Barclay Viewforth Church congregation on Blackford Hill

Tanzania Tales 1 – “Who is my neighbour?”

Tanzania Tales July 2016

“Who is my neighbour?” 

A good question, and one we were able to answer this weekend…more of that soon.

On 7 July 2016, 24 volunteers from all the ‘airts and pairts’ of Scotland, including the Barclay Viewforth ‘regulars’ (and some local shopkeepers) left the not so balmy weather of home, for the slightly warmer climes of the Moshi region of Kilimanjaro. These Vine Trust volunteers had an agenda – to change the world brick by brick.

With the exception of 8 missing suitcases, the journey went very smoothly and we were  warmly welcomed by Vine Trust Tanzania staff worker, Ben, and our friend, Gilly (who has shared stories with us at BVC previously).

Friday saw a morning of in country orientation and team building. This was followed by a visit to the new home of TAWREF (Tanzania Women’s Research Foundation) where we were welcomed by enthusiastic singing and dancing (something everyone should experience at least once in life!) Old friendships were rekindled and new ones made as we heard stories of the continuing work of this NGO as it reaches out to the lost, the last and the least. TAWREF had already identified the 4 families we were to build homes for and they were delighted to give us snapshots into their lives.

Saturday saw the team divide into 3 teams and head out to different areas to start work on the new homes. Dicksen (and not Nicksen, as previously mentioned in BVC Link magazines); Jovin and Mr Patrick and Priscus will be the recipients  of these homes. The teams carried out similar work on each site:- digging foundations, moving rocks and bricks and passing buckets of cement.

During the day the friendliness of the neighbours was in evidence – by the offer of the use of a toilet (a welcome relief!), and by the production of bowls of hot corn on the cob for the team at lunchtime. It was so humbling to find people who don’t have very much, offering and sharing what they had with us.

That evening’s team devotions were on the theme of, “Who is my neighbour?”, looking at the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). We live in a world where our neighbour can be thousands of miles away, but also on our doorstep. The team were asked to share examples of where they had either been a good neighbour, or been on the receiving end of the blessing of good neighbours. The theme was also tied in with the work we are doing in Tanzania where, it seems, some people do walk by on the other side, rather than offer help. We had been called to imitate Christ in loving our neighbours in this far-off land and our hope is that we can rise to the challenge. Little did we realise that the all too real challenge of being a good samaritan was going to present itself in an immediate way the very next day…

Sunday meant an early start for all those who wanted to head to the early morning English-speaking service at KCMC. Most of the team wanted to experience the real joy of worship in a Tanzanian Church. The words of one worship song struck me:

“I love the way you handle every situation,

I love the way you fight for me.”

It’s great to be reminded that our loving and faithful God is in control and is fighting for us. After church all the new team members headed out to the Kilimanjaro Marangu Gate (where most walkers will start their climb of Africa’s tallest free standing mountain). Gilly went along with the team and was able to share some of his expertise on the ecology and preservation of the mountain. A cultural visit to the Chagga ‘museum’ followed.

However, it was on the journey back to the hostel that the story of the Good Samaritan took on a whole new meaning for the team as they witnessed an accident, which left a young girl seriously injured. The team, when they returned, expressed their shock and horror as may cars and minibuses slowed down to ‘rubber-neck’ but then kept on going. Other people standing close by did nothing to help either. The Vine Trust bus was stopped and several people swung into action. Ben, a retired GP and a couple of others rushed out to see what they could do. The car driver seemed to be stunned, but the girl (who was about 17) was found several metres from the road in the bushes. Attempts were made to stop the bleeding from a bad shoulder injury, as someone asked for an ambulance to be called. There was a stunned silence as Ben informed them that there wouldn’t be an ambulance. (God bless our NHS!)

It took 45 minutes for the police to arrive to take statements from locals and our bus driver, but they didn’t help the injured girl. In the end a passing driver, on his way to church, offered the use of his car. The girl was carried on shawls used a a makeshift stretcher and Ben and the GP accompanied her to hospital and stayed with her until they could do no more. She was in so much shock that she wasn’t able to give her name. The rest of the team, some bloodied and shocked, travelled back to the hostel to await news of the patient.

It seems that road traffic accidents are a normal occurrence on the rough and ready Tanzanian roads but that people don’t want to stop and help an injured person for fear of being accused of being involved in the accident. The Vine Trust volunteers had no such thought and only wanted to help and bring relief to a desperate situation. They really did prove that they were Good Neighbours today.

  • Please pray for the injured girl, that there would be no internal injuries, so that surgery could take place tomorrow. Remember also the doctors, nurses and other staff who will look after her.
  • Give thanks that team members were in the right place to able to help.
  • Pray for those who were closely involved, that they would rest this night, knowing that they had done what they could.
  • Pray for the safety of the team as we travel throughout the rest of the trip.

Praying that we can all find the Good Samaritan in us so that we can reach out in Christ’s love to others in need.

Mungu awabariki.

Elaine