Peter and Christine

More Digging

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Blue sky, white puffy clouds and brilliant golden sunshine. Green leaves of ancient baobab trees. Purples and reds of tropical flame trees and bougainvillea. Bright, multi-coloured garments of the women of Kondoa… and yet we are longing for grey?!

Yes – well – the rains came early after a year of drought. It was so exciting watching the dry old riverbed that we cross every day become swirling, surging, muddy waters, and a bit scary with overhead thunderstorms and fork lightning, especially when our house was the target. Grass springs up almost overnight, and two old tortoises, football size, found their way to nose around our garden. It was a good time to start a unit on weather in my English class – so much more variety than, “Today is sunny. Yesterday was s……. Tomorrow will be s……”

However, the rains have been in recess for over ten days now. It is hot and sticky while we look in vain for a build-up of grey/black cloud and the next outburst of those refreshing, thunderous rains. The Bible School students are itching to get home, to get out in the fields, hoe in hand, to prepare the ground for sowing. It is a critical time for them and their families, and since most of our students are young men with family responsibilities, we as a staff decided to close the Bible School early. This means that exams start tomorrow. One of my roles since we arrived has been as Registrar, and I will have a busy end-of-term keeping track of exam papers and marks. Six students only will graduate, having successfully completed their two-year course, and we will be celebrating this with a ‘sherehe,’ involving singing, dancing, prize giving and food. All six graduates will be heading back to their parishes to take up key roles in evangelism and teaching. Remaining students will continue with their two and three year courses from the beginning of February.

During the last busy days of term we’re expecting over 40 pastors to descend on us for a seminar to encourage them to trial new drought-resistant maize seeds. It looks like the students will have to give up their mattresses to accommodate them!

Recently we were invited to join in a wedding reception of two former students in a village near Chemba and this Sunday, Peter has been asked to preach at Kidoka village. A group of students join us on these expeditions. Most of this term we have been here in Kondoa, getting to grips with the challenges of the work here. We will have to drive to Dodoma, however, as soon as Bible School closes, as we need to secure our residence permits. Please pray that we will be successful in that.

Some of you have heard of the murky business of the overflowing cesspit, just at the time of a cholera outbreak in town. It was a huge project for Peter to have to sort out and very quickly. He involved all the students digging holes, deep and wide, others redirecting the offending waters using buckets, and local experts advising on the technical aspects and constructing large concrete covers for the pits. We are amazed and thankful to God that not one student got ill over those weeks.

Another project that is completed was the building of improved cooking facilities for Mama Tembo, the Bible School cook. The aim is to use much less charcoal, which is getting very expensive to buy.

Since I started writing this, more rain has fallen. Thank you, Lord. Right now, Peter is out in our garden with the hoe, and has planted beans and peanuts. It is very hot out there, which seems to be a hopeful sign that more rain is on its way. Certainly the clouds are building up again.

We know that in western countries, shops are full of things to buy for Christmas, but there is no sign of it here. Not that we mind! We don’t know how we will be celebrating Christmas this year, but the local Christians will be full of joy, and probably full of rice and meat too. We will be missing our own family in Rangiora, as well as our church family with all the beautiful Christmas music, but we praise God for all of you who are supporting us, in so many different ways. We couldn’t be here without you. The Lord bless each one of you.

Mucking in

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Having just finished our chapel service, the last thing I expected was to be taken to see the murky side of the Bible School. There before us was a broken lid to the sewerage pit with seething, dark liquid oozing everywhere!! After a lot of discussion and holding of noses we worked out a plan of action with the faithful few remaining to try to clear the blockage and then find a way to repair the area. A lucky strike on the pipe allowed a huge gush of the fluid to escape and flow into a ditch previously used for sawing wood, saving it from flowing into the dry river bed further on. Many bucketsful later we had removed the majority of the grime and started the repair work. New lids are now hardening up to cover the repaired pit and the crisis has eased.

A different Sunday morning in Kondoa

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We decided to go to the first service in Kondoa’s church one recent Sunday. We were enjoying the singing of one of the choirs after the reading of a passage from Ephesians and then the gospel reading. Next would come the sermon.

Looking across to the side of the church a man started crumpling and fortunately had a couple of men come to his rescue before he hit the floor. A few of us helped to escort him out of the church to a seat in the fresh air. Maybe because it was a 7.30 am service he had not eaten anything and was suffering from lack of food was one suggestion. But the way his feet dragged as he was escorted made me think it was more like a stroke so the order was given to rush him to the local hospital which we did.

Soon after that we saw a doctor who diagnosed that he had had a stroke and needed to be admitted to one of the wards with medicine to drastically reduce his blood pressure! After a lot of close care from a number of us, at 3.30pm I escaped to reunite with Chris and hear about the rest of the service. It was then I remembered a good rule for starting a day: always have some food and drink before leaving the house! I had broken that rule this morning and had my breakfast rather late!! The patient is recovering slowly.

Back to Africa

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It’s another hot morning in Kondoa.  Temperatures are rising but the evenings are pleasantly cool and breezy.

