8 December 2020

Never say never!

Back in 2010, in my role as an AIM mobiliser I made a brief visit to Morogoro to stay with an AIM missionary couple (the Swansons), little knowing that three years later we’d be joining them in the work at Sanga Sanga.  Towards the end of that trip, Ruth flew out from the UK to join me for some holiday.  It was Ruth’s first visit to sub-Saharan Africa and she can vividly remember walking down one of the bustling Morogoro streets thinking to herself, “I could never live here!”  Well, I wonder if God had a little chuckle at that point, knowing that His plan was for us to live and work here for 7.5 years?!  We often joke that, in God’s economy, it’s dangerous to say the word ‘never’, but obviously in Ruth’s case, the thought was just as dangerous!  God has a habit of using people in places and situations where they could never have imagined living, doing what they never thought they’d be doing.  And yet He always follows that ‘never-never’ call by equipping His servants to carry out what He’s called them to do in never-never land! 

We can both testify to that.  Ruth can testify to the fact that God has equipped her to manage the finances at Sanga, alongside many other tasks and roles she would never have imagined doing before she came here (building maintenance!).  Although I'm not a fantastic linguist God has enabled me to preach and teach in Swahili on 229 occasions, despite the fact that I would often find myself thinking (whilst preaching) ‘What on earth am I doing standing up here preaching in another language?!’  He has proven the words of a phrase I heard at Bible College 18 years ago: “God often doesn’t call the qualified but he always qualifies the called.”  The verse that we chose for our third term prayer card highlights this issue of God equipping His servants for a role: “There is nothing in us that allows us to claim that we are capable of doing this work.  The capacity we have comes only from God.” (2 Cor 3:4)

Being equipped by God to do what He has called you to do does not, however, guarantee that the road ahead is going to be straightforward!  I think our 7.5 years of living in Morogoro can be compared to the state of the roads in Tanzania!  There are sections where the tarmac is new and smooth, where the road is straight for many a mile – but there are also sections where the roads are rough, twisty, potholed and yet another rumble strip shudders through the car, testing your shock absorbers to the limit!  There are also quite a few unpainted humps in the road which are invisible until you’re on them!  Likewise, that’s how life can be for us all at various times. 
Certainly, in the last couple of years, there have been more potholes and humps than we would have chosen on this journey, but despite them, God has enabled us to do what we came to do, and this part of the journey is nearly journeyed!  And we're realising (rather slowly!) that God uses the humps and bumps more than the ‘straight and the smooth’.  In fact it would seem from the pages of Scripture, that there are times when God leads us purposefully down into some potholes in order to accomplish His purposes in our lives.  And more often than not, at the time we haven’t got a clue why!  

Although it doesn’t use potholes as an analogy, I’m reminded of a poem I came across years ago called The Weaver.  My guess is that I’ll look back over time and wish I hadn’t complained so much about all those humps and bumps!

Surviving the Seminar Season!  A few weeks ago we were able to wrap up the IBM conference season with a four day seminar for AICT Evangelists at Sanga Sanga, with over 120 people in attendance.  This was concluded with another goodbye ceremony and yet more yards of coloured cloth being wrapped around Ruth.  The presentation of an African shirt provided many minutes of comedy as I struggled to get the thing over my head, whilst silently vowing never to wear it again! 

No, these aren't snow goggle marks - they're
tribal tattoos.  A conference attendee.

Steve's very last Swahili session!
The Evangelists' conference provided a real contrast to the last of our regional seminars, held in Iringa back in October.  The church building we met in was a challenging venue as it was situated at the top of a steep road leading into the city.  The sound of labouring lorries struggling up the hill in first gear was never far away!  Added to that was the constant sound of pan-clattering as the adjoining corridor was used as a makeshift kitchen.  Strangely enough, I never did see the hygiene certificate on the wall, although in defence of the cooks, the food was good and we didn't get dodgy stomachs! It was a challenging week in many ways and brought added meaning to the scripture where Paul says, “Preach the Word, being prepared in season and out of season.”  In other words, be prepared to preach when it’s convenient and when it’s not; when it's noisy and when it’s quiet; when it's well-attended and when it’s not!  So concluded the teaching series on Mark’s gospel, after which we headed straight off to our annual AIM retreat (also in Iringa) where I was involved in teaching, this time from John’s gospel.  I know for sure that any ministry back in the UK might not be as ‘colourful’ as it is here in Africa!            

