“We’re leaving on a jet plane”

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

Back in February 2016 the title of our pre-home assignment newsletter was taken from a John Denver song: “Take me home pot-holed roads”! Three years on and it’s another one of his songs. We are indeed “leaving on a jet plane” after completing our second term in Tanzania. On the morning of 7th March you can expect me (Steve) to be humming JD’s words: “All my bags are packed and I’m ready to go; the taxi’s waiting, he’s blowing his horn”, although I won’t be able to sing along with the words, “I hate to go”, because I’m very much looking forward to heading home! In fact we both are.

In February 2016 I referred to the first home assignment (furlough) of a certain missionary explorer that you may just have heard of! And so it seems fitting to refer to Mr Livingstone as he prepared for his second home assignment! His first stint in Africa lasted a whole 15 years but he decided to take his second home assignment after only 8 years of trudging around Africa! During that time he ‘discovered’ Lake Nyassa in Malawi, buried his wife in Mozambique, encountered the ‘wretchedness’ of the slave trade, and sailed a small boat 2500 miles from Zanzibar to Bombay in 45 days! Having then sold his boat, he got back on another one and headed home for England. He arrived in London to find that not one member of his family had come to meet him, and so he ended up having dinner with the Prime minister instead! It had been an extremely tough term for him. He wrote in his journal: “Due to the failure of our recent mission all my work seems in vain. Am I to be cut off before I can do anything to effect permanent improvement in Africa? I have been unprofitable enough….”

Well, as we prepare for our second home assignment, I can assure you we’re not feeling as low as Livingstone was! Whatever hurdles and hardships we’ve had to deal with can in no way be compared to what DL had to endure, although we both admit that this term seems to have been tougher than our first one. I’ve struggled with illness for the past 10 months (sinusitis and gastritis) and we’ve both had bouts of what they call “culture fatigue”, although which missionary hasn’t experienced this?! Sadly I’ve had to deal with a disciplinary matter concerning a Tanzanian pastor who had been a close friend and, just a few weeks ago our ‘guard’ dog died, a faithful companion who really enabled Ruth to settle here in Tanzania. Ruth has also felt the burden of various responsibilities more this term. All that to say, we’re ready to get on that jet plane and we’re thankful for the fact that we can be home in 12 hours!

However, and it is a big ‘however’, we do have much to praise God for! Many positive things have happened during this second term – so here goes! I’ve driven over 50,000 km without accident or breakdown. We’ve seen the Conference Centre grow to its completion with the facilities being well-used by various groups. I’ve preached or taught over 160 times, mainly to Tanzanian pastors & leaders, and had a go at my first Swahili commentary! Ruth has dealt with over 80 bookings at Sanga with over 2600 people staying there, taught several English courses, and she’s also processed donations for work at Sanga totalling 507 million shillings (£170,000)!

We’ve also had the pleasure of introducing family members to Tanzania, as well as a number of church teams and Oak Hall groups. It was also heartening to hear that a number of those Oak Hall folks have gone on to invest further in mission. So, whilst we travel home with jaded eagerness (!) we’re counting our blessings, and we’re thankful for what God has gifted us to do. As I mentioned in our last newsletter, using the words of Paul in 2 Cor. 3: 5 & 8: “There is nothing in us that allows us to claim that we are capable of doing this work, for the capacity we have comes from God alone”. And one of Ruth’s favourite verses, Isaiah 26:12: “Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished You have done for us.”

Over the next six months we’ll be spending time with our home church in Corsham, meeting up with family members, some of whom we’ve never met before, and talking to folks about the work we’ve been involved in. I’ll be doing some Bible teaching on a number of Oak Hall trips, and we’re hoping to get away for a few breaks, one of which will hopefully see me celebrate a significant birthday! Among the more routine matters that need attending to will be visits to doctors, dentists and opticians, preparing presentations and sermons, sorting out tax and pension issues, and having a debrief at AIM’s HQ in Nottingham. At some point along the way, we hope to be able to see many of you, so that we can say a personal “THANK YOU” to those who have supported us. Without the financial and prayerful support of many of you, we simply couldn’t do what we’ve done – so “ASANTE SANA” for your backing and for lifting us up to the throne room of the Almighty! A privilege indeed.

The last few months…. As well as dealing with bookings and the finances of Sanga, Ruth has spent a lot of time training up an AIC pastor to look after the accounts. Fortunately, he’s not just a pastor but a qualified accountant! Praise God for this provision. Whilst on the subject of the AIC (Africa Inland Church) we were recently very encouraged to see a clip of the General Secretary addressing the Tanzanian President on TV. Once in a while various church denominations get the opportunity to make requests to the President, and one of the requests that our AIC guy raised was whether it would be possible for missionaries not to have to pay for work permits! At $500 a time, we’re hoping for a positive result!

