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

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

When Cows Distract the Beekeepers

Just when I can't think of something different that could possibly challenge the beekeeping project, something new pops up! This time it was cows. Exactly what was going on I lost in translation, but there were an awful lot of cows outside the church building in Kayenze yesterday morning and not many beekeepers. It turned out to be the village branding day which happens once every five years. Anyway, we went ahead with the five beekeepers who came and actually had a very encouraging meeting!
Tim, looking rather focussed here as he gets to the church building!

The cows just kept coming! Rather a lot of moo-ing too!

The beekeeper group is excited about starting some new things this year! First up is a tree seedling nursery.Tree planting is something we have long been passionate about integrating into our projects but also something we have found surprisingly difficult! Our attempts to develop tree nurseries have not been so successful. This time we are trying something a bit different. The beekeepers have divided themselves into smaller localised groups and each small group will start a seedling nursery, starting with the race to get a good quality shelter built! We are hoping the competition will help! We hope this will be a small business opportunity for the group as well as being a real benefit to the local community and of course the bees!

They are also planning to start a savings and loans scheme and tied in with that, we will be doing some focussed Entrepreneurship Training. It is good to see the group encouraged despite the long wait we have had for honey!

After the meeting, it was out to the hives ... this week we checked on Amos' hives. John and I went with Jenerosa and Amos for a most successful hive check. Success now measured, not by the kilos of honey harvested, but merely that no one was stung and no one got arrested!

Hive looked good!

Time to de-robe under the mango tree! Mama Jenerosa is one game mama!

Heading home (if you can find the "road")

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Heart of a Village


"The hard-hearted village".

We were the first to arrive for the Sunday service in Igumumoyo
It sounds terrible doesn't it? Who would give a place, a home, such a name? But this is the name of the new village we have started working in. Pastor Joseph Hatari (whose name incidentally is the Swahili word for danger!) explained the meaning of their village name... "people who are told but refuse to listen". He doesn't know how the village came by its name but is going to find out.

In reality, our experience of the people in Igumumoyo has been very far from hard-hearted. And the pastor is far from a dangerous man! The warmth and love shown from the people in their welcome to us has been a humbling example of warm, kind hearts. It was really special to worship with this church this morning. Only six adults and a good number of children were gathered in the small patch of shade under the tin shelter this morning. But the singing was lively with gusto and with no walls on the building there is plenty of room for growth!
Tim preaches on Isaiah 42
Time of prayer
After the service, we walked the short path back through the growing crops to Joseph's house for lunch. Mama Laurensia was helping Joseph's wife, Zena, prepare the food. This lovely woman has had nine children and lost three. We shared hot chai and rice and beans together and enjoyed getting to know each other better!

Joseph and Zena (left) with Louisa holding their baby Daniel
Louisa with little Daniel
Igumumoyo is a small and materially poor community of subsistence farmers. We trained 27 farmers from the village in September on the basics of conservation agriculture and are now working closely with those keen on developing the practice. The first planting after that training did not go so well. Most farmers failed to follow instructions and were far too late to plant. With crops now still struggling in the ground during the second rains, they are unable to get a second planting. But they understand well now! And we are doing our best to help them find available land to put the CA techniques into practice for a small second attempt. Our agricultural trainers, Peter, John and Elisha are doing a great job training and getting alongside farmers to help them. And the church together has now planted a demonstration plot with a variety of crops including intercropped maize and jackbeans, pigeon peas and choroko (green gram bean) on their property and the hope is that this will draw people to find out more!
Prayer for this plot of land

This afternoon we also went to visit Mama Mary. This is one lady who did very well after the first training! She demonstrated some great intercropping of maize, peanuts, African eggplant and pumpkins. She was able to harvest in January and has already planted again.
Mary with a good harvest!
Peter with Mary's successful maize before harvesting!
Here you can see the struggle.
Late planting and bad spacing contributed to a poor harvest here

Pastor Joseph with Reubeni, another of the farmers in the group
We are excited to be partnering with this church! Pray for Joseph and Zena as they reach out to serve their community. Our prayer is that this village would be transformed by God's grace and become known as Nyamamoyo, the village of those with a tender loving heart of flesh!

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;
I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
Ezekiel 36:26

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Dar Reading, Mwanza Cookin'

We are all back together after our jaunting about! Amisadai came home extremely inspired and excited about her trip to Nairobi for the MUN event! She can tell you all about that on her blog! Tim has been about numerous different villages with farmers and beekeepers which will be the next post!  And I am back from my trip to Dar es Salaam last week! It was fantastic to be back with everyone at Under the Same Sun! I was also able to go to a couple of meetings with the VCC church. And in one short flight home (at an insane time in the early hours), managed to lose my luggage which ended up on an island off Madagascar. Air Tanzania did manage to return it once they found it, although I would have quite enjoyed recovering it myself!

