Peter & Christine

Snakes in a loo

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Here in Kondoa, we have had many warm windy days and nights. Our outside hole-in-the-ground loo, which is surrounded by lean-to corrugated iron sheets, has all but blown apart. A friend espied a baby snake disappearing into the hole the other day, so it is possible its entire family lives down there! Just as well we have indoor, western-type loos too. We can even flush them sometimes! The hot season will be upon us soon, which hopefully will include lots of rain. Some villages had no harvest at all from the last ‘wet season.’

At Kondoa Bible College, we rejoice in the enthusiasm of all our students. Fourteen students began their 3-year Certificate of Theology course in August, and right now are on their mid-term break. Most of them would have preferred to keep going, battling away with their essays, which many of the staff like giving them for their mid-term assessment. There are several pastors in the group; others are catechists who hope to be ordained when they have their qualification. Two more students may be joining them after the break. The two-year course students have all eagerly taken on leadership roles in the college, which is great! They too are working well, and benefiting from the computer lessons that Peter is giving them. Their goal is to be able to write their essays on the computer.

We’re at presently applying for work permits so that we can then apply for our residence permits to be renewed. We had hoped that by now there would have been an exemption granted for us as missionaries with the Anglican church but that will be too late for us now if granted. This week has been occupied with a long journey by bus to Dar es Salaam for Peter followed by two days trying to complete our work permit applications and then a long journey back to Kondoa, interrupted by a night in Dodoma, having arrived too late to go on to Kondoa. We pray that we’ll have a positive response to our application so that we can then renew the residence permit before it expires in mid-November.

Recently Peter led both services at the church in Kondoa and fortunately did not have to preach as well. Our pastor was away at a family funeral so he had to ask for the part-time pastor and myself to cover for him. We had a time of thanksgiving as part of the service for David Pearce, who had worked in the 1990’s in Kondoa and still had many who warmly remembered him.

Over a week ago now we received news that Peter’s translated version of a book on grief has arrived in Dodoma. They are waiting for us to collect and then distribute. Thank you to all who have contributed to help this come about. It will be interesting to see what it actually looks like after all this time!

Since our last newsletter we have had several groups of visitors which involved quite a lot of travelling to different parts of the Diocese. It is quieter here at present on that front as the Bishop is away on Sabbatical leave until mid-December.  Please pray for him that he can have some refreshment while away and safety in all his travelling.

Safety on the roads is a constant challenge here. An example of that is for one of our pastors who was travelling on a bus from Arusha on Friday. He ended up in hospital after the brakes of the bus failed on a steep incline and crashed. Many were very badly injured. He escaped with cuts and bruises.

We really do appreciate your interest and sharing in our ministry here in Kondoa. We would love to hear from you too when you have opportunity. Why not leave a comment below?

Image: The current three year Bible course students.

The ordination (part 2)

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One might expect that the official, long holiday break from Bible College might have offered a break from hectic activity, something that could be termed, ‘holiday’. Dream on! 

When I last wrote a newsletter, at the end of May, the 3-year Theology students were about to sit their final papers, set by the Anglican Province of Tanzania.  As Peter was sent off driving and translating for all the different groups of visitors to the Diocese, I was left to administer the papers, amongst the tension of both students and teachers.  The 2-year course students were sitting their exams at the same time, so I had some supervising and marking of papers to do as well.  Peter was back in time for the Graduation service and celebration meal, but as the 3-yr papers had to be taken to Kongwa for marking, we didn’t know the results until a few weeks later.  I must say that we were amazed that 10 out of our 11 students passed their Certificate of Theology.  There was much rejoicing!  Bishop Given was thrilled too, and has plans for the top students to further their studies; the others will be placed in parishes of the Diocese.

A group of eleven 17  year olds and three teachers from Bishop Justus School in Rochester arrived to help with building projects in the village of Chemba.  Their school has sent different teams for three years now.  The local children adore them.  We have a World Heritage site only 45 mins drive from Kondoa, at a place called Kolo.  Peter and I accompanied the students to have a look.  Massive rock formations and rock paintings there have been estimated as at least 20000 years old, through carbon dating. 