In terms of recent preaching appointments, I’ve formed firm friendships with a number of local churches. The AIC church at Kihonda meets in a dilapidated school classroom on the edge of town, and for that privilege they get to pay £17 per month in rent! Thankfully there’s no electricity! It means there are no microphones or sound systems to damage the eardrums! The singing is great and it’s from the heart. The décor is also interesting! They decorate the front of the dusty classroom with brightly coloured material and stick a couple of yucca plants in the corner wrapped in plastic bags! They also wrap up the pulpit as if it were a Christmas present! At the end of the service everyone files out whilst singing with the added benefit that you get to shake every sweaty hand along the way! Apart from the dive-bombing sparrows that target the gaudy pulpit, I’m always encouraged when I preach there, because the percentage of note-takers outnumbers those who don’t! They’re keen to study the Word, and that’s always an encouragement to the preacher.

The folks at AICT Kihonda

AICT Kiloka

One of the other churches we sometimes visit is out in the bush at a place called Kiloka, although it could be Kiroka! We never quite know due to the problem many Tanzanians have with their L’s and R’s! The AIC church at Kiloka is led by a man called Francis who is actually one of our trusty workers at Sanga – even though it’s an hour’s journey from Sanga to Kiloka! I’m not sure I’ve ever met such a godly, committed, smiley evangelist during my time in Tanzania. Just a few weeks ago, I was preaching to the small congregation there and was able to give out Bibles thanks to a monetary gift from someone who had read about the church in one of AIM’s publications. Other gifts have also meant that the church had a makeover a few months ago. In fact it was more like a rebuild due to the fact that the cracks in the bowed walls were getting bigger! Whilst it can be a bit of a challenge getting to the church, it’s always well worth it and we come away feeling blessed at their generous welcome, often shown with a big bunch of bananas! The church provides a small glimmer of gospel light in an otherwise dark community where Islam rules, and we pray that this small gathering would be protected and blessed as they witness for Christ there.

20 things we’re looking forward to on HA!The cold! No mosquitoes! Visiting Israel. Being spiritually fed. Running in cooler climes. Spending quality time with family & friends. Watching Carlisle United get promotion?! Not battling with Swahili! Enjoying long summer evenings. Food variety. Driving on smooth roads where most people adhere to the highway code! Playing golf on greens. Skiing. Climbing a mountain or two. Going to the chippie! Not having ants crawling around the kitchen! Cycling the Hebrides. Not being at the mechanics on a weekly basis! Not being stared at! Being at our home church.

Prayer Points:

  • Please pray for us as we aim to finish well and handover our various responsibilities. Pray in particular for Pastor Heri Ruma who will be looking after the accounts. Pray that our home assignment would be a time of refreshment, physically, mentally, and spiritually.

  • Please pray for our teammates Matt and Amy Dixon as they will be the only missionaries left at Sanga, at least until May when we have another family joining.
    Please pray for stomach healing for Steve! Recently diagnosed with gastritis and duodenitis.

  • Please pray for the two K churches; Kihonda & Kiloka. Pray that the Kiloka folks would be protected as they live out their faith, and for the Kihonda church which is currently leaderless as their pastor recently went to Bible College!

Every blessing and see you soon!

Steve & Ruth


Found this magnificent creature on Steve’s shoe –
a praying mantis

Times of Transition, Successful Seminars and Confused Cockerels!

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

“So much effort measuring speed but we’re still
overwhelmed with accidents.”

Our last update began with the words “three down, three to go”. Four months later, in terms of our IBM regional conferences, it’s now “six down, none to go”! Project Peter is now complete and we have much to be thankful for! All six conferences went to plan and I was able to teach all of my allotted sessions: 46 in total. Despite travelling 3,000 miles on the dicey roads of Tanzania, we didn’t experience any hold-ups, punctures or accidents along the way, just numerous police checkpoints which continue to suck the joy out of driving! Oh that these large figures dressed in white uniforms were angels! Alas, they are not! In terms of attendance at these events, we had a combined total of 160 pastors, evangelists and wives turn up, the largest number we’ve had for a few years. All seemed to be very happy with our focus on the book of 1 Peter, and of particular relevance to the pastors was chapter 5, where Peter urges elders in the church to be shepherds of God’s flock, serving as humble overseers, and being examples to those they lead.

