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

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Kneading and Waiting with Mamas of Children with Albinism

On Saturday I was with some hard-pressed lovely mamas of children with albinism. We were all shocked and deeply saddened by the recent murder of  little Yohanna with albinism. The previous day, 18-month old Yohanna's broken body had been buried beside the graves of his older brother and sister (also with albinism). He was buried in a deep grave built with bricks and mortar, iron rods and corrugated iron to prevent his grave later being robbed. His mother Ester still lies in serious condition in hospital in Mwanza, after desperately attempting to protect her baby from the five attackers who broke into their home with machetes. His other siblings (ages 3 and 12), also with albinism, are being protected, but their fear and grief is unimaginable.

I have written before about the evils of witchcraft. The horrifically numerous incidences of killings of people with albinism in Tanzania are the horrible and gruesome evidence of such evil. Every one of Yohanna's limbs was severed from his body, taken by his killers to sell for huge sums of money. Witch doctors will pay as much as $75,000 for a "full set" of albino body parts from which to make their charms and spells to bring good luck and wealth.

It has been suggested that the killings and tortures of people with albinism are linked somehow to politicians (using witchcraft practices to secure power or foretell the future), given the fact that killings increase around election years. Tanzania elections will be held in October of this year. Fear is rising as Yohanna is the second child this month to be taken. There has still been no sign of 4-year old Pendo.

The word is getting out around the world on the atrocities happening here. And it needs to. Please share! Many are working to put pressure on the government to act. On March 2nd people are gathering in Dar es Salaam to protest the killings, the lack of action and the lack of prosecution of those responsible; to plead on behalf of people with albinism and pray for victims. Please pray!

Also complicating and worsening the situation, is that now there is an increase in vigilante justice, as people take matters into their own hands. Witch hunts are leading to the killings of innocent women accused of being witches. Last month, a 58 year old woman, Jane Bakiri in Tabora was attacked at night in her home by many villagers with machetes and knives and then burned alive. Older women, particularly those with red eyes (caused by the smoke over years of cooking on a three stone fire) are at risk from angry or frightened villagers seeking their own form of perceived justice. Tragic and unjust.

The mamas and I that met together on Saturday all knew the dangers, the feelings of helplessness amid such wickedness and corruption; they knew first-hand the fear. Mama Penina talked about the instant worry if she has a moment wondering where her little Maria is playing. I cannot imagine. None of Mama Wilison's five children have albinism, but she has it herself. She has grown up and lived with the danger. Yet they are so brave. Both Mama Penina and Mama Faith shared from Psalm 140; they have little confidence in their government, but every confidence in their heavenly Father.

That day we kneaded bread. We kneaded hard. They have been asking for some weeks now to learn how to use a small jiko (fuel-efficient clay stove) to bake bread. And so we did. And we talked. With my stumbling, inadequate Swahili, we talked about their children. We talked about our broken world and talked about a God who created us and loves us and clothes our nakedness. We talked about a good God who has a saving plan that started with another broken body. And we prayed.

We drank chai. And we broke the bread and ate together.
Shaping the bread dough

Eating bread and drinking chai
Mama Faith enjoys the bread and chai
Kneading and waiting. These two things are key in the process. Kneading to get the right consistency, to make the bread strong and prevent collapse later on. Hard pressed. Waiting. Waiting for the yeast to do its job and leaven the dough and make it grow.

And we do pray for this country and its government, that the leaven of the Kingdom would do its work. Even where governments fail, a little leaven will go a long way.

Working with the bread, seeing a product good and strong come out of a time of kneading and waiting, was a good reminder in the middle of a time of hard pressing and waiting. Not just for these mamas. Also for our guard Thaddeus who three days ago asked us to pray for his two boys. They are away at boarding school and the other night, Thaddeus received a call to say that both had run away and no one knew where they were. There is still no sign of them although police and family are searching.

Also for Tim's Dad and our whole family. We talked with Tim's parents yesterday, receiving the news that Dad's surgery to remove the brain tumour is set for March 10th. All felt that it would be best for Tim to be there. Suddenly the waiting from afar leapt into a blur of action as we changed Tim's tickets and tried to make fast plans for Tim to leave here on Wednesday next week in order to be with his Dad. So sad that we cannot all go together, particularly at such a "kneading" time, the girls and I plan to stay the rest of the month to finish things well here and pack up before our 4 months away. It's strange how things that seemed so important before, are suddenly not.

