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

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Easter Eggs and "Inuka" (Rising Up)

Easter Sunday morning saw us boarding a ferry on our way to the church in Nyamililo. We arrived a little late as one ferry was broken and so they were down to one. But we were still treated to a morning breakfast of plantain and potatoes with hot milk on our arrival at Tito's house.

It was great to see how Tito's family have used the profits from their extra harvest of pigeon peas and soya to buy chickens and make a chicken house. They are now selling eggs in the village! And so we bought some Easter eggs to take home with us! Somehow these eggs seem rather more exciting the mass-produced chocolate variety!
"Easter" eggs
Tito and Louisa with the chickens
Then we walked over for the church service. Now, if you want to see how to dance on Easter morning … look no further than the choir in this church! Their new outfits were a lively orange and their moves radiated life and energy! See the video below ...and no, I didn't speed it up! That is original speed! Tim preached an excellent Easter message and then there was more singing and dancing!

Back in Mwanza, it was then wonderful to welcome the Williams family over for hot cross buns and a Battenberg cake Katrina had made! It is so lovely to see Pete and Helen again and we have enjoyed meeting up on several occasions this past week! As well, over the Easter weekend, we enjoyed time with Laura and the families on our team … with an Easter egg hunt (again, not the chocolate variety!) and more hot cross buns!

Louisa crosses the buns

Inuka (Rising Up)

A few weeks ago I went to visit our beekeeping groups in Ngudu and Malya with Bhatendi. We started with a group meeting in Ngudu at which the group elected a chairperson, secretary and treasurer. They have now written a constitution and named themselves "Inuka" which means "Rising Up." It was wonderful to pray with the new leadership as they assume their roles and for the group as they "rise up"! They have nine hives out in the forests and fields now with three more to bait and hang.

Praying for the new leadership of the Inuka Beekeepers Group
On the following day we drove on to Malya, and met with the mamas group there. We made various beeswax balms and then sat together for a Bible study and chat. They are doing well and thinking well about more things that they can do together! The goat we sold to them a few months ago is now pregnant and will deliver in a couple of months. They continue to work a garden together and are planting a variety of vegetables to sell. They now want to use some of their profits to start a chicken project (more Easter eggs and more Inuka!) and also a business selling second hand clothes. 

After a lovely time with the women, we then had a meeting with the beekeepers. It was disappointing to hear about the loss of three hives due to high winds in a recent storm. Also the eight new hives they bought last year with the honey sales have been slow to colonise and start producing honey. But yet there is progress and we are still hopeful for a harvest!
Having a quick look at the hives near the church building

Bhatendi and I ready to visit the bees
That night as darkness began to descend, a group of us headed out to check some of the hives. Then, as is the story of my life rather often, things went pear-shaped! We got all suited up and ready as the sky darkened with great black clouds. We got the lid off the hive as the thunder started to rumble. As we looked into the hive, which was in a bit of state with ants coming in and the combs higgledy-piggledy, raindrops started to fall. There was nothing else we could do …a crazy wind picked up blowing the tin roof off the other hive and our hive started swinging. We packed up fast. Then, now completely in the dark, we were running in our beesuits through the fields in torrential rains with high winds, cracking thunder and crazy bolts of lightening! 
Ready to go … but the clouds darken!
We made it back to the Land Cruiser and piled in, wet suits and all. I was driving back to the dirt road in the dark in pelting rain, which was another adventure in itself. On a narrow "track", through bushes and branches, slipping and sliding in black cotton soil and through thick mud … We ended up at Bageshi's house, where his kind wife gave us heaped bowls of hot rice and beans! 

And so there is a brief update on a few of the things going on right now! Truly Easter is a special time to think about rising up! It is wonderful to celebrate that indeed Christ has risen and through what He has done, we too can rise with Him. And what joy there is in sharing this! 

Monday, 15 April 2019

Can it Get Worse in Bukoba?

