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

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Rejoicing! The Boys Lost are Home!

It was February 22nd, over seven months ago, that Walter and Baraka went missing. They are the two sons of our guard, Thaddeus. The details were not clear; all we knew was that they had run away from their boarding school in the northwest of Tanzania. Thaddeus travelled to search for them, he tried the police and various contacts. But nothing. Here there were no surveillance cameras, no missing children alerts, and really, the outlook was bleak. It has been a long and worrying time for the whole family.

But this week Thaddeus heard news of his boys and travelled to Musoma and he found them! They were thin, but otherwise fine! They were being mistreated in the home they were living to attend school and ran away. But then needing money to travel home, they ended up working for someone who basically took them hostage, forcing their labour and never paying. To make a long story short, Thaddeus was able to get them out of there and bring them home. We bought a chicken which we gave to Thaddeus and the family to celebrate the miraculous homecoming! Those who once were lost now are found! A real miracle!

Thaddeus (sorry, we don't have a photo of his sons!)
This wonderful news encouraged us immensely in the midst of this week. Tim has spent endless time at the infamous TRA getting his drivers license renewed. Rather than recount the whole story, just read about my experience a few years ago (I laughed out loud reading this again!) and that almost sums it up for him! He has also been to Immigration, working on getting our residence permit renewed. Again, it is hard to explain how a single job can take so much time, paperwork, trips and effort, but that is the way it is. And that is why sometimes you get to the end of a day feeling like you really haven't accomplished anything at all.

Sometimes it seems people think our life is rather exciting or full of feelings of fulfilment. But that feeling of accomplishing "nothing" over a long period of time is not so exciting. This week, in the daily, unexciting routine of school runs, homework and music practice, my kitchen drawer collapsed in a heap of termite destruction. The kitchen drain clogged back up. Our waste pipe burst and bubbled forth in a foul mess in the garden. The quote which came to mind was from Cyril in Nanny McPhee: "We're in the land of poo!"

When it settled down. Gross!
Feeling under the weather with a cold, I managed to drop a glass jar full of precious jam (it is precious here!) and the following day a full jar of honey and was brought to tears by the sticky, sharp mess on the floor! I was missing the extra help with Lucy absent at meetings and wedding parties. And then Lucy's return from family was delayed when her sister was hit by a motorbike. She was thankfully ok, but there were hospital and police visits to sort out. All the time, we watched helplessly as our electricity leaked at an alarming and expensive rate whenever the power did actually come on ... and we waited for an electrician to stop praying. Yes, the good man had three days of prayer and was thus delayed. And then with our power out during the days, he was long unable to do anything. A great relief when we had a day of power and he could pray on the job! All is fixed now, but we have yet to enjoy it because the power is out again as I write, with the disappointing news that this state of affairs will last yet another month!

So when I look at what I have accomplished this week, it doesn't add up to much. But thanks to the prayers of friends and of course the wonderful news about Walter and Baraka, it was possible to be encouraged! And that's with the assurance of where my joy and hope comes from ... what a relief it's not from whether kitchen cupboards stand firm and waste pipes hold fast (although I wondered for a while!) or even our attempts at accomplishments! And as for accomplishments, I did manage to make some bio-fertilizer (very smelly) for our crops, but rest-assured, nothing to do with the burst sewage! But more on that next time ... 

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Fire of Persecution

We heard the news this morning that three churches near Lake Victoria in northwest Tanzania were burned last night and the buildings and contents completely destroyed. Three churches (PAG, EAGT and Living Waters) were set on fire with paraffin in the Bukoba area in Kigera Region. There are no reports yet as to who started the fires. This is the third time in three years that the Living Waters church has been burned by arsonists. The church building which burned yesterday had not yet even been completed.

This is a sad repeat of events. In March of this year, in the same region, three other churches were burned down. Earlier in February, a church building was destroyed. And in May, Samson Gwajima, a Bukoba pastor, was attacked in his home after receiving threats. In October of last year, Dioniz Ng'wandu, a 31 year old father of two, was killed with machetes and another injured as they attended a TAG prayer meeting in that same area. The church has reportedly received threats from Muslim extremists who say they want to reduce the number of Christians in the region.

We hear that it is difficult to get authorisations for churches. Churches say they are refused permission to rebuild on their premises, with claims that the land is for residency only. So even if the church can raise the financial resources to build, there are further obstacles to overcome.

