17 December 2013

Melting in Morogoro!

I’m sitting on the sofa in our house writing this month’s update – the inside temperature is 32 degrees C (even with ceiling fans on!) - the outside temperature is several degrees higher.   Last winter in the UK, Steve frequently urged me to, “Enjoy the cold weather – you’ll be longing for it in Tanzania,” and he was right!  Welcome to Morogoro!

Last month our blog ended with the words, “…move into our house and finally unpack those suitcases!”  Well, we are pleased to report that we’ve been in our house for a week or so and the suitcases are, with one exception, unpacked.  It took us several days to get ourselves sorted out but we are starting to feel as if this is home, for the time being at least.  I’ve even managed to put up our Christmas tree (thanks to a friend at Corsham Baptist!), although it’s hard to feel “Christmassy” in this heat! 

Let me give you a flavour of where we live.  Our house is situated on the outskirts of Morogoro.  From the main road, a long driveway leads to a small cul-de-sac with 6 houses.  We have a large gate which we keep padlocked, bars on every window, and a night guard on the gate at the main road – all necessary security precautions.  Hmm - do we feel more secure or more vulnerable...?  It’s a 3 bedroomed house – ideal as we’ll be working from home initially and can each have an office (experience shows that we work differently and need our own space!).  We also have room for visitors to stay!  Thankfully the house came furnished so we don’t have to find our own furniture for the time being.

New species?  A double decker
millipede trundles across our porch
We are slowly getting into the routine of living here.  We’ve already had three power cuts (one of 10 hours) and an influx of cockroaches (holes quickly blocked up with wire wool!).  The water from the taps is pretty murky so it needs to be boiled first, cooled, and then put through the water filter before we can use it for drinking and cooking.  The first thing we do every day is to open all the windows to let in as much of a breeze as possible – and with it the aromas and noises from the small farm next door – somewhat reminiscent of growing up in a small rural town!
We’ve already discovered that various household items can’t be found in Morogoro for love nor money – coat hangers (hence the unpacked suitcase), dusters and plugs for example – a lesson that the basics we take for granted in the UK are not considered so vital here.  We will have to wait until we next go to Dar es Salaam to buy these things.  

Morogoro market - not for the
This week Cath Swanson took us to the local market, which can be a daunting experience for the uninitiated.  It’s best to go early to avoid the crowds and the harassment of boys wanting to carry your groceries, for a fee.  There are many stalls selling fruit, veg, spices, nuts, pots and pans, furniture etc – we saw three stalls selling just plastic bags!  Having purchased our supplies we don’t just unload them into the refrigerator – fresh produce needs to be soaked in a weak bleach solution for half an hour to kill the bugs and bacteria, and then washed in filtered water.  Woe betide the stomachs of those who don’t follow this practice!

In common with the majority of ex-pats, and many Tanzanians, here, we have a house helper.  Her name is Asha and she comes in three mornings a week to clean, bleach vegetables, prepare water and do laundry.  She speaks a very little English so I am practising my Kiswahili listening and speaking skills!  It feels strange to have someone work for us but actually it is expected here and of course it provides someone with employment.

The team from Corsham Baptist entertaining the
crowd on Family Night
Earlier this month we attended AIM’s Eastern Region conference, held at Kijabe, 90 minutes from Nairobi.  What a beautiful setting it is, and so cool in its high altitude location!  For a new girl on the block, it was overwhelming to be amongst 500 missionaries from Kenya and Tanzania, but good to hear of all the work going on in different parts of East Africa.  Our pastor from Corsham Baptist, Eddie Larkman, was the conference speaker.  We were doubly blessed under his ministry – it was wonderful to hear him preach again and we, and everyone we spoke to, thought that he spoke with exceptional authority and power.  It was good to spend time with him and Kathy, his wife, and to have a team of 14 from our church who were running the children’s/youth ministry.  For some of the team it was their first foray into Africa and a real eye-opener.  Sensory overload!  One of the first sights they saw was on the journey from the airport to AIM’s guesthouse – the victim of a road traffic accident lying where he fell, uncovered for all to see - all rather shocking. 

Ruth has a close encounter of a "furred" kind!
The team worked its socks off during the conference - it was great to see them buzzing off it all.  We also gave them a small taste of Nairobi by taking them to visit a giraffe park and animal orphanage – getting up close and personal with the giraffes was a real highlight! 

Now Christmas is looming.  We are taking the opportunity to go away for a few days.  It will certainly be a different kind of Christmas for us – in the heat of Zanzibar!

We wish you all the blessings of the season and thank you for your love and prayers, and the gifts and cards that you have sent.

Prayer Points:

- Praise God for a good transition so far into life in Morogoro and pray that we will continue to settle well.
- Pray that we will be able to adjust to the heat and humidity.
- Pray for ongoing language learning and opportunities to use it.

