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

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Back on the Lake

Travelling on the ferry on Lake Victoria to our church service today, it was painful to contemplate the horror and terror that preceded so many deaths on Thursday. Horrible to contemplate what the rescuers are going through with the many bodies to pull out of the water. Everything was going through our minds on how things could have been or should be different. But it happened and today the burials have begun and as families grieve deeply, the whole nation mourns. 

Our ferry was probably the emptiest we have ever travelled on. We were thankful for no overloading today. But even today, when you are out there on the Lake, you cannot fail to appreciate the amazing beauty and vastness of this spot on Earth. Yes, it holds countless tragedies and deaths, but at the same time, so much beauty. And this is the tangle of our human lives, as life continues in the midst of death, and beauty exists in the midst of chaos.

It was good to be with our friend Pastor Tito and his family and church today. We are always made so welcome there! We are so humbled and encouraged by their resilience and love. They love hearing the girls speak in Swahili and this time Pastor Tito tried very hard to get Louisa to preach a whole sermon in Swahili... he is particularly fond of Louisa! He then started preaching in his limited English and asked Tim to translate into Swahili! So funny! Then he handed over to Tim to preach in Swahili and we gave up on the English! Louisa will certainly have to prepare a sermon for next time we go!

You can listen here to a little clip from the choir singing … such beautiful voices!

After the service, we went to see how the demonstration shamba is doing. It is so incredibly hot and dry now, but thoughts are of coming rains and the time of planting. The pigeon peas here do so well in drought conditions and are providing a good source of food!  The jackbeans of our farmers are also doing really well and they already have a marvellous harvest!

We then went to have lunch at the pastor's home with a few other church members.  It was delicious fish with rice and ugali. While waiting for lunch, Pastor Tito, again taking Louisa under his wing, taught her Kisukuma (the local language) as she wrote it all in her little notebook! We gave the family of box of peanut butter cookies, something different for them to try, made last night with the peanuts they gave us on our last visit! And then we walked to Phoebe's house (practicing the Kisukuma along the way) and enjoyed a quick cuddle with baby Elisha before starting the journey back home. 
With Pastor Tito and his daughter Phoebe with the pigeon peas (L)
 and jackbeans (R) at the church demonstration farm 
And now to finish with a happy announcement! The other day, our goat, Vancouver gave birth to a healthy kid. We have named him Saskatchewan (Sasky for short) and he is doing really well! You may remember we recently lost a premature kid and so we were very thankful for this safe arrival. Amisadai is delighted and I am excited about getting more goat's milk to the mamas group for Goat's Milk Soap. And now we are waiting for our dairy goat, Victoria, to give birth!

Vancouver with little Sasky!

Amisadai with little Sasky!

Friday, 21 September 2018

Lake Victoria Ferry Disaster

Many of you will have seen on the news that there was a tragic accident on Lake Victoria yesterday afternoon. Many of you have messaged us, knowing of our work on Ukerewe Island. Thank you for your prayers. We want you all to know that none of our team or anyone we know was on that ferry. But so many people were and so many are grieving today.

A ferry, heavily overloaded with people who had been to Ukerewe Island for market day, was arriving at Ukara Island yesterday afternoon. As the boat approached the dock, all the passengers rushed to one side to be first to disembark. We see this happen every time we travel on these ferries. But this time, on a busy market day, with too many people and many heavy sacks of cement, bananas and maize on board, it tipped and capsized. Not more than 50m from the shore, where people were gathering and watching in horror, many people lost their lives.

This small ferry is designed to carry 100 passengers. Reports are saying that as many as 300-400 could have been squeezed on that boat. Most would not have been able to swim. And as the ferry overturned, people were trapped in the water underneath. As I write, only 40 people have been reported rescued and many of them are in bad condition. 136 bodies have been recovered and the death toll keeps rising.

MV Nyerere

Our colleague, Joel, has been talking today with the leading TAG pastor of that area, someone we work with for the Entrepreneurship project. Nobody from our participating groups or churches was on board yesterday, but many of their family members, friends and neighbours are among those who have horrifically died. Many are unaccounted for and there is no way to know how many were on board, as the man dispensing tickets drowned too. Many people are grieving today.

Joel and Elisha returned from Ukerewe Island last week and are working with the churches there to establish entrepreneurship projects in different island communities. Actually one of the projects proposed by a group was to start a ferry service. The project was too big for now, but maybe this would be future vision to consider. A ferry built and maintained well. Managed with integrity for the safety and benefit of the whole community.