And so in the kneading and the waiting we remember we all have the opportunity to grow stronger. And we remember that it was through brokenness that we have wholeness.

Bread in process

Monday, 23 February 2015

Pea or Nut? Or Honey-Roasted?

Do you know whether a peanut is a pea or a nut? More on this a moment, but first for the honey roasted...

On the bee front recently, things have been rather up and down with seemingly more downs than ups. After initial victories, which climaxed while Tim was in Arusha, things then plummeted when we lost the lot. It was so discouraging. But it was so incredible to just watch the bees before we lost them.

The phrases "busy as bees" and "hive of activity" have taken on a whole new meaning! The bees were in and out of the hive, lovingly and faithfully tending to the larvae, those little grubs growing with constant food and attention. It was just fascinating to watch!

But then the activity slowed and it was obvious the bees were struggling. We had an awful invasion of siafu ants and a infestation of maggots in an old comb ...

One bee in particular was clearly suffering a few days later, unable to fly and barely moving on the side of the hive. To my amazement I watched as two other bees flew over to her and together they crawled along the floor of the hive, dragging the struggling bee to the honeycomb to eat. It was amazing to watch the determined, heroic efforts of these bees. Their devoted care for one another, their fight for survival. I have heaps more I could say and I think many more lessons to learn from the bees.

Sadly they didn't make it. But last Saturday, with help from our friend, Innocent, we coated all the hives again with honeycomb and slathered the top bars with the sticky stuff. And the bees did come! And it was a hive of activity for a whole week. But then two days ago they were all gone. I could not believe it! So I donned my wellies and carried my gas burner back down to the hives and melted wax and honeyed again. At the moment, there are plenty of bees about out there, ... and I just do so hope they stay! What a lesson in learning to bee patient.

Last week we had harvest day for our peanuts. I have to confess, before coming here I had never really thought about how peanuts grew! In answer to the title, the peanut is not actually a nut at all... but it is a pea. Peanuts are members of the legume family (edible seeds in pods), and grow underground (thus they are referred to as "groundnuts") unlike the "tree" nuts such as walnuts and almonds. They provide the best source of concentrated protein in the plant kingdom and as legumes, the plants are rich in nitrogen for the soil. This is why we like peanuts!

Our plants were doing really well until the mongoose discovered them. We think we lost about 20% to the greedy creatures, but are still left with buckets of big and beautiful peanuts!

So with my bees busy in the hive, I'm looking forward to some honey roasted peanuts! But I think after drying and roasting our harvest, I'm going to make some fresh homemade peanut butter and look forward to some peanut butter and honey sandwiches!
The peanut plant
All those nuts in the roots
Removing the peanuts
We harvested 7.5kg of nuts!
Drying the peanuts (using top bars from the extra hives as an enclosure)

Thank you for your prayers recently. Yesterday my cousin was able to come out of hospital in time for my Grandma's funeral which was today. And tomorrow Tim's Dad has an appointment to determine the course of action against the brain tumour. We found peace in the far away place but are quickly making plans for Tim to be less far away sooner. 

Friday, 20 February 2015

There will be No Need for Darkness and None for Tears

Yesterday I listened to this song by The Gray Havens ("Far Kingdom") and just cried, tears streaming. I cried for the shock and sadness of suffering for Tim's dad who this week was diagnosed with a brain tumour. For family hurting far away. I cried the sweet tears of goodbye for my Grandma whose funeral is on Monday and tears of sorrow for my Grandad left behind. For my cousin, who at the same time was hours in surgery. Tears of confusion wondering where we should be. And I cried tears of outrage and sadness for Ester, a mother in serious condition here in hospital with machete wounds from the attackers who kidnapped her 18-month old son, Yohanna with albinism. Tragically, like so many others, his little limbs were later hacked off for witchcraft and his mutilated body left a few miles away. Tears for the fear of many with albinism (including Ester's other two young children) and their families as the election approaches and the witchcraft practices escalate. Tears for myself, so helpless to do anything. Tears for a broken world.

But there will be no need for darkness and none for tears.