Project Pack-down!  With our goodbye ceremonies complete and handovers all but done, we’re now preparing for our Tanzanian departure on 20th Dec.  This week is definitely where the pack-down gets serious as we sell off our household goods and aim to squeeze our worldly belongings into six suitcases!  We leave Morogoro on Tuesday 15th and head to the coast for five days, where we’ll take in the last of the African sun and enjoy the last few days of mask-freedom!  Arriving back in the UK on 21st Dec is going to be a shock to the system in terms of climate and Covid!  We’ll quarantine over Christmas in Cumbria and then plan on heading down south to Wiltshire in early January.  The first two months of 2021 will see us on home assignment, and then come 1st March, our term of service with AIM will come to a close.  At this point, we’re still not sure what the next chapter looks like and the canvas is looking fairly blank!  However, we believe that the Artist in charge of the next tapestry will reveal the pattern according to His timing and purpose.  Please pray that we’ll remain patient as we watch, wait, and listen! 

Saying farewell to the staff at Sanga Sanga

We hope to be in touch with a final newsletter sometime in February but for now we’ll sign off from Tanzania and wish you all a very happy and healthy Christmas.  Many thanks to those of you who have supported us on this journey, whether that be through prayer or pounds, or both!  We’ve been blessed with faithful, loyal and loving support along the route – and for that we are extremely grateful.  We could not have done this without you.  To those who have supported us financially, we’ll be in contact in the New Year to let you know about the ‘shutting down’ process!  For now, it’s 'kwa heri' from Tanzania, knowing that it will soon be time for ‘hello’ in the UK!  

Prayer Points: 

  • We’re thanking God for the completion of this year’s conferences, and praying the teaching goes on to bear much fruit.  
  • We’re thanking God for good farewells and a sense of closure to our time in Tanzania. 
  • We’re thanking God for His protection and blessing during the last 7.5 years.  
  • We’re praying for guidance with regard to the next chapter; that we’d be open to His leading; that God would show us clearly what the next step is; for wisdom as we plan our home assignment including where we should live!
  • Please continue to pray for Pastor Batano, John Enock and the staff at Sanga Sanga as they continue with the ministry in our absence.   

Every blessing

Steve & Ruth

PS. For the Corshamites among you, here’s a weird connection with our newsletter title!  Did you know that the first time the phrase “never say never” first appeared in print was back in 1837?  Charles Dickens used it in his novel ‘The Pickwick Papers’ – which was apparently written in Pickwick, Corsham! 

Ruth just about managed to cram John's head
with as much information as he needs!

The flamboyant trees are in full bloom at this
time of year, Tanzania's own Christmas trees!

Who's pinched the arch?

Bird of the month: Brown-hooded Kingfisher,
a frequent visitor to our garden in Morogoro

21 September 2020

Making the Message of Mark Matter

Monduli seminar
The Monduli conference – the heart of
Masai land

We’re now midway through our conference season and preparing for our fourth event, this time in the wilds of Magambua (23rd-25th Sept), a 3 hour drive from the nearest tarred road. So far the IBM events have gone really well, with 90 pastors (and wives) in attendance. During the 3 day course we journey together through the gospel of Mark, although with only ten teaching sessions we’re only scraping the surface of some of the major events.  Here’s the breakdown, with a few added comments:

1: Intro to Mark.  A man who was possibly a failed missionary but was given a second chance by Barnabas, and who later became very useful to both Paul and Peter.

2: The Parable of the Sower.  A session that promotes more discussion than any other, quite possibly because many of our pastors are also subsistence farmers!?

3: Jesus calming the storm.  A key lesson for me this term, as I keep trying to apply the truth that Jesus is in the boat with me as I face the waves.

4: The feeding of the 5000.  Jesus doesn’t actually need the five loaves and two fish to do his work, but he chooses to use the small amount the little boy can offer to feed thousands!   

5. Peter’s confession of Christ.  If Jesus really is who he says he is, then we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him.

6: The donkey-riding King!  King of the Universe – yet he comes in humility and gentleness.

7: The authority of Jesus and the rumble in the temple!  What do we need to remove from the courtyards of our lives in order to give room for more reverence and worship to God?

8: Anointing the anointed.  The deep devotion of one woman who was prepared to give something of immense worth to Christ. 

9: The power of the cross.  Jesus (who didn’t deserve to die) was crucified, whilst Barabbas (who deserved to die) was freed.  Our middle name is Barabbas!   

10: He has risen!  Some of the most important words ever uttered by an angel!

Steve's just relieved he didn't get
the jacket!

At the three conferences so far, the day that stands out from the rest is the third day of teaching.  From a teaching/preaching perspective it has felt as though there has been an extra ‘uummpphhh’ to sessions 9 and 10.  Swahili utterance has felt more fluid and there’s been a real feeling of the message hitting home. The singing that follows these sessions has borne testimony to the fact that hearts and minds have been challenged and blessed, as we’ve considered the awesome power of the cross and the empty tomb.  It’s our hope that the teaching the pastors receive will enable and inspire them personally, but that they might also be mobilised to pass on what they’ve learned to their congregations.  

