2 April 2015

The times, they are a-changin'

So sang Bob Dylan in 1964.  And changes are afoot for us in Morogoro in various ways – in our team, our roles and the weather!  

Crops growing well at
Sanga Sanga
In the last couple of weeks the rainy season has begun.  Everywhere is greening up and people are hard at work in their shambas clearing and planting.  We’re enjoying the slightly cooler weather that comes with the season.  Not so welcome is all the mud and mess that comes down the mountain with the heavy rains, blocking the ditches and flooding the roads!

This month our team mates, Tony and Cath Swanson, return to the UK for 6 months’ home assignment.  Tony has been managing the day-to-day operations at Sanga Sanga (amongst other things) and in his absence we and the Dixons will continue with this.  We would appreciate your prayers for us as we spend more time there liaising with the workers, paying their wages, receiving guests and dealing with any issues that come up.  Matt will continue planning for the construction of the conference hall which, God willing, will commence once the rainy season has finished in May.

Matt's construction site office 
at Sanga is coming on well
You may not know that Tanzania is very much a cash society.  With the highest denomination of banknote being 10,000 shillings (around £3.50), withdrawing cash from the bank or ATM means that you frequently have hundreds of thousands of shillings in cash on your person when you visit town to do business, purchase supplies etc.  Vigilance and common sense are required – please do pray for our personal security as we go about our business in town. Ruth will take over managing the cash funds of Sanga Sanga and the Institute from Tony.  The process is that when funds are required, Ruth liaises with AIM's Eastern Region Office in Nairobi to request a transfer of funds (donations from supporters). She then visits the bank to withdraw the cash in dollars and goes on to a bureau de change to change it into shillings.  It may be one of the more mundane aspects of ministry but it’s also fairly important to get it right!

Last month we welcomed two temporary team mates – Katherine and Melody – who are in Morogoro for three months to learn Swahili. After that they will be living in the village of Pande, near Tanga.  Pande is a majority Muslim village and the people are from the Digo tribe – an unreached people group.  We recently visited Pande to meet the pastor of the AICT church there, check out accommodation for Katherine and Melody and visit Amani Primary School where they will be working.  It was a productive visit and the two ladies are looking forward to getting there. 

Beautiful Arusha National Park
We’ve been on the road a lot in the last month.  We recently travelled up to Arusha, a journey of some 10.5 hours, to attend an AIM Emerging Leaders conference with other mission partners from Tanzania and Kenya.  It was good to spend time with this small group, to get to know people better and to receive training in various aspects of leadership.  A change of plans at the end of that week meant that we had an unexpected free day, so we treated ourselves to a day of bird-watching in Arusha National Park.  We managed to add another 10 new birds to our list, including the Broad-billed Roller and Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, if you’re interested!  But the highlight of the day was driving up through dense forests to the rim of a volcanic crater and gazing down at the almost Eden-like sight below us.  There was no access inside the crater, so what we saw was untouched by human hands – a vast area of forest and marsh land.  Buffalo grazed undisturbed and Colobus monkeys frolicked in the trees.  We almost expected to see dinosaurs stroll out from the trees, reminiscent of the film Jurassic Park! 

'Motorway' service station - not closed for repairs!
Unit Leadership
As part of our call to Tanzania, a Bible passage that played a confirming role for Steve was the story of Elisha’s calling at the end of 1 Kings 19 (v. 19-21).  Here was Elisha going about his daily business, ploughing his fields, when out of the blue steps the prophet Elijah, who simply throws his cloak over the shoulders of Elisha – and then seemingly runs off!  It might sound a strange passage but for various reasons there were a number of elements to that story that rang true for Steve.  Whilst not equating Tony Swanson to the camel-skin wearing Elijah, the time seems to have come for the transference of the cloak so to speak!  And that mantle of unit leadership will be taken up by Steve when Tony leaves for home assignment on 6th April. 

So, what will unit leadership involve?  The core task will be to ensure member care for those in the Eastern Tanzania unit, currently numbering 23 adults, and that will include visitation, debriefs and reviews, and encouraging members in their current ministries.  Amongst other things, Steve will also be helping to oversee housing and immigration issues for the missionaries, as well as maintaining relationships with partner organisations, and working with the AICT church to further their efforts to work in unreached areas of Tanzania. 

Steve says, "A few months ago I read a very practical book on leadership by Dave Kraft, and he defined a Christian leader in this way: 'A Christian leader is a humble, God-dependent, team-playing servant of God who is called by God to shepherd, develop, equip, and empower a specific group of believers to accomplish an agreed-upon vision from God.'  In no way am I saying that that describes me, but I think the quote sums up what I want to be and need to be as I take on this responsibility of supporting AIM missionaries here in eastern Tanzania.  I would certainly value your prayers as I take this on, and maybe you could use the specifics of that quote to pray for me: that God would enable me to support our folks here in a humble and God-dependent way, and that I would be a person who intentionally and lastingly influences others, for His glory and purposes.” 

Thank you for your continued interest and prayerful support.  We pray that you will be truly blessed as you reflect on God’s sacrificial love this Easter time.  

“And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  Phil. 2: 9-11

AICT Dakawa, near Morogoro -
the 'shed' church!
For your prayers:
  • Please pray for us as we both prepare talks – Steve in Swahili for the pastors' seminars and Ruth for a Ladies Retreat in May.
  • Pray for Steve as he takes over as Unit Leader, for wisdom and insight into this new role.
  • Pray for Tony & Cath Swanson as they begin home assignment, and for the Dixons and ourselves in their absence.
  • Pray for Ruth as she manages the cash for Sanga Sanga, for good systems and processes.

Diary Dates for April:

6th:             Tony & Cath leave for home assignment in UK.  Steve takes up Unit Leader role 
                    for Eastern Tanzania, initially for six months
19th:            Steve preaching at Dakawa AICT church  
22nd–26th:   Mini-break on the coast, south of Dar

Random photos of the month:

Half coach - half lorry!  The words on the front say
'The Grace of God'!

Home-made roadworks sign!