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

Thursday, 28 January 2016

What's Going Right

Many times over the past few weeks, maybe months, we have felt discouraged. Many times tired. Many times frustrated. We seem to have been pedalling (or should I say mopping!) hard for a long time without stopping and it often feels like we are not getting anywhere! We seem to be jumping numerous hurdles in the house, outside the house, in the car and with our health and I've found it overwhelming at times. Realising I'd forgotten to prepare our guards breakfast and lunch, losing homework and school socks, fumbling around in the dark, falling in a wet trench and running out of cooking gas in the middle of baking a pie, sometimes with so many things going wrong, I could no longer think of anything that was going "right." So it has been good to start thinking together as a family at the end of a day of all the things that have "gone right"... and not all the things that have "gone wrong!" A good exercise in making that decision to choose joy even when it's not so easy! On the day of writing this, we are thankful that the bedding sheets have dried, that the power has stayed on all day, that the light came on in the kitchen, that we were finally able to talk on Skype to Tim's dad battling cancer, and also Louisa has been given the all clear on parasites in her intestine!

In line with that, here are a few photos from this week, which remind me of good things to be thankful for ...

Children with albinism at Lakeview School
It was great to be back at Lakeview School at the end of last week with Samuel and Megan, who did some stories, crafts and games with the children there! I am thankful for these kids with albinism and their lives which are being transformed!

And I am thankful we were able to get safely to the school and back home again! After all the heavy rains, the roads continue to be really awful! On the way home, we proceeded through a large puddle... and got well and truly stuck in mud, surprisingly deep. I climbed out the back of the Land Cruiser, jumping into the deep water and waded round to the front right wheel which was submerged almost completely in mud. Up over my knees, and well over my wellies, I groped under the water in the mud for the 4WD hub on the wheel to turn the lever clockwise. I managed to turn it and then tried to get around to the other front wheel. But I was well stuck in the mud.

With my boots full of water and now sunken in thick mud, I couldn't move! Tim grabbed my hand through the window and pulled! It was a job to get myself through the mud to the other side and definitely drew the amused attention of bystanders from the village! With four wheel drive eventually in action, Tim was able to reverse out of the pickle and get around to the other side! But wet and muddy as I was, I was relegated to sit and bump on the spare tire in the back of the Land Cruiser the rest of the way home!

Children from Mama Minja's Console Nursery enjoying games with Megan and Samuel
I am thankful for Mama Minja and her servant heart in action for the young children at Console Nursery School! She is currently struggling both at her home and the school with the heavy rains and flooding. As I drove Samuel and Megan to the school on Friday, it was another case of getting well stuck in the mud. I hopped out the drivers door into the large puddle and waded through the mud to the front wheels to turn the 4WD hub... yep... familiar story! We got out of the mud, but it was a dodgey road on! And when we arrived we were so sorry to see the trouble Mama Minja was having with squatters from the area digging channels in the road creating havoc for their home. There is just so much water. Mama Minja was telling me about one of the children who has lost their home to the floods, and it's not an isolated story. But through it all, Mama Minja is persevering and changing the lives of these precious, vulnerable children!
Roping Megan and Samuel into some hive activity!
I am thankful for our bees! With two hives busy with bees, while Samuel and Megan were with us, we baited a third hive with honey... yes, a sticky job! And then when night fell, by which time the hive was covered with bees, we helped Joseph to hang it with ropes in a mango tree at the bottom of the garden. I'm thankful for a harvest of honey to come and two bee projects about to start next week!

The Upendo wa Mama Group
Mama Penina holds the new official certificate!
Last, but not least, I am so thankful for these women in the Upendo wa Mama group! On Saturday morning we celebrated getting their "Certificate of Recognition as a Community-based Organization" from Mwanza City Council! With this they have opened their own bank account (no small feat!), which is now up and running! This is an awesome step forward for these women! We had a great morning together as Megan taught us how to make a new card design and shared Scottish shortbread and Thornton's fudge with us all!

Making cards

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

The Story Behind a Name

Sharing stories is so important; there is so much we can learn listening to the story of another. When we were in Kayenze recently for the beekeepers meeting, we asked the group to tell us the story of their village. They began their story with the day that the Word of God arrived, back in 1878. They told us that the name of their village in those days was Mayenze. Then they talked about key events such as when the country started seeking independence in 1954 before it came in 1961. They remembered the first time the president, Julius Nyerere, visited the village in 1981. And then recounted the year that they started growing potatoes in the terrible famine of 1984. They remembered the plague that wiped out crops in 1990 and finally finished their story in the present with the current problem of cholera.

