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

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Let's Fly!

We have tickets booked! And with that, travelling to Canada and the UK suddenly seems to be approaching rather too quickly! We are so excited about seeing family and friends again (and enjoying those things we miss), but there is still much to do here before then!

It was September, 2012 the last time we landed in England (we stayed until just after a visit to Canada at Christmas), and it's that funny thing about time, which makes it seem just ages ago, yet at the same time, we hardly seem to have been here since long at all!

We fly from Mwanza on March 27th and six airports and a long time later, are looking forward to being Canadian for three weeks with family and friends! Then we have a few days in the Toronto area with EI Canada and are excited about meeting up with Laura (from Iringa) before flying to the UK, to Louisa's great delight, on her birthday! Then we will enjoy being British for a term and see as many of you there as we can before coming back at the end of July.
And now, here are a couple of links to some extra reading if you are interested...

Click Here to read our latest newsletter!

Although if you follow the blog, the newsletter is, (as my sister pointed out in the nicest-possible-way) rather boring! But as not everyone has internet access (although I think this is now few more than my grandparents - who get the blog printed and delivered by my kind aunts!), I try to make the effort for a good ol'fashioned (albeit rather occasional, and perhaps largely unread!) newsletter!

Also, we recently wrote an article for the Emmanuel International Down to Earth Magazine on the agricultural project. Now as the blog is chronological and jumps about depending on what happens each week, this brief article could be an easier way of seeing what has been happening with this project since September.

 Click Here to read the Down to Earth article!

And with that, I would just like to thank you, dear readers, for reading and following along! And a special thank you to many of you for being so supportively interested and encouraging! See you soon!

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Mama Faith

Mama Faith is 40 years old. She completed Primary School at the age of 15 and married at the age of 20. I enjoyed an opportunity to get to know her better last Saturday morning, sitting on the steps outside the primary school classrooms (which were unfortunately locked up), as she arrived long before the rest of the Upendo wa Mama ("Mother's Love") group. She clearly works hard and she is inspiring in the way she perseveres through adversity. Twice, during our time together she suffered an asthma attack that left her weak and breathless. Both times we gathered around her and prayed. She doesn't have an inhaler; I talked to her about it but from what I could understand, her husband is not willing to take her to the hospital or to purchase one. But with the money she is earning from her small income-generating projects, I am encouraging her to go herself. I would have liked to take her to the hospital, but that would just make matters harder and costlier!

Mama Faith making beads
She has four children, and the three youngest (ages 16, 10 and 4) all have albinism. Things became difficult for her when she gave birth to Jackie, her second child and the first with albinism. Her husband took another wife, blaming her for birthing a child with albinism (and I think he may have taken yet another wife since then). Mama Faith struggles with her husband's drinking and with living with his other wives, who from what I gather, do not treat her well. Yet despite all the struggles, she just gets on with things; she sells bags of peanuts and baobab in town and makes shampoo to sell. She is keen to learn how to bake cakes and bread and has asked for teaching on that when we next meet together.

After we all varnished our first batch of beads together and studied Genesis 3, I went to her house for an impromptu late lunch and was able to meet her three youngest children, Jackie, Nora and Faith, before they returned to their boarding school. Jackie wants to be an accountant and Nora a nurse. Beautiful girls!

Beads in the making

Varnishing the beads

Mama Rose varnishing the beads we have been making
I am really enjoying my time with these women. They have made many beads, which will now be threaded into jewellery. It was beautiful to see their happy surprise looking at their beads on Saturday when the varnish was added! The finishing touch to something of beauty from a scrap of rubbish!
Each woman contributes every time to the group fund and as we think about saving up for an oven to start a cooking business, they are looking into how they register the group and set up a bank account. I am excited about the potential possibilities, but happy going slowly with them to see that things happen in a sensible and sustainable way.

We continue each time reading our Bibles together. This week we were talking about how Eve, when tempted by the snake, doubted that God was really enough. Eve thought she should take for herself what looked good to her (the fruit). If we don't see God for who He really is, this is such an easy mistake to make. It is as easy here as anywhere to reach out for anything that we think will help us, something that looks good and we think will then "be enough". It could be money or relationships, diets, drugs, technology or the witchdoctor, but it will never be enough. Reading God's word, we continue to look for a God who is really able, a God who is good, a God we truly can trust. And seeing Mama Faith walk in faith through difficulty shows me the gracious provision of a God who is able.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Up a Pole without a Ladder?