We thought a little break in Bukoba would be a good idea during the Easter holiday. We thought some time walking to waterfalls and enjoying the beautiful banana, tea and vanilla farms would be lovely. So we packed our tents and supplies, set off early on Thursday morning, enjoyed a beautiful drive and arrived eight hours later. But the holiday didn’t quite go as expected!

When we found our campsite, it wasn’t quite the peaceful lakeside spot we were expecting. Maybe more like a beach bar beside a road with a stream of people cutting through the only spot on which to pitch our two tents. The ugly, giant Marabou storks hovered hungrily on the sand. People hovered and stared. Finally I hovered beside one guy and stared back!
Who is looking at who?
After setting up, we boiled some water and sat down with a cup of tea. As the load speakers started blaring music, a man, fairly high on something, wandered up and sat on our gas burner. After some awkward minutes, the eighteenth guy selling peanuts approached and on seeing the man sitting on our gas burner, quickly jumped away behind our car. But the man had seen the peanut guy and started to chase him. They came to a standstill, one on either side of our car and I asked Tim if we had locked the car as I expected one or both of them to hop in. Then the peanut boy dashed out, was tousled up by the other guy but wriggled away and was chased through our tents and tea and thankfully off down the road. We then made sure everything stayed locked in the car.
Laugh and eat burgers...
The man running the campsite was really helpful and kind. And that evening he gave us a key to one of the little beach huts so that we could charge our phones safely in there. I was also glad that we could sneak in to use the toilet which saved a trip to the rather public hole in the bar area. There was a communal area with one door saying Wanawake (Women) but in my experience there, the men had no regard for either the sign or the door itself!

By 9pm we were feeling very ready to settle in our tents for the night. Trying to ignore the loud music that had now been going on incessantly for 6 hours, we tried to go sleep. Surely it couldn’t get worse!
Later on, a couple came up to our tent with the campsite guy to wake us up. Arriving late, looking for a place to stay, they needed the key to the beach hut. I crawled out of bed and realised we had given the key to the girls. I went to get it, gave it to them and went back to bed. 

Soon after 11pm, Amisadai threw up. I settled her in my camp bed in the compartment in our tent, and went to join Louisa in their little pup tent. Around midnight with the loud music now blasting out more swear words than I had ever heard, I marched out of the tent to the bar to see what I could do. But I chickened out halfway and crawled back into the tent! Surely it couldn’t get worse!

Around 1am, I was horrified to see the shadow of a man creep up to our pup tent and crouch down to the zip. Heart beating fast, I prayed! The shadow moved away … and then I remembered I had left my sandy crocs outside the door of the tent. I unzipped the tent and realised, yes, my crocs were gone and zipped the tent back up. But then very cross, realised I didn’t want to lose my crocs, so unzipped the tent and marched out barefoot  in my pajamas to find the croc thief. There was a man and I marched over to him and asked if he had seen a man steal my shoes. He looked blankly at me as I continued rambling on in Swahili about thieves and shoes … he told me to wait there. Then he came back with my crocs. He told me there were thieves around and to keep them in the tent. I asked him if he could turn the music off. And went back to bed. It couldn’t get worse.

At around 3am the rumbles of thunder began. Pretty soon, the biggest thunderstorm hit the beach. Great cracks of thunder, bolts of lightning, torrential rains, waves crashing on the sand beside us. Our little tent was bent over and shaking. Drips were coming from the top and puddles were seeping from the bottom. It was really crazy and very noisy. Louisa was reciting over and over “The Lord was not in the storm. The Lord was not in the earthquake. The Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire, a still, small voice.” We zipped up tight in our bags in the middle. There was a brief respite in which we were able to call out to Tim and Amisadai in the other tent. Amisadai was rather glad she had thrown up and got a camp bed! Then it started again! We waited until the end of the rains at 7:30am to crawl out into the grey morning. It couldn’t get worse.

