1 December 2018

Times of Transition, Successful Seminars and Confused Cockerels!

"So much effort measuring speed but we're still
overwhelmed with accidents."
Our last update began with the words “three down, three to go”. Four months later, in terms of our IBM regional conferences, it’s now “six down, none to go”! Project Peter is now complete and we have much to be thankful for! All six conferences went to plan and I was able to teach all of my allotted sessions: 46 in total. Despite travelling 3,000 miles on the dicey roads of Tanzania, we didn’t experience any hold-ups, punctures or accidents along the way, just numerous police checkpoints which continue to suck the joy out of driving! Oh that these large figures dressed in white uniforms were angels! Alas, they are not! In terms of attendance at these events, we had a combined total of 160 pastors, evangelists and wives turn up, the largest number we’ve had for a few years. All seemed to be very happy with our focus on the book of 1 Peter, and of particular relevance to the pastors was chapter 5, where Peter urges elders in the church to be shepherds of God’s flock, serving as humble overseers, and being examples to those they lead.

It’s been encouraging to read the feedback from the pastors, although one did question why we were studying 1 Peter when Paul had written many other letters! Another pastor commented that the letter had been brought to life for him, and at the Kilwa seminar, it was great to hear that, as a group of churches in the area, the pastors had decided to use my notes to teach their congregations. It was a timely reminder for me that those hours of labour spent in the study have not been in vain and that the audience is wider than just those who attend the conferences. The teaching material has now been put into book form so that the pastors can have something more permanent for future reference and study. You’re welcome to a copy – if you can read Swahili!

Our August conference took place in the dead-end town of Ifakara! It’s a one-street African town with many dusty side-roads leading off it, and a real sense of run-down-ness. Yet despite its location and its last century feel, we had 43 pastors/evangelists/ wives travel in for the event. Guesthouse prices ranged from £3.20-£8.50 and all of the cooking was done right outside the church under the shade of a mustard tree! On the menu for the three days was typical Tanzanian fare: rice, beans, ugali, spinach, and watermelon, although I was concerned that some super-sized catfish might make it onto our plates at one point! A random guy on a bike turned up one afternoon trying to sell five of the large slimy wrigglers for £3 each! At the end of the conference it was a real encouragement to see that the pastors had collected £30 towards the work of IBM – and this wasn’t the only conference where this happened. This year we’ve found that there is a growing sense amongst the pastors that they appreciate what IBM is all about, and want to step up and help with costs.

Our conferences in September and October (Magambua and Mbeya) also went well. The beauty of the Magambua event is that it’s way out in the bush with the nearest tarmac road being 100 miles away! That means few noisy distractions to contend with for the teacher, just the occasional herd of cows or goats trotting past the church door! The other benefit for Ruth and I was that we were able to stay with some fellow missionaries, who supplemented our rice and beans diet and ensured we didn’t have to stay in a spartan pastor’s house which had only two working lightbulbs! As we wrap up this conference season, we’re able to say that God’s Word has indeed been taught, and we pray that these church leaders will grow in their faith and lead their congregations into a closer relationship with Jesus - because that’s what this is all about. I’m thankful to God that he’s enabled me to teach again this year. Teaching in Swahili is still far out of my comfort zone but the bottom line is that it is He who has empowered me to do so! I’m very much aware of Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 3: 5 & 6: “For we are not competent in ourselves, but our competence comes from God.” In other words, as the Good News version says, “There is nothing in us that allows us to claim that we are capable of doing this work, for the capacity we have comes from God alone.”

Oak Hall Returns: In August Ruth and I hosted an Oak Hall group at Sanga for two weeks, with 22 guests coming to experience the sights of Tanzania and a taste of mission. They worked hard on various projects at Sanga, helped to paint a dormitory at Agape Children’s Village (an orphanage), went on safari and climbed into the Uluguru mountains, but one of the highlights was visiting a small AIC church out in the rurals, set in the midst of a Muslim village. The eye-opening moment for the group came during the service when they were ceremoniously presented with a confused-looking cockerel and a tonne of bananas as a gift! The welcome and the generosity the church showed towards us in the midst of their humble surroundings was overwhelming. The intrepid Oakies returned home with some precious memories and, for one guest in particular, the African adventure looks set to continue as she’s since applied to teach with AIM somewhere in Africa! A taste of mission seems to have developed into wanting more!