The Long Goodbye!  At each conference so far the closing minutes have involved a farewell presentation to us from the pastors and their wives, even though we haven’t shouted from the rooftops about our departure home to the UK!  I’d rather pop out the back door once the conference has finished!  A lengthy speech is normally followed by a procession of swaying gift-givers who parade to the front and wrap us up with tribal blankets!  At the Monduli event we were robed in Masai gear, followed up by the longest of photo-calls! 

At the Monduli seminar - clearly the couple on the 
right didn't get the joke!

At the Pwani event, in an attempt to get us to rethink our exit strategy, pastor Reuben quoted from Acts 18:20 where the Ephesians pleaded with Paul to stay: They asked him to spend more time with them.  I politely quoted the end of the verse which says, but he declined!  Such farewells are indeed a blessing and enable us to realise that the work God has given us to do has not been in vain.  Such farewells also help us to finish well and give us the platform to say good goodbyes!  It also gives me the opportunity, in my closing speech, to lift up my Enabler in all of this. 1 Peter 4:11 says whoever preaches must preach God’s messages; whoever serves must serve with the strength God gives, so that in all things praise may be given to God through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs glory and power for ever.  In a season which has seen a few struggles, I am so aware that it is He who has given us the strength to do our work here, and therefore the glory belongs to Him.

The fake birthday!

A Tale of Two Birthdays!  What do you do when a birthday cake is presented to the wrong person, with the wrong name iced on the cake?!  That was the conundrum facing us as we sat in a dining tent in the African bush.  I had decided that it would be nice to wake up in the middle of the Serengeti on my birthday, especially as it would be empty of tourists during this Covid season!  During the booking process I had mentioned that the reason for our visit, apart from animal spotting, would be to celebrate my birthday. And so the cook swung into action to bake a cake.  Their customer care was to be applauded, except for the fact that they put the wrong customer’s name on the top!  So, what did we do as the three staff members paraded in with the cake and placed it before Ruth?  In that split second, and after a couple of exchanged winks, we decided we hadn’t got the heart to correct them, so we played along and I joined in the singing to wish my wife a very happy fake birthday

The real birthday!

Fast forward to 20th August and a very different setting, where we woke up in a £7-a-night guesthouse to celebrate Ruth’s real birthday!  It was the middle day of our second IBM conference, being held in the outback town of Monduli in the north of Tanzania.  Ruth had resigned herself to having a very ordinary birthday, sorting out conference finances and listening to me bellow forth in Swahili - so I decided to go on a cake-hunting tour of the town.  One would think that a bakers might be the best bet but I was directed to a stationery shop where I could apparently order a cake!  Although slightly dubious as to what might be served up, and dodging the temptation to have my name put on the top, I ordered the cake and was told to return in four hours’ time.

On my return I was amazed to find a very professional-looking cake complete with iced flowers and the right name on it!
  What was equally amazing was the response from the pastors and their wives as they queued up to sample the cake.  There was plenty of singing, clapping and dancing as 38 mouths waited in line for Ruth to ‘feed them’ a slice of cake, some of them giddy with excitement at the anticipation!  It made us realise that, whilst we may take such small things for granted, this was a big event and a luxury that some of them don’t often enjoy.  After all, the cake which had cost the same as two nights’ accommodation at our guesthouse (£14) was more money than some would see in a couple of weeks.  It turned out to be a second memorable birthday for Ruth….although Steve is still waiting for his!

Tausi House nearing completion
Ruth’s Report: I was pondering recently on all the different hats one sometimes has to wear as a missionary, things often outside one’s comfort zone and skillset.  Over the last few weeks I’ve found myself managing a building project at Sanga Sanga—definitely something I’m not qualified to do!  Suffice to say that the completion of Tausi* House is near!  The building comprises 3 en-suite rooms which add a further 18 beds to Sanga Sanga Retreat Centre.  The village guesthouses may suffer as a result but it means some of our conference delegates won’t have to walk a mile to their beds when they come for a conference!  We’re thankful to Corsham Baptist for getting the ball rolling on this project, and to Oak Hall for enabling us to finish it.  Otherwise, I continue to train up our new accountant (John Enock), who’s made the move from the big city of Dar to the little village of Sanga Sanga.  So far so good and I’m happy to say that John is doing a good job.  Whilst he’s been crunching numbers, his wife Beatrice has had a tough time of late.  She had to spend four nights in Morogoro hospital with a burst ulcer.  She’s now back at home and on the mend, having also found out during the process that she’s pregnant! 

*Tausi means peacock in Swahili

"It's rude to stare - especially when
I'm eating!"

Diary dates:

22nd -26th Sept: IBM Magambua conference (north of Dodoma) teaching on Mark’s gospel.

5th-7th Oct: Various UL meetings in Dar (Steve).

19th-22nd Oct: IBM Iringa conference – Mark’s gospel.

