Home again, gone again

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When we left St John’s University in Tanzania in August we were grateful for our 60 kg luggage allowance! The end of year exams had been delayed by three days  because it was impossible to see the new moon (which defines the end of Ramadan), and Cliff’s forty two students sat his exam only hours before our departure. We sat in airport lounges and transit hotels marking scripts and wondering if God intended for us to return.

We both felt a lot had been achieved but there was still much to be done. A trust had been set up to seek and manage funding to improve living conditions on the campus for students, including a boundary fence, but that was just the first step – now we have to find some donors! Policies had been approved to encourage Christian conduct among the staff  but these had yet to be implemented. And Staff had been encouraged to seek research funding but they would require considerable support. Both students and staff had encouraged us to return and, with the appointment of a new Vice Chancellor (following the sad death of Professor Mwaluko last year), we were excited about the possibilities.

We traveled home via the UK and had the opportunity to chat to family and friends, often while steering a canal barge! We were also able to renew contacts with the UK Friends of St John’s and the Association of Commonwealth Universities. Both these organisations provide important support to St John’s and these brief meetings resulted in significant developments. We give thanks to God for the opportune timing of these meetings.

We returned to NZ on October 2 still uncertain about if or when we might return. Our support to travel and remain in Tanzania comes from our ability to rent our home, and we wanted confirmation that our vision and contribution were in accordance with the leading of the new Vice Chancellor.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised but it still amazes me how fast things fall into place when God is in control. Within ten days of our arrival we received a very warm and positive response from the Vice Chancellor, our existing tenants told us they were keen to remain in our home, and the travel agent has confirmed available flights which will enable us to travel and return to spend Christmas with our family.  So after a very brief stay in NZ  we are preparing to make our way back for the new semester.

We would value your prayers for our travel and the opportunities that await us, for the Vice Chancellor as he takes up the leadership of the University and for the financial management and support of St John’s as it seeks to develop Christian leadership in Tanzania.

Iri in Ethiopia

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The Faith2Share Leadership Consultation in Addis Ababa was a blessing in many ways.

Being the only Maori New Zealander that many of the people had ever seen, Iri got to tell them about NZCMS and the work the Lord is doing in our beautiful land. He spoke to Christian leaders from fifteen nations about the origins of NZCMS and the spreading of the gospel in New Zealand.

Chief topics at the conference were leadership, the responsibility to train local people to replace overseas workers, discipleship, and interactions with other cultures that have successful outcomes. A key theme was that we all serve the one God wherever we are and whatever our culture or background may be.

Besides meeting many international leaders, Iri had the opportunity to renew friendships with those we knew when we served in Gambella, Ethiopia. He met up with Bishop Grant and his wife, Doctor Wendy, who now work in Gambella – they looked quite worn out. Please pray for them as there are now more than 200 000 Southern Sudanese in the region – many expect the churches to look after this growing group.

People in the photo: Mark Oxbrow from the UK Faith2Share team, Co-ordinator and Bishop Joseph Mutungi with whom Iri lead the Sunday morning worship.

African kids see themselves for the first time

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This is a group of Standard One kids outside the Primary School classrooms of Bishop Stanway Primary School. It’s only about 500 m (less than half a mile) north of Msalato Bible College where I worked. I would visit the school regularly to teach Standard Seven songs for their graduation (in English), to teach the youngest children Songs in English, to play outside games that Kiwi preschoolers love and to research Standard Two children for my American friend to know how best to begin a Penpal type arrangement.

These kids were under a tree waiting for the other classes to finish at 2.30pm. I took a photo of them and they were so excited, then with my movie camera I shot them (without them knowing).

Seven Years in Tanzania

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The nights are cold now, but the days are still beautifully warm and sunny with clear blue skies. How different it will be when I arrive in Melbourne early next Thursday morning! The weather will be just one of many adjustments I will have to make as I prepare for life back in the ‘West’. Seven years seems to have gone by very quickly and I wonder what God has got ahead for me. It’s been a life-changing experience and I think I will return as a more mature and confident person than when I left New Zealand. I thank God for all my experiences here.