“The times they are a changin”!

For our team here in Morogoro there is plenty of change ahead, although it seems as though missionaries serving overseas live within a revolving-door environment where people are constantly coming and going. Our team mates Tony and Cath Swanson are in the process of saying their goodbyes and packing their bags after being in Tanzania for 20 years. In a weeks’ time, they’ll head to the UK for six months before continuing their consultancy roles with AIM, based in Uganda. Tony became the Co-ordinator of IBM way back in 2004 and he’s been at the forefront of developments at Sanga over the last 14 years. He’s lived and breathed all things Sanga, and I’m sure if you were to cut him in half you’d find Sanga blood flowing out! Both Tony and Cath have been an enormous support to us and we’ll miss their wisdom and maturity as well as their friendship and support. On a more playful note, I’ll particularly miss my battles with Tony on the ‘browns’ of Morogoro golf course, and to hearing Cath recall her latest missionary mishap during the course of her many travels!

To mark the end of this era, we headed to the wilds of Mikumi National Park a few weeks ago and enjoyed a team day on safari. The highlights of our day in the bush included watching over 200 buffalo jostling for position at a waterhole, and a lone leopard out on the plains. The lowlight, however, was receiving a phone call telling us that there was a fire in the upper room of the newly-built conference centre! One of the free-standing halogen lamps had been placed too near the curtains and it hadn’t taken long for the fire to spread up into the ceiling boards and roofing sheets. The alarm was raised quickly and our amazingly brave Sanga team were able to put out the fire with the use of ladders and buckets of water! It could have been so much worse, but thankfully our guys were able to deal with it before it caused too much damage, and the repair work was completed within a week. A footnote to the story is that the local fire brigade (think Trumpton!) turned up once the fire had been put out!

All that remains for us to say as we approach the end of another year, is an enormous THANK YOU for your prayers and support and, although it feels way too early to be sending festive greetings, once it arrives, have a wonderful Christmas and a blessed New Year!

Diary Dates:

8-13 Dec:      Unit leader meetings in Dar and Lindi (south Tanzania)

16 Dec:         Preaching at Emmanuel Church, Morogoro
18 Dec:         Amani School Board meeting in Dar (Unit)
23-27 Dec:    Christmas hols
6-10 Jan:      Unit Leader meetings in Nairobi
8 March:       Term 2 complete! Return to UK for six months!

Prayer Points:

  • You might remember that we were looking to recruit an accountant for 12 months for IBM. The AIC has actually appointed someone on a part time basis to cover Ruth’s absence during our home assignment (March-Sept 2019), so that’s an answer to prayer, at least in the short term. Ideally Ruth would like this person to continue managing the accounts when we return to Morogoro next year.

  • Please pray for the Morogoro AIM team as we enter this time of transition. Whilst Tony and Cath will leave on 9th Dec, we’re hoping to have a new family (Wildasins) joining the team in February, depending on the issuing of work permits! Please pray for this to happen soon! Ruth and I will then be heading back to UK on home assignment in early March, and the Dixons will then also be leaving Tanzania in July! Please pray for Pastor Yohana Batano as he picks up the baton passed on by Tony as the Co-ordinator of IBM!

  • Please pray that we would finish our second term well! In many ways this has been a hard year with an on-going sinusitis battle for me, increased responsibilities for Ruth at Sanga, discouraging pastoral situations within the AIC church, growing cultural fatigue, and a seemingly growing police presence on the roads! I’ll admit that my levels of patience and grace are running low as we enter the final three months of this term. It makes me more aware of just what a fragile clay vessel I am! Thankfully, “we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Cor. 4:7)
Friends of Sanga Sanga
We invite you to become a Friend of Sanga Sanga. What does that mean? It means that we keep you updated with news and prayer requests of the ministry at Sanga Sanga via WhatsApp or email. You will receive a newsletter (written by Ruth!) via email twice a year. You can ask for a speaker to come to your church or mission event. And you will receive invitations to come and see what we do and perhaps help with some practical work. If you would like to become a Friend of Sanga Sanga please let us know or click here to sign up!

