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

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Random Cookin'

I started this blog sitting peacefully with a coffee at a hotel in town. After the chaos of recent weeks, I was attempting to sort my head out. Beside me was my new notebook from Mum... which suddenly seemed incredibly apt!

There is a lot going on at the moment! Does anyone else get that feeling of imminent brain explosion if one doesn't quickly start transferring things to writing in the form of lists? The sweet relief of no longer needing to hold it all in the brain! So, here are a few random updates from my rather random brain.

Tim, after getting all the final exams and papers from his Bible College course marked, is now in Malya for two days with the beekeepers ...and as I had to drop out at the last minute, he is also leading the Mamas Group! I wrote him copious notes and instructions and believe it or not, he has been making soaps and body balms with the ladies! What a guy! They had a laugh though, as in my hurry writing the lists, I accidently switched the word "nanasi" for "nazi"and so said to use pineapple oil instead of coconut oil! Tim will update on what's cookin' in Malya soon!

Meanwhile, there is much to do here with lots of women's group work, a state of a house to order somewhat before our guests arrive tomorrow, a ridiculous number of extracurricular activities and practices for the girls hitting the fan at once and a badly-timed but delicious glut of mangos, to list but a few.

Upendo wa Mama

The Upendo wa Mama group had a busy but good week. It was a mad catch-up right to the last minute, after missing several weeks, to get all their products ready to sell at the Charity Fair on Saturday. It was a proud moment for them to see everything in its finished state on display, and then much admired and purchased! Orders have since been coming in and a local shop even asked the mamas for wholesale! They had to say they weren't quite there yet! But the owner loved them enough to request a variety to sell and we'll see where that leads!

(On that note ... if anyone has any packaging and marketing skills or advice they would be happy to share, please get in touch!)

So needless to say, it's a hive of activity right now! As well as dividing out some profit dividends, the women are now looking at purchasing group sewing machines and an oven so that different skills can be learned and put to good use! They were all so delighted to receive gifts from ladies in The King's Community Church, Langley this week to help them get started in their sewing! We hope to start renovating a garage into a workshop ... it will happen! The mamas are also buying seeds and looking forward to starting a bit of a garden. Digging commences on Saturday. It's all on the lists. No panic!

Mama Rose and Mama Laurensia ready to sell at the Isamilo School Fair
Soaps, Ginger Biscuits and Cards
Candles, Lip Balms and Body Balms
Mamas were so delighted to receive these gifts from the church in Langley!
... now let's get sewin'!

Wonderful Church!

On Sunday, we were up early, (although still arrived rather late at 7:20am!) for the first service at Victory Life Church in Mkuyuni with Bishop Charles. While Amisadai was in Nairobi undergoing all the medical tests, this wonderful church prayed earnestly for her, fasting for three days! It was fantastic for her to stand before them, giving her testimony of thanks to God for their answered prayers! We are so thankful to them for all for their prayers for Amisadai, for their love shown to us. We truly are so very privileged to live among such amazing brothers and sisters!

With our good friend, Bishop Charles

Where is the Rain?

This time last year, we were struggling with the torrential rains and flooding. This year, things are very different, with hardly a rain to start the season. We are really praying for rain. Many farmers have not even planted yet because of the dry conditions, but if crops are not planted in the next few weeks, they may not get a harvest. Tim has been out with Esther to the farms in the new area near Sengerema. It has been a uphill battle for Esther and these ten farmers! Starting the new project is tough as these people are living in rural and poor conditions, unsure and reticent to adopt new ideas. But we are encouraged that one by one, a few are starting to take on board the new agricultural concepts.

On Friday, Tim was with Pastor Tito Samwel, whose church we are working through. As well as spending time with him and his lovely wife, they enjoyed visiting Shadrach, one member who is doing well with his farm ... just wondering where the rain is.

With Shadrach (L) at his home with Esther (R) and Pastor Tito Samwel and his wife

Pastor Tito Samwel and his wife at their home

Friday, 18 November 2016

Lost Ambulance, Flying Ambulance, Hospital, Hotel and Home

The local ambulance was lost. We were waiting at home early on Friday, two weeks ago, for the ambulance to arrive to take Amisadai straight to Mwanza airport where an air ambulance was waiting. It would medically evacuate her to a Nairobi hospital, after she was put at "high risk" due to respiratory attacks. But after several phone calls in which the ambulance was "on the way" and obviously very close, we told the driver to stay at the bottom road and piled into our land cruiser to go and find it ...which we did! And somehow this didn't really seem odd at all.
Saying goodbye to Tim.
Tim is giving directions to the driver on the quickest route to the airport!
After some quick goodbyes with Tim, Amisadai and I were off to the airport. Arriving there, it really didn't seem long since we'd been there with our last flying debacle on Flight 147! We were ushered quickly through immigration and security and onto the tarmac to board our very small Amref medical plane. Amisadai, who was feeling fine now, enjoyed her comfortable stretcher bed, while the nurse, doctor and myself squeezed onto the only three passenger three chairs alongside. And we were off. The team (Doctor, Nurse, Captain and Co-pilot) were all fantastic... I was impressed with how smoothly and efficiently everything was done (especially after our local lost ambulance situation)! Vital signs were checked continually throughout the hour flight, in between drinks and snacks, and everything thankfully remained normal.

