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.