Touchdown in Tanzania

This post by Ruth was originally published at Life in the Lancs Lane

img_0551It’s nearly 12 weeks since we touched down in ‘Delightful Dar’ and made our way back to Morogoro.  The house was still in one piece; the night-guard had done his job and although our dog (affectionately referred to as the ginger maggot by some!) was a bit thinner, she was very much alive and happy to see us!  Everywhere looked very dry and dusty compared to the early autumnal Wiltshire that we’d just left, and of course that wasn’t the only comparison that we found ourselves musing over.  However, it was definitely different this time round.  We were returning to the familiar: our home, our team, our roles, even the language was now somewhat familiar!  And we were pleased to find that within just a few days, we seemed to have stepped relatively seamlessly from one culture into another and into the routine of life here in Tanzania.  It had been tough for me (Steve) gearing up to return from such an awesome home assignment and, as some of you will know, I was not exactly champing at the bit to get back here!  However, once we were back, there was a feeling of familiarity and that this is where we’re meant to be for the next term.  And those feelings made it easier to say to myself: “I’ve had a great HA but this is now what God would have us do, so get on with it!”

img_5443Life on the road: Over the last couple of months the car has clocked up over 4,000 miles, much of that in connection with my unit leader role, visiting AIM personnel, some of whom live in some pretty remote locations.  Journeys in Africa are often not as straightforward as they are in Wiltshire, which I guess often relieves the boredom normally associated with sitting in a car!  There are the humps and bumps in the road to look out for, as well as the broken-down trucks and vehicle debris lying around, not to mention the numerous police checkpoints.  Detours and diversions can be a regular feature, either to avoid accidents blocking the road, or from having to rumble across untarred land running parallel to the main road which is being worked on!  On two recent journeys we came across large-scale roadworks that went on for 50 mile stretches, and, on another, we had to get out on a steep hillside track to remove some hefty stones so as not to rip out the bottom of our Subaru!  img_5648It definitely beats sitting on the M25 but it does mean the car needs more regular servicing!  I return from these journeys in awe of the folks who have settled in such locations; their dedication to living out the gospel in areas where Christ is not really known is wonderful to see.

Our first journey happened within a week of landing in Tanzania, to a town way out west called Njombe.  Ruth and I were helping to facilitate and organise an IBM pastors’ conference, although the teaching was being done by a Tanzanian pastor.  I did manage a 20 minute devotional one morning in Swahili and was encouraged to find I hadn’t forgotten too much!

One thing we hadn’t prepared for was the temperature in Njombe!  We peeled back the curtains on our first morning to find the mist was down and the thermometer was showing a cool 10 degrees; at least 15 degrees lower than we’re used to in Morogoro!  Due to the fact that the expected church dress for a lady here in Tanzania is always a long skirt, Ruth had to nip down to a local market stall to buy a pair of ‘secret’ leggings in a bid to keep the temperatures up!  Despite the power cuts and the lack of hot water, it was a good conference and it was encouraging to see the response of the pastors when challenged about the issue of mission in the Tanzanian church.

Preaching in a sauna! 
To the other extreme, certainly in terms of temperatures, just a few weeks later I found myself way down in the south of the country, near to the border with Mozambique, at a church in the cul-de-sac town of Mtwara.  I was preaching at a church that resembled a sauna, not in appearance but certainly in terms of sweat levels!  I’ve come to appreciate why many Tanzanian pastors carry a flannel with them into the pulpit!!  A combination of factors (sun, humidity, tin roof and lack of working fans in the church) made for a lot of perspiration, and I found that those humid conditions tend not to help the preacher in his cause.  A number of nodding heads could be seen from my vantage point, and I don’t think that was because they were agreeing with my scriptural musings! Three hours after the choir had started their first number, and after four separate collections and a sermonette of comfort to a grieving daughter, it was time for the service to close – but not before I was presented with a giant watermelon which someone had donated to me following their winning bid in the ‘perishable goods’ auction!  I was thankful that I had the car with me and that no one had decided to donate a live chicken to the auction, which has actually happened in the past!

img_5942Sanga Conference Centre – the opening!   Meanwhile back at the ranch, the middle of November saw the opening of the conference centre at Sanga Sanga.  Building work commenced in June 2015 and, although the project is still some way from being finished, the completion of the roof meant that we could use the facility for a large gathering of AICT pastors – over 85 in attendance.  The ceremonial ribbon was cut and the veil that separated the fancy img_5928marble plaque from the watching eyes was torn in two from side to side!  It was a great moment for ‘Matt the Builder’, Tony Swanson (who has championed this cause) and for IBM which will soon have a base to work out of.  The spacious meeting room, which is yet to be walled, had a different feel to last year’s venue, which was the containerised pump house!  We look forward to the day when we’re open img_5946for business and God’s Word is being taught there on a regular basis.

