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

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Mongers England Bound

This is the last blog post I am planning to write for a while ...

On Friday we are all flying back (via Dar es Salaam and Addis Ababa) to the UK for a month. Tim's dad is very poorly now with brain cancer and we are thankful we are able to go back and be with him and Mum at this difficult time. And thankful to all our amazing supportive friends who have made this possible. Our reason for going back is to be with Dad and help Mum and the family in caring for him. It has been getting increasingly difficult for Mum, especially as he has had numerous falls recently which has necessitated calling the ambulance, all of which has actually put him in hospital for a few days now. We are not planning much beyond just being with them, so please understand if we don't get a chance to see many of you in the UK while we are back!

We are however hoping to plan a relaxed and social Open House type of evening (TBA), where we can catch up with friends and we also hope to be with Tadley Community Church on Easter Sunday. It won't be a "busy" time back for us, but it will be emotionally tiring and probably unpredictable so we are not committing to very much! But that said, please don't avoid us! We (the girls included) appreciate and need your love and support as we are all rather tired and feeling rather sad as well.

It is really hot here in Mwanza now ... and as we melt here, it is hard to imagine being cold again! Tim is rather looking forward to the cooler weather, but I can't find my one pair of long jeans (I am really hoping that I left them in England) and am not sure that my threadbare third-hand summer skirts are going to do the trick. And I rather think my toes might freeze in my flip flops! So if you are in England and see me looking blue or peculiar with mismatched layers, that's why! The girls meanwhile are looking forward to apples and cheese and some of those corner yogurts ... and are hoping to find some furry boots in a charity shop!

It all seems to be happening rather quickly. But we are aware that the timing is right and feel so thankful to be able to go now. Peter is recovering at his family home near the Uganda border but Esther will be carrying on with project work in our absences. Although she will be rather busy ... the exciting news from Esther is that she is engaged to be married and the wedding will be not long after we return to Tanzania!

We have been so lovingly and caringly sent on our way to England by people here. The beekeeper groups have both prayed earnestly for us and Tim's Dad as we go. The Upendo wa Mamas group also spoke and prayed for us on Saturday morning with such love and kindness. This evening we shared a meal with friends who will keep an eye on our house for us and Bishop Charles came with a number of others from the church in Mkuyuni and they encouraged us, prayed with us and gave us a generous gift from the church. We are so thankful for these friends and their love towards us. It is truly amazing! We are surrounded by love that comes from the source of all love and it is life-giving and encouraging!

With Mum and Dad when they were last with us here in Tanzania

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Slow-cooked Stoves

Once again, as I sit to update the blog, it is encouraging to look back at a week and see all those positive threads holding things together! We had a major rainstorm on Tuesday. Torrential hard rain for a significantly long time. The power cut out yet again and Tim couldn't get home on the flooded roads; he saw two cars carried off in the torrents and so had to wait it out! But amazingly, none of all this water came up in our house! Very thankful!

Managing the girls schedule recently has been rather a full-on task! They have been busy with school events (Thursday night was the "50/50 Africa Meets Asia" Fashion Show), extra rehearsals, and preparing for Amisadai's 4-day school trip to Ngorogoro Crater and Oldapai Gorge. (She left very early this morning, so hopefully you will hear all about it soon, on her blog!). Organising pick-ups and drop-offs for everything in the midst of a busy week with Andrew from Iringa staying with us and many village visits and a planned two day trip to Malya has been complicated! But I am so thankful for good friends here! Friends who help to fill the gaps, switch a car pool drive; friends who are willing to have the girls overnight in a school week. And friends who a few weeks ago, dropped off a whole meal with amazing treats in a huge basket just because they know that things are difficult and they care. Very thankful.

And another thing to be thankful for ... we have finally been able to secure tax exception for our new landcruiser! This has been a 5 month complicated process! Again ... very thankful!

Fuel-Efficient Stoves

Remember these? These are the stoves that we made in training many, many months ago with the help of Mendriad and Hosea from Magozi. Well, finally, after such a long time of waiting (for people, for money, for firewood, for the rain to stop, for the kiln to be rebuilt ....!), the stoves were fired last week in Tambukereli! It is hard sometimes for us not to jump in and rescue things and get things moving at a faster pace, but that is simply what suits us and our personal "goals" and not usually what works best for the people actually involved in the project. It's worth the wait in the end! Forty four stoves were successfully fired, many lessons learned, and it was great to have Andrew there when they were all unloaded from the kiln! We are encouraged to see this project moving slowly forward once again and hope these stoves will be sold and become known for their benefits! We are hoping that Daudi and Medard who are carrying on the work, will become good stoves trainers for future village projects.
The loaded kiln

Unloading the stoves from the kiln


Conservation Agriculture

Things continue to grow amidst the weather difficulties on the Conservation Agriculture front. We checked up on some of the farms in Kayenze when we were there last week. William planted his maize last month and we were impressed with his amazing mulching! When we went with Andrew last week to have a look, we could see the shoots appearing through the mulch, and despite the dry weather, there was excellent moisture levels in the soil under the mulch! Good lessons learned! Tim is returning to Kayenze on Monday with Esther, who will taking on more responsibility for the work while we are back in the UK.
At William's shamba

You can see the moisture of the soil underneath!
A beautiful sight!