This area is also one heavily involved in witchcraft. It was in this region that 18 witch doctors were arrested in March, during the crackdown on murders of people with albinism which involved the arrest of over 200 witchdoctors nationwide. The area has been repeatedly in the news with reports of ritual killings for organs, other kidnappings and killings of children and people with albinism or other mysterious killings with witchdoctors involved. In March of this year, there were at least seven people killed in the Bukoba region, allegedly with a 90 year old witchdoctor, Gaudensia Ndibalema, behind it all.

So please share and pray for the church here in Tanzania. Pray for the churches in this region of Kigera. As in many places worldwide, the church is quite literally in the fire. But if we remember Moses and the burning bush and Shadrach, Meshak and Abednigo in the fiery furnace, in the fire was the abiding and preserving presence of God and in the end was His glory!

Monday, 21 September 2015

Planting Land Cruisers

I know I posted only yesterday, but I must share Tim's news from last week ...!

Fifteen local farmers gathered together in Kayenze last week! Tim left town on Tuesday with Esther, after teaching at the Bible College in the morning. They waited an hour on the daladala (local bus) in town for it to fill up with people. When it was full, they left. After two daladalas and stopping twice on the bumpy way to do a bodged job on the steering when the bus broke down, they finally arrived!

The Kayenze church building
The teaching on Conservation Agriculture in a Biblical context was spread over two days and shared between Tim, Esther, Peter (who gained strength recovering from typhoid and malaria and made it to Kayenze just a day late) and Pastor Amon: a good team! Amon was fantastic as he animatedly talked about his experiences learning with us last year. He joked about how his neighbours had watched and laughed at him planting last year, saying the wazungu (white people) were planting land cruisers! But then he told the farmers of his exceedingly fruitful harvest and how it was he who had the last laugh!

Amon teaching (unfortunately he doesn't look so animated here!)

Peter teaching
As is often the case, it was difficult to get things started on time and to get everyone there. But there was a good group of farmers who were keen and eager to learn the new methods of farming. Tim also enjoyed the time he was able to have staying with Peter, Esther and Amon, sharing in prayer for the whole project and also sharing some good meals and conversations together!

Farmers gather at the seminar
Tim came back on Thursday afternoon (when the bus had finally filled). With no breakdowns on this journey, the only mishap on the return was stepping on and traumatizing the chicken placed near his feet. The girls and I thankfully welcomed him home after our own eventful few days of minor sickness and electricity problems which had lasted the three days he had been gone. We realised the problems were not simply the city cuts (which are still bad enough) but also some kind of leakage at home. An umeme fundi (electrician) is "on his way."

Saturday was disappointing as the second part of the seminar Tim had planned to do in Kisesa had to get postponed. Also, the meeting I had planned for the Upendo wa Mama group didn't happen as none of the women could come. I waited and waited on the steps outside the locked primary classroom! But while I sat in the school yard, the cancelled seminar meant Tim could take the girls for a final farewell to our friends, Tim and Joyce Jarvis, who are moving back to the States this week after living here in Mwanza for many years.
Farewell for the Jarvis' with Mwanza International Community Church
And now, the preparations begin for planting. Today we sorted out bags of seeds and I went to find some small banana trees ("children" as they are referred to here!). Fields will be checked out this week, and then let the planting commence! As always, there is something exciting and hopeful, something loaded with potential and anticipation about this time!

And you never know, maybe a  project Land Cruiser will sprout!

While the seminar went on inside, children gathered outside
with a church member for their own time of learning!

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Running the Race

We have just come home from a celebration service and lunch, celebrating the fourth birthday of NCLC, a vibrant and serving church here in Mwanza, led by good friends, John and Dawn Cottey. It was a privilege to be with this church as they reflected on the journey they have travelled together and more significantly looked ahead as they move into the unknown excitement of the future!
Celebration lunch with NCLC Church
Sometimes it is so easy to walk with our eyes down on the track at our feet, still moving forward, but missing so much on the way and so easily getting lost. But how encouraging it is to see how far we have come, and how wise to look ahead and check the route in front; to see the bigger picture!

Sometimes it seems too overwhelming to look around. At the moment I look one way and see refugees in traumatic crisis and a seemingly impossible situation worldwide. I look the other way and see thousands of unborn babies being murdered and their aborted body parts being sold. And then I see the recent attack on a person with albinism, this time in Kenya close to the border, so that the body parts can be sold for the Tanzanian election. And in the midst of these large-scale problems I hear of our friends' pain in the death and injuries from a single road accident outside Mwanza this week; the pain and also bravery of Amisadai's friend in the UK persevering with chemotherapy.