Our staff at Sanga pulled out all the stops to make sure the conference went well, working from dawn till dusk, and sometimes well beyond.  Even one of the general labourers was pressed into catering action, donning an apron and a chef’s hat to serve the long line of hungry pastors!  It was a img_5980case of “all hands on deck” during the event, and this very much applied on one particular evening when a large bush fire began rampaging through the Sanga site.

The cooks, cleaners and labourers, who had been clearing up after the evening meal, immediately turned into firefighters!  After an hour of beating flames with nothing more than small tree branches, the fire was put out and the workers returned to base (some nursing their singed arms!) to deal with the washing up!  All in a day’s work for our dedicated staff!img_5943

Back to School!
Cast your mind back to the start of our Tanzanian journey and our period of language learning. I seem to remember writing about the undiluted ‘pleasures’ of grappling with another language and the joys of wrestling with nouns, verbs and Swahili tenses. I also remember telling you of my annoyance at having read the phrase “Swahili is one of the easiest languages to learn”, and how the mental gymnastics of language learning had wearied the body, dulled the senses, and made my head hurt!  Well, that was three years ago!  And now we’re back at the very same school, albeit in the very un-schoolish surrounds of the Rivervalley Campsite out in the Tanzanian bush.

Unlike last time, where we grappled with grammar for three months, this time we’re here for just three weeks, which I think is more manageable for a guy who’s not a born linguist!  We’ve definitely grown in our use of Swahili (some more than others!) but we felt it would be helpful, at the start of our second term here, to get back into the classroom.  It’s a time of intense learning away from our day-to-day activities, where we can hopefully concentrate on moving up a level, expanding our vocab, and going over the stuff that we’ve forgotten.  By the end of these three weeks I know that my head will be hurting!  Oh, to be one of the disciples on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit was poured out upon them!  Imagine how it felt for them as they spoke clearly in other languages without having to learn them!  I can only dream on!

Diary Dates:

26th Nov – 17th Dec:       Swahili language school in Iringa
24th—28th Dec:               Christmas at home
29th Dec – 2nd Jan:         Team retreat at Masumbo, Iringa
4th/5th Jan:                      Steve to Dar – personnel meetings
16th—19th Jan:               Steve to Nairobi for unit leader meetings
26th—29th Jan:               Wedding anniversary retreat on the coast!

Prayer Requests:

  • It does feel different being back at language school the second time round – please pray that we would apply ourselves to the task ahead and, with more understanding, really move up a gear!
  • We’re thankful for our team here in Morogoro and for those who have contributed to the building of the conference centre at Sanga. Please pray that this place would be a centre of encouragement and solid biblical teaching for pastors.
  • Please continue to pray for Steve as he travels around Tanzania carrying out his unit leader responsibilities; for safety behind the wheel and for wisdom as he serves AIM personnel.
  • We’re praising God for 9 years of marriage on 19th January!  For those who were there – yes, it really was that long ago!  Please pray for protection on our marriage, that we would reflect Christ in our married lives, and that we would grow closer together in Him.
  • During the months of Jan/Feb/March Steve will be preparing his teaching material for the 2017 conference season.  Please pray that he would be guided clearly by the Holy Spirit as to what subjects and passages he should teach.

img_5789Thank you so much for your prayers and support.  We wish you a very happy and blessed Christmas.

Steve & Ruth

PS: Oak Hall Expeditions and AIM are teaming up next summer to offer a holiday/taste of mission trip to Tanzania.  If you’re interested click here. 


Ruth & Cath receiving thank you gifts in the Tanzanian way

Ruth & Cath receiving thank you gifts at the pastors’ conference in the Tanzanian way

Pastor & Mrs Katwale looking smart as they celebrated the conference opening

Pastor & Mrs Katwale looking smart as they celebrated the conference opening

Notice sheet for 4th December 2016

Prayer Meeting

Tonight we will have a prayer meeting at 6pm and we are concentrating our prayer on the persecuted church. Alan Christie will be leading the meeting.

Christmas Cards

There are two Christmas cards, for our missionaries, at the back of church which you are encouraged to sign – one for the Bryants and one for the Lancasters. If anyone would like to make a donation for a parcel for the Lancasters, please see Wendy Rowe.

Persecuted Believers

“Christmas Cards for persecuted believers” available at the back of church. Please take one and send with a verse of encouragement.