23th-27th Oct: AIM missionary retreat near Iringa. Steve doing the Bible teaching.

1st Nov: Steve preaching at Emmanuel Church, Morogoro.

23rd-27th Nov: IBM AICT Evangelists conference at Sanga Sanga. Steve teaching.

20th Dec: The End!  Flight home to UK, God willing.

Jan/Feb 2021: Home Assignment UK.  

Points 4 Prayer:

  • Praise God for the completion of three IBM conferences to date, all of which went very well.
  • Steve is thanking God for improving health and a feeling that God is enabling him to finish well here. 
  • Praise God that John has settled in very well. Pray for Ruth as she continues the handover. 
  • Please pray for the remaining four conferences that Steve is teaching at, that in God’s strength he would preach/teach with power, passion and pronunciation!
  • Please pray for us as we begin to declutter the house, sell our possessions and prepare to leave Tanzania.  It will no doubt be a time of mixed emotions.
  • We’re relaxed about the ‘what next’ question but we’d appreciate your prayers as we seek guidance on what we should do next. 2021 is currently an open book!!
  • We’re due to fly home on 20th December, although this depends on the Covid situation in the UK.  If the quarantine requirement is still in place, we’ll delay our return until January as we prefer not to spend Christmas in quarantine!
Many, many thanks for your prayers and support.  We’ll be in touch again towards the end of November.

 Steve & Ruth


Bird of the month: Red-and-Yellow Barbet


Spot the odd one out!

28 June 2020

Celebrating 125 years!

We are sharing this message from AIM with you all:

“In humble dependence upon God, we have moved steadily forward, no doubt in our blindness making many mistakes, but we ascribe all praise to him for anything that has been done which can bring glory to his name and honour to his cause."

The words above were written by our founder, Peter Cameron Scott after the first AIM base was established in Nzawi, Kenya. This year we mark our 125-year celebration, and look back with the same mindset. Despite our human frailties, God has done great things in and through those who have served AIM over our history.

Originally we’d planned to have celebrations in Edinburgh and London, but these have now moved online. We are currently compiling stories, videos which allow us to worship together remotely and thoughts from both missionaries, Africans and our International Office on our past and our future. 

There are two ways for you to watch all that we put together:

Sign up to get a password details of our Vimeo stream, which will go live on 26 September and remain accessible for a while afterwards.
Sign up to receive a DVD through the post.

We hope that you all sign up for one of the above options, and that the event will be an encouragement to you. It would also be great if you could share about the event with your prayer supporters, so that they too can gain a wider insight into the work of AIM and our thoughts for the future. You can sign up, and point them to sign up, at http://eu.aimint.org/125

19 June 2020

Covid Conundrums!

Our last sunset view from Hotel Quarantine!

You may remember that our last blog update came at the end of March from the third floor of a hotel in Dar during our 15 day quarantine period.  Well, we survived our enforced captivity and were proudly presented with ‘corona-free’ certificates on our release, along with our confiscated passports!  That same morning the Tanzanian government decided to remove the hotel option for incoming passengers for quarantine due to the fact that a number of disgruntled lock-downers had escaped their hotels!  Instead, all incomers were being whisked off to some dingy university halls…. complete with shared bathrooms!  Not so ideal when you’re meant to be isolating!  It made us realise that our enforced hotel stay could have been so much worse!  To be honest, even though we were confined to one room, we actually enjoyed our stay there, although what did help was being able to escape into the corridor every night for some speed-walking exercise!  I (Steve) managed to clock up 30 miles over 14 nights – much to the amusement of the policeman posted at the end of the corridor!  

So, what has the situation been like in Tanzania during these past few months?  In short, there has been no lockdown, much to the annoyance of the surrounding countries!  From the outset the President decided that serious lockdown would be too costly on the fragile economy of the country.  Schools, colleges and public gatherings were banned – but he did insist that the ban should not include gathering in church on a Sunday morning!  In fact he encouraged people to attend to pray against the virus – and just last week announced to worshippers in Dodoma that “the corona disease has been eliminated (from the country) thanks to God.”  We’re a tad sceptical about the elimination part of that sentence, although we’re very thankful to God that the virus does not seem to have caused the devastation that was feared.  It’s hard to know the real facts because data on the number of virus cases stopped being published on 29th April, at which point there were only 21 official deaths recorded.  Last month there were all sorts of rumours swirling around - of night-time burials in Dar, hospitals being overwhelmed, unreliable testing, and plane-loads of herbal remedies being flown in from Madagascar etc! 

