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

Monday, 31 August 2015

The Offering: One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato Gone!

The road reminded us of moguls, just without the snow and without the slope. Steep ups and downs seemingly endlessly into the distance. Some deep dips were like craters! Slowly, continually up-down-up-down in the hard, dry, dusty ground. Then the moguls became more like speed bumps. Relentless, equidistant bumps, one immediately following the other. And if that were not enough, when we came out of the bumps, we moved on to the washerboard. Small, closely packed ridges that made one feel as though being scrubbed on a washerboard. A noisy, jarring, bumpy early start to the day on Sunday!

The Moguls
The Bat in the Net
But we (with Peter) made it to Kayenze by 9:15am, a little late for adult Sunday School. It had been such a long time since we were with the church there and we were warmly welcomed back. Tim preached in the main service at 10am - his first in Swahili for a good few months! Although he preached really well and was very appreciated by all, the girls and I were somewhat distracted by the plight of the bat above him...

Kayenze is a fishing village, which is why old fishing nets seem to appear for different purposes and in random places. Old nets were covering the window at the front of the church and they were stuffed into the cracks of the roof. This was rather unfortunate for the poor bat who flew into the net hanging down from the bit stuffed in the cracks in the roof. I am not a bat-lover, but I watched with sympathy the valiant and desperate efforts of this bat to escape. The poor thing was in such a tangle of net and I never before realised how delicately arm-like a bats wings are when folded up. But the more it tried, the more tangled it became and then once it tried to flap open his wings, things got even worse. As it squealed quietly, I thought about how often we try to do things ourselves and only get in a "flap" and end up getting more tangled than we were when we started. But a little patience for someone with the scissors to come and help can make all the difference between life and death. A good reminder for me not to try do things on my own, in my own frantic or misguided strength but to depend and wait on the One who can save!

The bat in the net
Burn Tragedy
Pastor Amon shared with the church about two funerals. One for his friend, another pastor in Kayenze, just 44 years old. And the other tragically for a six-year old little girl whose death from injuries was sadly common but so preventable. She was walking past the three-stone fire where her mother was cooking when her clothes caught fire. Having not been taught to "Stop-Drop-Roll" she and others tried to remove the burning clothes. Her father took her to the local clinic with serious burns; they sent her on to the big hospital in Mwanza. The father returned to the rest of the family. But by the time they returned the next morning, she had died from her injuries. This reinforces for me the somber importance of including burn prevention and treatment as part of the teaching we do with stoves and health.

Under the Mango Tree
After the service, we enjoyed time to meet with members of the church outside while Amisadai and Louisa gathered a crowd of kids and young people under the mango tree and started an impromptu English lesson and hunt the Bible reference in the Swahili Bibles. A short while later, we returned inside with some of the other pastors from Kayenze for a meeting to discuss plans for the upcoming conservation agriculture training seminar and project. It is exciting to be starting this next phase, now working with many more farmers from this village. Working with the churches, we are praying for transformation for this village. We later talked to Amon about his harvest while we were away, knowing it had been a very difficult season. He did lose a lot, but he said he got over three times as much from the small plot farmed in the new way. And his soil is improving with a year of nitrogen-fixing crops.

Discussing plans for the agricultural project
(the bat still struggling there in the top left corner)
After our early breakfast, bumpy journey, adult Sunday School, main service and then project meeting, we were more than ready by this time for our lunch! We, along with Pastor Amon and others, went to the home of a lovely family in the church. The girls and I sat in and under a dense passion fruit canopy with the mamas finishing cooking on the three-stone and charcoal fires. And then we moved inside the house to enjoy the rice and beans and even goat meat which was prepared so generously for us!

One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato Gone...
After finishing our late lunch and saying our farewells, it was time to head home. We decided to take a different and possibly better route back, but not knowing the road, Pastor Amon who was going almost that way, offered to lead us on his motorbike. With his white suit and black sunglasses he looked like something from a James Bond movie biking across the dry, dusty track!
Pastor Amon leads the way!
All went well for a short while, but after stopping to check the rear doors on our vehicle were shut properly, Amon couldn't get his bike started again. After many failed attempts, Peter got out and pushed him on the bike and he was off again! Not much farther down the road, we noticed the church offering come loose on the back of the bike. Amon started losing the offering, one potato at a time. At first, we thought it better not to stop for the sake of a potato with the risk of the bike not starting again. But when more potatoes started bouncing off onto the road, to the happy surprise of people walking along, we thought we better honk him down. We caught up and I leaned out the window, shouting "VIAZI!" pointing to the potatoes on the back and behind him on the road. After securing the potato bag offering (with the engine running), we were back on our way.

