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

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Mother's Love

The mamas and I sat in a circle on dusty, chalky student school desks. Piled on the desk in the middle of us was a creative mess of paper, glue and beads. Outside on the school grounds, the squeals of children running and playing (and peeking in the window) were interrupted by a banging gong, summoning them all to something. Then it was quieter, with just the gurgling sucking noise of Laurensia’s baby nursing and our own chatting.
Saturday was the second time that we had all met together. Despite feeling completely inept (ok, almost terrified!) and unable in every sense of the word with my limited Swahili and complete lack of experience or understanding of what these women have gone through, I just loved being with them.

When we met together the first time, along with Ester, who with her loving and serving heart for children with albinism and their mamas, has pulled this group together, we started by spending time on our “stories.” It is so important for these six women to be able to share their stories with one another and for me to understand where they are coming from. So we started with bits of paper and pencils and jotted down major life events on individual timelines. It was interesting to see a couple of the ladies were the same age as me. Zuena is unable to read and write, so we talked and drew little pictures and I wrote. It is so difficult for me to fully understand their stories, but I hope as time goes by, I can gradually put all the pieces together.

Over our timelines we drew contour lines to clearly show the high points and low points along the journey walked so far. For every one of these six women, the low point of their life was when they gave birth to a child with albinism. Fear of attack by killers (there was another killing in Tabora this week). Rejection. One woman with tears gently trickling down her cheeks, shared her grief over the way she is mistreated and abused at home. After she delivered a child with albinism, her husband took a new wife. While she continues to live in the same home, she is taunted constantly by the new wife who spreads the word that she is a cursed “crazy woman, not right in the head.” Her children are safe at the school providing safety for children with albinism, but her husband forbids her to go near them. She was recently sick, and her husband refused treatment for her, keeping her provision at a bare minimum.
We cannot change the events and contours of our lives to this point. But I asked them to write down or share their hopes for the future. One woman shared her hope of being a good mama, another that the killings of people with albinism would end, and another that she might go before God and know what to do with her life. These women are courageous in the midst of pain and hardship.

This Saturday, after talking about various ideas of income-generating projects, we started learning how to make paper beads for necklaces. A big thank you here to the kind provision of help from Jenny Bendall in the UK! My thought was also to get working quickly on some Christmas cards… but that idea didn’t go down so well! But they all loved the beads, and I was amazed at how they had all come prepared with things I had previously mentioned we would need. Zuena had been round the market and found all kinds of materials like small glass beads and fisherman’s wire for necklaces. They are figuring costs and predicting profit and although at this point I have no idea what market we will get for a finished product, I know that it was the right activity for us all. We sat and rolled paper beads. We took scraps of rubbish paper and rolled them into beautiful and uniquely coloured and shaped beads. And we talked about the rubbish of our lives – the sin and pain, and how the Master Craftsman takes it and works it into something beautiful and precious.  Each unique, we can be joined together for something even more beautiful ... and useful! We are joined for a purpose. The mamas were so delighted with their beads… it is a quick skill to learn, and they were amazed at their results.

Making beads
After bead-making, we started our study of the Bible. This is what I was most nervous about! Would my Swahili be right? Would they understand what I was saying? Would anyone discuss the questions? I need not have worried. We started with Genesis and only got as far as the first three verses. But in those three verses in the short time we had, God spoke light into the darkness. And this is our hope in those contour lines of our lives.

And I forgot to mention, they have named their group, Upendo Wa Mama which means Mother's Love. Isn't that beautiful! 
Penina (Mama Maria)
Chairwoman of Upendo Wa Mama


  1. Oh tears rolling down my face. How I wish I could join you with these lovely ladies. I'd love to buy a box of necklaces to give to friends here...let me know if I could ever do that and send money :)
    Thank you for loving and showing God's love so practically. I know their days will be better with so much love! Meg

    1. Thank you, Meg! Tears for me at how much you care! Keep praying and we'll let you know as soon we have those necklaces ready! Thank you! Rachel

  2. Simply wonderful Rachel. Lots of love to you all. Grace.x

  3. Great news - so glad to hear that this all got off to such a great start


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