And in the midst of all this, I am ashamed to admit that I yet again became distracted in my track by my own little woes when plans for agricultural training and the albinism mamas group frustratingly failed to materialise and while worrying about the lack of electricity for three days last week. And thinking about it, I see now that I completely came out of my lane when dealing with the problems so crossly with the men from the electricity company.

This morning was a good reminder for me to check how I am running my race. A reminder to walk by faith, certain of what I do NOT see, as opposed to what my human eyes see all around me. For faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. It is in faith we can persevere without growing weary or losing heart. That's encouraging! And just looking in the Bible in Hebrews chapter 11, we can see the example of those who have done this. People who were tortured, stoned, sawn in two; people who were destitute and mistreated; people whose weakness was turned to strength.

No, I cannot save the world. No, I cannot fix things. But I can fix my eyes on the One who can fix it. Someone who already has fixed it. And I can run alongside others finding the race tough, because we are running this difficult but victorious race together. And this is what I love about NCLC. They are supporting one another in the race. Their "House on the Hill" supports nine young guys with a place to live, food to eat and education. These guys are starting on the track and the church is running alongside them! It's a race worth running!

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Donkey Shot Draws Spade Attack

I don't tend to take risky or inflammatory photographs. But this week, as I took what I thought was an innocent donkey picture, I had no idea of the perils to follow! I remember once trying to get a photo of a nesting Japanese crane and running from her in terror as she chased me and Tim's dad! And I remember once leaning precariously over the edge of a waterfall to get a good angle. But donkeys?

Tim, Peter and I were coming back from Kayenze in our landcruiser on Wednesday. You remember the road! We came upon quite a number of donkeys, all heavily laden with sacks of sand. I thought it made an interesting photo, particularly to show Amisadai who loves donkeys! Tim, who was driving, slowed a little as I aimed through the window. But the donkey herders (not young boys this time) saw the camera and started shouting and waving their fists. Tim reacted quickly, accelerating on the bumpy dirt road, which was a very good thing. One of the men had just hurled his large spade at our car... which thankfully missed! In the panic of the moment, we missed our turn off, but neither of us thought it a good idea to turn around and go back at that point! So we just continued on. Here is the disappointing, un-brilliant, and rather boring photo of the donkey bottoms. The men were not even in the shot, ... although that would have made an interesting shot with fists raised and a spade approaching in the foreground!

The Donkey Shot
We had gone to Kayenze for a meeting with the village leaders and local church leaders to talk about the upcoming agricultural project. We were really pleased with how well it went; the meeting was promptly on time and 13 of the 15 people expected were there! All there were very interested and receptive, and we all enjoyed chai and chappatis afterwards. Word about the fuel-efficient stoves is spreading, and they were keen that we demonstrate them soon and do some stoves work there as well! Tim returns with Peter and Esther on Tuesday for three days in the village doing the agriculture training seminar with local farmers. We are very thankful for Pastor Amon who has been so instrumental and helpful! Planting is expected to start soon (sooner than we thought!) so preparations will get quickly underway after the training. 

The Kayenze Meeting
The following day, we had Dr. Makori round for a meal and it was so good to catch up with him properly after being away. We were keen to hear how the health work on the islands is going. Do please pray for this work. There is much to do and so much potential but it is not an easy work.

The daily electricity cuts continue to teach us patience and perseverance! Seeing it as an encouragement to be creative and imaginative and accept a challenge keeps us on our toes. With friends this week, we had imaginary pineapple-upside-down cake for dessert... one had to turn the pineapple over and imagine the cake part! I confess I felt I had lost to the challenge as it is completely possible to cook this on a fire, but after all the main dishes were cooked, I felt upside-down pineapple would suffice!

Today was the first day of agricultural training at the Church Planting School. Things didn't quite go according to plan, but Tim did well! We were all planning to go, but Amisadai went to bed yesterday in a lot of pain with her ear and when we rose early to leave this morning, she was feeling much worse. So Louisa and I stayed to keep her home in bed. The previous day we discovered that Peter had been sick for some days and would not be well enough to go and teach. So we had been trying to get hold of Esther to take on some of his teaching segments. Tim was unable to get through to her phone - even as he waited at the agreed pick-up point in town. Tim went on without her, and later finally made contact to discover that her mother was very sick and she couldn't make it either. So poor Tim was there on his own with his prepared teaching as well as Peter and Esther's which he hadn't prepared for at all! But he managed and the thirty or so students were very interested and keen to learn more. They grasped the importance of what we are trying to do: taking responsibility (without excuses) for the land and working through churches to serve the local communities...