What do you think? Can we can rescue a swarm of bees from a 9m pole with this big green truck and ladder?
The big green truck
I'll get to that in a moment ... We have been waiting since August to get a prepay electricity meter fixed at our house. We had some unexpectedly high bills which led to long, animated conversations in the office of the electricity company here. For me, this meant a rather intense hour of a wide-eyed jumble of Swahili/English/sign language... or perhaps crazy gesticulating is more correct. But at the end of the hour, in annoyed defeat, I had to cough up the money. Anyway, to make a rather long story short, yesterday, nine (yes, NINE!) men all showed up in a big truck (which they parked outside the house) to fit the new meter. Talk about how many men it takes to change a lightbulb! We thought that was problem solved. But as it stands at the moment, we seem to have jumped out of the frying pan into the fire, with no power at all (thus my current location at a cafe) and if we do manage to get it, at the moment it looks like our bills will be even higher than before! We are working on it ...

And while on the subject of large electricity company trucks, while all these nine men were sorting out our one meter, I took the opportunity to ask one of the guys about borrowing their truck. As you know, I am trying to get bees in my hives (and trying to be patient). Finally last week I heard about bees at a friend's house. The family are allergic to bee stings and need them removed. Also because the bees are on the electricity pole, the electricians won't go near it with them all buzzing about there. So I agreed (in my "no worries, it'll-be-fine" way) that I would go and collect them. It all looks so simple after googling. Tim even agreed to come with me, although he honestly wants no part in my hare-brained schemes (he's a good husband!) and also Joseph (who really loves a challenge and as Tim said would do anything for me!). So last Friday evening (with our friend Kat kindly staying with the girls), I gathered together all the necessities: torch, bee-keeping hat, Tim's overalls, rubber gloves, big basket and large white sheet, smoker and sugar-water spray and toothpaste (for stings).

We ventured nervously out into the darkness. We got a little lost in the dark, but eventually found our way and arrived to see a HUGE pole stretching into the darkness. It was crooked and laden with bees just around where the live wires were, about 9 metres up. We only had a short ladder and didn't see how we could get up the pole! We talked about putting the ladder on top of the landcruiser, and at this point you can be glad (Mom and Dad, particularly) that I have a sensible husband. It all looked rather dodgey and buying honey from a grocery store seemed a much easier option. I had to admit defeat to Plan A. But Plan B is now to convince the electricity company men to agree to come with me with their big green truck with the ladder.  I get the bees and they can work peacefully on their pole. Tim reckons I should start thinking about a Plan C... But I will get some bees!

Here are a few photos from my birthday celebrations and other random pics! Thank you for all the Happy Birthday wishes; I had a wonderful day and it's great to have so many lovely friends!
My favourite: coffee cake (Alison Faulkner's recipe!)
On top of the JB Belmont in Mwanza

Louisa's favourite: Sweet hot milk!
As well as harvesting beans at Amon's, (see the last blog post) we have also just harvested our own beans from our shamba here at home. They have been drying in the sun and are now ready to shell. The girls have started collecting all the beans from their pods. We haven't weighed them yet though!
Our own bean harvest!

Shelling the beans

The new hair cut gives Louisa quite the flapper look!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

The Bean Bounty of the Harvest

The word "harvest" evokes thoughts of bountiful plenty, thanksgiving and grace. And the word seems all the richer to us now that we are more tangibly involved in the process! We shared its richness this Sunday with Amon and his very pregnant wife and young Anna. We enjoyed the fruit of the bean harvest with them!
The Bean Harvest
We arrived in Kayenze in time for the church service after an extremely bumpy and rather longer journey on the deteriorated dirt road! With ominous black clouds in the sky there were only about eight other adults there. As we sang, darkness descended like night in the small church building, and then in the dim light we heard the waves crash on the lake close by and then the rain beat down on the tin roof. It didn't last very long and then after the rain, more people trickled in.