It’s been encouraging to read the feedback from the pastors, although one did question why we were studying 1 Peter when Paul had written many other letters! Another pastor commented that the letter had been brought to life for him, and at the Kilwa seminar, it was great to hear that, as a group of churches in the area, the pastors had decided to use my notes to teach their congregations. It was a timely reminder for me that those hours of labour spent in the study have not been in vain and that the audience is wider than just those who attend the conferences. The teaching material has now been put into book form so that the pastors can have something more permanent for future reference and study. You’re welcome to a copy – if you can read Swahili!

Our August conference took place in the dead-end town of Ifakara! It’s a one-street African town with many dusty side-roads leading off it, and a real sense of run-down-ness. Yet despite its location and its last century feel, we had 43 pastors/evangelists/ wives travel in for the event. Guesthouse prices ranged from £3.20-£8.50 and all of the cooking was done right outside the church under the shade of a mustard tree! On the menu for the three days was typical Tanzanian fare: rice, beans, ugali, spinach, and watermelon, although I was concerned that some super-sized catfish might make it onto our plates at one point! A random guy on a bike turned up one afternoon trying to sell five of the large slimy wrigglers for £3 each! At the end of the conference it was a real encouragement to see that the pastors had collected £30 towards the work of IBM – and this wasn’t the only conference where this happened. This year we’ve found that there is a growing sense amongst the pastors that they appreciate what IBM is all about, and want to step up and help with costs.

Our conferences in September and October (Magambua and Mbeya) also went well. The beauty of the Magambua event is that it’s way out in the bush with the nearest tarmac road being 100 miles away! That means few noisy distractions to contend with for the teacher, just the occasional herd of cows or goats trotting past the church door! The other benefit for Ruth and I was that we were able to stay with some fellow missionaries, who supplemented our rice and beans diet and ensured we didn’t have to stay in a spartan pastor’s house which had only two working lightbulbs! As we wrap up this conference season, we’re able to say that God’s Word has indeed been taught, and we pray that these church leaders will grow in their faith and lead their congregations into a closer relationship with Jesus – because that’s what this is all about. I’m thankful to God that he’s enabled me to teach again this year. Teaching in Swahili is still far out of my comfort zone but the bottom line is that it is He who has empowered me to do so! I’m very much aware of Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 3: 5 & 6: “For we are not competent in ourselves, but our competence comes from God.” In other words, as the Good News version says, “There is nothing in us that allows us to claim that we are capable of doing this work, for the capacity we have comes from God alone.”

Oak Hall Returns: In August Ruth and I hosted an Oak Hall group at Sanga for two weeks, with 22 guests coming to experience the sights of Tanzania and a taste of mission. They worked hard on various projects at Sanga, helped to paint a dormitory at Agape Children’s Village (an orphanage), went on safari and climbed into the Uluguru mountains, but one of the highlights was visiting a small AIC church out in the rurals, set in the midst of a Muslim village. The eye-opening moment for the group came during the service when they were ceremoniously presented with a confused-looking cockerel and a tonne of bananas as a gift! The welcome and the generosity the church showed towards us in the midst of their humble surroundings was overwhelming. The intrepid Oakies returned home with some precious memories and, for one guest in particular, the African adventure looks set to continue as she’s since applied to teach with AIM somewhere in Africa! A taste of mission seems to have developed into wanting more!

“The times they are a changin”!

For our team here in Morogoro there is plenty of change ahead, although it seems as though missionaries serving overseas live within a revolving-door environment where people are constantly coming and going. Our team mates Tony and Cath Swanson are in the process of saying their goodbyes and packing their bags after being in Tanzania for 20 years. In a weeks’ time, they’ll head to the UK for six months before continuing their consultancy roles with AIM, based in Uganda. Tony became the Co-ordinator of IBM way back in 2004 and he’s been at the forefront of developments at Sanga over the last 14 years. He’s lived and breathed all things Sanga, and I’m sure if you were to cut him in half you’d find Sanga blood flowing out! Both Tony and Cath have been an enormous support to us and we’ll miss their wisdom and maturity as well as their friendship and support. On a more playful note, I’ll particularly miss my battles with Tony on the ‘browns’ of Morogoro golf course, and to hearing Cath recall her latest missionary mishap during the course of her many travels!

To mark the end of this era, we headed to the wilds of Mikumi National Park a few weeks ago and enjoyed a team day on safari. The highlights of our day in the bush included watching over 200 buffalo jostling for position at a waterhole, and a lone leopard out on the plains. The lowlight, however, was receiving a phone call telling us that there was a fire in the upper room of the newly-built conference centre! One of the free-standing halogen lamps had been placed too near the curtains and it hadn’t taken long for the fire to spread up into the ceiling boards and roofing sheets. The alarm was raised quickly and our amazingly brave Sanga team were able to put out the fire with the use of ladders and buckets of water! It could have been so much worse, but thankfully our guys were able to deal with it before it caused too much damage, and the repair work was completed within a week. A footnote to the story is that the local fire brigade (think Trumpton!) turned up once the fire had been put out!