Diary Dates:

23rd-27th Dec          Christmas break
3rd-10th Jan             Possible homestay with Tanzanian family
11th Jan                   Fly to Nairobi
13th Jan                   Ruth – hospital tests and check-up, Nairobi Hospital
14th Jan-4th Feb     Africa Based Orientation, Machakos, Kenya
6th Feb                    Return to Morogoro

Random photo of the month:

A petrol station in Dar nails its colours firmly to the pump:
"Jesus - name above all names." Can't see this
happening in the UK!

22 November 2013

“Much study wearies the body”! (Ecclesiastes 12:12)

Preparing our Tanzanian
Well, we’ve just about made it!  The time for evaluation approaches as we draw near to the end of our three month language course here in Iringa.  But how does one evaluate or quantify how ‘successful’ one has been on a three month language course?  Simples!  Can we speak Swahili?!  And the answer to that would be ‘yes’ - to varying degrees!  Bearing in mind we couldn’t speak much Swahili before we came we’re now able to translate simple stories and engage in short conversations.  The other day I went to a duka (small shed-type shop!) to buy a few mobile phone vouchers and was able to carry out the whole conversation in Swahili.  Mind you, on the same day I also thanked our cook for the frog he had cooked!

There have been some up’s and down’s.  In fact, the last month has been the hardest and I can verify Solomon’s statement that ‘much study wearies the body’!  But there have also been some victories along the way and we’ve definitely made progress.  Ruth has excelled and thrived in this pool of learning and is certainly swimming towards the deep end faster than I am.  I’m definitely a slower swimmer and still progressing out of the shallows!  Once or twice I’ve gone under and come up coughing and spluttering, but am now beginning to tread water - with the help of some arm-bands!  We’re both aware that this is simply the start and that learning a language is an on-going process but we’ve now got a good foundation in place and we’re looking forward (tentatively!) to mixing it up out there on the scary streets of Swahili-ville!   
Steve finally cracks with the chortling security guard!
When learning a language, be prepared to get laughed at! There is a security guard here at Rivervalley who greets me in Swahili and I think that my response is sufficiently understandable, but at the end of our short conversation he often wanders off chuckling loudly to himself. I’ve even measured the length of time he takes to stop chortling – and it’s a good eight seconds of chuckle time! Mind you, it’s a two-way thing because we often chuckle (politely!) with our language teachers at some of their English word usage! E.g. on seeing a couple of teachers deep in conversation, I asked my teacher what she thought they were talking about. Her reply was: “I don’t know what they’re disgusting”!  So, when learning another language don’t get precious about being laughed at, just join in!

Remember learning language is ministry!  There’s a temptation to consider learning a language simply as preparation for our future ministry, and there is of course some truth in that.  But in coming here we were encouraged to think of language learning as ministry – and I hope that has been the case.  There are seven teachers at Rivervalley and half of them are nominal Muslims and the others are nominal Christians.  As we learn, and as they teach, a relationship is built and lives are shared.  I find it fascinating that the Muslim teachers here seem to have no problem in preparing their missionary students in how to reach out to Tanzanians with the gospel!  And last Sunday, having been invited to preach at a church in Iringa, I invited my Swahili teacher to come along and was pleasantly surprised to see her sitting there on the back row.  She’s a nominal Christian who tends to mix her Christianity with some ancestral beliefs but during our class time she’s been asking some questions, so I hope that I’ve shared Christ with her as I’ve learnt Swahili. Language learning is ministry!   

Words & phrases that sum-up our stay here at Rivervalley: challenging, inspiring, frustrating, beautiful scenery, decent birding, early morning quiet times on the mountain, lots of Swahili, the hardest thing I’ve done for years, clear night skies, insects a-plenty, those pesky falling sausages, fires and more fires, friendships, blood tests & antibiotics, quiet walks with Polly the campsite dog, lots more Swahili, quiz night fun, too much food, and watching live premiership football in the bush! 

Eastern Region AIM Conference: You’ll see from the diary below that we’re heading to Kenya towards the end of the month for AIM’s Eastern Region conference which is taking place at Rift Valley Academy in Kijabe.  As newly-arrived bods it will be a great opportunity for us to meet up with many other AIM folk who are working here in Tanzania and Kenya.  Ruth and I are especially looking forward to this event because the Bible teacher this year is none other than our own pastor from Corsham – Eddie Larkman!  And not only that, but he’s bringing a team of fourteen from the church who will be helping out in various ways during the conference.  We marvel at the way that God brings things together and are very thankful for this opportunity to spend time with these friends. 

Prayer Points: We’ve certainly been aware of folks praying for us as we’ve been here learning Swahili, so thank you muchly.  We expected it to be hard and it has been, but we’ve enjoyed our time here (on the whole!) and its gone well.  We’d value your prayer as we turn the page and head into the next phase of life here in East Africa; for the items listed below in our diary.  As you’ll see we have a lot of travelling to do – please pray for safety in the air and on the road; for Ruth’s check-up on 29th; that we’d learn a huge amount at the AIM conference; that we would settle down well into our house in Morogoro and begin to get a feel for our future ministries.  Thank you so very much.   