Inspired by the writings of C.S. Lewis and Jonathan Edwards, David Radford wrote this song, "Far Kingdom." The song poetically and musically expresses our longing for the world to come, but this a longing in which we find an earthly joy now. I felt that longing. A longing for a kingdom without tears.

As C.S. Lewis said, our life now is “an unsatisfied desire, more desirable than any satisfaction.” Our hope is not ultimately in this life (which will always have its darkness and tears), but in the one to come. And here in this hope is joy. There really is joy in the longing.

How much more we can know God now if we long for this eternity. How much more we will find our joy in Him today as we long for this eternity! How much more we will see the beauty in the tangles now as we look towards what is coming? If there was no suffering, would we know compassion? Would we know true love?

The compassion and love of Jesus is real and he wants us to share it. So in the midst of suffering, we pray for healing - healing for Tim's dad, healing for my cousin, healing for Ester. And in the midst of darkness, where evil and witchcraft penetrate, we shine the light. And in the midst of sadness, in the midst of the brokeness, we find joy in the longing and the hope.

May this eternal "not-yet" perspective always be now transforming us and others through us.

You turned my mourning into dancing, you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God I will praise you forever. Ps. 30:11-12

For more on the tragic attacks see the links below ... and then pray.


Monday, 16 February 2015

Tim ECHOS in Arusha

It's hard to know how to blog at the moment ... suffice to say for now, it has not been an easy week. But what I can do now is go back to the week before my Grandma died and before all the other things that happened in those five days, and recount the excellent time Tim had at the ECHO East Africa Symposium on “Improving Lives through Agriculture and Appropriate Technology” in Arusha.

It was his turn now to attend an Arusha Symposium. And while I would have loved to tag along, I had to content myself with his report back, some of which I now report to you! He, along with others from all over Africa and one person as far away as Japan, attended seminars on all things agricultural: conservation agriculture, green manure and cover crops, fruit trees, integration of agriculture and health, integration of agriculture and livestock, biblical basis to motivate rural change, small scale kitchen gardens and yes, even beekeeping! I'm not sure how interesting this all sounds to many of you, and a few years ago, I'm not sure it would have sounded so interesting to me. But when you see the reality of life for subsistence farmers working in poor conditions and then see the possibilities for these families and communities, you can't help but get interested!

Tim also went with about 30 others on a field trip to visit a farmer who is working to help Masai in his area provide enough food for their animals while also providing enough for themselves.

A young Masai boy gets a view from atop his donkey!

Masai house with crops and livestock
Masai house

This area has a huge problem with soil erosion due to wind and rain,
 as you can see by the dust in this photo
It was encouraging for Tim to see how what we are doing seems to be on the right lines. It was inspiring to see the huge potential for where we can go with the agricultural project here in the Mwanza area.

The symposium ended with a banquet with entertainment provided by this skilled Masai choir.

Masai Dancing from Rachel Monger on Vimeo.

The girls and I were pleased to get him home after his week away; pleased he had found the whole conference so enjoyable and useful, and extremely thankful he made it there and back safely. He was travelling with some friends and while driving back they were following a timber truck which was being overtaken by a bus which came too close to the truck. The truck ended up going off the road and as his load of logs slipped, flipped over. The driver and his passenger thankfully walked out, but it was a scary reminder of how dangerous these roads are and to be continually grateful for God's protection.

And so the agricultural work continues. We have faced some discouragements this week, but still hope to get to Kayenze later this week for a village seminar, inviting more farmers to join us next season. And we hope to get the next planting underway in the next few weeks in Kisesa and Kayenze.   

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Knitting a Legacy. Thoughts from the Far Away Place.

Death is awful. The sadness that it carries is heavy and dark. For me, it wasn't a tragedy. So the grief is nothing like what many others have had to bear. But it was still sad. My Grandma died this week.

She was in her eighties, she had been married almost 66 years, and was the very proud mother, grandmother and great grandmother to a bunch of us in the Watts line. As well as knitting loads of cardigans, she had lived a long, good and godly life serving others, she had made so many people laugh, and created endless happy and rather crazy memories. She died with her daughters at her side, relieved from the pain, confusion and suffering that came at the end. It was a good thing.

But I wasn't there. I had just posted a letter which will arrive who knows when, saying how much we were all looking forward to seeing her when we arrived in England very soon. But that was before she went into the hospital. That was before she died. Now my Grandad will have to open that letter on his own. And I'm not there.