Unfortunately accidents on Lake Victoria are not uncommon. Boats are poorly maintained and often heavily overloaded. We pray this will be a wake-up call to action for safety improvements. And we continue to pray for safety, particularly for our team as we travel between the islands and Mwanza on these ferries. And we pray for the churches on the islands, that with the love of God, they could comfort and help those grieving.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

The Song of the Ihama Tree

The Ihama tree
It always good to be in Igumumoyo! We joined Pastor Joseph and the small group that meets in this village for the service on Sunday morning. This church is materially poor and hugely generous. We are always so encouraged and inspired by their consistent and strong faith, never expecting anything from us but always giving to us. Their building hardly classifies as a building (Tim got sunburned preaching!) but the space is gradually filling up!
Igumumoyo Church (a few months ago)
Not far from the open spot the church meets in, is a large type of palm tree, locally called Ihama. The huge leaves make a remarkably loud clacking in the wind, almost a strong rain-like patter. As our Swahili voices rose a cappella in song across the fields, the tree seemed to join in with its rhythmic clear clack. Amazingly beautiful! It reminded me of something I recently listened to on Psalm 148, that marvellous chapter where all creation praises the Lord! This clip is absolutely incredible to listen to, as the sound of the stars singing in the heavens above are played alongside the sound of the whale in the ocean deep and then joined with English voices. I just would love to add the Igumumoyo Ihama tree to this symphony score … as well as the small ensemble of Swahili voices from this village. It puts in perspective just how immensely huge God's orchestra is, yet still how valued each small part is! Yes, let all creation sing His praise!

After the service, we went back with Pastor Joseph and Mama Daniel to their small home for the most enormous mountain of rice and beans you ever saw… each! A large group of children also gathered at their home and soon a large plate was placed on the ground and they all gathered around with speedy hands to tuck into it all! 
Lunch from Mama Pastor
Mama Daniel showed us the bumper crop of jackbeans they have harvested after the first year of the project. It is plenty to provide all the new CA group farmers with seeds this year as well as to replant at the church demonstration plot. We have about fifteen new farmers who have now completed the conservation agriculture training and are ready to plant, along with the existing group from last year!

After lunch, Amisadai and Louisa went with a couple of girls to fetch water - from beside another of these Ihama trees. They were given one of the fruits for us to take home and try, along with a bag of tomatoes from Mama Daniel's garden. 
The Ihama fruit

Trying to crack it open!

It took a great deal of effort to crack open the Ihama fruit! I tried; Angel tried; and our guard took over with his machete. It seemed a bit like a coconut, but when after much sweat and hacking, we finally got inside, I was a bit surprised to see a stringy orange mass resembling a squash. It had a very strong smell … and a very strong taste. I probably preferred the song of the Ihama to the fruit of the Ihama!

 Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
    praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
    praise him, all his host!
Praise him, sun and moon;
    praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
    and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for he commanded and they were created.
He established them forever and ever;
    he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.[a]
Praise the Lord from the earth,
    you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost,
    stormy wind fulfilling his command!
Mountains and all hills,
    fruit trees and all cedars!
Wild animals and all cattle,
    creeping things and flying birds!
Kings of the earth and all peoples,
    princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and women alike,
    old and young together!
Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for his name alone is exalted;
    his glory is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people,
    praise for all his faithful,
    for the people of Israel who are close to him.
Praise the Lord!

And if you are interested in singing trees, check out this NG article on talking trees! How Trees Secretly Talk to Each Other

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Even when it's Pear-Shaped

These cute little rabbits were born a few days ago! It was particularly wonderful to see these little bunnies flourish in this world after the struggle for survival of our other furry friends. Amisadai had seven rabbits and over a few days we lost all but two of them to sickness. We tried treating them, and Amisadai tried all she could to save them, but in the end, one young one survived, along with this pregnant mother! So thankful this mother was able to birth all her babies and now we can start again! Amsiadai is still hoping to get a rabbit project going one day! Three rabbits have already been happily relocated on Kome Island, where Sele has started breeding for their nutritious meat.

We have had rather a sad time with our goats as well. We had two dairy goats (a male and female) and unfortunately the male (Toronto) died a few months ago, before the female (Victoria) could get pregnant. Then we had a visit from the Bishop's goat and Vancouver, Victoria and Felix all got pregnant. But sadly last week, Felix gave birth prematurely and the tiny little kid died after 24 hours. We are really hoping for full term safe deliveries for Vancouver and Victoria in the next few weeks.

I always enjoy coming to blog and reflecting on the good news we have to write about! And it truly is encouraging and uplifting to focus on the positive things. But at the same time we cannot deny the struggles and difficulties that are just as real! Things go pear-shaped. Life can be tough. We do suffer loss and we do get hurt. Things don't always sail smoothly and we can get tired and frustrated. We have just started reading through 1 Peter as a team each week and looking at the first chapter caused us to reflect on those people Peter was writing to, who were really struggling and suffering. Peter began his letter with the exhortation to "Praise God!" which could have been hard to take at the time! But Peter means it. Even when we struggle, when we are tired, upset, frustrated, sick, hurting, even persecuted … we have good reason to praise God in the midst of it and Peter does go on to tell us why! There is a living hope, there is great mercy, and in this there is joy.