Diary Dates:

22nd Nov:      Finish our three month study period
25th Nov:       Leave Iringa and travel to Morogoro
27th Nov:       Travel from Morogoro to Dar es Salaam
28th Nov:       Flight from Dar to Nairobi
29th Nov:       Ruth has a Dr’s appointment for a check-up on her DVT
1st-5th Dec:   AIM Eastern Region Conference at Kijabe, Kenya
7th Dec:         Flight back to Dar
10th Dec:       Move into our Morogoro house and finally unpack those suitcases!

Random photo of the month! At a trade fair,
one stand offered a giant locust, a kangaroo
and Mary for sale!


16 October 2013

Stuttering in Swahili - snakes that slither - sausages that fall & creepies that crawl!

“The experience of the author confirms that Swahili is an easy language; that its use is widespread, and that there is probably no easier language to learn.”  Thus began the preface to a Swahili dictionary that I bought recently.  The author (Mr Safari!) might as well have written: “Learning this language is a complete doddle and you should have no trouble getting to grips with it”!  Well, it has to be said that this guy has not become my best friend and those words have stuck in my throat on more than one occasion!  Yes, compared to learning Mandarin, Mongolian or Hebrew, Swahili is probably one of the easier languages to learn but there have been days when it certainly doesn’t feel as easy as this guy suggests; days when the brain fog has descended, when nothing seems to sink in, and I’m unable to utter even the most basic of greetings! 

A few weeks ago we were sent out by our language teachers, in two’s and three’s, into the highways and byways of Iringa town.  Our task was to engage in meaningful conversation with the market-stall holders and to buy some produce using our newly-acquired Swahili.  Well, unlike the disciples who were sent out by Jesus to preach the gospel and duly returned full of joy at the ‘success’ of their ministry, we were unable to return to our teachers with the words ‘mission accomplished’!  For one thing I came back with a bag of lemons when I thought I’d asked for oranges and there were moments where I simply stood there, mouth wide open, scraping the recesses of my mind for the right words to come forth.  Alas, the smiling fruit-seller is still waiting! Oh the joys of learning language!  As a friend wrote recently in an email: “The men who built the Tower of Babel have a lot to answer for”!

The word ‘Swahili’ is actually derived from the Arabic word ‘sawahel’ which means ‘coast’, so it came into being as the language of the coastal people of East Africa.  It’s essentially an African language but has borrowed quite a few words from the Arabic language – in fact any verb ending in the letters E, I, or U has an Arabic origin.  Most of the words tend to roll off the tongue once you’ve learnt them because you say them as you see them.  Here are some of my favourites: parachichi (avocado), pilipilihoho (peppers), tikitimaji (water melon), magoti (knees), nyanya (tomato or grandma – take your pick!) and kizunguzungu, which of course means ‘dizzy’!  As part of my coursework I’ve had to write out hundreds of practice sentences in my notebook – many of them akin to ‘the cat sat on the mat’!  Here are a couple which I know will come in handy once I begin to preach in Swahili: “Kidevu changu ni kikubwa” (my chin is big) and “Huyu ni kiboko wetu kivivu” (this is our lazy hippo)!
If we’re honest, despite the frustrations that all language learners experience, Ruth and I are, on the whole, enjoying our learning stay in the Tanzanian bush!  And although we won’t be anywhere near fluent when we finish the course in six weeks’ time, our time here is certainly providing a good foundation for the on-going process of learning Swahili.  Whilst there are days of frustration there are many more days when we feel as though we’re making progress.  Slowly but surely we’re beginning to grasp the language that Mr Safari tells me is the easiest one to learn!  We’re certainly thankful for this opportunity of spending quality time learning Swahili before we dive head-first into the business of life and ministry in Morogoro.

Beware of falling sausages! Away from the classroom the past few weeks have provided a number of naturalistic distractions which can occur when you live in rural Africa!  One particular danger that lurks in the grounds of our campsite is the fabulously named ‘Sausage Tree’, and I was only yards away from a severe headache just the other day!  Woe betide anyone who happens to be walking under one of these trees when their ‘fruits’ decide to fall!  I am sure this tree would be on the ‘banned’ list in the UK, or at least fenced-off as a potential hazard to life.  I can imagine the health & safety bods issuing hard-hats to all who dared to pass under the canopy of this arboreal missile!  Wikipedia describes the fruit of the Sausage Tree as a ‘woody berry’ but don’t be deceived by the word ‘berry’ which normally implies softness!  They hang down on long rope-like stalks and measure between 30-100cms in length, up to 18cms wide, and weigh between 5-10kgs!

The fruit, which is fibrous and pulpy, is packed full of seeds which are eaten by baboons, elephants, giraffes and hippos as well as a number of parrot species.  In terms of human usage, these lethal ‘berries’ are said to be a cure for rheumatism, snakebites and evil spirits!!  However, make sure you roast them first because, if eaten fresh, they are poisonous and strongly purgative!  Wikipedia signs off with this helpful advice: “Planting sites should be carefully selected, as the falling fruit can cause serious injury to people, and damage vehicles parked under the trees”!  The Arabic name for this tree is just as descriptive, for it means the “father of kit bags”!

