Tanzania Blog 3
It’s been a few days since writing – pole sana (very sorry). The days are full and the heat is exhausting so that by the time the evenings come, words are limited to a few words on Facebook. I’ll now try to bring you up to date…
Last August, after returning from my last trip to Tanzania, I gave a talk at the Evening Gathering (at BVC) on ‘True Fasting’ based on Isaiah 58:1-12. The bible reading helps to show more clearly why we do the work we do.
V7: “Is it not to share your food with the hungry, and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not turn away from your own flesh and blood?
The pastor and author Ray Stedman says of this passage: “the ultimate test of faith has always been: “Does it lead you to serve, to help somebody in need? Do you feel motivated to act? If you do, your faith is real. Otherwise, as James says, it is a “dead faith.” The acid test is not, “What does my religion do for me?” but, “What does it make me do for others?”
In sharing these blog posts with you I hope that you can see some of the reasons we do what we do. We feel called by God to serve in this way, and even if you can’t join us on a trip, we hope that what you hear from us will help you to help others in some way.
Thursday – Mama Agnes
On Thursday our day started with a visit to the offices of TAWREF (the Tanzanian Women’s Research Foundation) our partners in the building of the small homes. We always receive a warm welcome when we go there, with singing and dancing led by Executive Director Dafrosa Itemba (who visited and spoke at BVC in September). Handshakes and hugs were also exchanged while this was going on. We then shared their daily readings and sang some worship songs together before moving through for a briefing and overview of the work carried out by TAWREF. After signing the visitor’s book (you have to sign a lot of those here) we moved along the road to the TAWREF charity shop where gifts were purchased to take home – it was great to know that the proceeds from the sales are used to help those in need.
Unfortunately we couldn’t avoid work any longer so we headed out into the field…or rather, desert, to the location of the 2nd home we are building this trip. This home, near Njia Panda (for those who know the area) will be for Mama Agnes, a widow, and her 4 children, Hamisha (9), Claude (6), Angela (4) and Innocent (3). Some people may be wondering what happened to Isaac (our fundraising was centred on Raising a Roof for Isaac). Unfortunately, one week before our trip, Isaac’s father died. This meant that he has been sent to Dar es Salaam for a few months. His situation will be reviewed when he returns in June. In the meantime another family were found who were in great need.
When we arrived on site on Thursday morning (about 45minutes drive from Moshi) there was nothing left of the one room house the family had occupied. It had finally succumbed to rain, heat, etc. Mama Agnes and the children are living in temporary accommodation until their new home is finished. The fundis were already there ahead of us and had used string and sticks to mark out the foundations. We knew our first task for the day. After applying liberal doses of sun cream we ‘picked’ up our tools and started digging. We were also joined by a couple of village elders who had come along to thank us for the work we were doing. The team worked well together, and, with the help of the fundis, it wasn’t long until the foundations were dug. By the time this happened we had a growing audience of children sitting watching us. Some of the team used water breaks to produce balloons and bubbles to keep them entertained, although watching a bunch of sweaty, tired, unskilled (in this task) white people attempt to dig some holes was surely entertainment enough!.
Our next job was to identify and move the large rocks from the 2 rock piles and move these into the foundations, shortly followed by the smaller rocks. Even this was not without hazards (steel toe capped boots are great) as the cry went up to look out for scorpions! Fortunately we were all wearing boots and gloves. After the rocks were in place half the team headed out with buckets to the well for water while the other half moved the soil back into the foundations. The rocks were then soaked with water and more soil and water added. This would all dry out to make a firm foundation. The water which came out the the well was very muddy – but this will be used for many purposes by the local people….please think carefully the next time you leave a tap running. Most people will pay a few shillings for clean tap water for cooking/drinking but there are some who cannot afford even that. We have so much to be thankful for.
