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

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

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