Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The little things

It is often the little things in life that can prove intensely frustrating or stressful or that can bring unexpected moments of pure joy. Here’s some ‘little things’ that I have experienced recently that have done just that.

The little things that frustrate:
  • Going to the one bank that I can withdraw cash from without a fee, only to be told my card issuer is unavailable. I try again another day. It still doesn’t work. I end up going to another bank and paying the withdrawal fee and now I have cash. Why was my card issuer unavailable at the one bank and not the other?!
  • Breakfast time and I go to get a banana for my porridge only to discover that fruit flies have been busy and eaten large chunks out of my bananas!
  • My generator has stopped working. As this is my only source of electricity in Mshewe, this has made charging electrical appliances stressful and makes evenings tiring as I do things in much dimmer light than electricity would supply.
  • Wanting to have people round for a meal but not having access (here in Mshewe) to the food I would normally use when cooking for guests.
  • Time to wash the dishes, but when I turn on the tap there is no water. I can get some from the garden tap, but it’s just another of those ‘little things’.
  • Finding bat droppings all over the sofa and floor every morning. (I am kept company in the evenings by the squeaking of bats in the attic! Their droppings fall down the gaps round the edge of the ceiling boards).
All these little things have solutions, but one after another can be tiring and stressful. Thankfully there are also the little things that bring a smile to the face:

  • Stepping out my door at night and being wowed by the stars.
  • Getting three letters from my parents all at once (one of them was posted over two months ago) and getting a surprise parcel of dark chocolate from a friend.
  • When staying at my Mbeya home for a couple of nights, I found I had chocolate cake in the freezer. I’d forgotten about that. Mmmmm.
  • Chatting with a guard from the coffee plantation one evening, I discovered he couldn’t read. I whipped out my phone and a stool and he sat and listened to Mark’s gospel, chapter one, in his mother tongue (Safwa). The next evening I found him by his fire and he listened to chapter two. Another evening, he was ready waiting at my house, eager to hear more, together with another guard. It made me smile to hear them laughing with pleasure as they listened to God’s Word in their heart language.
  • Watching a stereotypically big red ball of African sun sinking in the sky at sunset.
  • Holding someone’s baby at church, smiling up at me. (Some children here are afraid of white people as they are not used to seeing them, so it is a particular joy to hold a baby that shows no fear).

Monday, 24 August 2015


I feel like I spend a lot of my life in Tanzania waiting.

Teaching pastors to read their Safwa language,
while we wait for others to arrive for a meeting.
On Saturday I was invited to a meeting of local church leaders in order to share about our work. I turned up on time with my colleague, Nsolelo, at 10am. There was no sign of anyone at the Moravian church where the meeting was to be held so we went to the pastor’s house where one other person was waiting. We were given something to eat (dry bread and cooking bananas) and drink (black tea) and we continued to wait and chat. Others then began to arrive, so we migrated to the meeting room and over an hour after we were supposed to start the meeting finally kicked off. After I had spoken I sat through the rest of the meeting, which proved to be totally irrelevant, until it ended well after my usual lunch time. On this occasion, as on many others, I just had to hope and pray that it wasn’t a waste of time and that God could somehow use the small contribution I made for His purposes. I had to remind myself that relationships are important and you never know what may come of a meeting like that.

Let me take you to a another event – this time a Sunday school teacher training workshop. I knew we wouldn’t start on time the first day, so I wasn’t too worried that even I, as the teacher, turned up a little late. The invitation letter stated that the workshop would begin at 9am, but it was around 10.30am by the time we got going, and still not everyone had arrived. I hoped that on the second day the participants might not be so late, but the pattern repeated itself until the end of the workshop and I just tried to keep the one or two who were on time (meaning only half-an-hour late) entertained with crafts and games until we could start properly! (All good training for teaching children, who are also usually late for Sunday school).

Or there is the seminar we were teaching at on Friday, which of course started late, but that was to be expected. The real waiting began after the meeting was over, when we were asked to stay for food (which takes a long time to cook when you are using wood as your fuel) and then, just as I hoped we could leave, I found out we had to wait for the host-pastor to come (who hadn’t attended the morning’s meeting) so that we could greet him before we left.

And right now I am waiting – waiting for plans to fall into place that depend on other people meeting and making plans, which they are in no hurry to do, as for them it is just something to get round to when they have time, while for me my very work depends on it.

I feel like I have learned more about living life day by day and being patient through these experiences, but at times it is just incredibly frustrating and l feel like I am wasting my time. Also there is something strangely tiring about waiting – I am much more tired after a day of sitting in pastors’ houses or in meetings, not doing or saying much, than I am after a day of energetic teaching. So, if you need a break from the hustle and bustle of life in the ‘West’, come and visit me and we can sit and wait together :-)

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)

This is the kind of waiting I would rather experience in my life, of eternal benefit. May God help me to wait upon Him, and to learn to wait patiently here!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Why Tanzania?

Matema, Lake Nyasa (aka Lake Malawi) on a recent break
To a passing observer it may look like an exciting adventure to work in ‘exotic’ Africa, but while Tanzania is indeed a beautiful place, with delicious tropical fruits, exotic birds and lots of sunshine, the reality of living and working here is often challenging. Leaving behind family and friends that I love and living in a culture that is so different from my own can be very hard. So why do I do it?

Though the sun is shining and the birds are singing as I write, I know that out there the world is a mess. Just over the wall are people living in poverty, sometimes wondering where their next meal will come from or how they will pay their children’s school fees. Read the news and there are people living in fear of their lives, thousands trying to escape their homes and others suffering from natural disasters. And in my own family loved ones are suffering, I myself often have health issues and I know that happiness is fragile.

I can’t make sense of all this. Sometimes I find the hopelessness of life overwhelming, except that I believe that there is hope. This world has a lot of beauty, ingenuity and love in it, enough to point me to the fact that there must be a master designer behind it – I cannot conceive that it just came to be. But if all that there is to life now is what I see around me and on the news, then I am not sure what the point of living is. My own life might be pretty comfortable and nice, but what about all those others who are suffering? Is it fair?

When I wonder about all this (which I do frequently), again and again I am pointed towards the only thing, or One, that I believe makes sense of it. This world is messed up, mostly by humanity’s own actions, but there is hope. God made this world to be a beautiful place where we can live in love and harmony with Him and one another. But people have chosen to ignore God and follow their own ideas and the world we now live in is the result of that. But the reason I have hope to carry on and the reason I live in Tanzania, is because I believe God hasn’t abandoned us. I believe that if we choose to acknowledge God to be God and to love and follow Him, we can look forward to a day when this world will be totally restored, the mess done away with, and we will live in peace with man and God. This hope for the future gives me the strength to live for today. It gives me the motivation to live in Tanzania, to work with the church here to help people to know God better, through the Bible, that they might share in that hope that I have. I have been privileged with good education and Bible teaching, unlike so many of my Christian family in Tanzania, so this is why I have come to teach in Bible colleges and churches here that they also might understand the Bible and know God better and the hope He offers. It is why I am part of an organisation trying to make the Bible available in every language of the world that needs one.
Students at a Bible college that I teach at occasionally

If you have questions about anything I have written, if you disagree or want to know more, please write and tell me!

"The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living." The Bible (Hebrews 11:1, The Message translation)