We hung out our bedding and other wet things. Mopped up the tent. Amisadai was feeling a bit better and cooked up bacon and egg and fried tomatoes, baked beans and toast. Everything is better with a good camp breakfast! Louisa, by now highly security-conscious insisted everything be packed into the car and come with us as we went to find a women’s bakery and then some waterfalls. It was hard to convince her not to take the tents with us!

Drying out...

Amisadai gets on with breakfast
After driving about and abandoning the car to proceed on foot, it was good to find the BUWEA women’s bakery and food processing centre. I had been in contact with the woman running it and was very interested to chat to her about the work and training they do there. They were busy processing Soya milk, yogurt and flour. They have a big fuel-efficient stove for baking bread and cakes and provide the neighbouring orphanage with bread. We were given some of the legendary banana muffins they also sell. 
Processing the soya

We went on to find a nearby waterfall for some walking and picnicking. But when we arrived at the trailhead, there was an empty shack next to a large board stating fees to walk there. Not sure we could safely leave the car, I went to investigate. Hearing the falls close by, I started down the trail. Suddenly a guy with a machete was running towards me, shouting! He was there cutting back bushes, but adamant we could not enter the trail without paying $10 each! But there was no one to give the money to. The machete guy said the guard had left for a while. We tried some negotiating, but there was no way. We would have to go and find some office to pay and get tickets in order to come back and walk the few metres to the waterfall. As the rain started coming down, and Amisadai not feeling well, we decided it really wasn’t worth all the effort and cost. We decided to go back to town and find the museum instead. After much driving around and following wild goose instructions in every direction, we gave up and returned to the campsite to eat a rather late lunch. Amisadai slept and we read our books. We lost count of how many peanuts we were asked to buy. Louisa rather stunned one of the guys staring at us as she forcefully burst out in Swahili questioning what he was doing and why he was standing there and told him to walk on!
As the loud music started up again in the afternoon, we decided to go and make the most of clear skies and find a viewpoint we had been told about for the sunset. The directions which sounded easy before we left, didn’t make any sense as we drove around with no hill in sight! We texted our friend at the campsite for further instructions. He sent very detailed instructions, 400m left, 200m straight on, followed by 100m right, directing us to the 72 steps to climb up. But it wasn’t clear where the starting point was! We saw a hill which looked promising and drove towards it and starting looking and asking in vain for steps. We gave up over three times as the sun was getting lower, but each time found reason to hope … and searched on. Finally, we saw a way up the hill! Tim was a bit concerned about leaving the car (which had absolutely everything in it!) but with our camera and binoculars, we climbed quickly up the 72 steps and arrived at a beautiful viewpoint. A quick photo opportunity, but seeing the people crowding around our car far below, Tim decided to go back down while the girls and I enjoyed the view a bit longer. We decided to climb up the rocks to reach the top. 

Poking our heads up as we summited, we realised we were not alone as we saw huddled further in the rocks, a group of guys smoking something. It would have been great to watch the sunset at the top, but the three of us felt it better not to hang around with our fancy camera and binoculars! As they spotted us and started shouting, we turned for a hasty retreat, me thinking it was ironic that Tim was protecting our passports and belongings down below! The girls were far quicker and more agile than me on the steep rocks. With the camera swinging from my neck, I was descending rather more un-elegantly on my rear end, when the girls turned and urged me in a loud hissed whisper to “HURRY, MUM! The guys are running after us!” My first thought was to tell them to wait for me! But then realised it was probably better that they hurry down! I bumped and slid my way down. Finally we reached the 72 steps. I saw Tim in the distance below and waved quite demonstratively, more to show the guys behind me that we had back-up below! About twenty people staring up waved back, and I realised we would actually be fine. But still it took a while for my adrenalin to stop pumping after we reached the car! So much for the peaceful sunset spot with the panoramic view.
On the way up! 
That evening, in stitches and tears laughing at how much had gone wrong, we decided maybe this was enough for a holiday… and we would cut our losses and return home early. We made the most of our last evening, cooking over a campfire with hot chocolate. As the music blared and we crawled into our tents the second night, I checked the forecast on my phone. 90% chance of thunderstorms after 4am. I prayed it wouldn’t be! At 6am, we woke to the sound of distant thunder rumbling across the lake. No! We would NOT be caught in this. I jumped out of bed, quickly folded up the bed and shoved the sheets into a bag. Running to the girls tent, as spots of rain started to fall, I told them to get up and out FAST and get the tent down before the storm arrived! We ran about in the dark, throwing everything in the car, the tents dropping to the ground as we pulled pegs and poles. 