It is seen as a very spiritual place by the locals, especially at one site where there is a large ‘room’ under a massive rock.  It can only be reached by slithering through on your stomach!  Not one of us cared to try that!  The guide said he had brought many people there to pray to the gods for things small and big, such as to be elected into Parliament!

In the middle of the school’s visit, Peter and I were required to go on retreat for two days before his ordination to the priesthood, on July 16.  This was at Chemba this year.  There were just three couples involved: John and Christina, Amos and Joyce, and Peter and Chris!  John, Amos and Peter had all been ordained as deacons last year, and found worthy by the bishop to be ordained as priests this year.  Sunday’s service was a huge affair.  The school students who were present, reckoned that it was 6 hours long!  There must have been at least 8 choirs from surrounding villages, Kondoa and Chemba itself, and each had prepared a special item for the day.  The large church was packed out.

After one day back in Kondoa, Peter had to travel again, this time to Korogwe, in the Tanga district. It is a long drive, and he decided to bus to Dodoma then join in with others destined for the same meeting of principals of Bible Colleges.

In the meantime I was expected to be part of a Mothers’ Union leaders’ meeting gathering in Kondoa from all over the Diocese.  As I am now a Mama Mchungaji, basically meaning a pastor’s wife, I am expected to turn up to all these meetings.  If they are as long as that one was (3 – 11:30pm), I might start becoming creative with my excuses.  One thing that did excite me was a discussion about children’s work.  It was noted that all Muslim children are expected to go straight from school to classes about the doctrines of Islam, but we Christians don’t have even a mid-week children’s class.  Do we not think it’s important that children get a good grounding in the Scriptures, they asked? Most Sundays there is Sunday School, but there is little organisation to it.  Please pray that the passion expressed in that meeting, will be turned to action, so that we can disciple children to be strong in their faith and their knowledge of God’s Word.

The Bible College students, both the new 3-year course and the 2-year course, are expected to arrive by August 6.  The first week will be an orientation week, then straight into lectures.  Please pray especially for the new students, as they get used to study and a new environment, and for their families coping at home without them.

Please pray for Bishop Given as he will be going on Sabbatical leave from half way through August until December.  Pray also for continuity of support for the Bible College financially.

Peter spoke at our Saturday morning fellowship today on Hebrews chapter 11 verses 1,2 which are well worth reflecting on:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

The backyard farm

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It is not quite June yet but the beginning of the month will be really busy with special visitors, students’ final exams and graduation, seminars and village visits.  Life rolls on, sometimes too fast to keep up with!  I’m sure many of you find it the same.

A big vote of thanks to those who prayed for rain, even though the usual rainy season (that wasn’t) was officially over. We enjoyed a full month, (mid-April – mid-May) of the beautiful stuff, and consequently, crops are thriving around most of Kondoa area. God is amazing!

Bible College, Ordinations & Visits

At Kondoa Bible College (note the updated status!), all is quiet between meals. It is Study Week. The eleven survivors of the three-year Theology certificate course are reading through notes and nervously anticipating questions. Their provincial exam papers in Old Testament, New Testament, Theology, Church History and Pastoralia have come through to Peter via the internet, complete with many mistakes which have had to be rectified. The exams run until June 2. Please pray for the students in this stressful time, and for Bishop Given as he decides on placements for them.

The six 2-year course students are now halfway through! They are a bright, enthusiastic group, even though only one has been to Secondary School. They have completed my course on Teaching Methods. Their final assignment was a 20 min teaching slot and they did really well; most of them included some form of drama which pleased me. My cousin Linley, from Christchurch, NZ, asked if I could make use of flannelgraph pictures to which I responded enthusiastically. She has been sending packages regularly through the post, and I have enjoyed working out ways to use these, especially in teaching children. The students were in awe of it!

July 16 is the date set for the ordination service, at which Peter is due to become a fully-fledged Anglican priest! We had expected that the first woman to be ordained in this Diocese would be included, but it seems that that will have to wait until next year.

As Registrar, I have to oversee all the papers set for the 2 year course and collate all marks for all students, so life is a bit chaotic at present. I have also got involved more with Mothers’ Union things. Last week we went visiting two women who had recently been bereaved, and just as we arrived I was asked to give the “word” of comfort (i.e. a short sermon!). God is proving so good though, in giving me the words to say, and it seemed to hit the spot for many of the women there!