All that remains for us to say as we approach the end of another year, is an enormous THANK YOU for your prayers and support and, although it feels way too early to be sending festive greetings, once it arrives, have a wonderful Christmas and a blessed New Year!

Diary Dates:

8-13 Dec:      Unit leader meetings in Dar and Lindi (south Tanzania)

16 Dec:         Preaching at Emmanuel Church, Morogoro
18 Dec:         Amani School Board meeting in Dar (Unit)
23-27 Dec:    Christmas hols
6-10 Jan:      Unit Leader meetings in Nairobi
8 March:       Term 2 complete! Return to UK for six months!

Prayer Points:

  • You might remember that we were looking to recruit an accountant for 12 months for IBM. The AIC has actually appointed someone on a part time basis to cover Ruth’s absence during our home assignment (March-Sept 2019), so that’s an answer to prayer, at least in the short term. Ideally Ruth would like this person to continue managing the accounts when we return to Morogoro next year.

  • Please pray for the Morogoro AIM team as we enter this time of transition. Whilst Tony and Cath will leave on 9th Dec, we’re hoping to have a new family (Wildasins) joining the team in February, depending on the issuing of work permits! Please pray for this to happen soon! Ruth and I will then be heading back to UK on home assignment in early March, and the Dixons will then also be leaving Tanzania in July! Please pray for Pastor Yohana Batano as he picks up the baton passed on by Tony as the Co-ordinator of IBM!

  • Please pray that we would finish our second term well! In many ways this has been a hard year with an on-going sinusitis battle for me, increased responsibilities for Ruth at Sanga, discouraging pastoral situations within the AIC church, growing cultural fatigue, and a seemingly growing police presence on the roads! I’ll admit that my levels of patience and grace are running low as we enter the final three months of this term. It makes me more aware of just what a fragile clay vessel I am! Thankfully, “we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Cor. 4:7)

Friends of Sanga Sanga
We invite you to become a Friend of Sanga Sanga. What does that mean? It means that we keep you updated with news and prayer requests of the ministry at Sanga Sanga via WhatsApp or email. You will receive a newsletter (written by Ruth!) via email twice a year. You can ask for a speaker to come to your church or mission event. And you will receive invitations to come and see what we do and perhaps help with some practical work. If you would like to become a Friend of Sanga Sanga please let us know or click here to sign up!

Easter Sunday in Jerusalem?! If you’re looking for something to do over Easter next year, then how about heading to Israel and Palestine with Oak Hall? I’m leading another trip (trip code IS19) from 16th-26th April, and it would be great to see some familiar faces on the trip. For a detailed itinerary and more details please see the following link: www.oakhall.co.uk/israel/Israel

Every blessing,

Steve & Ruth

Challenges and Distractions; Dancing with Masai and Opening the ‘Oak Hall’

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

Three down, three to go! In our last newsletter we used this map to indicate where our six regional pastors’ conferences would be taking place. We’re now able to put three giant ticks alongside three of those locations, and the fourth one will be taking place this coming week when we head off to the backwaters of Ifakara. Thank you to those who have prayed for me during these seminars. Each conference and venue has its own distinctive flavour but one constant is that folks here just don’t seem to get fazed by distractions! During the first conference in Babati we had children peering through the windows and the sound of a nearby band-saw cutting wood! In the Kilwa conference the unfinished floor of the church was as level as the Uluguru mountains, with clods of clay-soil increasing the risk of much ankle-twisting! It didn’t seem to matter to them! Nor did it matter greatly, during the last session of the last day, when someone spotted a venomous snake curled up in a crack in the wall, high above my head! It was ironic that the topic we had been looking at was that of Satan and his scheming! Peter talks about Satan prowling “around like a lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8), but we also know that Satan slithers around as a serpent looking for people to deceive, even within the walls of the church! One of the pastors grabbed a stick and quickly ‘dealt with it’! “Resist him, standing firm in the faith” (1 Pet 5:9)!

A harmless grass snake seen on safari – not the one at
the Kilwa seminar!

During the recent Pwani conference, which was held in the relative peace and quiet of our Sanga HQ, a couple of dogs and a bleating goat made an appearance in our un-walled thatched banda – but again, it didn’t seem to distract the listeners! As for me, it often seems like an uphill battle trying to ignore these various distractions, whilst also trying not to lose my train of Swahili speak! Oh the joys of preaching in Africa! There is one exception that I can think of, where mobile phone distractions obviously grated with a certain pastor! On the wall of his church there is a notice quoting a verse from Habakkuk that says, “the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him”, along with the accompanying words: “please switch off your phone”! Anyway, distractions aside, the teaching on 1 Peter seems to have been well-received, and about 70 pastors/evangelists now have enough material to craft at least 20 sermons for their congregations! All part of AIM’s goal to see “Christ-centred churches amongst all African peoples”. Onwards to Ifakara, Magambua and Mbeya!

