3 March 2014

Feels like home...

It feels as if we’ve been non-stop since we returned from ABO in February.  The two major things that have happened since returning to Morogoro are completing our homestay and moving house!

Homestay is part of AIM’s orientation programme.  Every mission partner is required to spend a short time living with a local family.  The aim is to become familiar with culture, customs, food, habits etc and to establish relationships with them.  We recently spent almost a week with Rev Falanta, his wife and family in their home in Morogoro and thought we would share with you a few of our observations.

Rev Falanta and his family
The family living in the home included three young children (Mary aged 10, Naomi 8, Mercy 6), an adult niece (Naomi) and nephew (Daniel) and a teenaged nephew (Masika).  During the week other relatives came to stay overnight.  Where all these people slept (as we were in one of the three bedrooms) is a mystery!  Rev and Mama Falanta also have two other daughters who are away at boarding school.

Meals were taken much later than we are used to – lunch was typically served around 2.30pm and dinner was sometimes eaten as late as 10pm!  The whole family ate together, including the children.  Frequently the children were still up after 11pm – in fact we usually went to bed before they did!

The family owns four cows, two calves and numerous chickens.  Masika looks after the cows each day, taking them out to the family’s field.  They are a useful source of income as the family sells the milk the cows produce.  They are also a valuable asset – one cow could be sold for 1 million Tanzanian shillings (about £350).  In fact, a neighbour’s cows were stolen recently, causing Rev Falanta to organise security guards to patrol the neighbourhood.

On only one occasion did we hear any of the children crying.  There was never any back-chat, disobedience or disrespect from them.  But nor did we see them playing or reading (although they did watch cartoons on TV occasionally).  When they came home from school they got on with chores – washing clothes, helping with cooking, cleaning, doing homework etc.  We noticed very few toys – one doll and a teddy bear.

Mama Falanta makes
chapatis for dinner
The family has devotions together before the evening meal.  They sing from a hymnbook (in Kiswahili) and someone reads a Bible passage and comments on it. On the second evening Ruth was asked to lead devotions at 10 minutes’ notice. What sounded like "Will you read this evening?" was actually "Will you lead..."  Tanzanians frequently mix up their l's and r's!  On another evening Steve showed some pictures from his trips to Israel and used them for devotions. Afterwards there is a time of prayer, for which everyone gets down on their knees facing their chairs.

Ruth was able to help prepare the evening meal each day.  Meals are cooked outside on charcoal stoves.  The family does have an electric stove in the kitchen but it’s only used for boiling water as electricity is expensive here.   

Meal preparation was a great opportunity to learn how to cook Tanzanian food and to practice speaking Kiswahili.  There was generally a lot of laughter!  It was a very sociable time too as neighbours popped in to visit and people came to buy milk.  This was one of the most enjoyable experiences of the homestay and we can see the benefits of not being shut away from neighbours behind a gate.

Mercy & Naomi watch as 
the cockerel is prepared for 
During the week we ate rice (wali), dagaa (small dried fish), green bananas (matoke), sweet potatoes, mboga (vegetables), pork, fish (samaki) and chicken.  In fact, on one afternoon we had the dubious pleasure of watching one of the family’s cockerels being slaughtered, plucked, quartered and cooked.  Everything went in the pot!  Having said that, the food was very good and there was nothing we didn’t eat (although Steve balked at dagaa!).

Rev Falanta took our homestay very seriously and was keen to help us learn as much as we could.  He is the chaplain of Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) and also leads the CCT church on campus (Christian Council of Tanzania).  He took us around the campus to see his office, meet various heads of department and tour the veterinary facilities.  He also arranged for us to visit Mama Falanta’s school.  He was a good source of information on local tribal culture and customs.  Steve was able to preach at his church on the Sunday after our homestay.

All in all it was a very interesting experience and one that has taught us a lot about Tanzanian culture.

We feel exceedingly blessed to have
found this house near to our
team-mates - and with a stunning view!
Immediately after we finished our homestay we moved house! We’re now living much nearer to the rest of our team.  It took us a week or two to get ourselves unpacked and sorted out but we feel at home here.  We’re thankful for a home which is airier and cooler than the previous house, and as a bonus has a wonderful view of the Uluguru Mountains.

We’ve been able to hire a reliable night-guard – a Christian man called Immanuel.  We’ve also acquired a guard dog.  She, Socks, is playful, inquisitive and always on the lookout to get into the house!  However, we have just discovered her ability to jump 6ft walls – on several occasions she has absconded at night, no doubt to meet her doggie friends.  Not a talent that we are encouraging in her!

Our first Pastors Conference: From 10th-14th March there will be an intensive course here in Morogoro on cross cultural ministry and church planting for Tanzanian pastors and evangelists.  The hope is that this conference, together with many others like it, will act as a catalyst for the planting of 20 new churches in Eastern Tanzania during the next three years.  Please pray for the delegates, the teachers (Simon, Wayne, Tony, Steve) and those who will be helping out during the event.  It feels as though this conference marks the start of our full involvement at the Institute of Bible & Ministry and we’re looking forward to getting involved. We’ll share more about the Institute and the Sanga Sanga project next month.

As ever, we are grateful for your interest, prayers, emails and letters.  With every blessing.

Steve & Ruth

Diary Dates: 
10th – 14th: Pastors' conference at Sanga Sanga 
20th – 23rd: Team retreat at Lushoto 
30th March: Steve preaching at AIC Morogoro x2 

For prayer:

  • Praise God for a good homestay experience and new relationships formed.
  • Praise God for a reliable night-guard.
  • Pray for continued language learning as we start studying at the local language school.
  • Pray for Steve as he leads devotions during the pastors' conference.

Photos of the month:

Dagaa - mmmm - Steve's favourite!

Steve's Oscar winning performance at
the ABO talent night!  Are those really
his hands?

"These mist covered mountains..." - the Ulugurus
at dawn