The Dar Mamas were delighted and excited to receive their first sales money! The group made their first 100,000TSh, which is hugely encouraging! They have been making some lovely necklaces and earrings, and the stitched cards are improving all the time! And now they have all started learning the basics of making beeswax products! We made our first lip balms and Neem Creams last week.
Varnished beads drying while we make lip balms

A satisfying sight! 
It is such a privilege to be able to come alongside this group of women in a small way. And great to be something of a connector between them and the Mwanza Mamas - they share a name and more significantly, a story and I hope one day they can all meet! Our Bible studies this visit were much better with the gift of Bibles from Tadley Community Church! Each woman was offered a Bible either for reading during our time together, or to take home at a very low cost if they chose to. Everyone took one and took great delight in reading it for themselves! I pray that this Word would truly be a light to show their way and in it they would find true joy. Some were struggling to read the print, and it was a fantastic moment when I passed along some basic reading glasses! There were loud shrieks of amazement that letters could actually be so clear and visible! I wish I had caught the moment on camera!
Brand new reading glasses (labels intact!) and Bibles
All engrossed!

Thrilled to read!

Let's Get Cookin'

The great news here is that the Mwanza mamas finally have their oven! Four of us went shopping on Wednesday... which is another crazy story in itself, really! It entailed much too-ing and fro-ing, hunting through hospitals, waiting in banks, trekking through town - all simply for a stove! We have been long-anticipating this day. It is nothing big and fancy, but all are so excited to share in this and now learn how to bake! I find myself suddenly rather less excited and seriously daunted about the next step forward. Suddenly realising that I am supposed to be teaching these women as well as the girls at the safe house how to bake, I threw myself into garlic sticks, cinnamon twists, bread and rolls at home to practice! I am certainly no baking expert and felt rather apprehensive about definitive recipes!

We were supposed to start cooking today, but today was another one of those kinda crazy Tanzanian days when things don't go according to plan. Trying to get the connector for the gas to stove proved challenging. This started at 8am with a trip to town only to find that all the stores were shut to get everyone sweeping for Clean Streets. No one was sweeping but we had to go back at 11am. Which meant getting rather tied up in traffic as we looped around the crazy market area with Zuena continually hopping out while I created traffic jams. Trying to get all the Mamas to arrive on time in time to get the bread rising proved challenging. Yes, it has crossed my mind numerous times that bakers arrive at work VERY early. This will take a minor miracle with these Tanzanian mamas.

But never one to be phased by a challenge ... we rise to it. Let's get cookin'!

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws.
I have suffered much; preserve my life, Lord, according to your word.
Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws.
Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law.
The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts.
Your statutes are my heritage for ever; they are the joy of my heart.
My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end.
Psalm 119:105-112

Monday, 15 January 2018

Lea: One Woman's Story

I was with the mamas on Saturday. I actually went rather reluctantly that morning. But as we sat on our mat drinking chai after making our balms and goat's milk soap, we talked and I was so thankful I had gone...

Bead making on the mat
We talked about Lea. Lea, a woman in a very unhappy marriage. In a situation like many of the mamas in our group, her husband has taken another woman (some husbands have taken several women) as a wife. The mamas in our group know very well that the tension as the two wives live together is hard to bear. The competition for children is fierce and unfair. For one mama in our group, she watches her children (with albinism) get nothing while the children of the other wife receive school supplies and medicine when needed. For one mama in our group, her husband left her a few weeks ago to go to another woman who lives far away, leaving her with five children and no provision. She is physically sick with worry. For another mama in our group, the husband has been drinking and recently she has faced drunken beatings. But back to Lea...  like the two mamas with albinism in our group, Lea has weak eyes. She is not what the world defines as "beautiful." I think she feels like many of the mamas in our group feel or have felt before.

On Saturday morning, we read Lea's story together and what encouragement it brought! Lea, the unloved wife with weak eyes, became pregnant. Like the mamas in our group, "Mother's Love", she fiercely understood what a blessing her child was. And with the birth of her baby, she knew that God had seen her. He had seen her pain and misery and given her this child. She named him Reubeni. God sees. Life did not get easier for Lea. Still her husband did not love her. In her misery, it must have felt she had no one to listen to her. Yet she gave birth to a second son. And we see her hope, her perspective. She named him Simeoni. God hears. Desperate to feel close to her husband, for him to love her, she called her next son Lawi which means attached. But still, despite giving him three sons, there is no love shown to her from her husband, Yakobo. But still she chooses to praise the One who sees and who hears. She named her next son, Yuda "praise." As we read her story, we see she faces endless struggles with Yakobo's beloved and preferred wife, Raheli who is unable to have children and is jealous of Lea's.