Changamoto Kubwa! One of the most challenging verses that we look at in 1 Peter comes towards the end of ch 2: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply from the heart” (2:22). In Swahili I would say to the pastors: “Hii ni changamoto kubwa sana.” Roughly translated it means “This is a big challenge”! And don’t we know it!? Loving one another can be tough and we can only do it effectively in the power of the Holy Spirit and not in our own strength. Leading on from this verse I then head towards John 13:34-35 where Jesus instructs his disciples (and us!) to love one another, stating that if they do this, outsiders will realise that they are followers of Christ. Love is indeed the key to the gospel isn’t it? Paul says to the Corinthians that if we lack love in our lives, our witness amounts to nothing.

I recently heard a great story that highlights the importance of love within the Christian community; love for each other and love for those who do not know Christ. We have an AIM team living out in the Tanzanian bush that I sometimes visit and they’re seeking to live out the gospel to an Islamic people group. This is what one of the team said: “One day I happened to be sitting in the market with some of the local men who didn’t know that I was part of the team. Two of my team members happened to be passing by and, as always happens when they go to market, kids came flocking! I heard one of the elders from the mosque comment: ‘Do you see that? Before long, this area is going to become Christian.’ The team member sitting in the market asked the elder what he meant and the elder replied: ‘Those Christians really love our people. They care for people when they are sick and they visit their neighbours every day. They really love and pay attention to the kids, and they’re even learning our language. That kind of thing is so different from how we are… it’s irresistible. That’s why I say this area is going to become Christian.’” Wow! What an encouragement that was to that particular team, and what a reminder to us of how important agape love is as a witness to those who don’t know Christ. Father, fill us with your love; strengthen and equip us to love each other, so that a watching world may be drawn to your irresistible love.

Dressed up for the Opening Day  –
Steve didn’t want to wear a
matching outfit!

Conference Centre Opening: Following hard on the heels of our Pwani conference in July was the long-awaited opening of the conference centre, three years after the project began. Ribbons were cut, plaques were unveiled, and cameras clicked as we gathered to give thanks to God for the people who had helped to make it possible. When Solomon had finished building the temple in Jerusalem all those years ago, his prayer of dedication was recorded for us in 1 Kings 8. In response, the Lord said to Solomon: “I have consecrated this building which you have built by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.” (1 Kings 9:3b) We’ve had that reference inscribed on a stone tablet near the main entrance and, having dedicated the building to God, we trust that He will indeed always be there and that His powerful presence will be felt by those who use it. The Centre will be used by the AICT, various other churches, kids camps and other organisations and our hope is that God’s name will be glorified in what takes place there. We also want to thank the various people and churches that have contributed to this project, and especially to Oak Hall for their generous support; hence the reason for the naming of the main hall!


Time off and random holiday happenings! In the middle of July my sister and her family came for a ten day holiday and we had an awesome time introducing them to all-things Tanzania. We certainly packed a lot in: swimming in the Indian Ocean, playing tennis in the heat, experiencing the bite of the notorious Tsetse flies whilst on safari, climbing gigantic Baobab trees, walking up the Uluguru mountains, wandering amongst the rickety fruit and veg stalls of Morogoro market, and sitting in a three-hour church service; what more could you want!? In regard to the latter, they coped admirably, and even introduced the congregation to the chorus ‘My God is a great big God’. Not so sure Ruth appreciated trying to translate the words, “He’s higher than a skyscraper and deeper than a submarine’! However, one of my favourite memories was introducing my bro-in-law (Phil) to the game of golf! It turned out to be quite a random game! On the 8th hole, as we prepared to tee-off, we encountered a Masai choir strung out across the fairway filming a DVD! I’m not so sure they had ever seen a golf ball before, but they signalled that we should play on, and so we walloped (not an official golfing term!) our balls down the fairway. From 150 yards my ball sailed over the heads of the dancing Masai, whilst Phil’s ball left a dent in the back of a Masai warrior! However, there didn’t seem to be too much hard feeling, as Phil and the family were then invited to star as guest dancers in their production! My lasting memory will be of Masai warriors dancing with their sticks, alongside Phil dancing with his golf club! Only in Tanzania!

The Caudle clan on safari

Unbelievable scenes!