Feeling the heat! We had a bush fire that spread across the hillside behind our banda a few weeks ago.  There hasn’t been any rain here since June and they’re not expecting any until mid-November and so the grass is tinder-dry and tends to get quite excited when a few sparks are let lose!  The night guards and a number of the villagers were summoned to fight the blaze, and out they trooped, fanning out across the hillside, armed with the latest fire-fighting equipment – a few snapped-off tree branches!  ‘Ablazingly’ their efforts paid off and the fire was subdued within an hour.  It was certainly a dramatic evening, with our banda-neighbours hurriedly packing their suitcases in case of evacuation, whilst I ran up and down the road taking photos!  I was then ‘ordered’ by the camp manager to go and guard the main gate on the premise that the fire might have been started to draw-out our trusty guards.  I wasn’t quite sure what I was meant to do with the four-foot rifle that was thrust into my hands!  It turned out the fire had been started by a few shepherd boys who were keen to encourage some new growth to sprout forth for their cattle – but alas, things had got slightly out of hand!

Cover up them toes!  We’ve also endured a bout of bed-bugs which certainly left their mark, but by far the more invasive of pests that we’ve had to deal with is the humble Chigoe Flee, otherwise known as the Jigger – or should that be, the digger!  It’s a very small flee at only 1mm in length and normally lives in sand and soil, unless it can find someone to attach itself to! Unlike most flees
which have their free meal and then drop off, the female Chigoe attaches itself to a victim’s feet and then burrows its way into the skin, remaining there for two weeks whilst its tiny eggs develop!  The 5-10 mm blister that it live in gradually becomes harder although the thoughtful critter somehow anesthetises the area it lives in, making it somewhat easier to dig out with a safety pin and some scissors!  Our toes will never be the same again!

We also returned one night from the dining room to find that our veranda and doorway had been invaded by army ants.  There must have been thousands of them, and once they have a route in mind, they don’t like to be detoured!  Considering their size, it’s amazing how much their little munchers can be felt once they make it past sock-level!  Once again the guards came to our rescue although at first we began to question this because they proceeded to set fire to
the banda surrounds!  And then to round it all off, a few days later, an 8ft python was found about 100 yards from our banda.  I had been busy preparing for a guys’ prayer meeting and was alerted by shouts of “nyoka kubwa sana”, which literally translates as ‘snake big very’!  One of our colleagues had been alerted to the python’s presence through the warning cries of some lofty bush-babies, and so out plodded the guards again, although this time in a more guarded manner!  Although most pythons don’t have a poisonous bite (they kill small mammals through asphyxiation) and don’t really present a threat to adults (unless trodden on!) you’ll find that in African village life, a snake is a snake and therefore needs to be dealt with.  Deal with it they did and the re-coiling serpent eventually succumbed to a number of hefty blows to the noggin!  I have to admit to coming away from this ‘stoning’ feeling surprisingly sorry for this particular snake, although am well aware that quite a few people in rural Africa die as a result of snake bites.

Well, if you’ve got this far, well done!  We hope we’ve given you a small glimpse of what it’s like to begin learning a language, as well as a flavour of what it can be like to live in rural Africa.  To those who pray, thank you again for your on-going prayers and support.  There have been days when I’ve been aware of people praying because I’ve often felt a surprising ‘uplift’ during lessons that I had previously dreaded!  Ruth continues to do well in both learning the language and in regard to her health situation.  She is still on daily meds and continues to obey doctor’s orders to wear her compression stocking, despite the heat!  And apart from the occasional ‘you-know-whats’ we’ve enjoyed very good health!  Our prayer requests this month again revolve around learning this language – that we would be enabled and strengthened to do the best we can and to make the most of this opportunity; that we’d grasp the Swahili nettle with both hands, and in the process be effective witnesses to our teachers.  We leave here on 23rd Nov before heading up to Kenya on 28th Nov for AIM’s Eastern Region conference, but we hope to provide you with an update just in about five weeks’ time, just before this particular chapter closes.

Thanks for reading; thanks for your prayers, and thanks for your friendship.

11 September 2013

Learning the Lingo!

If you’ve been reading our updates you’ll be familiar with the change of plan that Steve and I experienced when we arrived in Tanzania 2 months ago today.  After a month in Kenya we are now back in Tanzania and getting stuck into language learning. More about that later….