It seemed that their story started well and but ended badly. We went back to the original name of their village, Mayenze, and asked its meaning. Many people chipped in tell about the origins of its name, and we grasped the gist that it comes from the Kisukuma (local language) word for the reeds that grew in the lake (but are no longer there). These reeds were good for encouraging large numbers of fish in the area and also good for making things like mats and baskets. There were stories about a giant rock (now buried under the lake) which marked the beginnings of the settlement and also stories of cows which provided large quantities of milk. It was a picture of blessing at the beginning of their story, with fish and milk in plenty.

We are not sure when or why the name changed to Kayenze. But now, rather than fish and milk in plenty, people are recounting hunger and disease. As we start the bee project with these people in Kayenze, we shared our hope that the Word of God would be revived in this village. And that once again Kayenze could be remembered as a place of blessing and plenty. A place of hope with an abundance of fish and milk and honey! A picture of the hope we have been promised. We pray for Kayenze to again be Mayenze!
Meeting with the new beekeepers group in Kayenze

One of the members of the group, our friend Samson (who is one of the farmers in the agricultural project), was unable to come to the meeting as his wife was in labour! Together with Peter and Samuel and Megan, we stopped by his home to greet him and his wife (and see how the crops there were doing) before we left. There we met his beautiful, very newborn daughter, who together we then gave the name, Neema, which means Grace, and that is her story.

Megan holds and prays for little Neema

Beans are doing better than the maize at Samson's shamba


Friday, 22 January 2016

Cow on a Ferry

Yes, that is a cow on the ferry. We had chickens sitting behind us. We had climbed up the rickety ladder, backpacks on backs to board the ferry for the 3.5 hour ride to Ukerewe Island (the largest Tanzanian island on Lake Victoria). We went on Friday with Samuel and Megan from the UK and after our previous experience with Phil Norris, (see "A Squeeze on Ukerewe Island") decided against taking a vehicle on the boat. There is something rather special about going somewhere on a boat. Even a small ferry boat with cows and chickens.


This was a long-awaited visit for us to meet with church leaders from across the island to discuss how we could work together on some Christian entrepreneurship teaching for the island. We are all thinking about how income-generating projects could be started that would benefit not only the main island but also the smaller, more rural islands. We were pleased to hear about their plans for a Mission Centre in the main southern part of the island; this would be a training centre for training pastors to plant churches and take with them skills and teaching in things like business, agriculture and health to the villages they go to. We are excited that they are taking the initiative in working with what they have in order to bring about change in their communities!
Tim teaching on Church and Transformation
We were interested to see how these pastors saw the role of the church in their communities. And to find out, we started our session by using an activity we learned about from Andrew in Iringa over Christmas. We had pictures of activities the church could be involved in from preaching and praying to building projects, helping others and politics. Each person was given  fifteen beans and was asked to place beans on what they saw as most important. The more important the role, the more beans should be placed on that photo. When all the beans were down, the pastors themselves were surprised at how unbalanced the results were. Prayer ranked very high, but other things surprisingly low! It was a good start to a discussion on how churches can be planted in communities and bring transformation to those places.
Deciding where to place their beans!
While on the island we also had the opportunity to visit the Umoja ("unity") Training Centre, an amazing new community centre designed by Standing Voice UK to "exist as a counterforce to the isolation and exclusion of people with albinism by creating opportunities for all community members to interact in positive and mutually enriching ways."
The Umoja Training Centre

Louisa tries out the water pump at the new centre
With a second seminar in the northern part of the island on the second day, all in Swahili, Samuel and Megan and the girls took the time to get some games going with loads of children! Lots of "Paka paka panya" ("cat, cat, mouse" otherwise known as "Duck, duck, Goose")! As the morning went on, the number of children from the surrounding area grew!

Fun with the kids at the water pump outside the church
On Sunday, (which was Megan's birthday), we joined Pastor Veron and his church in Nasio. Samuel and Megan did a great job sharing what God has been doing in their lives, we had some great lively dancing and also celebrated in thanksgiving the birth of a long-awaited baby!

