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

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Picking Tractor Fruits off Trees in Magozi

This time of year always feels so poignantly significant. As Christmas approaches I find myself reflecting back on years past, and then as a new year is ushered in, I am anticipating a future yet unknown. This year as Christmas approached we were reflecting particularly on seven years past, as we went to visit Magozi, the first village we worked in when we arrived in Tanzania.
Now (2018)
… and then (2011)
We first went to the village of Magozi back in early 2011, with plans to start a fuel-efficient stoves project with the Anglican church there. We set up our village home in July of that year (you can read about that here!) and started on an incredible journey. I have recently been reading past blog posts of those early days, such precious memories of our struggles and joys! Building relationships, learning a culture, learning to cook on a jiko, learning so many things! A group was formed and named "Ebenezer Jiko" and stove-making training began. We worked in the dirt; people in the village laughed at the members of the group for playing like children with dirt and clay. I think even people back home doubted our sanity, giving up our jobs and nice home in the UK to come and make pots in the dirt in a small, far away village. But we did. 

We made so many mistakes. We stumbled and struggled, continually helped and forgiven by kind neighbours! And yes, the group learned how to make clay stoves. They started to sell them. They learned how to use them to cook efficiently and maybe even learned something about healthy cooking as well. Piglets were given to start pig projects, money was invested in rice, where the rice acquired at a low price was then held until the price became high. We taught on clean water and sanitation, we planted gardens. But more significantly, we lived life together, we read the Bible together (and made sure people had one to read with their family). 

After a time, we left. We left the group with their own chairman, secretary and treasurer, with nice red T-shirts and pits of clay and ready stoves. Things went on well for a while. But the group began to struggle to sell the stoves and interest began to fade and one could wonder why we did it.

But then old seeds sown were watered and new life sprouted! The group elected a new leader, Lucas, and a new secretary, Marko and with Meriziana continuing as treasurer, they "re-grouped" with a bigger vision, a vision bigger than we could have imagined! They started making stoves again and now have 69 ready to sell and the rice business is growing. As they have worked together, they have raised significant income, enabling them together to purchase a plot of land for a workshop and kiln and another plot to open a shop. They also just purchased a power tiller (kind of tractor, at a cost of over £800) which will be used to generate income as well as collect clay and transport stoves. 

The power tiller
When we went to Magozi just before Christmas, we were amazed again by God's faithfulness. His plan and His timing we often don't understand, but He gives us so often in His Word the picture of a garden and this can be rather helpful! 

We arrived at the church in Magozi and were met and embraced by the Ebenezer Group! Oh joyful reunions! We sat down for the customary greetings. It was so beautiful to hear them all share. So humbling to hear them thank us for teaching and giving them a foundation, when they taught us so much and gave us a foundation for living in Tanzania. Mama Rose, our closest neighbour, shared how the project has produced much fruit and now much is ready to be picked. She talked about how the group has just picked the power tiller "fruit" and how they will look for the next fruit which is ready to be picked! Our friend Yuda shared his gratitude for the education we had given that has stayed with them. He made the point that had we just given money and "things" (which is so much asked for and which is easily done), it would just have disappeared and produced no lasting fruit. Lucas shared about the physical and spiritual help that was given through the group. He brought his miracle child to meet us. Seven years ago we prayed with him for a child for him and his wife who was unable to conceive. Little Kathryn is now five years old! A father shared about the learned importance of family and teaching children, a wife celebrated how now poverty has gone. Ezekiel read from 2 Corinthians 4:7, sharing how people had mocked them in the beginning for playing with dirt, but in truth, God has made and moulded each one of us as clay. And we have a treasure in jars of clay that is shining out and he said how now people in the village see that this clay has led to other things. 

The Ebenezer Jiko Group

New stoves waiting to fire
We were then taken to visit the plot of land where they plan to build a workshop. At the moment they are working under the shade of the tree, but already have their kiln in use there and their clay pit.

Tim inspects the kiln

The plot for the workshop
We then walked back through the village to the other plot of land they have purchased near the main road. This is where they are planning to build a shop which will sell all kinds of things, including stoves! It is right by the spot where the buses stop, so a prime location. 
The land for the shop (with the bus stopped at the main road)
We were then escorted to our old house (now lived in by Bibi, our dear old neighbour) where we had lunch with the group leaders and church pastor. They treated us royally with heaps of rice with meat and beans. 

Lunch in our old house
After seconds of lunch, we were then walked to our good friend, Mendriad's home where we met with his wife, Lucy and Ezekiel's wife, Bora. They had also prepared lunch! So we sat for a second lunch with friends; as well as Mendriad and Ezekiel we were joined by Yuda, Marco and others. Feeling quite full up now with more rice, meat, beans as well as fizzy sodas and fruits, we went to greet another good friend, Kalista. And yes, you guessed it … she also had prepared lunch! She also had rice and meat ready for us. Knowing how important it was to eat, we were able to sit with her and said we would share a family meal together and managed a plateful between us! It was so lovely to see her and her now big twin boys, but so sad to hear about her husband who died a year or so ago after an illness. 

Three lunches in, we left the village and I felt rather emotional. So many deep and meaningful memories. So much to learn about ourselves and our God. We have such small things to offer. Small seeds that we don't even know or recognise. We don't see anything when they are planted... only the dirt.  We may never see anything more in some places. We may be scorned for playing in the dirt. So often today people want instant transformation, but gardens take time. Forests take even longer. Project donors (needing their promotional material) often ask for stories of transformation, even after just six months! But most of the time, true transformation takes time and it is in God's hands, not ours. We must plant the small things we have been given, wherever we are, and God does the rest for His glory. It was so encouraging to see what He has done in Ebenezer Magozi. He has truly helped them. Out of the dirt comes plants and trees, and in time, fruits. Picking power tillers off trees is a rather humorous picture, but it carries an encouraging truth.


Please come back to the blog soon … I am hoping to do better on the blog posting this year! We have been rather out of touch recently! And please do get in touch and let us know what is new with you too! 

3 comments:

  1. Tim and Rachel, thanks for sharing this story. So wonderful to hear about fruit that is continuing to be produced after you have moved on from this community. Your comment about having such small things to offer resonates with me. I think of the boy who gave his lunch and watched Jesus multiply it! I think of a time in the village in Cameroon when I wanted to invest in the youth of the church, but felt I had too little time to offer them. The pastor encouraged me to simply offer what I could. So I met with the youth one Sunday per month for a time, studying the book of Genesis together with them. I remember wondering if they were really benefiting at all from our discussions. And then I remember studying the story of Noah with them. A few days later, one of the young women was visiting me in the backyard and we saw a rainbow. She pointed upward and said, "Look Sister Christine! God's covenant with Noah!" That encouraged me so much to see that somehow God was producing fruit in her life. May God bless your work with continued fruit - with opportunities to see it and celebrate it, but also fruit beyond what you will see in your lifetime!

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  2. Tim, Rachel, Amisadai, and Louisa. Thank you so much for this testimony of God's faithfulness. It warmed our hearts and brought encouragement to us. We feel well filled with this very special 'meal'. May the fruitfulness continue! Thank you for your faithfulness. Blessings. R&L

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  3. Thank you so much for sharing this Rachel - it is a powerful testimony of God's faithfulness and your family's steadfastness through all sorts of trials.

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