After Tim's preaching and the end of the service, we went to visit and pray with baby Meekness (just a month old) and her Mama at their house.
Louisa with Baby Meekness
Then we went to Pastor Amon's house for lunch and to see how the crops were doing. The beans had just been harvested and Amon was thrilled with the 10kg result from the less than 1/2kg of seeds that we planted using the new conservation agriculture methods. After planting with us, he had gone on to plant more seeds himself, but doubting (understandably) what we were trying, he did it in his usual way and as is common, he did it too late. He lost all of it. Every bean. There was no harvest at all. So he was even more thankful for the harvest of the small patch we did together and all the more convinced now about using the new techniques next time!
Celebrating the harvest: Peter (L), our agricultural trainer and Pastor Amon (R)
Mama cooking our beans and rice for lunch

We went to look at the maize, which will be ready to harvest soon. Amon showed us the maize that we planted together in October with compost and mulch, now tall and green and yielding good fruit. And then we saw the less tall, less green stalks yielding smaller fruit in the area that Amon planted himself without mulch and some without compost too. Amazing to see the difference so clearly and convincingly!

It is not without problems ... the birds did get some and we do have a bit of a problem with stalkborers which can be due to overuse and poor use of the land. But we talked about planting lots of jackbean seeds and other varieties of beans (as well as trees and live fences) this year to concentrate on replenishing the soil. It will take time, but it is great to be working with Amon, and seeing him catch the vision of how this will help his community is exciting!

Maize looking good
This maize not looking so good!
Realising that this maize is much shorter due to being under the great mango tree!
We are planning for a seminar in February teaching on agriculture and health and out of that and meetings with the village leaders, hope to get a group of 10-15 farmers together in this village for the next season of planting and training.

Harvest Grace
The saying goes
"An ocean never dries up,"
But we know your grace also never fails.
This food you have given us
Is one more proof.
Dear Lord,
Your grace is our happiness.
Hallelujah! Amen.

From Table Prayers - a prayer from Africa

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Christmas on a Gas Burner

We have just said goodbye to the wonderful Andy and Angela Sharpe who came up from Iringa to spend some time with us over Christmas holidays. We do so miss them and it was great to be back together again! They arrived on the 28th and we seemed to have a different celebration of some kind every day!

Christmas on a gas burner
On the 29th we decided to have a second "Christmas" together, crackers and party hats, roast chicken, roast potatoes, stuffing, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, red cabbage and carrots... etc.! We went out for coffee in the morning planning to come back for a late lunch after which we would later enjoy afternoon tea and start the Christmas cake. Well, that was Plan A.
Morning coffee out
To my great chagrin, the power went out just after I put the chicken and potatoes in the oven. We were all hopeful, positive and convinced it was just a minor blip and would come back on. So we left the oven door shut while waiting for the power to come back on. That was Plan B. We had some snacks and waited. And waited. We played some games. We decided to reverse the order and start with afternoon tea so went ahead with tea and Christmas cake. After 5pm, with the kitchen getting dark and the chicken and potatoes now cold in the oven, I gave up and lit the gas ring. This was Plan C. It was time to try Christmas dinner on a single gas burner ... one thing at a time! Andy sliced up the chicken (it had done fairly well on a very long, decreasing heat) which I fried. I scooped out the stuffing from the dish and shaped it into little pancakes and fried them. The potatoes were sliced up and sautéed. The veggies were cooked, the sauces were heated and the gravy was made. Crackers were pulled with a bang and it was finally a lovely candlelight Christmas lunch at 7pm! I figure I should write a book on Christmas Cooking when Camping.

"Roasties" on the gas
Amisadai did a great job icing the cake this year!
A Birthday
After our first two attempts at main meals were frustrated by electricity cuts (we'd had a pizza palava with power cuts on the first evening) it was good to take the opportunity of Amisadai's birthday to go out for a meal on the third night. Surely now we would all eat according to Plan A at the right time. But even that was a bit of laugh as both Andy and Tim's meals were forgotten ... they ended up eating well after the rest of us, but with hunger enjoyed it all the more!
Birthday pizza
It was a great end to a great day celebrating our lovely 11 year old daughter! As well as a Narnia Risk game, we went swimming in ridiculously chilly weather for Mwanza ... a great sacrifice of love on mine and Angela's part! But exciting (for me) that day was the HOT water shower at home afterwards! A guy had been working on getting an instant heater shower installed ... (slowed somewhat by the power cuts!) and we are so thankful now to have a hot shower!