Members of the Church in Nasio

A Sunday lunch feast of fish, rice and bananas! A good birthday feast for Megan!
Birthday Chapatti Breakfast!
It was a full and busy time. A good time. Lots of time squashed up together, bumping along terrible roads. Heaps and heaps of rice and goat to eat. An encouraging time. We were all rather sad to leave. And all rather tired arriving home on Sunday evening on the squashed dala dala to our house; Megan counted almost thirty people on a bus designed for eighteen ... but no cows or chickens on board!

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Water, Water Everywhere ...

El Nino. The rains started in October. The water came in our house downstairs on November 4th. But this year the rains haven't stopped in December as they usually do and are continuing in ongoing torrents. Usually, we would get a second rainy season starting in April. But rumour has it this year with El Nino, the rains will carry on through until then.
We had a few delighted days of a dry downstairs after a week of no rain just before our visitors, Samuel and Megan arrived (more about their visit later). We set a bedroom up downstairs for Samuel in hope that the rains were over. But alas, after just three nights, we were deafened again by the great thunder and heavy rains and all the water was back with a vengeance cracked by fierce, power-zapping lightning. And so the mopping continues! So now with Samuel in Louisa's room and Megan in Amisadai's room, we have Tim's office, Amisadai and Louisa and Tim and I all squeezed into our little bedroom. A squash and a squeeze but at least all dry (even if all the washing hanging in every remotely available place is still wet)!

It is an ongoing fiasco, creating havoc inside and outside. On the night that Samuel and Megan arrived, it didn't look like we were going to be able to pick them up from the airport. A truck delivering grit and sand (which was to help the solve the problem of floods and mud on our driveway), skidded very almost into the trench and got stuck. It took ages to get him out. Then the second truck came with another load. Believe it or not, he also got stuck in the mud on the other side of the driveway, in our bougainvillia bush. It was getting dark and Tim needed to leave soon for the airport, but the truck was blocking our way out! Finally the truck managed to get out and left... left a huge pile of grit in the middle of the drive so we were still blocked in! After some quick digging in the dark, we managed to get Tim out the gate just in the nick of time to meet the plane!
Rain floods the front steps and car port
The trenches start to overflow

The truck bringing grit gets stuck and damages the new trench
The road outside our house becomes a fast flowing river when it rains
and this is what it is like when the rain stops!
Following are a few photos of our efforts to get to villages during this rainy season. So many roads are impassable or incredibly slow and difficult to drive on! We are ever thankful for our trusty land cruiser! But as we travel to these villages, it is a stark reminder for me about perspective again.

Yes, it all puts my own woes into perspective! It is not just the roads we drive on damaged by the continual heavy rains; the maize crops in particular are badly affected and things do not look so good for the harvest this year. While we may have a fiasco mopping our wet floor, others face the loss of their homes or the loss of their year's worth of food. We've been reading the news of all the flooding in the UK recently. But not all flood victims have emergency services available to whisk them rapidly to safety, healthcare for accidents or water-borne illnesses, insurance to cover their losses, a job to carry them through or any savings to fall back on.

But now on a lighter note... as wide-spread mould, continual flooding, intestinal parasites, power cuts, a broken-down car, lice and various other problems and bad news hit in a week of losing our house help and the imminent arrival of our guests, we decided our situation classified as an "emergency" and we had fun bringing out some MRE meals someone had given us! We had a great time with our own self-heating packets of survival food! Sometimes you just have to laugh so that you don't cry!

Emergency Survival Time

Figuring out how to heat the MRE's!

Tuck in!
Also in the midst of it all, it was good to enjoy celebrating my birthday! Even in all the chaos, my wonderful husband baked me a scrumptious birthday cake! And now as I write, a wonderful friend has offered to bring us all a meal this week! Thank you to all those who have encouraged us these past few weeks! You are God's grace in action to us and we really appreciate it! So many more reasons to choose joy!

Monday, 4 January 2016

Plagues and Treasures

What's blue and fuzzy and grows all over?