We stopped at Amon's home to see his wife and daughter, Anna (who is friends with Amisadai and Louisa) and congratulate them on the birth of their baby girl, Annis, born just before we left Tanzania in March. Back on our way again, we were approached rather closely by a herd of cattle with enormous horns! One of cows, shoved by the others, thumped into our vehicle, but thankfully it was one without horns! And then we were home around 5:45pm, ready for a cup of tea!

On a completely different not, we recently took our blog off Networked Blogs. It could just be we are getting too long and boring in our old age and thus interest dropped, but did Networked Blogs make a difference to anyone?

Saturday, 29 August 2015

The Baboon without a Tail and other Tales

This week we met a baboon. He kept coming back. We became familiar with him for the observable reason that he was missing his tail. This leaves us with the unanswerable and curious question of "what happened to his tail?" There is a story opportunity here... 
The baboon that kept coming back...
But before we get to the tail-less baboon, first a follow-up to my last post... the pigeon peas from our "shamba" were soaked and cooked and made into a delicious Mbaazi wa Nazi (Coconut Pigeon Peas). Planting in our "Trial and Demonstration" garden, we were expecting a less than 50% germination rate, and were therefore amazed when it turned out to be over 90%! It has been a great crop; great nitrogen fixing for the soil, great for dry, arid soil and very plentiful, meaning there will be many more pigeon pea meals to come!
Bubbling pigeon peas on the gas burner (electricity is still infrequent!)
Another Arrival Announcement!
After announcing the grand arrival of bees and the happy arrival of baby bunnies, we now announce the exciting arrival of two young dogs! Thanks to some good friends here in Bwiru, we are all very pleased to have these two guard dogs (in training). They have been named Snowy and Pepper and are settling in very well here! Thankfully, we were able to send our first "dog" back to his previous home. Poor Kili was never going to be a guard dog. We think his traumatic early years (before he came to us) scarred him for life. He was scared of his own shadow, didn't really understand why it was not a good idea to sit on a fire and scorch his backside and had various other problems that don't bear repeating!

Louisa making friends with Snowy and Pepper
Trying out the Tent
Thanks to a generous gift from kind friends while we were in England, we decided to buy a small tent to bring back with us. This makes it possible and far more feasible for us to take a short break from time to time! And so we were thrilled to have the opportunity to try it out at Tembea Mara, Balili, very close to the Serengeti, for two nights this week! We haven't been camping since we went to Scotland for two weeks in 2007 and it has been a long time since we've been away, just the four of us, and it was good to do again! Time to read and play games together! And enjoy some amazing fruit smoothies (when the power was on) in the cafĂ©! The great thing about camping in Tanzania (as opposed to Scotland), is the very predictable sunny weather in the dry season! It really was incredibly dry there, and particularly hot climbing to the top of Balili Hill! But the views over Lake Victoria and the Serengeti Plains made it all worthwhile!

And this is where the baboon without a tail comes in. We obviously recognized him whenever we saw him at the campsite and you can't help but wonder about the story behind his missing tail!

Our camp
A goofy happy camper waits for her meal!

Cooking wasn't too different to life at home! Just a lot more ants!
Watching all the baboon activity
On the way up to the spectacular top of Bunda Hill

Admiring the views of the Serengeti and looking for wild animals!

Great views of the Serengeti and Lake Victoria from the top!

Beautiful African sunsets never fail to amaze!


Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Brilliant Rays of Brightness

