Peter & Christine

Rains from Heaven

Posted on

“God did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” (Paul’s words at Lystra, recorded in Acts 14:17)

“Thank you LORD!”  That’s what the Christians of Kondoa have been exclaiming every day. Thank you,  every one of you who prayed for rain to fall in abundance. Almost every day we have a massive thunderstorm, with sheets of rain drenching you instantly if you get caught out. The bridge is still holding, while the chocolate waters swirl below. Crops are thriving. Peter has worked long and hard with hoe and slasher in our large garden area, while all who pass by give different advice on when the crops will be ready.  The roof of our house has sprung several leaks, and there are discussions whether the whole ceiling should be replaced.  We nod enthusiastically, as the roof is filled with bats, pigeons and lizards.

We have a small number of students at Kondoa Bible School this year. The girls’ sewing class has had to be postponed until June because of lack of sponsorship and new first year students for the Two year Bible course have been put on hold until August to align course starting times. That leaves 13 Three year course students (only one female!) and six Two Year course students who are halfway through their course. There is very little available money for maintenance of buildings and repairs of desks and chairs. However, the teaching staff is enthusiastic and the students are really happy to be back. Because of the bad roads caused by the rain, and sickness in some families, they are actually just dribbling back now.

We’ve had a break and we did get away to Dodoma for two days (!) for Christmas. It was so good to stay with Richard and Christine Kanungha, friends from long ago. Richard is now a Canon and in charge of a large church in Chamwino, Dodoma. The services were amazing – great music, preaching, and fellowship. Several of the older members of the congregation remembered us from Makole days in the 80’s and 90’s when Chamwino was part of our parish. While in Dodoma, we got the CMS vehicle sorted out with two new tyres and shock absorbers, so that was good.

During the holidays, Peter translated into Swahili a small book on Grief and has permission from the original publisher to print 200 copies here in Tanzania. Right now, a member of staff is proof-reading it. There are few practical books like that available in Swahili, and nothing on grief so please pray for the completion of this project. Chris enjoyed a research project on Music of the Bible, and did some song writing as well.

This year’s Bible School timetable includes Peter’s continuing teaching of ”Worship” and Chris’ teaching of English, as well as a new subject for KBS – that of “Kufundisha,” basically ‘how to teach.’ Chris (known here as Mama Pendo) is enjoying the challenge of that and learning heaps too – seeing how important it is throughout the Bible and relating that to our situation here.

Our lovely Bible School cook, Mama Tembo, woke up two days ago with no voice, but no other symptoms of a cold. Yesterday afternoon, four of us decided to pray for healing for her. After each of us had prayed, Mama Tembo started praising God, still in a whisper, then remembered and confessed that she had disobeyed God the day before her voice had disappeared. She had not done what God had asked of her and instead had been gossiping with others. As she repented before God, her voice slowly returned, just a crackle at first, but getter stronger and stronger.  Praise You, Lord! This was very meaningful for her, for she knows that God wants her to be a spokeswoman for him, and He has high standards!

This coming weekend, Peter and I have been invited to Kidoka village again. Peter will be preaching in the service which will include the commissioning of Sarah Mwaluko, one of last year’s graduates, to be the Catechist of the Parish. We look forward to that but not to the travel. The roads are in a shocking state, we hear. Students travelling back to Bible School have had to get off the bus with all the other passengers and push it out of big holes and up the hills. Others had to wade through some water where a bridge had been washed away and board another bus to reach Kondoa. Every day is an adventure here.

Please remember to pray for Peter (known as Mkuu – Chief!). There are so many decisions every day and problems that land in his lap. Pray for finance to become available for the Bible School, so we can get repairs done and also prepare for future plans for the School. Pray for all the teaching staff, for vital and Spirit-filled teaching. Pray too for safety on the roads, especially in the wet season. Even here in the town, we very nearly got swiped off the road and into the ditch by a screaming motorbike! But we sleep well and are in good health and are so thankful for that.

Finally, it is time to share this bit of news that has been mooted by Bishop Given for a couple of months now. He has asked that Peter be ordained, and after a lot of prayer and discussion, we agreed. It is certainly not something that Peter has sought, but after digging our toes in for a while, we realised that this is a door that God has opened and we should be ready to go through. The ordination is set for June 19, here in Kondoa.

More Digging

Posted on

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

Posted on

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

Posted on

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

Posted on

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!