Quick work!
A red light burned the rumbling dark sky as we finished and with spots collecting on the windshield, we were off before the sun was up.  By 1pm, we were back at the Busisi Ferry and the girls and I boarded … still in my pajamas! We pulled away from the shore, waving futilely at Tim who didn’t make it on with the car! We waited on the other side for him to join us on the next ferry. 

We picked up pizza in Mwanza and enjoyed it in the comfort of our home at 4pm. Holiday over! Not exactly relaxing but truly unforgettable and pretty hilarious now that it's over!

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Forgiveness, Peacemaking and Reconciliation

Two weeks ago, Amisadai and I (Tim) travelled on the 16 hour bus journey through the night to Nairobi. Amisadai took the empty first class seat in front of our seats and settled in for the trip, only woken up twice by officials wanting to check our passports. We arrived at our accommodation at Pan Africa Christian University at around 7:30am and went straight to bed for a couple of hours!

Once up and showered we strolled off to Artcaffe for our first good Kenyan coffee as we began our father-and-daughter time. What better way to start it!

Our main reason for going to Nairobi was to attend the Africa Society of Evangelical Theology conference on 'Forgiveness, Peacemaking and Reconciliation.' This is a much needed conference for war and trouble-torn Africa and also particularly for the African church. Today, 7 April, as I write this blog, Rwanda is remembering 25 years since the genocide, where sadly at that time the church generally failed to stand up against the atrocities although there were some notable exceptions. The conference covered many topics from A Christian response to Religious Terrorism in Northern Nigeria, Pastoral Care and Counselling for Victims of Violence against Women, The Role of the Church in Reducing Civil Wars in Africa, to Jesus the Peacemaker.

In Tanzania, proud to be a peace-loving country, we have our own issues, not least with the way people with albinism are exploited and attacked. I was able to present a paper on 'The Role of the Church in bringing Peace and Reconciliation with People with Albinism.' Our prayer is that the church will be spurred on to take its role seriously in seeing these people finding new life, protection and hope in the family of God.

We enjoyed a number of the other sessions. Unfortunately, there were too many parallel sessions so we had difficult choices. I particularly appreciated one on what the church can do among refugees, the presenter himself a refugee. He has spent all but the first 2 years of his life outside his country, DR Congo. And yet we could see a man full of life and energy and seeking to convey that refugees are often people of hope, which can be fulfilled if the barriers and obstacles can be cleared so they can access the opportunities in their new country.

Different approaches among refugees
It was great to see Nyambura Kamau, a friend from many years ago when we both studied at Regent College, Vancouver. Nyambura was organising the conference, but found time one evening to have a meal with us. Where have those 20 years gone? It was also good to catch up with friends at Deliverance Church Umoja on the Sunday and talk about the role of the Church in community transformation with Pastor Oscar on the Monday.

With Nyambura
Amisadai, who was the youngest delegate at the conference by far, found it all very stimulating, and went off to sessions on her own, whether biblical papers, or papers dealing with social issues concerning women or those unpacking the honour and shamed-based nature of African cultures. And of course she found the bookstore and picked up the book, 'From Genocide to Generosity,' which looks through the eyes of young people at how the nation of Rwanda can be healed.

Amisadai's purchase
So we are back and inspired. It is the gospel of Christ, in which God shattered the wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile and indeed between rival tribes and peoples, that is Africa's hope for a new beginning. And may this gospel go deep in this continent so that Africa's potential can be realised.