During my episode of ill health and on-going recovery we’ve received many messages from friends and family, full of encouraging words.  Many have referred to this change of plan and God’s purpose behind it all.  I’ve recently been reflecting on one ‘silver lining’ that has become apparent to me since our return to Tanzania.
But first, let me take you back to autumn 2010.  It was then that Steve spent 3 weeks in Tanzania, in the line of duty, visiting missionaries from his ‘patch’ in the UK.  I travelled out to join him at the end of that time for some holiday.  We stayed for a few days with Tony & Cath Swanson in Morogoro.  Tanzania, and Morogoro, was completely new to me, unfamiliar and somewhat intimidating.  I remember saying to myself whilst walking down the main street in town, ‘I could never live here!’
Jump forward to today - here we are living in Morogoro!  But we’ve recently spent almost a month in Nairobi – a busy, bustling city with chaotic traffic, rubbish-strewn streets and asthma-inducing pollution.  By comparison Morogoro seems to be a pleasant place to live, the streets are clean-ish and the traffic is almost tame!  On our return to Tanzania my immediate impression was that Morogoro is not a bad place to live!  Praise God for silver linings!
With regard to the DVT, I’m feeling fine, taking daily medication and having to wear a very unglamorous compression stocking for the next few months!  I’ll have another check up with the doctor in Nairobi in December. 

Our banda among the trees (the one on the left)
Sasa tunajifunza Kiswahili (now we are learning Swahili)For the next couple of months our home is River Valley campsite, Iringa, whilst we undertake our initial language studies.  We’re now in week 3 – and our brains are feeling somewhat battered!  Various people have commented to us that Swahili is one of the easier languages to learn, it being phonetic and fairly logical in grammar.  But last week’s lesson on telling the time was a shock when we learned that time in Tanzania is based on the biblical system and everything is 6 hours out!  When it’s 11am the Tanzanians say that it’s 5am!  What’s logical about that!  So in addition to learning the actual words for saying the time, we have to do mental arithmetic to make sure we’re saying the right numbers!  Argh!
Iringa is a town of about 100,000 people, 4 hours’ drive west of Morogoro.  The town was built during the 1890s by the German army and its name means ‘fort’.  It’s up at around 5000ft and is noticeably cooler than Morogoro.  On the plus side, there are very few mosquitos here!  River Valley campsite is 6 miles from Iringa in a very rural setting.  All around us is bush and the odd hamlet.  It’s an ideal stopping place for tourists who are travelling between national parks.  It’s owned by a Liverpudlian woman who has lived in Tanzania for 10 years – and each day’s menu has a somewhat British flavour, to the bemusement of the American students here! 
The language school based at the campsite has a very good reputation and is used by many mission organisations.  At the moment our fellow students represent New Tribes Mission, SIL, Soma Bibilia and a German medical mission.  There are about 14 of us here, plus kids.  Because we’re all at different levels we study in small groups in various banda classrooms dotted about the site.  It’s not unusual to see guineafowl wander past, lizards run up the walls and firefinches flit about as we study.  In fact, some of our fellow students take binoculars into their lessons! 

You might be wondering why we’re in Iringa and not studying in Morogoro.  Well, we decided that it would be good for us to come away so that we can concentrate on language fully, rather than be distracted by setting up home and being drawn into work.  We are certainly reaping the benefits so far as we can spend around 7 hours studying each day.  Lessons run from 8.30am-1.30pm Monday-Friday and the afternoons and weekends are free for us to self-study.  When we need to take a break there are riverside paths to explore, birds to spot and the odd competitive game of volleyball to throw ourselves into.   It’s a wonderful environment in which to learn - but the head still feels battered with grammar, verbs and vocab!
Steve grappling with verbs in his
open-air classroom
Thanks, as always, for your prayers and support for us.  We’d love to hear from you – our email addresses are opposite. 

And to those who pray, we’d value prayer for the following:

• Please pray that our language learning will continue to progress and that we’ll be able to remember all we’re being taught.  Steve is finding the going tough - and at this rate doesn't feel he'll be preaching in Kiswahili until 2020!
• Pray that we will be a witness to our language teachers, many of whom are Muslims – Tunku, Mosi, Kiobya and Ishmael.
• Pray for our health – for strong stomachs and good sleep!  We are doing well, apart from Ruth having inflamed tendons gained from playing too much volleyball!


Steve & Ruth
The dining room

Ruth's classroom


5 August 2013

Humbled in Kajiado and Hazards in Nairobi!

Two weeks ago we signed off our last update with these words: “We’d value your prayers: that the hospital tests for Ruth would go well; that Ruth’s blood would once again flow as it should and that we would continue to be flexible and patient in all of this”!  So, time for some feedback, especially as Ruth had another check-up this morning!  During that first week here in Nairobi Ruth was prodded and poked, x-rayed and scanned, and had numerous blood tests. Thankfully, every test came back as a negative, which in medical terms I suppose is actually a positive!  That ‘calf-muscle strain’ that developed on the flight over has now been officially labelled as an “unprovoked DVT”, meaning that there is no obvious cause, although Ruth suspects that her genes might have a lot to do with it!  It would seem that Ruth will be on medication for some time but we’re thankful that she’s responded well to a new blood-thinning drug which doesn’t require regular monitoring.  We’re also thankful that our insurance company has already paid up in full for the costs we’ve incurred so far!  So, hospital visits almost completed and our plans for attending the orientation course aborted, we’ve done what we can to make the most of our time here in Nairobi.