I think we have a plague here. Mould is everywhere! We arrived home from Iringa to find that the house is still flooded. Water and mud outside and water within. Still the basement is filling with water. Now the doors down there are rotting so badly that they are falling off their hinges. But while we were away, the damp was rising. We had a damp disaster upstairs and down. Mould had spread over books, clothes, bedding, furniture, kitchen drawers and cupboards. Not on everything, but a very considerable amount to require a very considerable amount of clean-up. The smell of the damp and mould has permeated the house and you could brush the dampness with your fingertips.

It's not only the house, but also our car. Left in the shelter of the house while we were away, moisture entered and now the interior is a ripe green and blue fuzz. The steering wheel looked like it just gained one of those fancy fluffy covers. Unbelievable.

And so Operation Clean-Up begins. And as this already busy season begins, this wasn't on my list of things to do.

Someone recently posted that they admire our perseverance and endurance. Don't. I am trying hard not to grumble, and wish I could say I was succeeding. I'm not. And perseverance is running out! I googled mould and it said to first identify the source of the moisture (!), fix it and then get rid of the mould. Source identified. We've been mopping it numerous times a day for two months now. Fix it? Work in progress; live in hope. As for getting rid of the mould... wearing my hankerchief mask and marigolds, I boil water on the stove and slosh in vinegar solutions. Surrounded by heaps of washing, I wipe the blue and fuzzy mould from books and furniture. And forget about the fact that there is no food in the house!

So in my lamenting, I am now momentarily fleeing the rubber gloves and vinegar solutions of the clean-up operation to sit and write gratefully on positive highlights, in confidence of ending in praise.

With Ezekiel and Mendriad
While we were in Iringa, it was so wonderful to go back to Magozi and Kimande. These are the villages where we started the stove project. We met up with Ezekiel and Mendriad first. After all the happy initial greetings there was a lull and a big sigh and Mendriad broke the brief silence, "this is good. We are back together. We eat together again. The team is back together." And it was so good to be together again.

A few days later, we spent the day visiting the two stoves projects, and we laughed together at happy memories as we travelled about. Some of you who visited us there may remember Ezekiel's  "POPPPP-corn!" or our typical end of meal "Asante Sana Squashed Banana; Asante Sana Squashed Lice!" We laughed at the spot where Jesca "destroyed" a tree in our quest to plant trees when she was learning how to drive! We laughed about the guinea fowl that got tangled in the roof rack before we were mobbed by passengers from the daladala behind us keen to take it home for dinner. We remembered endless games of cards in which Mendriad fell asleep...

But these memories and so many more are far more than just fond happy memories. We are left with the sense of such a deep deposit left from our times together. Reading back on the blog posts of those days (like "Sharing Life" in particular), I see we had plenty of struggles, but now looking back, out of it all, what remains is a treasure. It is like a large bar of gold settling firmly on the dust of what once was trials.

We enjoyed a meal at Mendriad's home. We visited Ezekiel's wife, Bora who two days previously had given birth to their second child! We caught up with Hosea and Yuda and many others. 
In Ezekiel's new house with their new baby girl!

In Mendriad's home (now with plastered walls)
In the morning, we met with the Kimande/Itunundu Stoves Group. They welcomed us back so warmly and it was wonderful to see so many of them there, still working! Within minutes, the girls were surrounded by the children of the village amid the excited cries of "Amisadai! Louisa!"
The children come running to find Amisadai and Louisa!
Amisadai greets the group

The Kimande/Itunundu Stoves Group
In the afternoon we met with the Magozi Stoves Group. These people and this place holds a special place in our hearts. It was the first village in Tanzania that we lived and worked as we started the Stoves Project, and these gracious people befriended us in a special way as we learned how to live and talk! We all met in the church and sang and talked and prayed together. They sent us on our way with huge gifts of rice.

The Ebenezer Group in Magozi
The project that started with this village is growing! Jesca, who worked with us in Kimande is now the Stoves Project Manager and she is running projects in 8 villages now! They have their struggles, but it is exciting to see the progress and especially to see Jesca in action in her new role!

Such a priceless treasure we have stored with these friends. More than any riches. More than any house. And so I am reminded that our house is only a building. Things destroyed by mould or stolen or broken are only things. Yes, I need to do all the cleaning up, but I need not let my focus waver. What is important here? Where is my treasure to be found? When the struggle is past, what will be left? I pray there will be a treasure safe, and not just eroded emptiness!

