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

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Planning to be Generous

We have recently been overwhelmed by generosity. Overwhelmed by people who give. Overwhelmed by how an opportunity to give results in so much more than one gift received.

Last weekend (Friday to Tuesday) we were treated to the most amazing hospitality from our friends in Victory Christian Centre in Dar es Salaam. They invited Tim to teach at their Bible School and preach on Sunday, and also asked Amisadai to play her violin for the Sunday service as we led a song together. They sent plane tickets to us and put us up in a wonderful hotel, a luxury I confess I had been selfishly coveting. After so many long day journeys to Dar and less than luxurious nights, this was such an amazing treat. We had incredible hot showers (yes, I confess I loved all the different flow settings as much as the girls!), baked beans and cornflakes for breakfast (not in the same bowl), a swimming pool and comfy couches. We were so spoiled! We were welcomed so warmly by Huruma and Joyce Nkone and the rest of the church. We shared a meal at the home of good friends, Martin and Esther; we met the fiancé of Samweli, a friend who goes out of his way to serve and help us; we generally received abundant love all round!
With the Nkone Family

Alice and Samweli

With Martin and Esther
This church gave generously. They have their own very great needs as they are working hard to build their own building and expand their work in many ways. But despite their own great needs, they gave so much; to us personally and for the work we are seeking to do in Mwanza. They planned to be generous.

As Brits/Canadians, just talking about money is awkward! But here in Tanzania, things are very different, and the longer we live here, the more we appreciate that what is culturally different is not necessarily “wrong”! People are comfortable talking about money. And people are incredibly generous. When the girls came up with their plans to raise money, although pleased they wanted to do something to help others, I was reluctant because I didn’t want to ask for money. But we went ahead as I told myself it was to benefit others, that loads of other people did this kind of thing, etc etc... But as the money came in, coming generously in from loving givers, I began to think more about it. Generous giving leads to the meeting of needs, to a valuable expression of community, to demonstrations of love and the blessing of the giver. Who was I to deny that? And we have been so encouraged by the generous giving of so many of you. One woman in the UK, touched by the heart behind the words of Dr Makori (in his interview on the Braithwaites blog), sacrificially gave much, and Dr Makori humbly and gratefully received, feeling keenly the bond of unity that reaches across cultures and countries in the simple but generous act. We are encouraged and moved by the hearts of children like Sophie, Samuel, Josh, Dan and Issac who have unselfishly demonstrated love in order to help. Following our accident and the many expenses that resulted, many of you have generously given and we are so grateful.

So I can only say thank you to those who have given so generously. But you must know that your gift does not stop here. So many good things result from giving! And in it all, I am encouraged to plan to be generous and see more of these good things!
And now for little "Monger Update" … some of you will have heard that Amisadai cut her ankle while in Dar es Salaam. Shortly before we were leaving for the airport, she gashed it on a sharp step in the swimming pool and the green and grimacing nurse (yours truly) managed to stick all back together with steri strips and bandages while blindfolding the equally green and grimacing patient and feeding her little sugar bags. Thankfully Dr Makori picked us up from the airport in Mwanza and cleaned and redressed it. The wound is now healing nicely!

We are settling into our new house… navigating various hurdles like the electricity company sneaking through our gates and almost cutting our supply! Some swift negotiations and all is now ok. Not so the shower and various other water problems which a workman has been attempting fix over the past two days… but he keeps forgetting significant parts and disappearing constantly to go and find something! I wonder if the end result may be worse than we started, but live in hope. The siafu ants meanwhile seem to be migrating away from the immediate vicinity of the house after some serious jungle slashing and a "safe" route laid with aisles of ash.

The March of the Siafu Ants
At the weekend we had a lovely visit from the Wingfield family who drove up from Iringa and will journey home down through the west side of Tanzania. The kids all had a great time playing again and enjoyed the treats Mwanza has to offer like bakery cakes and a swimming pool! With them we were also able to visit a church in the village of Tambukareli introducing and demonstrating the fuel-efficient stove. We are hoping to get a small number of people from this church helping us to begin some clay stove work and help us proceed with an actual stoves project.  
Tim looking deep in concentration while fielding questions
at the stove demonstration after the Church service

The Wingfields and Mongers in Mwanza
With their departure on Monday, we are now eagerly awaiting (and a little frantically preparing!) for the arrival tomorrow morning of our team from Tadley. Our pastor, Greg Whittick is coming with a group of four young people for three weeks. We will try and blog some of the things we get up to with them… exciting times ahead!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Through Cotton Fields to Malya and the Siafu Ant Situation

The road went on ... and on ... and on! We left home at 7am on Sunday morning, aiming to get to a place called Malya to meet with the church for their 9am service, at which Tim was preaching. But we were bumping along a dirt road for miles, passing fields and fields of growing cotton, until almost 10am! And when we did finally arrive, we were ushered warmly into the pastor's house for some hot milk and chapattis before the service. They wouldn't think of allowing us to continue with a service after our long journey without any morning chai! And the whole church welcomed us warmly when we finally appeared, not the least bothered that they had to wait for us for so long!