Traffic chaos in Nairobi
Nairobi traffic chaos
Life in Nairobi: Steve first came to this city 29 years ago to stay with an MAF family for a month during his school holidays, and it’s been interesting to see the various changes that have, and haven’t, taken place. The roads are more congested (except on Sunday mornings when half of Kenya seems to be in church!). The matatus and buses still spew out their toxic ‘fume plumes’ - which makes walking in town hazardous to the lungs - and I’m sure the drivers have their own highway code!  Give way to the right at roundabouts’ seems to have become, ‘Do what you want and keep your foot down’!  And as for the pavements…!  You dare not look up for fear of falling down an uncovered manhole or cracking your shin on a sawn-off lamp-post stump!  Using a zebra crossing is also a bit of an adventure because drivers seem to be intent on not stopping!  And yet, despite these obstacle courses, people seem to get on with their daily business without any thought of suing the council for all it’s worth!

But on the other hand, if you chose to ignore the street beggars and one of the biggest slums in Africa, the standard of living for many people seems to have gone up a notch: new buildings springing up, newer cars on the road and new shopping malls popping up around the city where you can buy pretty much anything. One thing I can’t get used to is browsing the book section within a supermarket and finding Christian books for sale. At the check-out of a clothing store, equivalent to the likes of M&S, I found copies of an illustrated children’s Bible!  And in the doctor’s waiting room the TV screens were showing God channel- type programmes. One thing that hasn’t changed in the last 29 years is that there still seems to be some respect for the Christian faith.  That respect may only be on the surface for many people, and I do wonder how long it will be there, but at least there’s still a general acceptance of Christianity that often catches the visitor to Kenya by surprise. What a contrast to the UK!

Our base during this time has been AIM’s Mayfield Guest House, a place of ‘comings and goings’ as various missionaries stop to refuel (spiritually, physically and mentally!) as they make their way here and there.  It’s been fascinating to hear the various stories and catch a glimpse of what God is doing in lives around this vast continent.  We’ve met up with AIM staff at the Eastern Region office and visited a Kenyan friend that Steve worked alongside whilst leading a Tearfund team back in 2004.  We spent an afternoon on safari in Nairobi National Park doing a spot of birding and where we also had a close encounter with a rather hefty white rhino!  Yesterday we attended a service at Nairobi Pentecostal Church where over 3000 people clapped and sang in unison as part of a very well organised communion service – just imagine washing up those cups after the service!

One of the highlights so far though has been a visit to an Africa Inland Church project called the Kajiado Child Care Centre, based about 40 miles from Nairobi. An AIM friend from the UK was working there for a month and encouraged us to visit.  Those in the AIM family will know the name Colin Molyneux and you’ll be able to make the link when it comes to Kajiado and off-road wheelchairs!

Esther in her adapted wheelchair
The Child Care Centre was set up back in 1979 by two AIM missionaries to rehabilitate and help children with disabilities overcome the numerous challenges they face, especially in a society where the disabled are sometimes shunned.  The centre runs two orthopaedic workshops which provide artificial limbs, braces and callipers, and custom-made wheelchairs fitted to meet individual needs.  It also provides physiotherapy services, home-based care for children with cerebral palsy, community medical outreach programmes, schooling and accommodation for 80 children at preschool level (patients and pupils).  All of this treatment is provided free of charge due to the fact that the majority of children come from families who simply can’t afford to pay for such care.

It was an inspiring day, especially as we were able to meet a wonderful Christian man called Daniel, who had grown up at the centre as a child suffering with polio – and who is now its Managing Director!  We also spent time playing with the children, some of them wrapped up in their balaclavas, and others bravely battling their various disabilities.  The teacher was more than happy for us to spend time in the classroom although we’re not sure we contributed much with our ‘stick-men’ drawings and faltering Swahili, but we certainly came away feeling blessed!  If you would like to know more then please take a look at their website:  www.aick.org. 

So, we’ve tried to do as much as possible during our enforced stay in Nairobi and although it’s been a tad frustrating not being able to ‘carry out the plan’, we’ve made the most of our own Nairobi-based orientation course!  On Thursday (8th) we begin our six-day LAMP course (Language Acquisition Made Practical) and this will hopefully set the scene for our 3 month Swahili course which begins in Tanzania on 24th August.  We hope to leave Nairobi and fly back to Tanzania a week on Friday (16th).

Thank you once again to those of you who have prayed for us; for Ruth in particular at this time. We’ve certainly felt that support and appreciated the many emails we’ve had along the way.  As serious as it was, we’re thankful that Ruth’s health issue wasn’t any worse and we’re thankful for the excellent medical care that she has received.  As from Thursday, we hope to be back on schedule but, as we’re finding out in Africa, never hold too tightly to a timetable and trust that He knows better! We hope to be in touch in September – God bless.

22 July 2013

Nonplussed in Nairobi!

