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

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Sitting Under a Tree

It was that familiar feeling of sitting under a tree wondering if anyone would come and join you.

Tim was near Kayenze, in the sub-village of Lutale, ready and waiting for a village meeting in which to raise awareness for the upcoming next phase of the conservational agricultural project. We are looking for a group of around thirty from this new village who will receive training at the seminar in September. From this group, we will then work with a focus group of 15-20, kicking off with planting in October.

But Tim was just sitting there under the tree with only Pastor Amon, Esther and the agricultural officer of Lutale.

About 45 minutes later, they heard that another village meeting was currently underway at another location in the village. Few would bother to walk over to this tree for another meeting when that one ended. So Tim, Amon and Esther walked across the village to find them. Perfect! Fifty people already assembled and as soon as they arrived, the agenda shifted to satisfy the crowd's curiosity about what Tim and co were about!
Under the trees in Lutale
Tim opened the meeting and then Pastor Amon talked about the important principles of the agricultural project and then shared about its benefits from his experience on his own farm. Esther talked about our expectations of the farmers, about partnership, hard work and preparation needed. And as they shared, the crowd grew. So in the end, at least 80 people heard about the project.
Amon shares about the project
We are pleased with the number of people, both men and women, keen about the project; many were interested with lots of questions. This village is more rural and impoverished than other villages we have worked in. The predominant crop is cassava and there appears to be very little done in the way of crop rotation! We are looking forward to getting a group together, people that we can get to know and come alongside, and with them watch the harvest grow!

We are really pleased to be working alongside the Lutale agricultural officer. It is exciting to be able to work with him, both to gain from his expertise and also help him in this role in the village.

The meeting ended well. The village chairman asked for a gift for himself but did agree that the village government would take registration of interested people. The first thirty to apply are in.

And coming up next week, it will be time for a Kayenze village meeting to form a second group of farmers training there. Back to sitting under a tree for a while methinks.


Thursday, 16 June 2016

Warm Bread Dripping with Honey

Prior to our wandering through the Malya wilderness with bubbly Baba Tanda, the girls and I spent Saturday afternoon with Elizabeti, Tabitha and Agnus (from the Mamas Group). I love these ladies! 
Sharing chai together
These three (and four others who were at a funeral on Saturday) are serious about the group. Others less committed have now left and these remaining women are keen to work and keen to learn! It is a slow process which does involve dedication and effort, but the rewards will be all the sweeter for it!

So on Saturday, we embarked on lessons in honey soap-making and bread-making. All the while making sure that we kept the two most separate, we coordinated the time to keep sodium hydroxide cooling and yeasty dough warmly rising. All this intermingled with Bible study as we waited for soap setting and bread baking. In the short space of an afternoon while Credo was waiting to take us to his hives, it all required rather Western-style logistical and consequential planning! And needed a good fire consistently kept the "right" temperature in the fuel-efficient stove! This still makes me rather nervous...
We are READY for Some Serious Soap-making
It was lovely to present the ladies with their very own WONDER-POT! This gift from our friends in Canada, makes it easy ("easy") to cook bread or cakes using firewood or charcoal on a single burner or as we used, the fuel-efficient clay stove! They learned to make basic bread rolls, and delighted with the results, they are now keen to make and sell "sconsi" from their own homes. I was also able to give one of these wonder-pots to the women in the Upendo wa Mama group in Mwanza, who will take turns to do the same. Huge thanks to Clifford and Kathy!

Tabitha vigourously kneads the bread dough
Agnus takes the risen dough to cook on the fuel efficient stove
The Wonderpot
It was also wonderful to present the women with their own Bibles, thanks to the generosity of Tadley Community Church! With Bibles in hand, we were able to read together.

Thrilled with their new Bibles
As these women wander from their own wildernesses, they are holding on to the promises. Tabitha read aloud from Deuteronomy 8:6-10.

For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land – a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills;  a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig-trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honeya land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills. When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.

It was a wonderful passage to reflect on while the bread baked outside and as we sat together with wheat flour, olive oil and honey on the table in front of us. Truly God is bringing blessing. When we walk in obedience, out of the wilderness comes promise. The promise is good, and we are tasting it now! And so we fed from the sweet honey which is God's Word. And after a few dashes outside to pull out a stick or blow on the fire, the bread was baked. We broke it up, remembering, and ate it fresh and warm and dripping with honey. Satisfied. Thankful.

Fresh bread and honey

Tabitha with her honey roll and chai

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Wandering through the Wilderness

We felt a little like we were wandering through the wilderness. We had forgotten the toilet paper. We had driven the dirt road. We had driven the beaten track. The track got smaller and smaller as the bush and trees got denser and denser. When we could drive no further, we continued on foot. We walked through dry riverbeds and out into scrubland wilderness. We trekked on, the four of us following our host, Credo (from the beekeeping group) along with Pastor Lubana and three mamas. Through the bush they carried boxes of soda and water, protective bee-gear, corregated tin for a hive roof and two plastic chairs.

After some time trekking, we came across Credo's father, Baba Tanda, who greeted us so enthusiastically and excitedly led us on. We were not sure where we were going or exactly what we were doing. We had thought we were simply paying a short visit to his hives, but clearly it wasn't as simple as that! We walked for maybe an hour. And then there it was; it was like spying the promised land!

This energetic Baba Tanda with the infectious laugh, had carved an oasis out in the scrubland! When he heard we were coming, he had cleared a square of the land and built wooden benches around. In the middle of the square he had placed a blue plastic tarpaulin and on this he placed the two plastic chairs and invited Tim and myself to sit. The girls and the rest of the party were seated comfortably on the wooden poles.