Dates for the Diary:

31st Jul – 4th Aug:       IBM Pastors’ Conference in Ifakara
18-31st Aug:                Oak Hall group at Sanga
25th-29th Sept:            IBM Pastors’ Conference in Magambua
11th-16th Oct:              AIM Missionary Conference in Dar (Corsham Baptist Team!)
23rd-27th Oct:             IBM Pastors’ Conference in Mbeya.

Prayer Requests:
Please pray for Ruth as she deals with administration and financial ssues, along with managing guest bookings. We’re currently looking to recruit an accountant/book-keeper for 12 months, so if you know of anyone who might be interested, please give them a prod! Please pray for me in the remaining conferences; that I would teach faithfully & biblically, and that the pastors would go away spiritually well-fed and better equipped to feed their congregations.

We currently have a team of 17 people from All Souls, Langham Place, London, staying at Sanga Sanga. They’re here to experience the Tanzanian culture and to help out around the site. In mid-August we’ll also be getting ready to receive 22 guests from Oak Hall. Please pray for Ruth and I as we lead that trip, and that people would be challenged with regard to mission, and what they can do to help build God’s kingdom.

We are sad to report that Sanga Sanga’s cows were recently stolen – by the security guard employed to guard the site! As you can imagine, this has been very disheartening for all the team and workers at Sanga Sanga. The thief is now in custody but the cows haven’t been found yet. Please pray that they would be returned to us. They aren’t just valuable in themselves but also provide a useful source of income through selling their milk.

Please pray for our team here in Morogoro. The Swansons (Tony just recovered from pneumonia) leave in December, although we’re encouraged that a family plan to join us here in January next year. We’d also be grateful for your prayers as we think beyond our next home assignment (Mar-Sept 2019), and ponder the question of whether we should return here for a third term.

Thank you for all your prayers and support!

Weevils & Worms, Radio Ruth, Project Peter & Turkish Delight!

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

Even the police aren’t immune to unseen pot-holes!

Rain drops keep falling….. loudly on our tin roof!! Tis the season to be…..wet, damp & soggy! Granted, these are not words that you normally associate with Africa but, as we approach the end of the rainy season, we’re looking forward to drier days! For the many subsistence farmers here the rains are a blessing and everywhere looks lush and green as the vegetation goes into over-drive! For many people the length of the rainy season determines their food-stocks for the rest of the year – and so the rains are welcomed with open arms by most. However, the rains also bring with them some unwelcome side effects! Pot-holes that were only ‘repaired’ last month start opening up again. Roadside gutters fill up very quickly with reddish silt that’s made its way down from the mountains behind us. Power cuts tend to increase and the occasional power-surge blows out your lightbulbs – three in one go in our house!

Even the worms are seeking refuge from the rain! During every downpour they slither under the doors of our house before drying out and offering themselves as food for the numerous ‘sugar ants’ which have also taken up residence in our kitchen! Desperate measures have come into force whereby the sugar now lives in the fridge and the honey jar sits in a bowl which has pesticide powder in it! Sitting down for breakfast a few weeks ago, I even found a couple of weevils popping their heads out of my Weetabix! And then there’s the mold! My leather sandals have taken on a soft green/white appearance and I’m wondering how long it will take for them to morph into a pair of carpet slippers! And then there are the smells which always seem to be exaggerated here in Africa. Having a damp dog snoozing next to a damp sofa isn’t something to be sniffed at! Oh the joys of an African rainy season!

Having said that, we’re well aware that we get off lightly when the rains pour down. We have a roof that doesn’t leak (well, not much anyway!) and walls that stand firm. For many people up on the mountains behind us there’s the risk that run-off water will undermine their houses, causing the mud-brick walls to collapse. In a number of places around the country, including the city of Dar, there’s been heavy flooding with roads and houses destroyed as well as lives lost. And so, on reflection, worms, weevils and pot-holes are really not that big an issue.

Grammar Queen hits the airwaves! We mentioned in our last update that Ruth was busy preparing a series of English lessons with a difference. During the last month she’s been able to record a number of programmes for a local Christian radio station run by Faith Baptist Church here in Morogoro. The station is hoping to go live at the end of the year and they’re busy stockpiling material ready for their launch. Whilst teaching English to an invisible audience is a new challenge for Ruth, Steve is hoping, with a new audience for Ruth to focus on, that he’ll now be spared his daily grammar lessons! Away from the microphone, there’s been a lot to do for Ruth at the home of the Institute of Bible & Ministry with bookings on the increase and the accounts to look after, plus the launch of the ‘Friends of Sanga Sanga’ scheme along with the new IBM website! (www.sangaretreatentre.org) During the next few days, don’t be surprised if you receive an email from Ruth about the scheme!