Living in the light is really so much easier than living in darkness! I am so thankful for light! We flew into Mwanza last Thursday night and arrived home as darkness fell. With no candles and none of our solar lights charged, we fumbled about taking bags into our empty house and heating beans over the single burner in the dark while Tim walked to a small shop and found some candles and matches. Tired after eating, we decided to call it a day and wait for dawn's early light to start unpacking!
A long wait at Dar airport to avoid any chance of a missed flight!
The power situation in Mwanza is not so good right now ... we've heard different stories going around, but basically there is not enough for everyone so it's getting cut. They say they are sharing it out, but it doesn't seem fair sharing to me! Here in our part of town, it is cut every evening, or day, or sometimes both. So we are very quickly again appreciating the blessing of light when we have it in the darkness ...like right now as the power has just returned! And also seeking to appreciate the enforced slowing down of living by going to bed early when it's dark!
We also appreciated the light last night. With a howling canine cacophony here every night (which we have yet to get accustomed to), we have been struggling somewhat to sleep well! But last night the noise was all the more dramatic. Tim woke first to quite a commotion - but this time a human commotion outside our house which clearly involved our night guard. We tried to figure out what was happening as we heard a lot of shouting, constant whistles, crowds growing and then more violent sounds of attack. Then flashing lights and authoritative voices and a lot of chatter. Basically thieves had broken into the house opposite ours. The house is not yet occupied and the thieves were after things like windows, wood and materials in the house. But the single guard managed to alert others and then all broke loose in "mob justice." Beating thieves to an inch of their life is common here and I truly can't imagine how anyone could contemplate crime with the potential of death if caught so high. As far as we know, the police took two men and I'm not sure what happened to the windows.
This event, along with driving though election demonstrations in town on our way home from the church meeting on Sunday, is leading us towards looking for two "real" guard dogs. On Sunday, a presidential candidate arrived in Mwanza and demonstrations and marches led to some minor rioting. It was nothing too serious, and elections are not until the end of October, but we are aware that the police will have more than enough on their hands during that time and things could be a little unpredictable!
All in all, England seems a very long way away! But we are enjoying catching up with friends and eating fresh pineapple. I'll skip over all the "transitioning" bit ... I feel like I have been thinking about it too much and probably over-analysing somewhat and for most of you, it won't make any sense anyway! But although not always the easiest of things to do, we have been "transitioning." And here we are now, just the four of us again in our own (almost set-up) home. The girls are now happy to be back, finding forgotten treasures and familiar books and climbing their favourite trees. For sure, goodbyes are so sad, but hellos are a ray of brightness! And it was brightly fun this week to have a "Staying Party," with other friends from overseas, simply celebrating that we were not saying goodbye, after a season of goodbyes!
And now to the really good, exciting news... we have two hives full of bees! This was beyond my expectations and I am of course, quite thrilled! I talked to Joseph about when they arrived (thinking they would have come in swarming time) but he said, most surprisingly, specifically, July 11. And I immediately remembered it was on July 11th that we were at the Emmanuel International event and David Varcoe prayed heartily for swarms of bees to be there! Amen!
Not the best photo, but proof that there are bees busy here!
We had a meeting with Peter and Esther (our agricultural trainers) on Monday and were able to catch up and plan ahead for the agricultural project. They have been faithful workers in our absence. Joseph also has worked well for us while we have been away. We found a crop of harvested pigeon peas and beans waiting for us. So tomorrow I will make some mbaazi wa nazi (pigeon peas in coconut) to eat with rice and chapatti.

Pigeon Peas

"Suddenly in the middle of that blackest night, right at midnight, when stars, moons and planets are utterly dimmed by enchantment, day comes. Light splits the darkness again. Day falls - shafts of glorious light, brilliant rays of brightness, dawning come untimely."  
Tales of the Resistance (David and Karen Mains)

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Tanzanian Landing

Stepping out of the plane, instantly we knew we were back home in Tanzania! That familiar blast of humidity and heat, even in the darkness at 10pm. Throngs of people waiting somewhat chaotically with beeping luggage jeeps on the tarmac for a bus to take us to the airport terminal. Suddenly we are no longer in the world of orderly queues! We made our way through the crowds scrambling for visas and were pleased to see Pastor Huruma's smiling face waiting for us on the other side!
Driving through the city late at night, we took in all the familiar sights of men hanging on in the back of trucks, small fires and oil lamps lit on the sides of the busy roads as people continue to buy and sell from the rickety wooden frames selling everything from coconuts to men's underpants. We passed a man selling toilet parts from a large box, sitting appropriately on one of several ceramic toilet seats. Bajajis and pikipikis weave through the traffic amid the constant honking of horns. Good to be home!
A bajaji
 We were warmly welcomed into Huruma and Joyce's beautiful new home! And we dropped into bed around midnight and thought how long it seemed since we had risen from our beds in Hampshire at 2am the night before! But also gratefully thought how much easier this 15 hour trip had been compared to the fraught 50-hour trip out of Tanzania four months ago!
The next day we were so warmly welcomed by the church (Victory Christian Centre). Tim preached at the 7am service, and we both spoke at the second service. We enjoyed our first Tanzanian lunch in many months and then Tim preached for the third (Youth) service. It was so different to what we have become used to over the past few months, but so instantly familiar! The energetic full sound of the music team leading the huge full tent of people in enthusiastic praise and worship. The vibrant life and excitement as a couple get engaged; they give their rings and are then paraded with khangas (cloths) and decorative flowery necklaces amid much noise and filming!
Needless to say, we slept well that night!
It is good to see Huruma, Joyce and the family again. We have also been able to visit good friends Martin and Esther. And yesterday we visited Rachel, currently on maternity leave from her job with the church, and met her beautiful new daughter.
I have been busy preparing for speaking at a women's service which took place yesterday. The girls have enjoyed playing with Joan and Marion ... with only one incident in which Louisa got stuck in a large pot when taking hide-and-seek to extremes! Today we are all looking forward to a trip to the beach!
The Hide-and-Seek "Pot Incident"
Amisadai and Louisa, Joan and Marion with Rachel and baby Ronette

Tim with Pastor Huruma in his new office

Rachel climbing the scaffolding visiting the building work at the church site.