And onto the Amref plane.
Settled and strapped in for flight
But maybe now I should back up and explain ...

For about two months, Amisadai has periodically been having what first seemed to be asthmatic attacks, usually during PE. We had seen a doctor who agreed it looked like exercise-induced asthma and advised she could try a ventolin inhaler and if that didn't work, (which it didn't), a preventative inhaler. We thought things were starting to come under control. But then one Monday, she had a more serious attack at school which was unconnected to exercise with no apparent trigger. Without adequate emergency services (the ambulance was at the time "not available"), it was very concerning. We emailed and phoned doctors who all agreed we needed to take immediate action and get her out of Mwanza as quickly as possible. They warned us another attack could be more serious and without either emergency care or the necessary facilities at local hospitals to treat her or even stabilise her for evacuation, the risk was high.

The following 48 hours were a confused blur with calls to doctors and insurance agents, and during a sleepless night on Thursday, things were finally put into place for medical evacuation. The final call at 7:30am on Friday said the ambulance would be at our house at 8am. Which of course, it wasn't, but I have told you this part of the story!

We arrived in Nairobi and were hustled straight from the plane into an ambulance just off the runway. With flashing lights and sirens we whizzed through crazy Nairobi traffic to the hospital. I was in the front with the driver while Amisadai stretched out in the back with the lovely Christian nurse who enjoyed chatting to her in Swahili and prayed with her most of the way!
Straight into the waiting ambulance in Nairobi
Once at the Aga Khan hospital, all the testing began. Other than passing out in the hallway after a blood test, Amisadai did really well! We were finally settled into the paediatric ward for another rather sleepless night in which amid the cries and screams of the young children on the ward, we had numerous visitors coming wanting to clean the room, take orders for the next day's meals and even waking us up to see if we fancied a hot drink!

Cheerful Amisadai ready for some supper
The next day we had more tests and then waited for results and further consultation with the doctor. While we waited, we had a visitor who arrived with a smile-bringing gift hamper! Wonderful hot German coffee, yogurt, granola bars, bacon buns....! Such a treat! This lovely family, the Kroppachs, live in Nairobi and are good friends of many of our friends in Mwanza. They were an amazing blessing to us throughout the whole ordeal.

On Sunday we met with the doctor, who basically couldn't say what was causing the attacks. As Amisadai was stable, he discharged her from the hospital with instructions to stay close by while we considered other tests, arranged for some counselling to see if panic attacks were a cause and planned for us to visit him again for further lung testing on Wednesday.

It was one thing for the doctor to say we could go, but quite another to actually get out! What an ordeal! So many forms and slips of paper to take from one office to another office, needing confirmation from insurance and waiting for calls and emails to come through. Then back to the first desk and back again to the second... Once again, Daniel Kroppach was a huge support, coming to walk us through the whole procedure!

We were given accommodation through our insurance company at a nearby hotel which was perched on the top of an Indian shopping market. What we originally thought would be weekend stay, had now turned into a few days, and then just when we thought we were going home (on Wednesday) it was extended again. Suffice to say, we became quite friendly with the lovely staff at the Cloud Hotel!

The small, 30-room Cloud Hotel on the top floor
The Kenyan/Indian market just outside
In an unfamiliar city on our own, with Amisadai's worrying medical condition a mystery, things were all very uncertain and at times, (particularly sorting out insurance issues) rather stressful. But in the midst of that, it was wonderful to know the support and prayers from so many people. The benefits of Facebook and WhatsApp at such times so far away are appreciated all the more! It was a wonderful surprise when the hotel brought in a gorgeous huge arrangement of flowers from my sister and family, who had phoned the manager from Canada! And when the manager heard from my sister that we had come from the hospital and Amisadai was undergoing tests, he was hugely sympathetic and gave her a present as well!
The beautiful flowers!