(Open Doors). Please contact Vanessa Naish if you need more information.

Bible Society’s Advent Challenge

Please join our online Advent calendar which challenges you to do a small, practical act of kindness every day, to share goodwill and make a difference in this season of Advent. Sign up by visiting or visit the Bible Society Facebook page. Last year 13,000 took part, so don’t miss out this year! Any questions, ask Susan Wingrave (Church on the Green) or Alan Kember (9.15am at Priory St).

Carol Service Band

Do you play an acoustic instrument? – strings, woodwind or brass? If so, it would be great to include you in this year’s Carol Service Band which will accompany the carols on the evening of Sunday 18th December. There are likely to be a couple of practices beforehand, one of which will probably be on the afternoon of the carol service itself. The band last year were brilliant, despite some struggles along the way. If you’re interested in taking part, please either speak to David Morrell, or email him at – and let him know what you play, and roughly what standard you’re used to playing (so he doesn’t write parts that are too hard this year!!).

*** Town Carol Service ***

The town carol service is taking place on 20th December and now that the town light switch-on has taken place, we need to advertise the town carol service! We need someone to put the banner up this week. Please contact Louise if you can help with this. Thank you.

Ladies’ Bible Study – Christmas event

Monday 12th December @ 7:30pm at CBC. If you would like to attend this year’s event, please sign up using the sheets at the back of the church. A buffet style meal will be provided – please indicate any dietary requirements you may have. We need helpers to move chairs (men can help too!) after the evening service on 11th Dec plus setting up and helping with cooking. Please sign up at the back or speak to either Vicky Stephenson or Roz Shillaker.

Opportunities for Regular Giving

If you would like to give to the work of the church on a regular basis, you might wish to consider setting up a standing order through your bank. Alternatively, some people find it helpful to use a weekly numbered blue donation envelope for their offering. Moreover, if you are a UK tax payer, then the value of your gift can be increased by 25% at no extra cost to yourself, if you complete a Gift Aid Declaration. If you would like to enrol on the blue envelope scheme for 2017, or would like to set up a standing order or make a Gift Aid Declaration, do please speak to one of the Treasury Team: Roger Hammett (Priory Street 11:15 service); Lynne Little (Church on the Green, Rudloe) or Michael Prior (Priory Street 9:15 service). Many thanks.

Toddler Group

The Toddler Group is praying for someone to lead the team. They are also in need of more helpers. It is held on Thursday mornings following the school calendar.  Please see Kathy Larkman for details.

Baptism Service

We will be having another baptism service at the 11:15am service on Sunday 29th January. Please speak to Eddie or one of the leadership team if you are thinking about being baptised.

“Town Christmas Cards”

There are a pile of Town Christmas “cards” at the back. Please take a few for neighbours, friends and hand out. The leaflet gives details of all the services at local churches over the Christmas period.

There are small leaflets at the back of church which list all the Christmas services and activities taking place at Priory Street. Take one either for your own use or take a few for friends, family & neighbours.


…This week…

Monday: Mums’ bible study, 9:30am

Tuesday: Rudloe Tots, 10am, Rudloe Centre

Wednesday: Morning prayer, 7:15am

Thursday: Toddler Group, 10:00am; Corsham Money and Debt Advice Centre, 7.30pm

Friday: Corsham Money and Debt Advice Centre, 9.30am; Engage, 4:30pm; Energize, 5:30pm.

Saturday: Prayer for gospel expansion 8.30am; Christmas tree decorating, 3-5pm; Café on the Green, Rudloe, 2:30pm


…Looking ahead…

10th Dec: Tree decorating 3-5pm

12th Dec: Ladies’ social, 7:30pm

13th Dec: Seniors’ Christmas meal, 12pm

14th Dec: Midweek Christmas service, 2pm

17th Dec: Nativity service, 5pm @ Priory St.

18th Dec: Carols by Candlelight, 6pm

19th Dec: Missions’ prayer, 7:45pm

20th Dec: Corsham Town Carol Service, 6:45pm

24th Dec: Christmas eve service, 6pm

25th Dec: Christmas day joint service @ Priory St, 10am; no evening service on Christmas day

1st Jan: Joint service at Priory St. @ 10am; no evening service on new year’s day

4th Jan: Midweek service, 2pm

6-7th Jan: Leaders’ retreat

16th Jan: Church Meeting, 8pm

18th Jan: Midweek service, 2pm

28th Jan: The Ark, 10am

29th Jan: Ernie Pillinger dedication; baptism @ 11:15am service

30th Jan: Ladies’ Bible Study, 7:30pm