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).
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