Early this month we welcomed 11 visitors from East Tennessee: lovely people, most of whom had never before set foot in Africa. During July, a large group of secondary school students and teachers from Kent, UK, are due to arrive. And this weekend, Andrew (our vicar from Rangiora), John (a member of the parish and a technical whizz), and Steve, a vicar from the West Coast, are due to fly out to Tanzania. They will have a full-on ten days leading healing and deliverance seminars in different villages in this Diocese, as well as working out the best ways to help with building projects.

We are still waiting for Peter’s book on Grief to be finished at the publishing press. Someone is still “working” on the cover! It’s an exercise in patience.

The Farmyard

We live in a veritable farmyard. Apart from the ever-multiplying chickens and ducks, there are cows and goats, wild dogs and … snakes, two of which hoped to set up shop in our lounge. I’m thankful that Peter was around to dispose of them both times! In our garden mice, frogs, chameleons and snails (one I measured at 21cm) abound, although we haven’t seen many tortoises this year. Our cat, Kelele, spends a lot of time outside, waiting for a feast to appear, for our roof is home to pigeons, bats and lizards.

Unfortunately, a mongoose is also active in our area. It broke into the chicken coop which had housed a small brown hen. We had been gifted with her from a village visit the previous day. We came home from the College to find it hacked to death and gutted. We were quite upset by that.

Peter had an unusual experience the other day. There are nests of swifts in our carport. Peter, just walking through it, realised he had, literally, “a bird in the hand”. It had just flown into his relaxed hand, and almost as suddenly, with a swoosh, flew out again!

Welcome Rainfalls

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We seem to have survived a 5-day flurry of visitors over last weekend!  Mothers Union leaders from around Tanzania, a Sunday School teachers’ seminar led by a Lutheran woman pastor, the UVUKE choir from Dodoma (of which Peter was a part way way back in the 80s and 90s!), an all-day meeting for Area Deans of this Diocese, and a Bible School Board meeting which involved us both. These events overlapped with each other but the poor cooks were the same and were exhausted. We had six of the visitors to look after here at home and no water!  We have had plumbing problems for weeks. We were very thankful for a mighty deluge of rain on the Sunday night and we were able to fill all our buckets in no time at all. The river, usually a trickle in the river bed, became a fearful flood, and evidently got very close to swamping the Bible School! We could hear the roaring waters from here, some way up the hill on the other side.

After February’s haphazard rainfalls, which brought hope but no growth of crops or pasture, hundreds of cattle died, and many Masai committed suicide. Families struggle to survive still, although the rains have been great throughout March. We look on that as an answer to the prayers of God’s people, here in Tanzania, but also in New Zealand, UK and USA from where many Christians have been praying.  The price of maize has rocketed up, four times the norm and well out of range for the average family.

On the home front, Peter’s peanut crop looks good, and the forest of spinach around the back has been shared with hungry students. Most of our ‘off-duty’ daylight hours are spent weed-pulling! There is still food in the Kondoa market, and the Bible School students keep fairly healthy, thanks to individuals and churches from overseas who contribute to the work here.

All the students bar one arrived back for the new term and they are working hard. However, there are many concerns for their families back home. One student has had to go home twice to sort out problems of neighbours’ cattle eating new crops in his fields, and just today, one of the staff had to face the anger of his neighbours who claim that his donkeys have eaten their crops! The student who didn’t arrive at the start of term had a critically ill wife to care for. Many prayed for her and she gained strength, but then his daughter became ill, so he still hasn’t appeared.

Peter has finally been able to get some computers set up, and is teaching the students in groups, after lectures are over for the day.  Most had never before touched a keyboard, but Peter hopes they will soon be able to write up their own documents and essays …. slowly, slowly.

Where’s the rain?

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It’s great to have this opportunity to share with you what’s been happening… or not!… in this faraway part of God’s Kingdom. December started very busily with exams, and graduation for John, Emanueli, Jackson and Matthias, who have completed their two-year course. Emanueli and Jackson have already got placements as catechists in their parishes. John is a very bright student who should be going on to further studies, but having a girlfriend here in Kondoa complicates things!