 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be." Matthew 6:19-20

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Pee in the Prickles with No Spares Left

First of all, a very Happy New Year to you all! This is our first blog post of 2016 and the first in rather too long for which I apologize! I won't try now to fill you in on all that has happened over the last three to four weeks; it has been a full and busy time and we have enjoyed celebrating Christmas with our friends in Iringa! There are highlights I will share later, but for now, I will share our latest adventure ... At the end of 2015 I felt like I could do with a few less adventures in the New Year, but if the first day of the year is anything to go by, a life of adventure it is.

Oh dear!
After safely navigating through the floods near Dodoma, we were stranded. At the side of an open road with no trees to shade the heat of the afternoon sun. Later, with rumours of lions in the area, darkness was fast approaching. The girls and I found ourselves thus stranded in the middle of nowhere, waiting for Tim to return to us with a tire that could carry us to the safety of Singida.

Through the Dodoma floods!

Yes, another adventure. On the 1000km trek from Iringa to Mwanza. This was unbelievably our second puncture of the journey, and our fourth tire to go if you count the trip to Iringa three weeks earlier. Thus this "no spares left" scenario was rather sadly familiar. On the journey to Iringa we had a fast puncture before Singida. We stopped, unloaded and removed the tire. We then discovered the spare tire was flat. Kind truckers came to our assistance and pumped it up for us, but we realised that it had a valve problem and was fast losing air. We limped slowly on (with the kind truckers) to find help, which amazingly and thankfully was only 5km on. We were able to get both tires fixed while we ate our egg sandwiches. But back to the journey home...

How many times we packed and unpacked the back of this land cruiser!
We were still 70km short of our 490km halfway stopping point in Singida. Our spare tire had gone on the car 90km earlier and now there were no spares left. Tim, with his phone, a bottle of water and the flat tire, hitched a ride with a passing trucker to find help. But we were miles from anywhere and with it being a holiday, there was a slim chance of finding tire places with workers working. I got busy with what was becoming rather routine... setting up hazard alerts before and after the car, getting the girls settled with egg sandwiches and water, and finding rocks to assist in jacking up the car. I can do the whole jacking up thing now (really, Dad ... and on a land cruiser!!) Well, almost ... I jumped up and down with all my weight on the wheelbrace to loosen the wheel nuts. The girls laughed at me; nothing shifted. I should have eaten more Christmas dinner.
Tim heads off in a diesel truck ...
We wait ...
A passing man helped to loosen them. And many trucks slowed to ask if we needed help. Tanzanians are extremely kind and helpful in difficult situations.

But there was one point when a "suspicious-looking" trucker approached. I realised I was alone with two children in the middle of nowhere with a land cruiser obviously full of stuff. Giving instructions through the window to the girls to keep the doors locked and to just keep honking the horn and use my phone if anything untoward happened, I shouted to the man we were fine and help was on the way. He was actually very kind and just wanted to make sure we were ok. But Louisa had jumped up to the drivers seat and was poised to honk!

We waited. And waited. I was desperate. With two delays and no pit stops, I just really had to go. But we were on an open road with only low thorn bushes bordering the road. In the end there was nothing else to do. Wait for a gap in the passing trucks and busses (this was a busy road for both) and pee in the prickles. Desperate measures for desperate situations. I don't do this.

Two hours later, as the sun began to set and the girls planned our sleeping arrangements in the land cruiser for the night and our rations for dinner and breakfast, Tim arrived back. With the trucker who had picked him up, they had come across another trucker fixing his own tire on the side of the road ahead. Tim was dropped off with him, with our tire. The trucker agreed to patch up our inner tube when he had finished his. That done, Tim found a third trucker to hitch a lift back to us ... with the patched up tire. We joyfully welcomed the yellow truck and the guys helped us get the tire on. They chatted about the lions (really??) that they say frequent the area at night, which didn't do much to reassure Louisa's nerves.

Getting back on the road ...

So rather later than planned, we drove into Singida in the dark, and thankfully found lodgings for the night and kuku na chipsi (chicken and chips)! And early the next morning we went in search of new inner tubes. The "fixed" tire from the night before was slowly losing air, so we jacked up the car yet again, and changed it again as well.
And again...
Two hours later, we were back on our way and managed the whole remaining 450km with no problems!

Despite our homecoming being a bit of a hard landing (but that's part of another "adventure"), we were all very thankful to be at the journey's end!

Happy New Year!