Social Distancing – what’s that?!  
Today, the main streets of Morogoro are as busy as ever, and it’s very much business as usual.  It’s all hustle & bustle and there’s certainly little sign of social distancing!  Was there ever going to be in Africa?!  The traders continue to lay out their wares on the dusty pavements; the knife sharpener continues to sharpen machetes on his upturned bike; beggars continue to ask for a few shillings; the coffin-makers (situated near the hospital!) continue to bang up their coffins at the normal rate of production; the guy selling fresh coconuts from the back of his rickety old pushbike continues to peddle (and pedal!) for his living!   The only sign of a pandemic is that a few people are still wearing face masks, and outside every shop there is a variety of handwashing contraptions, some of which work better than others!  

It seems a world away from what has happened elsewhere across the globe and the expected disaster appears not to have happened, and God willing it won’t.  In fact the WHO is now saying that there has been a slower rate of infection in Africa with lower mortality rates than elsewhere in the world.  One possible explanation is that Africa has a young population which has benefited from the control of diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis which has in turn reduced the vulnerabilities.  The experts are now saying that, whilst coronavirus likely won’t spread as fast in Africa, it may well linger on in transmission hotspots for some time.  The following link is a recent BBC article on the how the country (and president!) has handled Covid-19: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-52983563

Pastor Batano receives a sack of
flour for his family
Sanga & Seminars:
Due to the ‘gatherings ban’ (April-May) life at IBM’s HQ has been rather quiet.  Kids camps and churches cancelled their bookings at Sanga, and this meant that income was virtually non-existent.  As a result we had to reduce the hours of our workers but thankfully haven’t had to lay anyone off. There’s no such thing as ‘furlough support’ here in Tanzania, and we’re very grateful to a number of IBM supporters who donated to the cause and enabled us to continue paying salaries.  With these donations we were also able to buy sacks of maize flour to support the families of our workers during these leaner times.  It is hoped, now that the ‘gathering ban’ has been lifted, that bookings will be re-booked and life at Sanga will return to some sort of normality!  Two incidents reported in the last few days remind us that life at Sanga is often not normal: reports of a neighbouring bush fire meant that our workers were on high alert to prevent it spreading onto our property; and just yesterday a few of our workers tried to harvest honey from our bee hives…. without a great deal of success!  People ended up running in all directions as the bees swarmed and vented their fury on whoever got in their path.  Our building maintenance guy, who was down a well at the time, didn’t even escape the stinging! 

Our first scheduled IBM regional seminar of the year had to be postponed back in early June.  We’re hoping that the next one on the list will happen in July in Mtwara, way down in the south of the country. With an extended preparation time this year, all of the teaching material has now been prepared and is ready to print – all 64 pages of it, with a Swahili word count of 35,000 words!  The pastors and evangelists who attend will be given a full set of notes for two reasons: firstly, they can then use the material in their churches, and secondly, having my notes means they’re able to make sense of my Swahili pronunciation!  In terms of the English word count, the notes are 6,000 words longer due to fact that one word in written Swahili often comprises 3-5 English words!  Everything is thrown together: tense, pronoun, verb etc!  Let me give you a couple of examples so that you can marvel at the language that is Swahili!  These five words - “he did not concern himself” become one word in Swahili – “Hakujishugulisha”.  If I were to say to you “Let us humble ourselves”, I’d say this word: “Tujinyenyekeze”.  And finally the words “When it is preached” become “Itakapohubiriwa”.  You can understand why my teaching notes contain a lot of pen marks in an attempt to break up such words to make them easier to say!   

IBM seminar dates:

 1.  6-11 July                  Mtwara seminar    

 2.  5-7 AugCoastal Diocese seminar at Sanga Sanga Retreat Centre

 3:  2-4 SeptIfakara seminar

 4:  23-25  Sept                            Magambua seminar

 5:  28-30 OctSongea seminar

 6:  ??  Monduli Arusha seminar

 7:  24-27 NovPastors’ seminar at Sanga Sanga Retreat Centre

A labour of love!  Steve poses with his
finished teaching materials
This year I’ll be preaching through the gospel of Mark, although with only eleven teaching sessions, we’ll only be scratching the surface.  There is no particular theme or agenda, no strategies or ‘how to do….’ methods, just good old-fashioned preaching from God’s Word!  In studying Mark’s gospel I’m inspired by the fact that the writer was, in his early days, quite possibly a failed missionary whose best friend was our favourite disciple, Peter – who was also known for his slip-ups and failures!  I’m encouraged by the fact that these two ‘failures’ were used mightily by God in the early church and beyond.  It’s thought that Mark used much of Peter’s preaching material and shaped it into the gospel that we have today.  Little did they know what an impact this material would have down through the ages.  Praise God that he chooses to use ordinary bods like Mark and Peter, with their foibles and faults, in the growth of His kingdom!  Whilst I’m certainly not expecting my teaching to have as much impact, I am hoping and praying that God would use my material on Mark’s gospel to inspire, strengthen and deepen the faith of all the AICT men and women we work with. 