There was a wedding the next weekend, and Peter was asked to preach at it. His first go at a wedding sermon, and it was a hit! He asked two clergy couples from the congregation to come forward. I tied their feet together as for a 3-legged race, and they set off down the aisle. They had never done such a thing before and there was great hilarity amongst those watching them stumble along. Peter’s point of course, was that it is quite difficult learning to walk together as a married couple, when previously they had walked independently. People were chuckling about it some weeks later!!

January 2, and we were off to Iringa for a week’s break. We were amazed at the excellent road from Dodoma, south to Iringa, through many villages that we could reach only by a dusty track back in the 90’s, up and over hills and across the impressive Mtera Dam. In Iringa, we stayed at the Neema Guest House which is attached to a restaurant and workshops where physically disabled people are learning many different crafts, then able to sell their wares and thus get a regular wage for the first time in their lives. A young and creative CMS UK couple are running it at present and doing a great job. We had breakfasts in the restaurant, which is staffed by profoundly deaf people, so we had to learn some sign language! Iringa is a busy and colourful town and we enjoyed many jaunts into the byways, on foot of course. We were also able to meet up with a friend whom we’d known as a little boy in Dodoma. He and his brother now sell to tourists beautiful paintings and handcrafts, and his sister is runner-up to Miss Tanzania! He took us to his house that he had recently built and we met his two little children.

The next week we returned to familiar territory, staying in the guest house at Msalato Bible College. There are still many families there that we knew from the 90’s and we were particularly pleased to spend some time with Mama Chitalika, her daughter Zilipa and 21 year old grandson Ivan.

We had to leave Msalato a couple of days early to prepare for an influx of 170 pastors and catechists arriving in Kondoa for a 3-day seminar. Two American clergy from North Carolina led it and they taught very well, based on Leadership and the letter to the Galatians. January is not generally a good time for a seminar, as everyone is out in their fields, digging and planting. However, because of the lack of rain there is no work to do, so why not attend a seminar in town where there will be good food! Peter had his hands full, trailing around various institutions borrowing mattresses, loading them in the pickup and downloading them at the Bible School, then reversing the whole process at the end. In between he was driving the visitors here and there, including a long village trip. More exacting was translating all the sessions into Swahili (except for one or two when Bishop Given took over). But Peter was in his element and did well!

When I wrote this, I was home alone for three days. Peter took a bus to Dodoma, then joined up with several others who were also travelling to a Provincial meeting of principals of all Anglican Bible Schools/Theological Colleges in Tanzania. There are weighty matters to discuss which will affect the standards expected and syllabi.  The meeting is being held in Berega, which is on the way to Morogoro , reasonably central for the participants.

 

However, the topic of every conversation, be ye Christian or Muslim, is the weather.

Some rain – beautifully refreshing from thunderous skies – has fallen for an hour or so at a time, but is followed by scorching days for a week or two. This does not produce a harvest, not even pasture for the cattle. Consequently, hundreds of cattle have died, and families in the villages are already starving.

Our Bible School students are due back on February 4. Before that, there are staff meetings and many decisions to make. Both staff and students will be frustrated that they have not been able to even prepare the fields, let alone plant their maize. They may have had to already feed their families on last year’s maize which they had set aside to plant. Bishop Given told us that many families have resorted to cooking their reserve of sunflower seeds. If good rains fall this week, they will be sorely tempted to get out in the fields, rather than come to study.

Please pray that amongst all the “what ifs”,  God will uphold His work here in Kondoa and give us wisdom and grace in our leadership here.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

Thieving Chickens and a Bible School update

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Dry, hot and windy… A fascinating, partial eclipse of the sun by the moon… Ants, termites and cockroaches parading through the house…

…. and a plague of chickens that race joyfully across the road every day to devour our vain attempts to grow stuff!  (Thankfully, they haven’t found Peter’s tomatoes around the back yet!)

At the Bible School, (which seems to demand 7 days a week for Peter) the eight new 2-year course students are working hard, and I’m enjoying my contact with them in the classroom. Please pray for one student who struggles with reading and writing, having had only four years of primary schooling. Two promising students on another course have not returned due to relationship problems, and that has been disappointing.