The last month has been one of final visits to rural parishes, farewell celebrations, revision, exams and marking – including an excursion to Bagamoyo with the Diploma three students who wanted a weekend away together before they went their separate ways. Bagamoyo is an historic town on the east coast just north of Dar es Salaam and it was a wonderful experience for all of us. Someone’s generosity meant I could pay for a bus to take 14 students and four staff. The students were able to find accommodation and food for the weekend and we were given the name of an excellent guide. On Saturday morning we toured and saw evidence of Arabic, German and British occupation, and in the afternoon we swam which was a whole new experience for most of the students who had never seen the sea and were surprised to find it tasted salty! To see the students’ enjoyment was like watching a child experience an ice cream for the first time.

Saying goodbye to these students was a painful experience. We started at MTC together in February 2011 and now we have finished together. Please join me in prayer for them as they wait for ordination and placement in their first parish. Five of them are young women and the diocese can be a challenging place for women pastors, but they are going out certain of God’s call on their lives. I admire them so much.

I leave Msalato on June 24 and fly out of Dar es Salaam on the 25th. On my way home I will spend a month in Australia visiting two of my daughters and other members of my family and friends and will arrive in New Zealand at the end of July. I will then be preparing for debrief and deputation (visiting churches) and, most importantly, waiting for the birth of my first granddaughter at the end of August.

Mungu awabariki sana wote.

Teaching in Tanzania

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Our first few weeks have flown by and we are beginning to settle into a routine now. Cliff has all his lecture commitments on Monday but spends quite a bit of other days consulting with groups of students over their assignments or their research projects. He is also moving the student welfare project forward on two fronts. Firstly the legal side which involves setting up a trust at St John’s to administer any funds that may be donated towards the project. Secondly he is involving the Geography students in surveying the perimeter of the university grounds in order to establish the path of the new fence to improve the security on campus. We have already had donations of approximately $1300 towards the fence and we have the agreement in principle of EdAid in New Zealand to accept tax deductible donations and transfer funds once building commences. If you are interested in supporting this project or want more detail please contact us.

I am now teaching for three hours on Tuesday and four hours on Thursday and Friday. Some of this is small group tutoring in English and some is to bigger groups in the teaching method classes and the English Department. Both areas are rewarding as you introduce and demonstrate more student focused and interactive class activities to the students and enable them to relate these to their own classroom teaching. The second year class have just returned from teaching practice where their class numbers averaged 50, often without the availability of even the most basic resources. We are trying to encourage them to use what is available such as old newspapers, bottle tops and food containers to create teaching aids that will enliven their lessons. It must be very easy for them to become despondent at what is lacking rather than challenged by what is available.

Serving God from Opposite Sides of the Globe

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Iri and Kate Mato are both working for the Diocese of Kondoa, Tanzania. However, for this season Kate is based in New Zealand while Iri has returned to Africa – Kate is working from their daughter’s home because of troublesome blood clots which prevent her from flying. 

I often wonder why the Lord has stationed me back in New Zealand with Iri in Kondoa. I think it must be so that I can help our children with their little ones – this is indeed a blessing. Not being in Kondoa does, however, make working for the Bishop as Communications Director more difficult and I’m forever giving Iri messages for the office there.

Iri’s news is that the students have returned from placement a little wiser, having had their eyes opened to the real work of village Pastors. They have shared with children’s, youth and adult ministry, walked many kilometers evangelising, prayed with the sick and some have walked long distances to fetch water. Students are currently in Study Week with exam week to follow and are then on holiday for three weeks. Iri had hoped to come home during that break but Bishop has asked him to stay on as there are many visitors coming to the diocese. We’re hoping he can come home for three weeks maybe in July. It would be good for him and, for me!

The Bible School now has 20 students in their second year of theological studies. Iri and his team are working hard to develop students’ skills and knowledge and it was to this end that a former Msalato student, Daudi Chilemu, worked at the Bible School for two weeks of his parish holidays. He was a great encouragement to the students to whom he taught African Traditional Religion in a block course along with evening classes in English. Daudi was one of Kate’s first students at Msalato at a time when the extent of his English was, ‘ My name is Daudi. I comes from Vikonje.’ Now, he is completely fluent and hopes to continue his studies at St John’s University. We recall a time when Daudi and his wife used to sit under the trees breaking stones at $40 a truckload in order to feed and house their family. There are many stories of our students who have had difficult lives but now feel called by the Lord to serve him and help to extend his Kingdom.  These servants who come to study leaving families behind must find it difficult and your prayers would bring them comfort and blessings.