It is good to be here, where God has assigned us and we are very conscious of his provision and presence. Our long flight across the world to Africa was not arduous at all and we enjoyed several good movies en route. Although we had hoped our residence permits would be granted on arrival in Dar es Salaam, they were not quite ready, and we settled for tourist visas in the meantime. An overnight stay in Dar was followed by a light plane flight to Dodoma and a “free” taxi service into the town! We walked through familiar streets up to CAMS (Canon Andrea Mwaka School, where Chris taught in the 1980s and 90s). A NZ teacher there was looking after the CMS vehicle that has been left for us to use and we made the decision to head north to Kondoa that same day. Any driving in Tanzania is a challenge, but Peter has proved his worth negotiating its roads many a time before. We had hoped to enjoy a little more tarmac than we did, but nevertheless, after four hours of dust and bumps, we drove wearily over the bridge and into the Kondoa Diocesan compound. So, having left NZ late Monday afternoon (September 7) we arrived, unannounced, in Kondoa late Wednesday afternoon.

Someone recognised these two weary travellers, the Bible School students and staff were rallied and the welcome began with singing, dancing and speeches. Both Bishop Given and his wife Lilian were out of town and it was several days before we saw them, but we were well looked after, being invited to meals with several different families, as we tried to get our heads around what might be expected of us in days to come. We have really appreciated Rev. Moses Kasichi, a former student of ours, now a well respected leader (including being the Acting Principal of the Bible School).

We are happily based in a house across the river and up the hill, where Iri and Kate Mato had lived before. They had left for our use furniture and equipment  for which we are very thankful. The house is airy, spacious and welcoming.

Six days after arrival, we became co-hosts to a group of NZers: Andrew and Paul from Rangiora, Ian and Helen, Lindy and Ann from Whangaparoa, and Heather from Waitara. Peter and Moses had driven two vehicles to Arusha to collect them and their luggage. It was a long trip, up one day and back the next. Three of the team stayed with us, but all meals were provided at the Bishop’s house which was wonderful.

A very full and exciting time followed. The team held a three day seminar for the Bible School students, teaching them how to apply the gifts of the Holy Spirit and how to encourage others to use them too. They taught in English of course, which was translated phrase by phrase into Swahili, mostly by Peter. Then it was out onto the roads into the villages. Peter and Moses were once again the drivers – an exacting task on the rocky tracks. Colourful singing and dancing welcomed us everywhere, as well as an eagerness and expectancy to learn more from God’s Word. A huge number came forward to be prayed for and we witnessed amazing things: a blind man received sight, a deaf man could hear, the lame could walk. One very old lady had aches and pains all over her body. After 10 minutes of us praying through her list, she was dancing freely with a huge smile on her face, and her lips praising God.

An unexpected invitation to a Maasai home one evening was very special. The chief allows his five wives and their children to attend church regularly, but his main concern was his impressive herds of cattle and goats. He had asked the team to come and bless the animals that lay peacefully in their enclosures, as the big red sun sank behind the hills. The women were busy preparing sweet, milky chai and goat’s liver which we were served. They begged us to stay the night, with the promise of a cow-hide each to sleep on, but we were expected at another village hours previously so we had to decline. The chief was invited to the seminar at church the next day, and he came, listened intently, asked a lot of questions and was prayed for. Many people there were healed and released from evil spirits and the power of witch-craft. God is moving in the land. What a privilege to be part of it!

The NZ team has left now, the Bible School students are returning after a two week break, and classes begin on Monday. Please pray for Peter under the weight of the Principal’s hat! Availability of teachers is never certain, it seems. But God is with us, and he put us here. Of that we are sure!

An Akester Update

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Peter and Christine Akester are currently on deputation in the North Island. Last Wednesday, while in the Taranaki area, they were involved in a car accident. Thanks to God, they both only received some cuts and bruises and the driver of the other vehicle was unharmed. From what we’ve been told, had the car been an inch or two forward, we may have been reporting two deaths!

The police, an ambulance and a fire engine were called in as Peter and Christine needed to be cut out of the car. Peter had glass up his nose, in his eyelid and in his mouth. Miraculously they have sustained no long-term damage. They are feeling very sore, with bruises and abrasions but were given the all clear from the hospital the night of the accident. Amazingly, the next morning they continued as planned, speaking at a couple of gatherings – though they were pleased to have a day off on Friday!

Praise God that they were protected during the accident and that they are both doing well. Pray that God’s hand will be with them as they recover, physically but also mentally. And pray that God will continue to protect them as they travel around the country.

Back to Tanzania

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We’re delighted to introduce Peter and Christine Akester, who were recently accepted as NZCMS Mission Partners. The Akesters are no strangers to NZCMS, having served with us from 1979-1998 in Dodoma, Tanzania. During that time they adopted two Tanzanian girls (now in their late twenties) and returned to New Zealand when the girls were completing primary school. Since then, Peter and Chris have been living in Rangiora. Peter presently heads up a Christchurch pharmacy while Chris has been teaching music in local schools and to private pupils.

A parish mission trip to Kondoa last year rejuvenated their passion and vision, exciting them about the opportunities to serve God in the region. What’s more, Bishop Given Gaula has extended an invitation to Peter and Christine to work in this diocese. The plan is for them to depart for Tanzania early in September for two to three years. Peter will take over the role of Principal of the Kondoa Bible School from Iri Mato, focusing particularly on mentoring a local Tanzanian to eventually take charge. Christine will likely teach some Biblical subjects and English language at the Bible School as well as be involved with a women’s empowerment programme.