New Year's Eve
Next we were celebrating New Year's Eve ... we managed to convince Tim and Andy to stay up till midnight ... does it get more exciting than Canasta? We had numerous efforts with varying degrees of success to Skype various family and friends. This can be fairly entertaining if you don't get frustrated. The delays and constant "hello ... hello ... are you there?..." make for strange conversation! But we all have such great family and friends and we are so thankful! It was great to start 2015 with Andy and Angela ... and Joseph, who joined us outside to pop poppers and laugh with us at the sparklers which failed to sparkle!
Happy New Year!
2015 New Year's Day

We celebrated the start of the New Year with BMCC church. We love this church which is so incredibly active in sharing the love of God with everyone, and it was an honour to share this time with them and for Tim to preach. They had invited the kids with albinism, the street kids and also new pastors planting churches in unreached areas for a special service and lunch. After the tragic news this week in Mwanza about yet another child with albinism assumed murdered for body parts, it was both moving and encouraging to see all the kids up at the front singing, many with smiles! It was a long 5 hour service so we were more than ready for the big lunch afterwards at 2:30pm! Such huge pots of rice pilau!

Children from Lakeview School singing

Full Monty
Andy and Angela left on Friday, but not until Louisa and Tim had cooked up their favourite ... a full English breakfast (or Full Monty as we like to call it!). This is a real treat here as we don't normally get things like bacon and sausages and baked beans, but with all the stops pulled out, we enjoyed it!

It has been a good week of fun and treats! We are so thankful for Andy and Angela ... in more ways than one! Andy also came with his water engineer hat on to check out our basement flooding situation. With more rather large rains over Christmas, the water levels are now worse than before. So we paddle, slosh and mop. And have now moved out Tim's books which were starting to curl with the damp on the shelves!

Andy and the girls investigate the water problem

We are thankful for the past year of 2014. We are thankful for good friends. And thankful for a year ahead of us, for the joy and challenge it is to serve a God with Plan A.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Remembering Mr Beck

It is hard right now to write about the happy times we have enjoyed over the past week here in Mwanza, while grieving the sudden death of good man in Langley, BC, Canada. So many friends are grieving and my thoughts and prayers are especially with Kitty, Alisha, Amy and Jesse as they walk this difficult path. Rob has impacted the lives of many people (especially so many students who have gone through the King's School) and will be so very missed.

As well a family friend, Rob Beck was the principal of The King's School in Langley through my Grade 5-12 school years and also when I later returned as a teacher and had to try to call him Rob! I remember the honour of being a "coffee and tea girl" when I was around 11 years old in Mrs Meighen's class, with the job of serving Mr Beck coffee at break time. He was always such a laugh and a tease and I remember my friend Cherie and I somehow getting our own back with some mischief in his coffee cup!

It was with Rob and Kitty that I took my first trip to Africa as a 14 year old, on a school trip to Uganda... that trip, as well as the all the preparation and team building that went on before it, leaves so many wonderful memories! And given the fact that I'm here now, it has it's own legacy for me! So many other memories of hilarity on school trips and musicales... and especially grade 12 twentieth century history in which we often wondered if he'd show up for class but loved the "rabbit trails" through history that came alive when he did! Then chili days and curry days. We loved working in the kitchen with Mr Beck... cooking up hot curry for the whole school or his legendary chili (which I still make today twenty years later, and it is always noticed particularly for its pineapple!). You could never add too much spice for Rob! He was full of spice with his zest for life. Full of laughs for taking us down dark city allies to eat the best Chinese behind the grimy green door! Full of stories. Full of life.

It is hard to comprehend that a life so full on this earth could end so quickly. It was a salmonella infection just before Christmas that led to further complications. Yet to comprehend that our lives are in our Father's hand! Rob now celebrates in the joy of the Lord, with no doubt even more zest and enthusiasm!