These last two months have continued to be busy ones for Ruth.  Whilst her monthly ladies prayer breakfast and fortnightly Book Club have been temporarily suspended, there has been plenty to do at Sanga Sanga.  The audit of the books in March has led to implementing some new and improved processes, the finance manual has been updated, a new bank account opened (a long-winded process here!) and various reports written for the Diocese.  There are always personnel issues to deal with and the usual administration and maintenance that goes with running a conference and retreat centre, even without guests! 

One of Ruth’s goals for this term was to find a good person to employ as an Accountant.  Praise God that we have been able to appoint a young man who is a believer and seems suitably qualified.  God willing, he will start on 1st July and Ruth will spend several weeks training him in our systems and processes.

The choir of a local Baptist church came to Sanga Sanga
recently to shoot a video for their new DVD 

Ruth visiting with Sanga Sanga
housekeeper Fran and her family

Faults & Foibles
Let me leave you with a quote that’s resonated with me over these last few days.  It’s from a book called “21 Servants of Sovereign Joy” by John Piper.  What a book it’s turning out to be!  He examines the lives of 21 well-known saints of old, highlighting their accomplishments, whilst not glossing over their faults and foibles!  It’s proving to be a huge encouragement to me – and I’m only on page 258 out of 814!  My only criticism is that Mr. Piper does not include Mr. Livingstone!  Anyway, here goes with a quote that should encourage you and I: These lives are “a vivid powerful testimony to the truth that God can and does use weak, sick, discouraged, beat-down, lonely, struggling saints who cry to him day and night to accomplish amazing things for his glory”.  Onwards in the fight! 

PPP: Prayer & Praise Points:  
  • We’re praising God for the donors who have helped pay our staff salaries recently.
  • We’re thanking God that we will soon have a Tanzanian accountant.  Please pray that John Masanja will settle into his new role well. 
  • We’re praising God that Covid-19 doesn’t seem to have hit Tanzania hard.
  • Pray for Steve as he begins his last Swahili teaching programme at the various seminars, starting in July; for strengthening and power, for good health, and for hearts that are open. 
  • Please pray for us both as we enter the home straight of our Tanzanian venture!  We now have less than six months before we head home and close up here.  Pray we would cross the finish line well.  Please pray with us that God would show us clearly what he wants us to do in 2021, and the next chapter of life.       
Many thanks and every blessing

Steve & Ruth

Bird of the month: Saddle-billed Stork

Insect of the month: no idea!  Any guesses?

24 March 2020

Life in the Lockdown Lane!

Some of you will know that Steve was recently granted a month's medical leave in the UK as he had been diagnosed with anxiety and burn out.  I stayed behind in Tanzania for 3 weeks and joined him in the UK for his final week there, last week.  I'm thankful to say that the break has done Steve good and he is improving, and he has even regained enthusiasm for life in Tanzania!  Sleep has at last returned for him thanks to the medication and his head is a lot clearer.  Thank you so much for all who have prayed for Steve during this last month - your prayers are being answered.  I'm also thankful for your prayers for me while I have been sorting out the Sanga Sanga accounts.  That work is now done and the 2019 accounts closed.  An audit of the accounts was very helpful too.

Rush hour on the London

We travelled to Heathrow on 22nd March for our flight back to Tanzania.  We knew that we would probably have to self-isolate at home in Morogoro but we could do that quite easily.  However, 5 minutes after checking in at the airport we received news from our team mate in Morogoro that the Tz Government would be quarantining all passengers arriving from a Covid-19 zone for 14 days.  With no other information to go on - would that include us?  Where would we be quarantined?  - we wrestled with whether to pull our bags out and remain in the UK, or to go on with our plans and return to Tanzania.

We spent an hour trying to get more information from friends on the ground in Tanzania.  One said she'd been told that all arrivals would go to a hospital ward for 14 days, another said it would be a hotel - at our own expense.  Despite the uncertainty and after more than a few arrow prayers for guidance, we decided to go ahead and get on the plane.

Route map on the Qatar Airways flight...hmm,where has
Israel gone?!
Getting 40 winks at Doha Airport
It was a long journey - we had a 7 hour layover in Doha.  Actually we met a few missionaries at the airport who were heading the other way, back to the West, including a family of AIM missionaries who had just left Tanzania (the leaders of the Zigua team who we mentioned in our last blog).  It was good to see them and say our goodbyes, as Steve had been their Unit Leader and involved with them and their team in various ways. 

On our 300-seater Dreamliner aircraft from Doha there were only 12 of us aboard!  Behind their masks the cabin crew were undoubtedly smiling at how easy their job was going to be!  On arrival at Dar yesterday afternoon we were processed through Passport Control but then gathered together to be told that we were going to a hotel to be put into quarantine.  Our pleas to be allowed to return to Morogoro to self-isolate fell on deaf ears.