Easter Sunday in Jerusalem?! If you’re looking for something to do over Easter next year, then how about heading to Israel and Palestine with Oak Hall? I’m leading another trip (trip code IS19) from 16th-26th April, and it would be great to see some familiar faces on the trip. For a detailed itinerary and more details please see the following link: www.oakhall.co.uk/israel/Israel

Every blessing,

Steve & Ruth

27 July 2018

Challenges and Distractions; Dancing with Masai and Opening the ‘Oak Hall’

Three down, three to go! In our last newsletter we used this map to indicate where our six regional pastors’ conferences would be taking place. We’re now able to put three giant ticks alongside three of those locations, and the fourth one will be taking place this coming week when we head off to the backwaters of Ifakara. Thank you to those who have prayed for me during these seminars. Each conference and venue has its own distinctive flavour but one constant is that folks here just don’t seem to get fazed by distractions! During the first conference in Babati we had children peering through the windows and the sound of a nearby band-saw cutting wood! In the Kilwa conference the unfinished floor of the church was as level as the Uluguru mountains, with clods of clay-soil increasing the risk of much ankle-twisting! It didn’t seem to matter to them! Nor did it matter greatly, during the last session of the last day, when someone spotted a venomous snake curled up in a crack in the wall, high above my head! It was ironic that the topic we had been looking at was that of Satan and his scheming! Peter talks about Satan prowling “around like a lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8), but we also know that Satan slithers around as a serpent looking for people to deceive, even within the walls of the church! One of the pastors grabbed a stick and quickly ‘dealt with it’! “Resist him, standing firm in the faith” (1 Pet 5:9)!

A harmless grass snake seen on safari - not the one at
the Kilwa seminar!
During the recent Pwani conference, which was held in the relative peace and quiet of our Sanga HQ, a couple of dogs and a bleating goat made an appearance in our un-walled thatched banda - but again, it didn’t seem to distract the listeners! As for me, it often seems like an uphill battle trying to ignore these various distractions, whilst also trying not to lose my train of Swahili speak! Oh the joys of preaching in Africa! There is one exception that I can think of, where mobile phone distractions obviously grated with a certain pastor! On the wall of his church there is a notice quoting a verse from Habakkuk that says, “the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him”, along with the accompanying words: “please switch off your phone”! Anyway, distractions aside, the teaching on 1 Peter seems to have been well-received, and about 70 pastors/evangelists now have enough material to craft at least 20 sermons for their congregations! All part of AIM’s goal to see “Christ-centred churches amongst all African peoples”. Onwards to Ifakara, Magambua and Mbeya!

Changamoto Kubwa! One of the most challenging verses that we look at in 1 Peter comes towards the end of ch 2: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply from the heart” (2:22). In Swahili I would say to the pastors: “Hii ni changamoto kubwa sana.” Roughly translated it means “This is a big challenge”! And don’t we know it!? Loving one another can be tough and we can only do it effectively in the power of the Holy Spirit and not in our own strength. Leading on from this verse I then head towards John 13:34-35 where Jesus instructs his disciples (and us!) to love one another, stating that if they do this, outsiders will realise that they are followers of Christ. Love is indeed the key to the gospel isn’t it? Paul says to the Corinthians that if we lack love in our lives, our witness amounts to nothing.

I recently heard a great story that highlights the importance of love within the Christian community; love for each other and love for those who do not know Christ. We have an AIM team living out in the Tanzanian bush that I sometimes visit and they’re seeking to live out the gospel to an Islamic people group. This is what one of the team said: “One day I happened to be sitting in the market with some of the local men who didn’t know that I was part of the team. Two of my team members happened to be passing by and, as always happens when they go to market, kids came flocking! I heard one of the elders from the mosque comment: ‘Do you see that? Before long, this area is going to become Christian.’ The team member sitting in the market asked the elder what he meant and the elder replied: ‘Those Christians really love our people. They care for people when they are sick and they visit their neighbours every day. They really love and pay attention to the kids, and they’re even learning our language. That kind of thing is so different from how we are… it’s irresistible. That’s why I say this area is going to become Christian.’” Wow! What an encouragement that was to that particular team, and what a reminder to us of how important agape love is as a witness to those who don’t know Christ. Father, fill us with your love; strengthen and equip us to love each other, so that a watching world may be drawn to your irresistible love.