Project Peter! Since the New Year I’ve spent much of my time preparing teaching material for the IBM conferences. Four months of study and translation work have been whittled down to a 64 page file totalling 34,000 words! Our focus this year is the book of 1 Peter and, whilst it’s only a short letter, it’s packed full of foundational doctrine and has much to say about the nitty gritty of practical Christian living. Many of Peter’s key themes begin with the letter ‘S’. Here are a few to give you a flavour of what the pastors will be learning about this year: strangers, stones, salvation, scattered, suffering, submission, second coming, shepherding, and standing firm against Satan.

Peter’s reason for writing his letter is outlined in ch 5:12 (NLT): “My purpose is to encourage you and assure you that the grace of God is with you no matter what happens.” And my prayer is that, as I deliver these talks over the next six months, what is shared would be an encouragement and would give assurance to these pastors and evangelists. It’s now time to bring those words alive and to preach them out to the pastors of the AIC church, starting this Wednesday (9th) in Babati. As you can see from the map, the first conference of the year is also our most northerly regional conference. Here’s hoping that the happenings of last year’s northern event don’t occur this year; one can only take so many bedbugs!

Away from the Study: In early March my brother and his wife (Ian & Kerri) came to visit, and we had an awesome week of non-stop adventure. It began at a deserted airport terminal at 3am (minus some luggage!) and was all too quickly followed, on the same day, by a 7am start time for the Kilimanjaro half marathon! Running conditions were ideal, although some of the footwear worn by fellow runners was not! One guy wore his football boots, another was running in his Sunday-best slip-ons, and yet another runner wore his steel-toecap work boots! ‘Ouch’ – in all three cases!! Whilst running a half marathon might not be everyone’s ideal holiday start, the safari certainly would be. The highlight of our 24 hour safari was seeing leopard and lion and then later lying in bed listening to the roar of said lion rumbling across the plains of Mikumi; a tad scary even when behind a locked door!

Galilee and the Golan Heights

In early April, I was able to head off to Israel and Palestine to lead another Oak Hall trip. This trip always makes it on to my ‘annual highlights’ list, although the things that stand out vary from trip to trip. This year, we were in Jerusalem over Easter, which meant we were able to join with hundreds of other Christians (plus the speaker RT Kendal!) at the Garden Tomb, to celebrate the fact that ‘Christ is risen’! Other notable memories include the crush of people in the narrow alleyways of the old city, standing on the Golan Heights overlooking Syria and hearing heavy shelling in the distance, and watching a white dove trying to settle on someone’s head as they paddled at the traditional site of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan! Talk about Scripture coming alive – well, almost!

My journey to and from Israel was via Istanbul but it made for an interesting flight. As we flew over Turkey (Asia Minor) we followed much of the route that Paul took during his first missionary journey. Whilst most of my fellow passengers dozed off or watched TV, I was leafing through the book of Acts, whilst peering down from 35,000 ft, looking at some of the locations mentioned in my reading! Places like Antioch, Lystra, Derbe and Cyprus.

It also seemed fitting that, having had my eyes focussed on 1 Peter for the last three months, I was now flying over the regions mentioned by Peter in the first verse of his letter: “To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” I tried to imagine what Peter and Paul would have made of someone travelling across these regions in just a few hours, sitting in a jet-propelled metal tube, whilst it took them weeks and months of hard walking! Different times and different worlds, but still exactly the same gospel!

Asia Minor and the Turkish city of Antalia (bottom of
photo) mentioned in Acts 14:25

You can’t beat teaching the Bible
where it all took place!

Prayer Points for the next few months:

  • As we kick off the conference season, I would be very grateful for your prayers as I teach the pastors. “Pray for me that whenever I open my mouth, the right Swahili words may be given me so that I may fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel” – Eph 6:19 slightly adapted! Please pray for us as we travel the miles and carry out conference administration behind the scenes.
  • Please pray for Ruth as she helps to organise the AIM Women’s Retreat in Arusha in mid-May, and for strength and energy to carry out her various roles at Sanga, particularly in regard to finance.
  • You’ll see from the diary below that we’re due to officially open the Conference Centre on 7th July. Please pray for our workers, for Matt Dixon (our building supervisor) in the lead-up to this, and for the event itself, that all will be done for God’s glory.

Diary Dates:

9-11 May:          IBM Pastors’ conference in Babati
15-16th:            AIM Conference planning meetings in Arusha
17-20th:            AIM Women’s Retreat in Arusha (Ruth only!)
27-30th:            Unit Leader meetings in Nairobi for Steve
3rd June:          Steve preaching at Emmanuel Church, Morogoro
10-15th:            Travel to southern Tanzania for meetings & IBM Pastors’ conf in Kilwa
4-6 July:            IBM Pastors’ conference at Sanga Sanga
7th:                   Official opening of the Conference Centre!
9-20th:              Holiday with family! The Caudle Clan (Steve’s sister) from Scotland!