The view from our window 
So here we are in quarantine.  The hotel is quite comfortable and there is good wifi.  The staff and manager are being helpful and sympathetic.  That said, we have to take all our meals in our room and are not allowed to leave the 3rd floor - and to make sure of that there are now armed police outside!  Officials from the Ministry of Health will be visiting us every day to check our temperatures and health.  It's a bit frustrating not being able to be at Sanga Sanga, especially as I was due to pay wages there at the end of the month.  But we understand the reasons for our quarantine and are happy to comply with the instructions of the authorities here.  During the next few weeks Steve still has some prep to occupy him and I will be keeping a remote eye on finances at Sanga Sanga.

Interesting bathroom tiles in our hotel room (sorry, we're a bit
desperate for good photos!)
Pray for Tanzania - if Covid-19 takes hold here the results will be devastating.  Social distancing is almost impossible with large families living together under one roof and public transport cramming in as many people as possible.  Many have underlying health issues that they can't afford to have treated, making them very vulnerable.  Medical facilities will not be able to cope with an influx of patients, and protective equipment and ventilators will most likely not be available in the quantities that will be needed.

Please pray for us too, for grace and patience in this enforced period of confinement, albeit with room service!  Pray that we won't get cabin fever and will use this time wisely - and not throttle each other in the process!!

Bird of the month: Southern African
White-faced Owl...on the streets of

20 February 2020

Bizarre Birds, Balancing the Books, and Jars of Clay

Shoebill Sighted!  
Although they now seem like a distant memory, we very much enjoyed our Christmas hols in Uganda, hosted by our friends the Swansons & the Kinsellas.  We picnicked in Entebbe Botanical Gardens on Christmas Eve, got within touching distance of a southern white rhino in the conservation park, and sat down for lunch on the shores of Lake Victoria as a swarm of lake flies passed through!  Looking across the lake we thought we’d seen huge plumes of smoke rising from the water, only to discover that they were in fact millions of lake flies!  Thankfully they don’t bite, but it’s a good idea to check your sandwich before taking a mouthful!  The birders amongst you will also remember that our birding mission was to catch a glimpse of the mysterious Shoebill with its fat hooked beak.  Our boating trip into Mabamba Swamp did not disappoint, and we had some great views of this weird and wonderful bird, also known as the ‘whalehead’! All in all, a great Christmas break, although there’s still a ‘strangeness’ about celebrating Christmas 
in Africa.    

“From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise” (Psalm 8:2). I often travel to see 
various missionaries, and am privileged to get a glimpse of what Christ is doing through them in 
their ministries.  You may remember in our last newsletter, I mentioned that an AIM TIMO team had 
established a nursery school in the rural village where they live, and that 25 children had made it 
through their first year of education. That team is only two months away from finishing and I want to 
refer to an article produced by AIM recently, highlighting the way in which God has used the team to 
reach out to the children of the village with the gospel. 

One of the team members shares the following: “Our village leader, Mwenyekiti, is a force to be 
reckoned with.  She is well respected in the village and is full of wisdom.  She is also adamantly 
opposed to hearing about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Many of the members of our team have 
shared the gospel with her countless times but she usually responds with a polite, “Maybe another 
day” or “That’s great for you but I’ll stick with my religion.”  She has made it pretty clear that Jesus is 
not for her.  Nonetheless, her youngest son and four of her grandchildren are students at our nursery, 
an openly Christian school.  A few weeks back, Mwenyekiti mentioned that she was fairly certain her 
son was ready to profess Christ as his Saviour.  We were thrilled to hear this, of course!  The 
conversation went on and Mwenyekiti casually continued, “I expect this next generation to all be Christians because of the school.  They won’t be Muslim anymore.”  Yes! Praise Jesus! This is our prayer.”  This has not been an easy three years for the team, so it's great that they are now 
beginning to see a few seedlings growing in what has been a very tough soil to cultivate.  For the full 
article click on the following: https://eu.aimint.org/ziguafeb2020/ 

Gardens being planted at the conference centre
Day-to-Day stuff!  
When we’re at home in Morogoro, it’s pretty much routine and humdrum stuff!  The power surges continue, the water supply is intermittent, the sugar ants run riot in the house, the often-repaired potholes grow deeper…. and the traffic police still circle like vultures waiting to pounce!  Ruth has spent a lot of time over the last few months at Sanga, beavering away at getting the accounts up-to-date, tracking down payment vouchers and receipts.  At the moment she’s working on end-of-year financial reports for AIM, but by the end of the month, she’s hoping to have signed-off 
on ‘the money’, and will then turn her attention to fundraising and marketing.  This has been
a huge undertaking for Ruth, and her diligence and persistence is definitely winning through.  