Dressed up for the Opening Day  -
Steve didn't want to wear a
matching outfit!
Conference Centre Opening: Following hard on the heels of our Pwani conference in July was the long-awaited opening of the conference centre, three years after the project began. Ribbons were cut, plaques were unveiled, and cameras clicked as we gathered to give thanks to God for the people who had helped to make it possible. When Solomon had finished building the temple in Jerusalem all those years ago, his prayer of dedication was recorded for us in 1 Kings 8. In response, the Lord said to Solomon: “I have consecrated this building which you have built by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.” (1 Kings 9:3b) We’ve had that reference inscribed on a stone tablet near the main entrance and, having dedicated the building to God, we trust that He will indeed always be there and that His powerful presence will be felt by those who use it. The Centre will be used by the AICT, various other churches, kids camps and other organisations and our hope is that God’s name will be glorified in what takes place there. We also want to thank the various people and churches that have contributed to this project, and especially to Oak Hall for their generous support; hence the reason for the naming of the main hall!


Time off and random holiday happenings! In the middle of July my sister and her family came for a ten day holiday and we had an awesome time introducing them to all-things Tanzania. We certainly packed a lot in: swimming in the Indian Ocean, playing tennis in the heat, experiencing the bite of the notorious Tsetse flies whilst on safari, climbing gigantic Baobab trees, walking up the Uluguru mountains, wandering amongst the rickety fruit and veg stalls of Morogoro market, and sitting in a three-hour church service; what more could you want!? In regard to the latter, they coped admirably, and even introduced the congregation to the chorus ‘My God is a great big God’. Not so sure Ruth appreciated trying to translate the words, “He’s higher than a skyscraper and deeper than a submarine’! However, one of my favourite memories was introducing my bro-in-law (Phil) to the game of golf! It turned out to be quite a random game! On the 8th hole, as we prepared to tee-off, we encountered a Masai choir strung out across the fairway filming a DVD! I’m not so sure they had ever seen a golf ball before, but they signalled that we should play on, and so we walloped (not an official golfing term!) our balls down the fairway. From 150 yards my ball sailed over the heads of the dancing Masai, whilst Phil’s ball left a dent in the back of a Masai warrior! However, there didn’t seem to be too much hard feeling, as Phil and the family were then invited to star as guest dancers in their production! My lasting memory will be of Masai warriors dancing with their sticks, alongside Phil dancing with his golf club! Only in Tanzania!

The Caudle clan on safari

Unbelievable scenes!
Dates for the Diary:

31st Jul – 4th Aug:       IBM Pastors’ Conference in Ifakara
18-31st Aug:                Oak Hall group at Sanga
25th-29th Sept:            IBM Pastors’ Conference in Magambua
11th-16th Oct:              AIM Missionary Conference in Dar (Corsham Baptist Team!)
23rd-27th Oct:             IBM Pastors’ Conference in Mbeya.

Prayer Requests:
Please pray for Ruth as she deals with administration and financial ssues, along with managing guest bookings. We’re currently looking to recruit an accountant/book-keeper for 12 months, so if you know of anyone who might be interested, please give them a prod! Please pray for me in the remaining conferences; that I would teach faithfully & biblically, and that the pastors would go away spiritually well-fed and better equipped to feed their congregations.

We currently have a team of 17 people from All Souls, Langham Place, London, staying at Sanga Sanga. They’re here to experience the Tanzanian culture and to help out around the site. In mid-August we’ll also be getting ready to receive 22 guests from Oak Hall. Please pray for Ruth and I as we lead that trip, and that people would be challenged with regard to mission, and what they can do to help build God’s kingdom.

We are sad to report that Sanga Sanga’s cows were recently stolen – by the security guard employed to guard the site! As you can imagine, this has been very disheartening for all the team and workers at Sanga Sanga. The thief is now in custody but the cows haven’t been found yet. Please pray that they would be returned to us. They aren’t just valuable in themselves but also provide a useful source of income through selling their milk.

Please pray for our team here in Morogoro. The Swansons (Tony just recovered from pneumonia) leave in December, although we’re encouraged that a family plan to join us here in January next year. We’d also be grateful for your prayers as we think beyond our next home assignment (Mar-Sept 2019), and ponder the question of whether we should return here for a third term.

Thank you for all your prayers and support!

7 May 2018

Weevils & Worms, Radio Ruth, Project Peter & Turkish Delight!