Our work was done for today as we have to allow time for the drying out process so we headed into our, very welcome, air conditioned cars and headed home to shower and change for a new experience…swahili choir practice. As a number of us have been here a few times we were asked if there was something different we would like to do. Living at the Umoja Hostel, we often hear the choirs and others practising at different times of the day/week. So, some of us went to participate while others wen t to watch and listen. It was an amazing experience. Once we had sorted ourselves out with the locals into sopranos, altos, tenors, and bases the choir master dictated the words of the song were were going to learn. At the end of 40 mins we were singing an amazing worship song in 4 parts in swahili. We were even invited to join with the choir for the service at the cathedral on Sunday.
And so to Friday – an early start so that we could get as much work done before the sun got too hot. Mama Agnes and 3 of her children were at the site soon after we got there. Some of the other local children were also keen to get in on the action later in the day, so soon our workforce had almost doubled as water was fetched, first bricks laid and the remaining few hundred bricks moved closer to the site. The heat was sapping our energy, but we knew that this was important work which required to be done. A new home was going to make such a difference to Mama Agnes and her 4 children. We had been told that there were many people living in impoverished conditions in the community but this family had suffered more than many. When there is money to pay for the 2 older children to go to school, Mama Agnes than has to take the 2 youngest with her while she looks for some farm labouring work to pay for some food. Fortunately this is a good time of year for this type of work as many people have been planting maize, over the last few weeks, and in recent days we’ve watched many people in the fields sowing beans in between the lines of maize. We hope and pray that Mama Agnes will be able to find work in these days.
It was also great to be able to share our packed lunches with all the children who had gathered to watch and help…not quite the feeding of the five thousand, but I hope that Jesus will have approved.
It’s not all work and no play on a work party (even though the work often feels like play). Evening activities have ranged from swahili choir, swahili lessons, meals out, visits, dancing, etc.
Friday late afternoon we visited Shirikisha, a vocational training centre for deaf people, where we were able to see the beautiful gardens (and tortoise) and buy some gifts made by the people training there. Our visit there was followed by dinner and ‘dancing’ at the Kilimanjaro Coffee Lounge…traditional dancing that is, at which we were all encouraged to participate (there is photographic evidence….somewhere!!) The group giving the performance were from a local village co-operative, one which TAWREF uses to promote health education, etc through their drumming and dancing.
Saturday morning saw our team split as some of the new folks were heading off for their first ever safari adventure for a couple of nights. The rest of us carried on grafting, at a somewhat more relaxed pace of course. In the end rain stopped play on our building work after a morning with Shukuru. When it rains in Tanzania, it really does rain. After a morning of brick and sand moving we eventually had to take cover as thunder clouds boomed their voices across the mountain and the rain dropped incessantly from the sky. As we ate our lunch (again shared with an assortment of children) we improvised paper aeroplanes using the cardboard lids for the lunch containers, much to the amusement of the children. It didn’t look as though the weather was going to ease up so we headed to Moshi, initially down muddy roads which were not shaped the same way as the journey up.
Sunday was a rest day for the team not on safari, with a visit to Kimashuku for church (in swahili, with translation provided for us by the children form the local Rafiki School) and then we were taken out of town to the Protea Hotel for a very nice lunch, and optional swim. By the time we had had our lunch the rain had started again, but that did not deter Robin, Chris and Mhairi enjoying a swim in the rain (while the rest of us took cover!) After the swim time to relax with books/kindles/hot chocolates/etc. I can’t remember the last time I had such a peaceful & relaxing Sunday.
join the fight against injustice
We have to be prepared to act on behalf of the poor and vulnerable, to fight against injustice and stand up for the oppressed. There are many people in this world who suffer as a result of poverty or injustice (the 2 often go hand in hand) and there are many ways to get involved in helping them. Our work with the Vine Trust and local partners in Tanzania is just one such way. Thank you for continuing on this journey with us and we ask you to hold Shukuru & Mama Fortunata and Mama Agnes, Hamisha, Claude, Angela & Innocent in your prayers in the coming days.