A gift from the Cloud Hotel Manager
Grandma Monger had the awesome idea to send Amisadai an I-Tunes gift card so that she could download some movies and music to enjoy. We enjoyed our little "movie parties" ... making the most of good internet at the hotel! We also had two visits from Dave Richards, from our church in the UK who happened to be in Nairobi at the same time! He so kindly came with other friends to pray with us and also bags of delicious treats to cheer us up!
A visit from Dave!
The Kroppach family continued to be an amazing support! They live in Nairobi to serve in this way. Their ministry meets a huge need, to people, like Amisadai and me, who just need help and a little loving! People like us, without family or friends, stuck in a strange place and a stressful situation. Theirs is such a valuable ministry, so needed and so very much appreciated by many! We were invited several times to eat with them and Amisadai made fast friends with their eldest daughter and was able to go along to Youth Club with her one afternoon.  We joined them for a church service on Sunday as well. God is so good!
German sausages with a great new friend on our last day!
And we enjoyed some treats along the way!
We found a Subway! Awesome treat!
To cut a long story... of hospital appointments and taxis, emails and calls with doctors and insurance agents... short, finally after ten days, we were able to return home. The doctors eventually came to the conclusion that Amisadai's attacks were due to laryngospasm, caused by GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease); basically, as stomach acid crept up to her vocal folds, airways and lungs, it caused  swelling of the passages, leading to the atypical asthma reactions. By getting Amisadai on PPI medication, decreasing the amount of acid in her stomach, we should be able to prevent further attacks and breathing difficulties.
Running laps at the hospital for a stress-lung test!
We are so thankful to now know what has been causing the problem! So thankful we caught it before the attacks got any worse! So thankful to be able to easily treat it! We are thankful for many of you who have messaged us with your love and encouragement. Thankful for God's protection and care of us throughout in so many different ways. And so thankful to be home in Tanzania on Monday, all together again!

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Women in Agriculture

"Hodi!" We called out the customary greeting as we approached Mama Naomi's home. She came to meet us and she and Tim, Mum, Peter and I exchanged greetings. Naomi is one of the many women who has recently joined the agricultural project in Lutale village, on the shores of Lake Victoria. Naomi, like many of the women we are now working with, has a difficult life. She told me that God in heaven needed six of her children. She has birthed eight children, but now has only Winnie and her 14 year old sister. Naomi led us to the small area behind her house that she farms for her family. There is little there; the soil is incredibly dry and very sandy. Our first aim is to improve the quality of soil and so Peter has been working with her, planting nitrogen fixing beans and teaching on the importance of mulch. It has been a struggle for Naomi to get mulch, but soon, once the beans grow and spread, there will be a natural cover to retain the water.

Before we left, we sat awhile on wooden stools outside Naomi's home and then she gave us her sweet potatoes - a taste of Lutale, especially for Mum.

Mama Naomi shows us her small plot of land to farm

Jackbeans starting to shoot up.
A gift of sweet potatoes from Naomi
We went on to visit Bibi's shamba (I don't know her actual name, we just call her "Grandma"). She is elderly and she is poor. Maybe not what you might imagine when we say we are working with "farmers," but she needs this farm. There is not much to look at in this plot. The area is small, full of weeds, with just a small amount of mulch material. But Peter has also been working with her, encouraging her to remove the weeds, to keep mulching and now, even without the much-needed rain, her jackbeans are coming up! We hope that we can help Bibi work this soil to be productive and help her harvest far more from it.

Bibi's small plot of land
We continued on our traipse across the fields, and found this cheerful lady, Adella, also in our conservation agriculture group. She has carried water up from the lake and is watering her seeds. The lack of rain is beginning to be a concern. We had a few days of rain last month, and thought the rainy season was starting early. Many have planted, but then the rains stopped and everything has once again dried up. Where we had good mulch, a lot of water was retained and beans are doing well. But as we go around and pray with each woman, we are really praying hard for rain now!


The miracle of jackbean and maize coming up through the mulch despite the lack of rain!

This mama was using whatever she could find for mulch material on her small patch of land.
She had grasses, leaves, banana leaves, even old tomato plants spread as a cover for her seeds.
Jackbeans emerging through a variety of mulch
In this village of Lutale, most of our group are women. This wasn't planned, it's just the way it worked out. And it's a good thing. From what we have heard, many of the men in this village are lazy and many drink too much, leaving the women to struggle to provide for their families. While we do want to be sure we teach these conservation agriculture principles to the young people and farmers of influence in the region, to those who will carry farming into the future, we cannot forget these women. Yes, their farms are small, their land is in poor shape and we can't expect great yields. Yes, some of the women are old and it's doubtful many will ever be able to teach these things to the next generation. But as the church, we have a responsibility to help these older women and widows. As I hugged Naomi thanking her for her gift as we said goodbye, it was impossible not to notice the bones sticking out in her thin body. These women really need a harvest. And the younger women we hope will be able to teach their children. We pray that they will move past subsistence farming, developing value-added products that will better support their families and help their communities.

May God bless these Lutale women in agriculture!

This well-mulched farm of another woman in the group is doing well,
again despite the long, dry conditions