It was a good reminder on this "back-to-school" week after losing all these animals and wondering if we will ever get a rabbit or goat project off the ground! After I succumbed to bed for a day on Sunday after fighting migraines. A good reminder when everything seemed to "go wrong" while Tim was away in Dar es Salaam at the funeral of Babu Enos Nkone, the father of our good friend, Huruma. Our guard, Thaddeus was hit by a car on his way to our house for the night and ended up with stitches in his arm and a bad leg in hospital while I couldn't find another guard for the night. (Thankfully he is recovering well and should be back with us soon!) And when the shower wouldn't turn off in the bathroom for a day and then after the plumber left, we were left with a tap that let no water out! It was a good reminder when so many well-made plans for meeting people and building a mama's banda ran awry and just when stock control had slipped through the cracks, it came to dinner time and I realised Angel and the guard had eaten it for lunch. And on a deeper level, it was a good reminder at a time when I just don't know how best to help a struggling friend.

But even when things seem pear-shaped in overwhelming uncertainty, yet I know I have an inheritance that can never fade, spoil or fade! Faith worth more than gold! An inexpressible glorious joy! And this is reason to praise. And reason to persevere!

We have persevered this week and it has been good! Tim was up at 3:15am on Wednesday and flew back home from Dar es Salaam to go straight to the second day of Health Seminar at MICC with leaders from Kome and Kasarazi Islands. It was an opportunity for the church in Mwanza to encourage and support church leaders on the islands. Pastors Zakayo and Charles shared and our EI team (Simon, Victoria, Gertrude and Tim) encouraged them in their vison for reaching out to their communities through Health Education.

And on Friday, we went with John to meet with leaders at Pastor Wilfred's church in Ngudu, where we will be starting a new beekeeping group. We were so encouraged with the interest and enthusiasm and also their commitment as a church to run the project in their community.

And just before the health seminar, our teammate, Gertrude (making the most of her time in town back from Kome Island!) came with me to meet with the Upendo wa Mama group along with a second group of women (also with albinism), teaching a seminar on VICOBA. The groups are planning to work together to run this larger savings and loan scheme which we hope will help them to save for further business opportunities as well as create a social fund for people falling on hard times.

Good discussion time in groups

Monday, 3 September 2018

Waggle Dance Honey News

It was great to officially start selling Waggle Dance Honey the other week! The beekeepers in Kayenze and Malya are thrilled with their first real harvest and delighted to have their sales money which they are putting towards getting new hives made in Malya (soon in Kayenze) and getting more suits for the group!

We had the Waggle Dance Honey Day at our house, temporarily converting our house from a home to a shop. It was a fun day, welcoming a steady stream of people from the community! We had the honey table with the variety of different local honeys available. It has been fascinating to see the difference from not only the different villages (about 160 kilometers apart on opposite sides of Mwanza) but even from different hives in the same village. It all depends on what the bees are feeding on. We had some dark honey (which we think must be coming from the bees in the mango trees), some light (probably from the bees in the cotton fields), some runny, and some lovely creamy set honey!

Then we had a table set out with all the Upendo wa Mama beeswax products. They are really producing a lot from the wax they buy and clean now! We had Nyuki Stix (our own version of Wikki Stix), dipped candles and citronella tealights and the new Lotion Bars alongside all the usual beeswax balms and honey soaps. Word is continuing to spread, and this week we had an order from Dar es Salaam, which we were able to send, and soon after it arrived someone else smelled the lotion bars and placed another order. So we are all pretty excited in the Mamas Group!

The Upendo wa Mama Table
The new lotion bars
Kitenge BeesWraps and dipped candles
We also had a table outside complete with our new "Bee Bunting" (yes - a crazy last minute sewing idea!) with Louisa selling honey-sweetened lemonade and iced tea with lots of cake and cookies! We made batches and batches of honey-iced cinnamon buns, about six honey spice loaves and then lemon loaves and other cakes and biscuits! All the money we raised at the Honey Bake Sale went towards purchasing a honey press for the Beekeepers Groups. We are keen to establish a honey processing centre in town which will collect the honey from all the village groups to press, bottle, label and sell! So now we are about £60 on the way to pressing!
Setting up the day before
Ready to go!

In other bee news … Tim and John and I were able to harvest some of the honey from the bottom of our garden at the weekend. Unfortunately Tim managed to get a bee in his bonnet and got stung right on the top of his nose which rather altered his appearance for a few days. But pleased to have the honey! 
Tim with stings
Louisa agreed (for a fee!) to help me process the honey!
John is with the beekeepers in Malya tomorrow and they are keen to get their new hives made and hung! And on Friday, we are going together to a new village, Ngudu, where we are meeting Pastor Willfred who is keen to get a new beekeeper group going with training and hive hanging. So as you can imagine, we are thrilled to see things moving at better pace in the right direction!

And in case you were wondering …. 

What is the WAGGLE DANCE?
The Waggle Dance is a special 'figure-of-eight' dance that is done by the honey bee in its hive. By this, a worker tells the other bees in the colony where it has found a good source of food (nectar). Through the dance, the honey bee can communicate both the direction and distance to the best flowers. The angle from the sun shows direction; the duration of the waggle part of the dance shows the distance. Isn’t this amazing?!

And finally, if you haven't already seen it on other social media, here is a short video of some of this seasons work getting the first waggle dance harvest in!