And then we read of this son, Yuda, later given the blessing of being the Lion of Judah, a sign of who is to come! And then we read in Matthew's gospel, that Judah, the son of Lea, carried the family line of Jesus. Jesus, who sees our pain, hears our cry, who attaches Himself to us, who deserves our praise. Jesus, the Lion of Judah who came to save us.

As for many of us, Lea could not see well. Life was so incredibly painful for her. She had no idea of the rich plan God had, and just how very important her seemingly small and insignificant life was. Yet she knew that God saw her pain. He listened to her cry. And gratefully receiving the blessing of her children, she chose to praise.

So sitting on the mat in our workship, after sharing Lea's story, we were left in awe of a God that cared so much for one so unloved; a God who chose a woman for a purpose greater than she could ever have imagined. Wow!

Read Lea’s story in Genesis 29

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Ambassador Amisadai goes to Nairobi

And she's off! In a bit of a whirlwind, excited and a little nervous, Amisadai is heading off to Nairobi for the East Africa MSMUN (Model United Nations). Tim will take her at 3:25 in the morning tomorrow to get to the school bus on time. The school group plans to arrive in Nairobi before dark. She has been busy preparing her resolution which she will be pushing to pass as Ireland's ambassador. She was delighted to hear last week that her resolution on Improving Maternal Healthcare through Mobile and Smartphone Technology was passed to present!

It was one thing to do the research, prepare her speech and learn the MUN lingo ... and another thing entirely to get her wardrobe sorted! The week event calls for business attire which is completely non-existent in Amisadai's wardrobe! The girl does not even own a pair of proper shoes! So we roamed the clothes market, rummaging through heaps of old clothes on the ground to come up with some suitable outfits and a lovely pair of high heels! One amazing find was a pair of beautiful fully lined wool trousers. Bought for £1.80! So with those and a skirt, a couple of blouses and some lovely additions from our friend, Samantha, we then got busy with the needle and thread making the necessary alterations!
The new look

We may have succeeded with the clothes, but we failed completely on one count! We were looking for sheer tights and traipsed through numerous street stalls and dukas using every word under the sun! Tights, nylons, sheers, stockings, pantyhose, hosiery, and tried in Swahili "the socks worn on the whole legs." We chased numerous rabbit trails with eager anticipation, but the search was fruitless! But in the end, she found a friend with spares from America! To be honest, I think Amisadai will only have to wear them once and decide that tights are not such a good idea anyway! And I'm not sure that she will be able to walk in the high heels either!

I just wish I could be a fly on the wall when she takes the floor!

We sent out a newsletter to all our kind and generous supporters this week. It was long overdue which we are sorry about! We could not do what we do if it wasn't for you all standing with us! Thank you so very much! Here it is if you want to read an overview of what's cookin!
January 2018 Newsletter 

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Curry, Jam and Bees

Thank you for all the Happy Birthday wishes on Sunday! After a good service at MICC, my family took me for a delicious Indian lunch. We went to the home of Priya, an amazing cook in town who makes the most yummy curries to either eat there or take away. Best ever Butter Paneer! Later in the afternoon, the girls had made a delicious birthday cake which we shared with Vedastus, our guard/gardener! Usually we enjoy the Tanzanian custom of feeding guests small pieces of cake with toothpicks but this time we introduced Vedastus to the British way with a slice of Victoria Sponge on a small china plate with a cup of Earl Grey tea!

The other evening, I finally dealt with the incredible glut of mangos from our trees! Although "glut" seems a much too negative word for such golden bounty! Now as well as mango chutney, we have a great supply of sweet mango jam! It went very well in the Victoria Sponge birthday cake! Mangos are a serious perk of living in Tanzania...

Work is progressing on the house at the bottom of the garden which we are renovating for guests to stay in. Water is now plumbed in and as soon as it can get out (there is a problem with the high water table which is making this stage difficult), we will have bathroom in there! Karibuni (welcome) friends!

And before you go ... here is a little video we just made about the beekeeping project!

We are very grateful to the 3 B's who have supported this project: Bees Abroad, Basingstoke Community Churches and suits from the Basingstoke Beekeepers Association! 

Beekeeping in Tanzania from Rachel Monger on Vimeo.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Visiting Angel

No, we didn't have a visiting Angel. We went to visit Angel!

Angel on the right

Angel is the name of the lovely young woman who for the past two years has faithfully helped us in our home every weekday. She is kind and gentle person and a hard worker! She has a happy smile and a frequent laugh. Every day she pasturises our milk, she prepares breakfast for herself and the guard and later cooks their rice and beans for lunch (which is often our supper too!). She treats and bottles our drinking water. She washes and prepares fruit and vegetables. She helps with the dishes and hangs out and irons our laundry. She also makes very nice hot dog buns and banana muffins now!