It was lovely to hear the Kisukuma singing. We are used to the Wahehe tribe singing in our churches in Magozi and Kimande, but here in the Mwanza region, the people are mostly from the Sukuma tribe and it is very interesting to hear the difference in singing style! The church shared their vision for serving their community; they are keen to start sewing projects for women and bee projects and tree planting. We would love to see this church known for these things, for their heart to serve and passion for sharing the love of God, particularly because at the moment they are known for their "disabled pastor" which is rather sad given the very "enabling" nature of both the pastor and his congregation. About thirteen years ago, Pastor Kayuli was fixing a water tank up high. The tank fell on his head, knocking him to the ground and seriously injuring him. He was in a coma for a long time, but miraculously recovered. But his body did not fully recover and he is left without the use of his hands and unable to move or walk easily. But he is a good husband to Shukuru (which means thankfulness), a loving father to their little girl, Glory (Gloria) and a Godly pastor to the lovely people in Malya. Enabled and we pray a man who will long be remembered for enabling others.

Rachel, Shukuru, Pastor Kayuli, Pastor Jovin (Mwanza),
a teacher from the local school ad our girls with Gloria

Pastor Kayuli greets the church

Malya Church

We had a walk around the church plot. We saw the great potential it has and the girls did their first cotton pickin' (there's a song here somewhere)! Land is ready for planting trees and attracting bees! We think this would be the first bee project in this area, so are very excited about this. They are keen to build a multi-purpose building for training of all kinds and already have mamas starting a small-scale sewing project.

Looking across the plot at the church building
Vision and potential!

In other news ... we are now in our new house! We moved in last Friday, after a few days of delays. We are all enjoying the lovely space, the sound of birds and insects instead of close neighbours outside our windows and very loud music! We are very grateful for this house and particularly for the outside space which is being prepared for bees, agricultural experimenting, a medicinal garden, vegetable garden and in which we have already planted Moringa and Neem trees!

We are still trying to sort out lots of niggles ... things like power and water were a bit of a problem for a while. After a prolonged week without shopping before the move (which led to a pretty poor and basic diet), things didn't get much better with no electric or gas for a little while ... we finally had food in the house, but no way to cook any of it! I know, where's a clay jiko when you need it? 

And then there was the niggle of the biting ants which have us surrounded outside! These are siafu ants, otherwise known as driver ants, army ants or safari ants. They really are lethal! We are not talking about the little ants that we have been "eating" with our peanut butter as they make trails through our kitchen. These ants have large heads and pincers that are used by the Masai as sutures. They have powerful shearing jaws and draw blood when they bite you. The girls make a running-leaping-hopping dash to the car from the front door to avoid the vicious insects! We looked out the window yesterday to see our guard hopping about in a crazy dance, while frantically pulling up his trouser legs to get rid of the things! They climb up you, cling on to you and then BITE. They are all in the grass outside and I have read that one colony has up to 20 million ants. Tim thinks we are all exaggerating and making too much of a fuss, but he wears long trousers, socks and shoes.  On the positive side, these ants eat things like cockroaches and rats and that is a very good thing. But we hope some ash will soon solve the problem.

We live on the property with a lovely family; mama is going to work for us during the week, helping us in the house, and funnily enough, her name is Lucy! It is lovely to have someone helping with washing the clothes (the family was bringing us buckets of water before we had the running water) and the floors and dishes. And today, while a man took our oven to pieces on the kitchen floor in an attempt to fix it, she cooked us all some beans on the sawdust cooker outside.

On Friday we are off to Dar es Salaam. Tim has been invited by Huruma Nkone to teach at the Bible School there and then preach three services on Sunday. We are looking forward to catching up with the Nkone family on Monday and then flying back to Mwanza on Tuesday.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Feeling Finnish ... and other things

After our overnight get-away for some peace and quiet outside the city, we returned to celebrate Tim's birthday in the midst of the packing! The birthday treat was burgers at a local hotel! And later on, we had homemade pizza and birthday cake with our good friends, the Nzogere family. Please continue to pray for them ... on top of other things going on, as I mentioned in the last blogpost, they had an awful experience when thieves broke into their house the other night while they slept.


Five minutes down the road from where we stayed
Birthday Burgers

Birthday Cake (he asked for a standing giraffe cake, but got a coffee cake)

Celebrating with friends
People have been asking us if everything is now resolved after our accident. Everything has gone very quiet, but nothing has actually changed. The police still have Tim's license and the paperwork we need to get; they have not closed the case after saying that it must go to court. But we have not heard anything about a court summons! We met with our good friend in the judicial system yesterday, and she advised us to continue to wait ... she doubts it will go to court, but is talking to the powers-that-be about resolving the situation and closing the case. In terms of the actual events of the accident, we feel we have come through the other side, and thank God for his grace in all of that. We are very aware of the dangers on the road here, and appreciate your prayers for safety! Tim travelled Tuesday-Wednesday last week to Geita (about a three-hour drive west of Mwanza) with our good friend Huruma Nkone, and I confess to being a nervous wife at home!