I cried a lot on Tuesday. I wanted to be with my parents and sister, looking at old photos like the one of me bouncing on my Grandma on my first birthday. Like the one of my daughter, Amisadai bouncing on her when she was one. The photo of my sister and me eating lunch with her in the rain in big overcoats - I can't remember why we did that, but I remember all the laughter! The photo of "rescuing" her from a creek up a mountain. The photo of her with flour on her face after playing the flour game beside the homemade snowman full of presents at Christmas. We don't have any old photographs with us here in Tanzania, but I quickly realised all those photos are already imprinted in my memory. So many silly and wonderful memories!

Brighton Pier

But that is what I cried for. With all these memories, it is goodbye. I'm happy for Grandma; she is in a far better place! But I'm in a far away place! And I want to share those memories now with those who knew her best. Really, I know I'm in the right place. And I know my Grandma knew that. But that doesn't mean it's easy being in the far away place.

I am thankful for the hope we have. I am thankful for eternity, for healing, and for the truth that all this sadness will be undone. But death is still sad now and it still hurts. As the family gathers at the funeral, there will be shared sadness, but so much joy in the memories, so much gratitude for the legacy she leaves! There will be so much thankfulness that she is no longer in any pain, but in complete and peaceful joy with her Saviour. 

And that is what it is really about. It is not about my world in far away Tanzania and their world in wintery England. Rather it is about the joy of that new eternal, perfect world which since the death and resurrection of Jesus, is continually, over the years, through the lives of people like my Grandma, being woven (or should I say knitted!) through the sadness of this fallen world. And she has passed on the legacy to keep knitting that truth ... wherever I am.

Leslie and Beryl Watts


Saturday, 7 February 2015

Looking at the Glass of Water

So the optimist says the glass of water is half full. The pessimist says it is half empty. And while they are arguing about it, the opportunist drinks it down.

Oh! To always have the right perspective!

Sometimes I even wonder if I'm looking at the right glass of water.

I was looking in the wrong place on Sunday. I looked despondently at the field of brown corn in Kisesa, once so green and strong. The small cobs looked a bit pathetic and there were weeds growing throughout the field. What went wrong? Why didn't Baraka do the weeding?

Weeds in the brown maize
We had come to Kisesa, the church planting school site, joining Baraka and the church there. After the service, Tim and I went to see how the crops were doing. I shook my head and went back the mamas preparing the lunch.

Later Tim came up to me. "It's good, you know," he said. I wasn't sure how. But he told me then about his conversation with Baraka as they had walked farther through the field. After planting one area with us, using the new methods, Baraka had continued to plant the rest of the field, but in the way he usually does. We had watched the two crops growing side by side and seen over the months the composted, mulched seed outshine the other. But when I was in the field, I didn't look at the whole field. I didn't look beyond the seed we had planted, to see what had happened on the other side. Tim told me. The whole crop was gone! Without any rain in the last weeks, Baraka had lost all the other maize.

Baraka was so thankful for that patch of maize that we had planted together. It may be smaller than we had expected, and didn't look so amazing, but it is still a harvest. It will feed a family.
A harvest

A planted tree flourishes
Why did I look so narrowly? How did I not notice a whole field of corn was gone and not realise the precious blessing which was right in front of me? Why was I so quick to criticize someone else? How often do I do this in other ways?

I think of time. Living in Tanzania, one just has to stop stressing about time and get used to waiting! Everything takes time. Things don't happen "on time." But even though I have given up wearing a watch, sometimes it can be frustrating. I like to plan. Plans go awry. But I just need to look at the bigger picture, and rather than worrying that the time I have is wasted or not enough ... I should make the most of each opportunity and realise all I have is enough and a blessing to boot! Keeping perspective. And hey, from God's perspective, 1 day is 1000 years and 1000 years is a day! And as Tim Keller said, "God's delays don't make things worse, they always make things better."

So what is it, half empty or half full? Or should we just be gratefully drinking the lot?
Preparing lunch

Baraka's daughter and friends snacking while mamas cook

Sunday, 1 February 2015

How One Thing Leads to Another ...