Well folks – when we left the UK a few weeks ago our plan was to send out no more than 3or 4 updates before the end of the year because we didn’t feel we’d have much to report! And yet this is the third in a week for goodness sake! Believe me, our plan is not to wear you down with our constant emails, but we would value your prayers as there’s been another twist in the tale! ‘Delayed in Dar’ was followed by ‘Green for Go’ and we’d love this update to be entitled “Arrived at ABO” - but alas it’s going to have to be “Nonplussed in Nairobi”!

As you know, Ruth was discharged from hospital in Dar on Saturday and given the green light to fly to Nairobi, but we were aware that she’d have to get her blood checked here first thing Monday morning. Blood was duly taken and the results revealed that her INR count was too high. Last Monday her blood was too thick and this Monday it’s too thin! We’re thankful that the treatment has done its job but there is now a need to adjust the medication so that her blood is running as it should be! The doctors here are also rather cautious about us heading off into the wilds of Machakos for ABO and are keen to rule out various other causes before giving final clearance. That has meant further checks including an ECG and several other tests which have abbreviated names!

AIM's Mayfield Guest House - our home
for the next 3 weeks!
’m afraid all this means that we need to stay put in Nairobi for another week which does mean that ABO (the orientation course) is now not going to happen for us. Instead we’ve made the decision to hunker down here in Nairobi at the AIM guesthouse and wait for our initial week-long language course to begin on the 9th August. At this point, that seems a long time to wait! We’d value your prayers: that these tests (Tues & Weds) will go as smoothly as they can; that they don’t show up anything more sinister; that Ruth’s blood would once again flow as it should and that we’ll continue to be flexible and patient in all of this! Thank you so much for ‘holding the ropes’ – we really do feel loved and cared for in all of this, and although I wouldn’t want to promise, we’ll do our best not to be in touch again too soon!!  

“Giveth up forecasting what you plan to do on the morrow for you do not know what a day may bring” (Proverbs 27:1 altered just a tad!)

PS: The first doctor we met this morning was a Coptic Christian from Egypt who happened to be a big fan of SAT-7 – the ministry that Ruth worked for before joining AIM.



20 July 2013

Green for Go!

We thought we’d send you a brief update on our situation - but firstly want to extend a huge slice of thanks to those of you who have sent us encouraging emails and also prayed for us during the last week. My young nieces prayed for “the blood to run” in Ruth’s legs and indeed it has done, although the anticipated three nights in hospital ended up being five! At 9.30 this morning she was ‘released’ from her rather fetching hospital gown and given the green light to fly up to Nairobi this evening – on condition that she has a further blood test on Monday to check that ‘the blood is still running’ as it should be.

A room with a view
We’ve been impressed with the care and attention Ruth has received at the hospital; even the ward security guard (seemingly there to prevent patients escaping and not would-be thieves entering!) popped in twice a day to check on her progress! Not so welcome was the company of a rather large rat that popped its head through a broken ceiling tile one morning – yep, even in a sea-view room at a private hospital!

Anyway, Ruth’s ‘release’ means that we can now head off to Kenya. We’re booked to fly at 8.30pm this evening and will then spend Sunday & Monday in Nairobi before heading off to Machakos to join Africa Based Orientation – better late than never we hope! Our prayer is that we can now play catch-up effectively at ABO and that the treatment Ruth is on will continue to work its ‘thinning magic’ without any complications.
Thanks again for your support, encouragement and prayers - asante sana!

Afternoon tea - apparently there's
a jam shortage in Tanzania!

Diary Dates:

Sat 20th July:                  Fly to Kenya
23rd July – 6th Aug:        Machakos ABO
9th – 15th Aug:              Language course in Nairobi
16th Aug:                      Fly to Dar es Salaam
17th Aug:                      Drive to Morogoro
24th Aug – 30th Nov:    Intensive Swahili learning course in