And there in this clearing in the middle of nowhere, he served us! He had prepared chai in a pot on a fire and also roasted his own grown peanuts. There was refreshing water and energy-giving sodas and bunches of bananas. We sat down to a feast, right there, out of the wilderness.

This was his land. And after resting awhile, he led us around. He and his son had cleared a path through the thorns and bush and they wanted to show us their hives! After that first training in February with the beekeeper group, they had moved quickly to get their own hives up. They had placed 15 simpler hives in trees and now all 15 are colonized! We have given 12 top bar hives to the group to share and learn from and had no idea that individuals would be so keen and quick to develop the beekeeping! Credo and Baba Tanda amazed us!

Baba leads with his fimbo (stick)
... and on...

Baba and Credo have great plans for some fish farming here!

Inspecting a hive
Walking back
We made it back to the landcruiser just as the sun went down!
We had a really good weekend in Malya with the beekeepers and Mamas Group ... even if we did forget the toilet paper (yes, it was a sinking wilderness feeling when I realised). Even though a village funeral rather threw a spanner in the works for the group meetings. Yes, despite it all, it was very good!

So much promise coming out of so much wilderness! Yes, we step on thorns, get scratched in the bush and have to jump the siafu biting ants, but in the clearing there is refreshment and rest. And the sweet hope of honey to come!

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Blessing when Spitting Watermelon Seeds

Rolling reluctantly out of bed on Saturday morning, I quickly threw on some clothes, took my husband a cup of tea in bed and wrote a quick job list for Amisadai and Louisa to do before they joined me later and headed off to the school where the Upendo wa Mama group meets. I was anxious about the group, thinking ahead to dinner plans for guests arriving at 5pm that afternoon and Tim's plan to be at a TAG Bible College event. I didn't realise then how humbled and blessed I would be when I returned home later.

I waited on my dusty step for mamas to arrive, apprehensively praying for our task of learning how to make soap and emulsified lotions, for a miracle of Swahili for myself ... and for each of the mamas and their children. Many of the women are struggling at the moment to keep money coming in and also with various health issues. One has diabetes, another bad asthma and many of the children have been ill with malaria and other things. With school fees on top of medical fees, life has not been easy. They have started a savings and loans scheme, but it is complicated to justly and compassionately manage the fines and interest!

When we were three, we hunted for the man with the key without success. I then realised that one classroom door was actually unlocked, so we went in. We have two new mamas with us now and as they were the first to arrive, it was good to get to know them better. Jeni, who lost her husband, has two young children aged 2 (with albinism) and 6 months (called Rachel!). Monica is a cheerful lady with albinism who has three children under six. Sadly, when her youngest, Agape, was born last year, her husband abandoned them. So Monica is struggling to provide for her children by selling charcoal at the side of the road. This is increasingly difficult now that the rainy season is over and people can more easily provide their own dry fuel. And yet she carries a big smile and a kind word for those around her.

When a few more mamas had arrived, we were ready to start making soap! Amisadai and Louisa also arrived, dropped off by Tim who was on his way to the Bible College. I started by stressing the importance of protecting ourselves from the hazardous sodium hydroxide with goggles, masks, gloves. They were all very happy to "gear up" in my random collection of protective gear!

Soap-makers in action (from left to right: Rose, Jeni, Mama Faith and Monica)
And so we made soap! It was fun and exciting and all were impressed their results! We made our first hand lotion (using beeswax, oil and water with an emulsifier). We tried out our homemade solar-protection cream on Mama Monica (skin cancer is still the biggest killer for people with albinism). Then after a long time sorting out loans, we finished with a time of encouragement from the Word of God and praying for one another.
Making the soap

Heating wax, oil and water for lotion
And it was then that the women shared their desire to come to our home and say "pole" ("poh-lay"), to show their sympathy for our loss after Dad's death. I love this Tanzanian custom when someone is bereaved, it is so rich in sympathy and encouragement, shows love for one another. We have been so encouraged by the love shown from so many who continue to come to us, often bringing kind gifts.

And so it was that fourteen of us (nine mamas and five kids) squeezed and pushed ourselves into the land cruiser alongside all the pots and pans, bottles of oils and water and a gas burner stove! I carefully put the soft, un-set soap on the dashboard out of harm's way in the scrum.  But after being so careful (and successful) to make sure no human skin came in contact with the soap, one mama climbed up and three fingers squelched straight into three soft soaps! Then it was another scramble for her to get back out and find water to wash with! Three uniquely finger-printed bars of soap.

Quite the car load for the journey home
What a special time at home. The girls and I got busy serving everyone cold water and watermelon. The women shared their love and presented us an incredible gift - an envelope of money they had all contributed to. After sitting through discussions of loans and repayments, of medical bills and lack of work, I knew so well the sacrifice this was for them. It was so wonderful, so special to receive from them, to be helped and loved by these special women . And for them a chance to give and be blessed; they know it is more blessed to give than to receive. And then we sang and prayed ... while spitting watermelon seeds all over the living room floor!

After the Mamas had all gone (Tim returned in time to thank them before they left), as we quickly swept up the watermelon seeds and mopped the watermelon juice from the floor in readiness for our dinner guests arriving soon, I felt so thankful for each one of those women. Encouraged. Truly life's unexpected interruptions to our plan are really God's opportunities to fulfil His plan!
New soaps:  milk and honey (L) and plain (R),

As the mamas continue to work towards getting products they can successfully sell, I know there are many of you who were trying out the first efforts! Please do give us some feedback on products you tried as we are eager to find out what recipes work best! We already see that oils that are liquid in Tanzania are solid in the UK, and that makes a big difference for what we sell where! Here is a link to a feedback survey where you can give us your opinion and constructive criticism! Thank you!

And don't forget June 13th is International Albinism Day!

Please remember these mamas, their children and many others with albinism!
Upendo wa Mama lip balms, body balms and candles