I am sitting here now in rather a state of chaos in our living room. We were all set to move in the morning with the car loaded up and the kitchen packed up except for some bits for breakfast .... then a phonecall ... The front door lock is broken on our new house, which in light of recent events is rather a security problem! The landlord is saying to be patient and they will fix it. Apparently it is a Finnish lock however and they are struggling to do so! Maybe Friday. So the pressure is off for tonight, but I haven't the heart yet to unpack what we need for the extra day! But here is a little peek inside ...

The above picture is Kitchen 1 (with an electric oven with working bottom part). Adjacent to this room is Kitchen 2. This comes with gas oven (with working top part) and in case two ovens is not enough, we also have an old Aga! Hot!

Our Finnish living room, with its corner of wood panelling from Finland, paintings and photos of Finland and obviously very Scandanavian chairs! Feeling very Finnish.

Here are some "friends" we hope don't move along with us! This huge creature was inside Amisadai's shoe yesterday - a good reminder to always shake your shoe before putting it on!

And these little friends are a constant source of frustration around here. ANTS! They are just everywhere! Armies of them marching all over the place. You leave a single crumb for a minute, they head that way. You leave a lid just slightly loose, they all head inside. This is our peanut butter pot the second time that the lid wasn't tightened properly. They've been in the margarine, the bread, the cookies ...  and even, to the great distress of several in this house, the Special British Marmite. The nerve. I guess all this extra protein keeps us healthy.


Monday, 2 June 2014

Keeping Joy Alive: When a House is a Home

I have found myself looking recently at what I lack rather than what I have. Sometimes this is such an easy slippery slope to slide down, and it ends up crushing joy. But I have so much! So many privileges! Yet I start to think of privileges as my "rights" ... my right to rest, to health, to freedom, to a nice house ....  And then I start to think I have a "right" to grumble if I don't have something that I "should" have. For example my "right" to a washing machine when I am tired of wringing sheets and socks ... but then, don't I have a "right" to have someone come and help me?

But what if I see my privileges as gifts instead of rights? Everything I have is a gift. This is the place where joy is kept alive.

This week, we are going to move house. We went around Mwanza looking at houses; this wasn't, by any stretch of the imagination, looking for the house of my dreams, but there was a little part of me that would have loved to be doing exactly that. Find a house with a big shiny bathroom with a bathtub and running water that always runs, a big family kitchen with cupboards that leave things uninhabited by little creatures, a big fridge with more than one shelf, an oven that would fit my baking trays and cook a cake normally, a guesthouse that would comfortably house lots of guests ... you get the idea. I was looking at what I lacked.

There was a story told about a man who found a treasure in a field. That treasure was so valuable that he gave up everything he had in order to buy that field. But it is hard to give things up. Possessions, desires, rights. Is what we would gain worth what we would give up and leave behind? And so we hang on, hold back. Would I really hold back for the sake of a "dream" kitchen, when I could own a great treasure and indeed the whole field? No! Would I hold back for the sake of myself, ...  for my family? The questions get harder. But the gain is always greater.

When we see everything as a gift and not a right, when we lay things down rather than clinging on and holding back, then this is the place where joy is kept alive.

Last night, our good friends Zakayo and Evelyn lost what we would view as their "rights." Their house, their home, was broken into by thieves in the night as they slept. The thieves abused their rights to personal property and privacy as they invaded each room, including where the two young girls lay sleeping, and they stole from them. But while the family lost possessions, they were unharmed, and this is a stark and somber reminder that we have so much to be grateful for, a reminder that things are truly just "things."

Our new house, with all it's quirks and foibles, is a good gift. And soon it will be a home. And as such a place to keep joy alive.

Our new Home
This weekend we were back on that road to Bunda. Kind friends said we should take some time away together and gave a generous gift. So we ended up near the Serengeti, not so very far from Bunda. As we drove on that same road, we thought again of that young boy. We also thought of Tony, a friend of ours in Tanzania who last week survived a serious car accident. Two road accidents, both resulting in deaths. Life is a gift. Eternal life is a great gift. A place keeping joy alive.

There is another house waiting to become a home. I am so excited about the future of this home. The house at the moment is an empty shell, a bare and messy space, a work unfinished. And there are lives at the moment the same. Empty, messy, unfinished. There is no true life for them, no joy alive. But I have been talking with Evelyn (the unfinished house belongs to her and Zakayo) and her dream to reach out to help the many vulnerable women in this city. We are making plans to see this empty house transformed into a home, a place of LIFE, a place where joy is kept alive. Women in poverty, women abused, fighting against HIV/AIDS, in prostitution, women who not only need a safe place to shelter and a livelihood, but need to be given the gift of Life.

A House: a Home in the Making
But this home is not about their rights. We hear all the time about human rights, women's rights and rights to life, rights to this and that. But joy is not kept alive in our rights. Joy is found as we turn to see the gifts we have. So before these women look for their "rights," what if they first saw their gifts? Their joy will be continually crushed if they only look for their rights. But their joy will come alive if they first look for and receive their gifts. The gift of life, the gift of who they are, their value, their individual gifts and abilities, the gift of friendship, of family, the gift of a home where joy is kept alive.