Pushing through the obstacles, the seminar continues next week and then planting will begin with the ever-present hope of the harvest!
Training begins at Kisesa

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Consider it Pure Joy ... even Half-a-Haircut and Half-cooked Muffins

I can't believe another week has whizzed by! A "Back-to-School" week last week for us and many of you as well! Suddenly thrown into the equation of life are complicated car pool schedules, early rising for 7:15am departures, homework, music practice, packed lunches... As for the packed lunches, we are really missing the amazing variety and quick ease of making lunches in England! It's taking a while to think far enough ahead (especially with the power situation) and think of possible options! For Amisadai this week, it was the start of secondary school - another milestone reached and I wonder how it's possible! I will let her tell you more about that and her other exiting news on her own blog!

You may remember a blog post we wrote last year after visiting Pastor Kayuli and his lovely family and their church in Malya. (Catch up on it here!) We are looking forward to starting the beekeeping project with them in the new year. Well, on Saturday, Pastor Kayuli and his wife, Shukuru ("thankfulness") came to visit us here in Mwanza. I continue to be amazed at the way this couple prayerfully and joyfully persevere in all they do despite the hardship. This man finds it difficult to walk and even just to feed himself after his serious accident some years back, but he and his wife have moved out of their home, to a single small room (about 10x12ft) with no beds and just a few plastic chairs in order to establish a new church in a new village. Truly, they are joyful, thankful people, finding it pure joy to serve God and their community.

Taking a look at our beans
We took them out to see our "shamba" (crops growing) and showed them a bit of what we are doing with the agricultural project. But they were keen to see our hives of bees down there! It was exciting to talk with them about the plans to start the beekeeping project, which we will be helped with by a wonderful man coming out periodically from Bees Abroad in the UK. We hope to have a group of about ten people in Malya, learning how to keep bees and harvest and market honey. We will also be working with the Mamas Group in Malya, teaching them how to make various value-added products with the beeswax and honey.

Bees busy at work in the hive

On Sunday, we were delighted to be back with the church at Mkuyuni with Bishop Charles. We arrived a bit late for the 7am start of the first service which Tim preached at. We were served delicious sweet chai and chapatis for a short rest during the adult Sunday School. Again in the second service, it was wonderful to be part of the lively worship, so much colour and energetic singing and dancing! Tim preached again and the second service finished around 1:30pm. We joined a number of people from the church afterwards for a meal together, with conversation revolving mainly around the upcoming national election.
Progress on the church building at Mkuyuni

Now as another week begins, I am trying to keep in mind the example and inspiration of Pastor Kayuli and Shukuru and also remember our recent reading as a family from James chapter 1 about counting it pure joy when we meet trials of various kinds...  because I am aware I am getting disgruntled with my puny trials of electricity cuts! Since we arrived back four weeks ago, power has been very sporadic, but recently getting worse. As I write now on Tuesday, we haven't had any since Sunday. But perhaps more than the actual cut of power, it is the constant on/off/on/off which seems to play games with my mind! Always wondering whether it will come on or go off, whether I should risk putting bread or biscuits in the oven, whether plan A will work for dinner, whether the computer battery will last, whether we should empty the freezer ...

We had to laugh at the end of last week. The power had gone out early, just before I put the muffins in the oven and then we didn't have power all day. Usually that means that it will come on in the evening. I hoped it would come on in time to blend up the soup for dinner. But it didn't so I went for Plan B. The girls went to bed and it still hadn't come on (indignation at the injustice here!). Then it suddenly came on at 8:30pm. So I sprang into action, put the muffins in the oven, whipped up two more batches for company coming the next day. But before I could whizz my Plan A soup, the power cut back out. (Again, serious indignation at the injustice.) Before I could carry on my tirade too long, the power popped back on. Muffins saved! Soup blended! Next batch of muffins in. I got the clippers and Tim sat down for a haircut. The power cut again. (Incredulous indignation at the injustice.) The evening progressed like that in an unbelievably frustrating fashion. I thought Tim was going to end up with half a haircut and look most peculiar eating his half cooked muffins for breakfast the next morning!

Now, as I post, after enjoying a lovely candlelit evening with friends come over for a (Plan B) meal cooked slowly over the single-burner, I confess I am finding the return of the power pure joy! Yes, it came back on at 10pm! With much of the contents of my freezer once again defrosted (the meat survived at the bottom and was rescued by kind friends with a cold freezer) my fridge warm and smelly and my computer battery dead, it was pure joy to stop worrying about it all and have a warm shower!