Even the police aren't immune to unseen pot-holes!
Rain drops keep falling….. loudly on our tin roof!! Tis the season to be…..wet, damp & soggy! Granted, these are not words that you normally associate with Africa but, as we approach the end of the rainy season, we’re looking forward to drier days! For the many subsistence farmers here the rains are a blessing and everywhere looks lush and green as the vegetation goes into over-drive! For many people the length of the rainy season determines their food-stocks for the rest of the year – and so the rains are welcomed with open arms by most. However, the rains also bring with them some unwelcome side effects! Pot-holes that were only ‘repaired’ last month start opening up again. Roadside gutters fill up very quickly with reddish silt that’s made its way down from the mountains behind us. Power cuts tend to increase and the occasional power-surge blows out your lightbulbs - three in one go in our house!

Even the worms are seeking refuge from the rain! During every downpour they slither under the doors of our house before drying out and offering themselves as food for the numerous ‘sugar ants’ which have also taken up residence in our kitchen! Desperate measures have come into force whereby the sugar now lives in the fridge and the honey jar sits in a bowl which has pesticide powder in it! Sitting down for breakfast a few weeks ago, I even found a couple of weevils popping their heads out of my Weetabix! And then there’s the mold! My leather sandals have taken on a soft green/white appearance and I’m wondering how long it will take for them to morph into a pair of carpet slippers! And then there are the smells which always seem to be exaggerated here in Africa. Having a damp dog snoozing next to a damp sofa isn’t something to be sniffed at! Oh the joys of an African rainy season!

Having said that, we’re well aware that we get off lightly when the rains pour down. We have a roof that doesn’t leak (well, not much anyway!) and walls that stand firm. For many people up on the mountains behind us there’s the risk that run-off water will undermine their houses, causing the mud-brick walls to collapse. In a number of places around the country, including the city of Dar, there’s been heavy flooding with roads and houses destroyed as well as lives lost. And so, on reflection, worms, weevils and pot-holes are really not that big an issue.

Grammar Queen hits the airwaves! We mentioned in our last update that Ruth was busy preparing a series of English lessons with a difference. During the last month she’s been able to record a number of programmes for a local Christian radio station run by Faith Baptist Church here in Morogoro. The station is hoping to go live at the end of the year and they’re busy stockpiling material ready for their launch. Whilst teaching English to an invisible audience is a new challenge for Ruth, Steve is hoping, with a new audience for Ruth to focus on, that he’ll now be spared his daily grammar lessons! Away from the microphone, there’s been a lot to do for Ruth at the home of the Institute of Bible & Ministry with bookings on the increase and the accounts to look after, plus the launch of the ‘Friends of Sanga Sanga’ scheme along with the new IBM website! (www.sangaretreatentre.org) During the next few days, don’t be surprised if you receive an email from Ruth about the scheme!

Project Peter! Since the New Year I’ve spent much of my time preparing teaching material for the IBM conferences. Four months of study and translation work have been whittled down to a 64 page file totalling 34,000 words! Our focus this year is the book of 1 Peter and, whilst it’s only a short letter, it’s packed full of foundational doctrine and has much to say about the nitty gritty of practical Christian living. Many of Peter’s key themes begin with the letter ‘S’. Here are a few to give you a flavour of what the pastors will be learning about this year: strangers, stones, salvation, scattered, suffering, submission, second coming, shepherding, and standing firm against Satan.

Peter’s reason for writing his letter is outlined in ch 5:12 (NLT): “My purpose is to encourage you and assure you that the grace of God is with you no matter what happens.” And my prayer is that, as I deliver these talks over the next six months, what is shared would be an encouragement and would give assurance to these pastors and evangelists. It’s now time to bring those words alive and to preach them out to the pastors of the AIC church, starting this Wednesday (9th) in Babati. As you can see from the map, the first conference of the year is also our most northerly regional conference. Here’s hoping that the happenings of last year’s northern event don’t occur this year; one can only take so many bedbugs!