I love how one thing always leads to another ... We were keen to get into farming and we have learnt such an incredible lot about agriculture this year and now my excitement is moving ahead to places I never dreamt or imagined it could! Livestock! Crop and livestock integration. Pigs and rabbits, goats and cows. Bees. Who'd have thought it?! Making the most of all that manure. Making the most of all that pollination. Making the most of all that crop residue. Making the most of everything. As we are learning, one thing just leads to another! And it makes one want to make the most of everything!

This week we were able to visit the TALIRI National Livestock Research Institute which is about 65km outside Mwanza. Our intentions for going were unrelated to livestock; it was purely a jackbean hunt. Yes, we went to pick up some seeds of a variety of jackbean called Canavalia Brasiliensis which I had heard about in a lecture at the Bee Symposium. This variety is said to provide 85% fertility improvement to the soil, thereby able to effectively rehabilitate degraded land and is also incredibly attractive to bees ... and therefore me! After talking with the lecturer in Arusha, I was able to get contact details of a scientist at this institute who had the seeds.

We arranged to visit and were so warmly welcomed by the great team there at the institute. After a long chat around the table about our work and theirs, we were given a guided tour. Thoroughly inspiring! After seeing the reality of the continual conflict between arable farmers and pastoralists here, it would be wonderful to work with our farmers in a peace-making role; demonstrating true community, showing that working together is not only possible but mutually beneficial! And I seriously never thought I would get so interested in types of grasses! Thus all the photos of fields. Sorry ... but there you go... they are beautiful!
Checking out the grass crops

With a jackbean variety interspersed
Sorgham Crop
Thanks to the great help of Joseph, all the maize in our shamba is now harvested. It has all been dried in the sun for a few days, taken off the cob and dried again. Comparing our hybrid and OPV (open-pollinated variety) seeds, we discovered that we harvested 46% more hybrid. Next step is milling and then it's ready for making ugali ... karibu chakula ("you are welcome to come for food!")
Comparing the two different varieties
Maize drying
As for the bees, I wish I had a more exciting update, but progress continues to be slow, but there is definitely progress so we live in hope! We finally got two more of the hives that we had asked a carpenter to make. One is another Kenyan top-bar hive and the other a Tanzanian top-bar, so we are interested to see if there will be a difference! I melted all the wax from our last bees in Iringa (a good use of an old but previously treasured baked bean tin) and coated the bars with it.
Melting the wax
And so we continue to wait! I had a second failed attempt last week at getting bees. I went out late at night again, a little nervously, with all my gear. But this time, we were outnumbered by the bees who had taken over residence in a roof. So Plan B with this lot is set for Sunday night. The nightguard will venture near with a smoker and remove a handful of honeycomb which I will put in my hives.
The most exciting bee progress though was meeting a great guy, Innocent, at the church we went to last week. We went to the church that one of my friends in the Mamas' Group attends. In chatting to Innocent, we discovered he is an experienced beekeeper who keeps bees in Kigoma (which is miles away!) but he knows a lot and has already been over to our house this week to have a look at what we are doing. Again we are reassured that we are doing everything right and he can't understand why we don't have bees! He is confident that the bees will come and he is coming again this week to help with adding some more beeswax. We are looking forward to more conversations and hope we will be able to work together somehow!

The Tanzanian Top-Bar Hive (L) and Kenyan Top-Bar (R)
And so we end how we started ... as one thing leads to another. All the while making the most of it.

UPDATE!!!! (Monday evening!)

Yes, these are real bees! And they are all buzzing around my hives! Hurrah! But calm down! The trick with bees is slow and calm ... so excitement was contained as Amisadai, Louisa and I lured the bees to the hives. The comb has certainly been an awesome attraction. But it's still all rather critical as I have no idea where a queen is or how one goes about finding her. I do have, in one of the combs I scavenged from Holly's roof, what looks to me like a queen cell and we do have lots of larvae. But I have no idea what will survive (how long do they have?) and whether new bees will stay. Could little bee grubs be nursed by other new bees and a new queen chosen? I'm hoping so. But my other concern is how they start working on the intended top bar instead of carrying on in the comb that I've put there. I guess I should remove old comb when things are established but when??? Innocent is coming back to help me, but any advice is welcome here!

And would I recognise the Waggle Dance if I saw it? That's what we need now! Go bees!

Louisa and Amisadai helped!