When we first arrived in Tanzania, it took me while to get used to the idea of having someone else helping in the house. And when Angel started working here, a lot of effort in teaching her our strange and peculiar ways! For example the strange way we make a bed with duvet covers and pillowcases was all a bit much! Also our strange tastes which call for a lot less oil and salt than seems right to her! Talking to people back in England, I realise some think having house help is a luxury to be envious of. But really, Angel is a real life person who does the work that machines or stores would do in England. A machine would wash the dishes and vacuum the floor. In England, a store would sell milk ready-to-drink, tomatoes ready-chopped in a tin, spices ready-mixed and even sauces ready-made. Actually, even meals and biscuits ready-made! Rather than an impersonal store or inanimate machine to help me, how thankful I am for a real live person! And how much better for her too, so she can take home a salary to provide for her two precious daughters, Light and Happy!

Today was the first time that we had visited Angel at her home. I appreciate Angel all the more now that we have been to her house! At 7am every morning, with Happy strapped on her back she climbs down the steep rocky hillside to take her daughter, Light to preschool. I have no idea how many times she climbs and descends this long, steep hillside but I know I was puffing after one climb up! There is no path; just a lot of rocks and slippery patches of dirt between. It is just straight up scramble but 4 year old Light nimbly navigates the rocks. There are houses, so many houses, built into the rock all the way; they seem just perched precariously with front doors on drops.

An amazing view of Rock City and the Lake!

Coming out of Angel's house. It's straight down!
We had a lovely time with Angel and her two girls, Light (4) and Happy (2). Her husband, Isaac is a fisherman and often away. But we were joined by Angel's sister, Sarah and her friend and neighbour, Happiness and her two children, Elia and Isabella. We had lovely lunch and then when we had climbed back down together, we had some fun on the new "samaki bridge", a pedestrian bridge with a fish feature!

Heading back down

On the bridge with the PAG church and Bible College in the background

With Light on the bridge
Other news of the day was the rainstorm that passed through this morning. I was at the Mamas Group painting paper beads for school abacuses, and as we rely on natural light, things were a little dark in there with our big door shut! The water still managed to come in under the door, but we had a lovely time; we just made sure nothing was on the floor, and as we still don't have any chairs, we all sat on the table!
Painting red and blue beads for the abacuses
But more than this .... meanwhile at home, our guard Vedastus narrowly escaped with his life when a huge section of tree crashed to the ground right where he was standing. He heard the crack and ran for it and thankfully escaped unharmed! The washing line underneath the tree though, did not escape unscathed. And needless to say, I had to wash the clothes again!

The downed tree

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Happy New Year!

Our new year started early on Monday morning as we headed off along the shores of the Lake to Kayenze. We joined Pastor Amon and the church for their New Year's Day celebration service. The church has just acquired power and their first sound system - some speakers and a couple of microphones - so it was celebratory indeed for them and certainly noisy for us! They decorated the sound board with Christmas lights and hooked up a mobile phone and hit play! The power was on and off throughout the morning, but all enjoyed the singing and dancing regardless. And this was after they had already had a long service on Sunday morning followed by a late night New Years' Eve prayer meeting until 1am.

Gathering to sing and dance!

Tim was preaching and spoke on the Lord's Prayer, on how this prayer empowers us to be salt and light in our world. Then there was an extended time of thanksgiving testimonies, which came from everyone who had given in the "chair" offering... which appeared to be everyone. There was a large stack of chairs at the front and as Pastor Amon held up a chair, a person came to share and then the chair was set among the congregation. It is really wonderful ... they just don't have enough chairs for everyone any more. And so church members contributed for more chairs. It is amazing to see how this church has grown over the past couple of years. With the church gathering together many groups of farmers from the community to start conservation agriculture and also facilitating the beekeeping group, this church is really making a difference in many people's lives. Pastor Amon was telling us after the service how more people are coming to Jesus.
Kayenze Church
After the three-hour service, the heavens opened (the congregation was evacuating quickly!) and we joined a couple of others from the church for lunch at a family's home. The plan had been for a big church lunch for all on Christmas Day... but things didn't come together in time. So the plan then was to gather for a church lunch on New Year's Day, but that didn't come together either. But in the shelter of this family's small home we enjoyed a delicious lunch of rice and beans and cabbage with sodas.

There were no fireworks or champagne here. No resolutions that will be broken by next week. But there was plenty of music and dancing. And there was meaningful thanksgiving for a year passed and prayerful anticipation for the new year ahead! And it leaves our family so thankful for the privilege of another year here!

Happy New Year!