Away from the Study: In early March my brother and his wife (Ian & Kerri) came to visit, and we had an awesome week of non-stop adventure. It began at a deserted airport terminal at 3am (minus some luggage!) and was all too quickly followed, on the same day, by a 7am start time for the Kilimanjaro half marathon! Running conditions were ideal, although some of the footwear worn by fellow runners was not! One guy wore his football boots, another was running in his Sunday-best slip-ons, and yet another runner wore his steel-toecap work boots! ‘Ouch’ - in all three cases!! Whilst running a half marathon might not be everyone’s ideal holiday start, the safari certainly would be. The highlight of our 24 hour safari was seeing leopard and lion and then later lying in bed listening to the roar of said lion rumbling across the plains of Mikumi; a tad scary even when behind a locked door!

Galilee and the Golan Heights
In early April, I was able to head off to Israel and Palestine to lead another Oak Hall trip. This trip always makes it on to my ‘annual highlights’ list, although the things that stand out vary from trip to trip. This year, we were in Jerusalem over Easter, which meant we were able to join with hundreds of other Christians (plus the speaker RT Kendal!) at the Garden Tomb, to celebrate the fact that ‘Christ is risen’! Other notable memories include the crush of people in the narrow alleyways of the old city, standing on the Golan Heights overlooking Syria and hearing heavy shelling in the distance, and watching a white dove trying to settle on someone’s head as they paddled at the traditional site of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan! Talk about Scripture coming alive – well, almost!

My journey to and from Israel was via Istanbul but it made for an interesting flight. As we flew over Turkey (Asia Minor) we followed much of the route that Paul took during his first missionary journey. Whilst most of my fellow passengers dozed off or watched TV, I was leafing through the book of Acts, whilst peering down from 35,000 ft, looking at some of the locations mentioned in my reading! Places like Antioch, Lystra, Derbe and Cyprus.

It also seemed fitting that, having had my eyes focussed on 1 Peter for the last three months, I was now flying over the regions mentioned by Peter in the first verse of his letter: “To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” I tried to imagine what Peter and Paul would have made of someone travelling across these regions in just a few hours, sitting in a jet-propelled metal tube, whilst it took them weeks and months of hard walking! Different times and different worlds, but still exactly the same gospel!

Asia Minor and the Turkish city of Antalia (bottom of
photo) mentioned in Acts 14:25

You can't beat teaching the Bible
where it all took place!
Prayer Points for the next few months:

  • As we kick off the conference season, I would be very grateful for your prayers as I teach the pastors. “Pray for me that whenever I open my mouth, the right Swahili words may be given me so that I may fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel” - Eph 6:19 slightly adapted! Please pray for us as we travel the miles and carry out conference administration behind the scenes.

  • Please pray for Ruth as she helps to organise the AIM Women’s Retreat in Arusha in mid-May, and for strength and energy to carry out her various roles at Sanga, particularly in regard to finance.

  • You’ll see from the diary below that we’re due to officially open the Conference Centre on 7th July. Please pray for our workers, for Matt Dixon (our building supervisor) in the lead-up to this, and for the event itself, that all will be done for God’s glory.

Diary Dates:

9-11 May:          IBM Pastors’ conference in Babati
15-16th:            AIM Conference planning meetings in Arusha
17-20th:            AIM Women’s Retreat in Arusha (Ruth only!)
27-30th:            Unit Leader meetings in Nairobi for Steve
3rd June:          Steve preaching at Emmanuel Church, Morogoro
10-15th:            Travel to southern Tanzania for meetings & IBM Pastors’ conf in Kilwa
4-6 July:            IBM Pastors’ conference at Sanga Sanga
7th:                   Official opening of the Conference Centre!
9-20th:              Holiday with family! The Caudle Clan (Steve’s sister) from Scotland!

Thanks for all your prayers and support,

Steve & Ruth

13 February 2018

Flexing the sinews and ligaments

When we last wrote we were just about to head off to the UK for a short break with family and to celebrate my (Ruth’s) parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. We had a wonderful time and made many special memories. Christmas was spent with my parents and family (with the obligatory pork pie for Christmas breakfast—it’s an East Midlands tradition!). The anniversary celebration on Boxing Day went very well and it was great to meet up with siblings and cousins that we haven’t seen for years. My parents even received a lovely card from HM The Queen!

The Willows clan at the Diamond Anniversary do, four generations together.
Then it was north, travelling through snow, heading to Scotland for a few days in Nairn with my sister and over to Elgin for New Year with Steve’s sister and the wider Lancaster clan, which, with 8 adults and 6 kids in one house, was a noisy, active and fun time! In between we managed a quick overnight visit to our pastor and his wife in Corsham and a couple of days in Bicester with Steve’s brother. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip, not least feeling cold again!