And finally what about those bees? Well, while Andrew was with us, we had a trip to the hives in both Kisesa and Kayenze. The bad news first. The hive in Kisesa had fallen yet again from the tree in the huge storm on Tuesday. The bees had scattered, the beautiful honeycomb lay ruined on the ground, eaten by maggots. But we were able to get the hive cleaned, baited and then rehung with wire in the tree and now pray those bees come back! The good news: we added two more hives on the demonstration farm plot there.

Container Hives! These two bring the hive total in Kisesa to three!
In Kayenze, it was good to get all the beekeepers together for our first meeting since training began! Unfortunately the carpenter wasn't ready with the hives, so that delayed things rather. But we were able to hang two more hives at Mama Meriziana's farm, under the shade of a mango tree. Two more have since been hung at Amos' farm, bringing the total number of Kayenze hives now to seven!

Tim tries on the stylish sack-and-net bee hat that women have started making 
In Malya we again had carpenter problems, and due to the poor state of the hive made, were unable to hang it. We arrived in Malya planning to stay two days doing two meetings (one with beekeepers, one later with the Mamas Group). However when we arrived, both groups were there in the morning wanting to start. So I started with the mamas while Tim worked out things for the hives and then we ended up teaching simultaneously in the same room! Not ideal, as some of the mamas were also in the beekeeper group, but both went well nonetheless! We both began in our respective groups with reflection on Ps. 119:97-105 which likens the Word of God to honey. What a sweet gift we have in the Word of God! A word which gives joy, which satisfies and feeds, which is also a light (candle) to our path and a balm for our soul. 
Hanging two hives in the mango tree at Mama Meriziana's in Kayenze

As original plans go out the window, as entire sets of top bars have to be remade, as cold water is mistakenly poured into boiling wax ready for candles, as we are continually faced with needs we cannot meet, my inclination is to be frustrated because of what I cannot control. But if I am here to serve and empower others, being in control is not what I am to be about at all! Living a grace-filled, patient life, loving and serving is what is needed! That might mean doing, it might mean saying, but most often it will mean being and listening ... and letting things go!

And on another note ... If you haven't already done so, (thank you to those who already have!) we would love it if you could take a quick moment to complete this short survey to help the Women's Group decide which products to start selling! As well as a local Tanzanian market, we are looking at the tourist market, so your opinion will help us! Thank you so much!
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Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Soap and Candles. Balms from a land flowing with Milk and Honey

I am lagging behind on the blogging again! But there is plenty cookin' here in Tanzania! I will save for next time all the stories on fuel-efficient stoves firing, beekeeper group meetings, and alas, a hive tragedy, all of which have been going on this week with Andrew visiting from Iringa.

Today, given that it is International Women's Day, here is a little bit on these wonderful women in Tanzania who deserve recognition for their achievement in the face of adversity! Women who are playing their part working towards peace and security and human rights, in particular, on behalf of those with albinism.

These women are working together towards getting their own workshop where they can learn and develop new skills and crafts and a shop where they can sell their products. These women have little to support their children with but with a Savings and Loans scheme and their own bank account they are managing to save money that they can draw from. Medicine can be bought, school fees can be paid. It all makes a difference!

This week together we were busy working on 100% pure beeswax candles in chopped up PVC pipe moulds as well as lip balms, body creams and greeting cards. It isn't easy by any stretch of the imagination! Just getting us all there, as well as all the materials (balancing all while treading carefully on rocks through the floods to get in the gate), is a feat in itself. We then rather struggled with the candles and need to do some fine-tuning. There are too many air pockets and they were almost impossible to get out of the moulds. We will try more soap or oil in the mould next time and work on getting the right pouring temperature and pouring speed! But in it all, we are learning and making progress and hope we will soon be selling beautiful, quality candles amongst other things!
Our first attempts
Mama Faith melts the beeswax

Jane works on embroidering a card while the balms are setting

Mama Wilson with her poor eyesight cannot sew, but she can glue the cards together!

Creative working, talking, praying for one another and
reading that Word as sweet as honey!
Natural Milk and Honey Soap
... from a Pringle Pot mould!
If you (and your friends!) have a minute to spare, we would love it if you could help the women's groups with your opinions on various beeswax and honey products. Please fill out (and share) our short survey here below on the blog. We really value your advice and support! Thank you!
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