We sometimes hear of family violence and suicides and of evil spirits playing havoc with Muslims and Christians alike. The other Saturday morning in our fellowship group, a young girl in the home we had gathered in was writhing under the power of evil spirits. The group prayed en masse for her – loudly, insistently, while hatred in her eyes plagued by the evil one challenged us all. But Jesus won the battle, and the small mud-brick house became a house of peace. Praise God!

The 3-year students are facing a research project, a terrifying prospect for some! Pray for the staff members overseeing that, that they might gently encourage and direct their assigned students. The topics chosen by the students include: Evangelism amongst the Muslims of Kondoa, The place of children in our Diocese, and Christianity in the Burunge tribe.

We had a day’s break from Kondoa three weeks ago. There was a big outreach in the area of Kingale, where Christians are very few, and on the Sunday we piled up the vehicle with people wanting to be part of the service out there. A vibrant team from Dar es Salaam was leading the outreach: a preacher, singers and dancers to attract outsiders, and deafening loud-speakers! The service was held under trees near where the church building has been started. Most people sat on piles of bricks for the 2-3 hour service, although four plastic chairs were found for the clergy up front. The only other piece of furniture was a table brought in upside down on the back of a bike. There was a big thrust for pledges for the new church building Many promises were made, still waiting to fulfilled… We did get some rice and beans before the afternoon outreach but we were all very tired and thirsty when we returned to Kondoa, well after dark.  The road is dark and treacherous when there is no moon, but Peter got us all home safely. Thank you Lord.

We’re looking forward to a week’s break this month! We take a 6 hour bus ride to Arusha on Friday October 14, and the following day a flight to Entebbe, Uganda! From 17 -21 October we’ll be part of a CMS Mission Partners’ Conference, staying on the shores of Lake Victoria. It all sounds wonderful to me – after 13 months in Kondoa.  Please pray for refreshment and rejuvenation as well as being a useful part of the Conference!

The Ordination

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It was a cool morning in June as we walked down the hill, across the bridge, and up to the Kondoa Anglican Cathedral. Peter was one of three deacons and eight priests to be ordained by the Bishop of Kondoa, Given Gaula. We were blessed to have five other New Zealanders with us on that special day, including Rev. Andrew Allan-Johns, our Vicar from Rangiora, who had the privilege of both leading the Ordinands’ Retreat beforehand and preaching the ordination sermon. Special friends from Dodoma, Canon Richard and Christina Kanungha, also arrived for the weekend.

The procession of clergy, from the Diocesan Offices up to the Cathedral, was shepherded by the Bishop, replete with mitre and accompanied by joyful singing. In fact, much of the 5 ½ hour service was filled with singing and dancing! It was all recorded on Skype, thanks to the expertise of John Mock, one of the NZ team, and relayed back to Rangiora where some hardy souls were sticking it out late into the night! (Tanzania is 9 hours behind NZ time.)

Peter looked the part in cassock, surplice, clerical collar and black preaching scarf. Now the big day is over, he can wear the white alb donated by Lincoln Parish in Christchurch, the beautiful stoles that have been sewn and embroidered by some ladies from our Rangiora Parish and the different coloured clergy shirts provided by a lady north of Auckland.

We are so thankful for the amazing support of many, many people.  Please pray for us as we step into additional roles and expectations!  BWANA ASIFIWE!

Peter’s Ordination

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How did it come to this? It wasn’t just a thought I dreamed up one night. Ordination has been suggested from time to time, even while we were in the Diocese of Central Tanganyika years ago. I often replied, “I think that I can minister to people better without having to be ordained.” Ever since I arrived here in Kondoa people have called me mchungaji which literally means pastor of a church. The three year Bible School course has four pastors amongst the students I teach, and most of the staff are pastors also. Chris questioned me at one point: “Isn’t it rather strange you’re the Bible School Principal while caring pastorally for ordained people?”

For a third time I was asked to consider the possibility of putting my name forward for ordination. A lot of thought and prayer followed and, with a message through Chris saying “Don’t be stubborn like a mule,” I had to consider that maybe I was being just that – stubborn. Our Bishop, Given Gaula, came round to ask for a second time. “What has the Lord been saying to you about ordination?” he asked. He was overjoyed when I agreed.