In terms of teaching material for this year’s conferences, I’ve chosen to look at the Gospel of Mark, focussing on Jesus as the suffering servant.  It’s the shortest Gospel, the earliest Gospel, and 
probably the liveliest with everything happening at a quick pace.  You’ll find that every preacher has 
a favourite word, and Mark’s is definitely ‘immediately’ or ‘straightaway’.  He uses it over forty times!  “Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat.  Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit what 
they were thinking.  Immediately blind Bartimaeus received his sight.”  It’s a gospel full of action and 
you are hurried from one scene to the next. Mark manages to pack a lot into his Gospel, although if 
you add up all the events that he portrays, they only come to a period of three weeks in the life of 
Jesus.  Ironically, at my current pace, it’s going to take me three months to prepare eleven teaching sessions!  

Treasure in Jars of Clay  
Some of you know that poor sleep has been an issue for me over recent years and this has often been accompanied by other 
health complaints (stomach, headaches, etc).  These past few 
months have been quite tough for me in terms of general health.  
Last year whilst on home assignment I was encouraged to 
consider counselling, to explore whether these symptoms could 
have a physiological basis.  This led to a diagnosis of ‘generalised 
anxiety disorder’.  It would seem that I’ve had this for many years 
and that living and working in Tanzania has exacerbated things, causing it to bubble to the surface.  I won’t go into detail but 
having trouble sleeping is just one of the symptoms of this 
disorder!  I’ve also been aware that I’m not tolerating the stress of 
cross-cultural living as well as I once did, and this has been accompanied by the feeling that there’s not much left in the tank.  

A few weeks ago, following advice from a few folks, I travelled to Nairobi for a medical and for further counselling with AIM’s dedicated counselling service.  What 
came out of those sessions was a further diagnosis of burnout and mild depression, resulting from 
stress and anxiety which hasn’t been managed well. It was a lightbulb moment for me because I 
found that I was experiencing many of the symptoms listed under ‘burnout’: no emotional energy left, digestive problems, increased irritability, reduced ability to concentrate, poor sleep, aching joints/
muscles, and mental exhaustion.  It’s no wonder that the tank feels empty!  

As a result, we’ve made a number of decisions that we hope will reduce certain stressors and may 
enable us to finish our work here in a timely way.  I will be heading back to UK on Tues 25th February 
for a month’s medical leave, based in Cumbria with my parents, whilst Ruth will stay to continue the 
work at Sanga.  We’ve also been advised to finish here in Morogoro sooner rather than later, and so, although we were planning for this to be our last term, we’ll now aim to finish at the end of November 
this year, rather than November 2021.  We realise that a month’s medical leave is not going to turn 
me into Superman and clear up all the issues!  However, we hope that it will provide some 
recuperation, whilst giving medication the chance to do its work, so that on my return I’ll be able to 
finish the conference season, work towards a good handover, and that Ruth will be able to train up a Tanzanian accountant at Sanga.  We’re committing our way to the Lord in this and praying that our 
plans will succeed (Prov 16:3) - but we’re also well aware that, “in his heart a man plans his course, 
but the Lord determines his steps” (Prov 16:9)!  If we need to finish earlier, then we will do so, but we 
want to try and handover in the best possible way. 

Note from Ruth: It’s fair to say that the last few weeks have been challenging for me as I’ve ploughed 
much time and energy into sorting out Sanga Sanga’s accounts and at the same time tried to be a 
patient and sympathetic wife to Steve!  I know that many of you have been lifting us up in prayer.  I 
am certain that your prayers for me have been answered and I’m praising God that He has given me 
the needed strength and ability to persevere when ordinarily I might have retreated to a dark room for 
an indefinite lie down!  My grateful thanks to you for your prayers.

Praise & Prayer Points: 

- Pray for Ruth as she ties up last year’s accounts and reports to AIM by the end of Feb. 
- Please pray for Steve as he heads home to UK for medical leave, that there would be some healing 
and a renewed energy to finish this task.
- Pray for Ruth in terms of safety and security as she stays in Tanzania. The longest we’ve been 
apart in 11 years is 13 days!  Pray that there won’t be any emergencies or problems to sort out at 
home or at Sanga Sanga.
- In a few days we’ll be advertising for the position of an accountant/book-keeper at Sanga.  This is a 
key position at IBM so please pray that we’d have some godly and gifted applicants to choose from.
- Please pray for the Zigua team as they prepare to finish up, and for the children who are hearing 
the gospel; that these seedlings will spring up and produce a good crop!  Pray also for the Tanzanian 
couple (the Kimoyo’s) who are staying on to continue the work. 


25th February            Steve flies to UK for medical leave
22nd March               Steve returns to Tanzania
8th April                     Ruth & Steve fly to UK.  Ruth spending time with her parents
9th-18th April             Steve leading Oak Hall Israel trip (DV)
20th April                   S&R fly back to Tz

Children at a recent AICT kids' camp at Sanga Sanga.  Looks
like most of them are having fun!