The Lancaster clan on Lossie beach  Yes, it was cold!
Our journey back to Africa was broken by a few days in Kenya attending Unit Leader meetings. This was the first time that I had attended these meetings and it was an interesting experience seeing first-hand this part of Steve’s ministry. AIM’s Eastern Region comprises Tanzania and Kenya and each country is split into different units with a leader being responsible for member care and for implementing the strategy set by the Region. As you can imagine, a lot of administration comes with this role and this was reflected in the meetings with discussions on annual leave paperwork, language learning requirements and immigration matters—not terribly exciting stuff but necessary in order to facilitate AIM’s missionaries who are at the coal face of planting Christ-centred churches in Africa. So spare a thought—and a prayer—for Steve as he juggles this role with his other work. Perhaps these tasks are the ligaments and sinews that Paul talks about in Colossians 2: 19—supporting and holding together the whole body.

Talking of sinews and ligaments….Steve is in training to run the Kilimanjaro half marathon in March. His brother Ian and sister-in-law Kerri are coming out to run it too and to visit us for a week. I will be happy to wait at the finish line to cheer them all in!

Steve is now well and truly into preparation for this year’s Institute seminars. He is basing his talks on 1 Peter and has 11 sessions to prepare. His method is to prepare them all in English first and then, with the help of a Tanzanian friend, to tackle the mammoth task of translation into Swahili. We are thanking God that he has completed 8 talks so far with 3 to do. He is planning to start translation work mid-March. Please pray for him!

Meanwhile I have been handling the usual tasks of admin and accounts for Sanga Sanga Retreat Centre. There is one important task coming up that fills me with foreboding—the annual project report for the Eastern Region Office! It’s due in by the end of February so in the next couple of weeks I will be immersed in the books and trying not to get confused! I am thankful for the help of Brenda, my accountant friend, who is able to see the wood for the trees and translate a year’s worth of Tanzanian shilling transactions back into US dollars for the report!  Please pray for us!

Another aspect of my role is to teach English. Last week I ran a course for Intermediates. In amongst the grammar teaching were fun, games and lively discussions that really got the students talking! These courses are a great opportunity to demonstrate what a ‘real’ Christian is like, in front of people who may be nominal Christians or Muslims. Two of the students requested Bibles but, seeing that I’d brought 5, the other students also wanted a copy.

Happy English students with their certificates!
Radio gaga? I have been given the exciting opportunity of teaching English on the radio! Faith Baptist Church in Morogoro is setting up a local radio station and has invited me to record some short English teaching programmes. This is a new and unfamiliar venture—how to teach English with no direct interaction with students. Watch this space for more news!

White-throated Bee-eaters - another 'cop' for us
10th anniversary! On 19th January we celebrated 10 years of marriage with a weekend away on the coast, in fact on a small tropical island! Getting there involved a short journey by motorboat (having waded out to it to begin with!). We had two days of unwinding, swimming, reading and resting. There really wasn’t much else to do on the island! We took our binoculars in hope, not expecting to see much, but boy, were we surprised! We saw 5 or 6 ‘new’ birds with some wonderful names, including Caspian Tern, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater and the Blue-naped Mousebird. Beautiful birds and two very happy bird-watchers!

Diary Dates

18th Feb                      Steve preaching at AICT Morogoro (2 services)
March/April                  1 Peter prep for Steve
2nd-10th March           Holiday. Kilimanjaro half marathon! Bro Lancs coming out.
30th Mar-11th Apr       Steve leading Oak Hall Israel trip

Prayer and Praise
  • Praise God for the progress Steve has made to date with his preparation. Pray that it will continue to flow and that the translation work will go quickly and

  • Pray for Steve as he juggles this prep with his Unit Leader work, and for Ruth as she prepares financial reports.

  • Pray for the 5 English students who received Bibles, and the opportunity to teach English over the radio.

  • Praise God for 10 years of marriage!

Thanks for all your prayers and support,

Steve & Ruth

Bird of the month

Pin-tailed Whydah, seen in our garden.

My Mum and the Queen - but which is which?!