Bible school update

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All our students had a two-week break in their home villages over Easter. The first week they were on a practical assignment to assist the village pastor in evangelism and Easter services. They will be bringing back a written report from the pastor. The week after Easter is for them to have a break with their families (most are married), although they will probably have spent many hours helping with weeding and harvesting in their shamba (plot of land).

Chris is enjoying her teaching of English and of Teaching Methods. Her classes had a lot of fun before Easter, trying out different ways of acting out a Bible story, and an assignment awaits them next week to prepare a short play script on specific Bible narratives. Her English class (the struggling Group C) are now bouncing along with some confidence, which is heartening.

In Peter’s Worship lectures, they think through how worship has changed and evolved through the centuries, so it is involving Church History as well. They have some lively discussions. His responsibilities as Principal seem to expand as the weeks go by. He is constantly on demand, and making decisions that do not always please everyone. Keep praying for wisdom for him.

Please pray too for weekly evangelistic thrusts into local schools and institutions, such as Kondoa Girls’ Secondary School, the Teachers’ College, the nursing school, and a mixed Secondary School. Teams of students and staff from the Bible School are permitted to teach in these predominantly Muslim institutions beginning with the small Christian group of students, encouraging them in their witness. It is a huge opportunity but already there are obstacles presenting themselves … please pray!

Hearing God’s Word

Imagine what it feels like to hear the Word of God spoken in your own language for the first time!  It was a pleasure to meet Johan Grubner, the head of an organisation called MegaVoice which is based in South Africa. Johan passed through Kondoa in February and we were able to spend a few hours with him. He had brought us two boxes full of solar-powered audio players loaded with the Bible in Swahili, Masai and Cigogo. They had been provided by NZ sponsors to distribute amongst the villages of Kondoa.

There are many people around here, old and young, that cannot read. Others have poor eyesight, or none at all. Thousands of others have never even heard the Gospel. This is their opportunity to listen to God’s Word for themselves. Village pastors and catechists who have these audio players find them an amazing tool for proclaiming the Word of God. They say many lives have been touched because of them. Pray for Spirit-led distribution.

Easter Rains

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Easter has come and gone but the Lord is still alive! Here in Kondoa, there were no Easter eggs and no chocolate, but a church choir of 30 adults arrived by bus on Saturday morning, all the way from Dar es Salaam. They were very tired, and even more exhausted when they left on Monday, but the joy they brought when they burst into song was powerful. On the Saturday night they presented a drama spanning a time of a few days in history – the days that changed the world for ever. The church was packed, mostly with young people, and the message was clear: Jesus has broken the power of sin!  (On a lighter note … it always amuses me that big strong men love playing loud, rough Roman soldiers complete with helmet, sword and short red skirt!)

On the Sunday morning there were two services as usual, packed to the rafters and lasting 3-4 hours each. The first offering of the visiting choir was the Hallelujah Chorus (in Swahili), unaccompanied in four parts, beautifully sung and invigorating. I am sure that Handel would have heartily approved. Our two parish choirs also contributed to the service. Bishop Given preached simply and challengingly on Luke 24 (the walk to Emmaus).  His points:

Have you recognised Jesus? Have you invited him in? Have you told others about him?

 

Rains and Sickness

Many of you rejoiced with us about the abundant rain at the beginning of the year. Suddenly the rain stopped! What is God doing? We are now getting welcome bursts of rain, two to three days at a time, followed by another long bout of extremely hot weather. That is hard on the crops, so the harvests will be patchy. In our garden, we are harvesting peanuts right now and are very thankful for a good crop. Peter has worked hard in the garden (see the photo above).

These three day downpours have been causing problems too. In some parts, houses and crops have been swept away which leaves many families desolate with nowhere to go.  Last week the rains here brought a flash flood. The chocolate swirling waters of the river rose almost to the point of sweeping down to flood the Bible School, but the Lord protected us.

Cholera hit Kondoa town in March. Fresh food outlets were officially closed. People from surrounding villages were afraid to come to town for fear of infection. There were some deaths, but the local authorities kept it in control. The students at Bible School panicked a bit, but we are thankful to God that no-one on campus got ill with cholera.

Further updates from the Akesters will be shared next week.