The other adventure of last week was an expedition to get local clay for testing purposes for the fuel-efficient stoves. Through Bishop Charles, we heard of a place that is a source of excellent clay for people from as far away as Geita and Musoma (up to 200km away). It was a trek up into the hills of rock - the land cruiser got us a far as it could (that was a bumpy ride!) and then we continued up on foot.

Driving to the clay source as the rain poured down!

When we could go no further ...

A short steep climb got us up to a level plateau where many people were busy at work sieving and sorting clay that had been carried down to them. It really was a hive of activity! We carried on up the rocks and came to the source.

Continuing on foot

Piles of clay on the flat spot!
A man was dropping into a hole in the rocks, almost like a cave and with great exertion pulling out sacks of clay. Given that the rocks could shift at any point, it was a little unnerving! We were looking at pretty eroded hill material and because they are digging, obviously the rocks can be easily dislodged. But we were assured that the clay diggers know the signs when rocks are about to go and can scarper away in time. Whether we would be able to scarper so fast, I wasn't so sure. But we lived to tell the tale and watched a fairly old woman take our extremely heavy sack of clay on her head and trot nimbly down the steep hill!

Giant rocks (see the man covered in clay in the crack in the rock ...
the bag of clay is squeezed through the hold at the base of those rocks!)

Down deep to the clay

Louisa checks it out

Running down with the clay
Today was the sad day of farewells, but we are so thankful for the fun times we've had together. And we are looking forward our next adventure which will be this Wednesday to Friday. We are headed out to an island on Lake Victoria with Dr. Makori to visit some of the island clinic work he is doing. We will travel with our backpacks (and lifejackets!) on foot, taking a 7 hour boat ride to get there. We are really excited to see the work that Makori is doing and see how we may be able to work together in the future. So you can pray for our travels and our time there!

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Lake Adventures ... it's Fun Finding Out!

We have been having plenty of fun finding out recently. With my parents here for a visit, we have been exploring our new territory. Last night we went to follow the sunset, exploring around the lake, at one point ending up on a narrow, rough and bumpy road which suddenly took on rollercoaster proportions as we summited and plummeted and then had to figure out how to turn around when the road ended. A kind man opened his gates so that we could turn around in his driveway; as I chatted to him while Tim manoeuvred, he mentioned it was good to be careful, as a couple of guys had recently reversed over the edge! Down on flatter ground we enjoyed the amazing scenery we have at the Lake here! Earlier in the day, to the girls great delight, we also found and enjoyed a swimming pool in beautiful surroundings!


First attempt at a family photo ...a wave came!
Second attempt!
We have been making further forays into the “downtown area,” hunting unsuccessfully for things like toilet seats and hooks, but doing well for curtain shopping in narrow allies of vitenge (beautiful traditional Tanzanian material) shops. We managed to find a hospital lab (albeit expensive compared to Iringa) and an unconnected pharmacy (better that way as you don’t want the lab giving results that benefit their own pharmacy!) when the need arose to get Louisa treated for her UTI. All good and useful things to find out! We still have yet to get used to the big and busy market, but we are finding where to get the best eggs, the cheapest pineapples and now have Mama Jackie by the lake at the fish market to buy our fresh fish from!

At the fish market

Mama Jackie


We have been meeting up with some wonderful people here in Mwanza. We had the most amazing lunch (which included curry-fried Nile Perch) with Mama Minja. We went with her to see how the orphans nursery school which she runs is going. It was great to return to see how the work is progressing (we visited Mama Minja and the school when we here in Mwanza in 2011). She is an incredible lady with a heart of compassion and determination to help others! I will tell more of her story later …

Walking back from the Orphan's School with Mama Minja

We had another fabulous lunch at a restaurant run by Godwin, a young man in the church here. He also has an incredible story which I will save for a later time! But I will say here that he served us some amazing pork and fries. They call pork "kiti moto" here in Tanzania, which literally in Swahili means "hot seat."  Apparently this means that Muslims can eat pork surreptitiously and get away with it by saying they are eating hot seats without mentioning the "p" word! Or so we have been told! Godwin told us about one of his plans to get a thousand pigs and start a business (yes, my ears perked up … a thousand pigs!)

Pork and Fries with Godwin

Playing pool with Godwin

On Friday night we had our good friend, Dr Makori and his friend, Naha round for a meal. We wanted to thank him for all his help in getting us set up here in Mwanza. He is another incredible person, a doctor with a big heart and a very big vision! His is yet another story … and I’m going to have to set aside some time to tell all these stories that are piling up!

With Dr Makori and Naha

The girls are enjoying having their grandparents here! We have been doing school together – which has included making a space model. They have been playing plenty of games and watched "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." Papa and Mama have been frequenting the “restaurant” that the girls have opened here and Mama has cut the girls hair. Mom has also been busy making curtains for various rooms and happily bought some bleach and got busy in the bathrooms!

Playing Pairs in Pears