16 July 2013

Delayed in Dar

When in Africa, they say there’s a big need to learn about flexibility! Well, we’ve only been here six days and already things have taken an unexpected turn, forcing a change to our schedule!
We arrived in Tanzania last Thursday morning as per the schedule – and into the hustle and bustle of Dar es Salaam, complete with our five bulbous suitcases; maxed-out with the maximum excess luggage allowance! Both flights went well although our two-hour stop-over in Qatar provided a few chuckle moments! Despite the fact it was past midnight it was so hot and humid as we descended the steps of the plane that my specs steamed up completely, although that’s no excuse for what happened next!  It would seem that the cubicles in the Gents loos at Doha airport certainly weren’t meant for one man and his suitcase! In trying to manoeuvre my way out of the cubicle my passport & ticket somehow got knocked into the toilet, which was thankfully flushed! Much time was spent drying it out under the very hot hand-dryer!
Anyway – our first few days in Tanzania were spent with Tony & Cath Swanson in their home in Morogoro, which is about a four-hour drive from Dar. We were introduced to the rest of the small team there, driven around the town and its facilities, and were able to have a look at a potential house that might be available for us come December. All too quickly it was time for us to leave and so on the Sunday afternoon we were driven back to Dar in readiness for a flight to Nairobi on the Monday – which is where the unexpected turn comes into play!
As I type we should already be at ABO (Africa Based Orientation) in Kenya but alas it turns out that something else was happening en-route to Africa that wasn’t quite so amusing – a blood clot was developing in one of Ruth’s legs (DVT). What felt like a pulled muscle didn’t improve and it was decided that Ruth should get it checked out by a doctor, especially as Ruth’s mum has a history of DVT. Ruth had a number of blood tests done as well as an ultrasound scan and sure enough, a blood clot was found. The doctor gave a very definite ‘thumbs-down’ to the idea of us flying to Nairobi and instead admitted Ruth to hospital for regular enoxaparin injections and warfarin tablets (rat poison!) that will thin the blood and dissipate the clot – hopefully by Thursday!
I know the words ‘hospital’ and ‘Africa’ may raise a few concerned eyebrows - but be assured that Ruth is being very well cared for at the Aga Khan hospital in Dar where she even has her own room with an Indian Ocean view! We’re very aware that we’re amongst the privileged few in this country who can turn to good medical facilities when we need to and we’re very thankful for that – and for the fact we’re insured! Ruth will have to have a number of blood tests over the next few weeks and months to keep an eye on things but we’re obviously thankful that this was discovered now and wasn’t more serious than it could have been. We hope that she’ll be discharged on Thurs/Fri with a ‘thumbs-up’ to travel to Nairobi, possibly on Saturday, so that we can join up with the ABO class in Machakos. That’s the tentative plan but, as we’re learning, we need to hold on to our timetables and schedules lightly! “Many are the plans in the mind of a man but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)! 
So – in future, when I’m tempted to inwardly mock those folks in the aisle of a plane who are doing all sorts of weird and wacky contortions to keep their blood flowing, I’ll think again!!
Thank you for your on-going prayers or, as a certain Corsham pastor says, for ‘holding the ropes’ for us as we go through this.
Steve (and Ruth!)

13 July 2013

The following is taken from our partnership leaflet and explains a little bit about what we'll be doing in Tanzania.

Africa is a huge continent – in fact it’s bigger than China, the USA, Western Europe, India, Argentina and the UK.... combined!  There are over 54 different countries in Africa; 1 billion people; 1000 indigenous languages; 950 people groups who’ve never heard the gospel, which of course presents a huge challenge! AIM has been responding to this challenge for over 100 years and today there are four million Africans worshipping in churches founded through the work of AIM . But the job isn’t finished yet – and that’s why missionaries from the UK are still heading out to Africa. It’s the work of these mission partners, serving alongside local churches and pioneering work where is no church, which is helping to make a difference in the lives of African people.

The new conference 'room' at Sanga Sanga
created out of shipping containers!
We will be working with the Institute of Bible & Ministry (IBM) in Morogoro. IBM is an on-going theological programme for pastors and evangelists of the Africa Inland Church in eastern Tanzania. The goals of IBM are to enable, mobilise and inspire these pastors to a closer relationship with God and equip them to reach their own communities with the gospel. Much of the teaching is done through regional seminars where the pastors gather together for fellowship and fresh biblical input. Work is currently taking place to build a small retreat/conference centre, called Sanga Sanga on the outskirts of Morogoro, which will then serve as a central location for the activities of the Institute. Steve will be involved as a Bible teacher and in the planning of regional and diocese-wide seminars. Ruth will work as Communications officer as well as teaching English.

For the next few months though, our focus will be on orientation and language study.  It won't be until Christmas/New Year that we'll begin to take on our roles with IBM.

11 June 2013

One month to go!

In exactly one month's time we'll be touching down in Dar es Salaam and travelling on to Morogoro!  We have about a week there before we travel to Kenya for ABO - Africa Based Orientation.  ABO is held at Scott Christian University at Machakos, about an hour's drive from Nairobi.  The purpose of ABO is to learn about the culture of the people we'll be working amongst and it will also be an opportunity to meet other new mission workers with AIM.  After that we go into intensive language learning - yikes!

Here's our timetable for the next few months.

23rd June                 Commissioning service at Corsham Baptist Church
10th July                   Depart Heathrow for Dar es Salaam!
16th July-6th Aug      ABO starts
9th-15th Aug             LAMP course (Language Acquisition Made Practical) in Nairobi
16th Aug                   Travel back to Tanzania
24th Aug-30th Nov    Intensive Swahili language study in Iringa, Tanzania
1st-5th Dec               AIM Eastern Region conference at Kijabe, Kenya

We would be grateful for your prayers over the next month as we finalise our preparations.  One major cause for praise is that we have very quickly found a tenant for our house.  Over the last few weeks we've been de-cluttering and gradually packing things up to go into storage (Steve's dad's garage!).  Pray that we can get everything done and also find the time for good goodbyes with family and friends. 


29 January 2013

The first post!


Watch this space for news and photos of our time in Tanzania with AIM.