Thanks for all your prayers and support,

Steve & Ruth

Flexing the sinews and ligaments

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

When we last wrote we were just about to head off to the UK for a short break with family and to celebrate my (Ruth’s) parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. We had a wonderful time and made many special memories. Christmas was spent with my parents and family (with the obligatory pork pie for Christmas breakfast—it’s an East Midlands tradition!). The anniversary celebration on Boxing Day went very well and it was great to meet up with siblings and cousins that we haven’t seen for years. My parents even received a lovely card from HM The Queen!

The Willows clan at the Diamond Anniversary do, four generations together.

Then it was north, travelling through snow, heading to Scotland for a few days in Nairn with my sister and over to Elgin for New Year with Steve’s sister and the wider Lancaster clan, which, with 8 adults and 6 kids in one house, was a noisy, active and fun time! In between we managed a quick overnight visit to our pastor and his wife in Corsham and a couple of days in Bicester with Steve’s brother. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip, not least feeling cold again!

The Lancaster clan on Lossie beach  Yes, it was cold!

Our journey back to Africa was broken by a few days in Kenya attending Unit Leader meetings. This was the first time that I had attended these meetings and it was an interesting experience seeing first-hand this part of Steve’s ministry. AIM’s Eastern Region comprises Tanzania and Kenya and each country is split into different units with a leader being responsible for member care and for implementing the strategy set by the Region. As you can imagine, a lot of administration comes with this role and this was reflected in the meetings with discussions on annual leave paperwork, language learning requirements and immigration matters—not terribly exciting stuff but necessary in order to facilitate AIM’s missionaries who are at the coal face of planting Christ-centred churches in Africa. So spare a thought—and a prayer—for Steve as he juggles this role with his other work. Perhaps these tasks are the ligaments and sinews that Paul talks about in Colossians 2: 19—supporting and holding together the whole body.

Talking of sinews and ligaments….Steve is in training to run the Kilimanjaro half marathon in March. His brother Ian and sister-in-law Kerri are coming out to run it too and to visit us for a week. I will be happy to wait at the finish line to cheer them all in!

Steve is now well and truly into preparation for this year’s Institute seminars. He is basing his talks on 1 Peter and has 11 sessions to prepare. His method is to prepare them all in English first and then, with the help of a Tanzanian friend, to tackle the mammoth task of translation into Swahili. We are thanking God that he has completed 8 talks so far with 3 to do. He is planning to start translation work mid-March. Please pray for him!

Meanwhile I have been handling the usual tasks of admin and accounts for Sanga Sanga Retreat Centre. There is one important task coming up that fills me with foreboding—the annual project report for the Eastern Region Office! It’s due in by the end of February so in the next couple of weeks I will be immersed in the books and trying not to get confused! I am thankful for the help of Brenda, my accountant friend, who is able to see the wood for the trees and translate a year’s worth of Tanzanian shilling transactions back into US dollars for the report!  Please pray for us!

Another aspect of my role is to teach English. Last week I ran a course for Intermediates. In amongst the grammar teaching were fun, games and lively discussions that really got the students talking! These courses are a great opportunity to demonstrate what a ‘real’ Christian is like, in front of people who may be nominal Christians or Muslims. Two of the students requested Bibles but, seeing that I’d brought 5, the other students also wanted a copy.

Happy English students with their certificates!

Radio gaga? I have been given the exciting opportunity of teaching English on the radio! Faith Baptist Church in Morogoro is setting up a local radio station and has invited me to record some short English teaching programmes. This is a new and unfamiliar venture—how to teach English with no direct interaction with students. Watch this space for more news!

White-throated Bee-eaters – another ‘cop’ for us

10th anniversary! On 19th January we celebrated 10 years of marriage with a weekend away on the coast, in fact on a small tropical island! Getting there involved a short journey by motorboat (having waded out to it to begin with!). We had two days of unwinding, swimming, reading and resting. There really wasn’t much else to do on the island! We took our binoculars in hope, not expecting to see much, but boy, were we surprised! We saw 5 or 6 ‘new’ birds with some wonderful names, including Caspian Tern, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater and the Blue-naped Mousebird. Beautiful birds and two very happy bird-watchers!

Diary Dates

18th Feb                      Steve preaching at AICT Morogoro (2 services)
March/April                  1 Peter prep for Steve
2nd-10th March           Holiday. Kilimanjaro half marathon! Bro Lancs coming out.
30th Mar-11th Apr       Steve leading Oak Hall Israel trip

Prayer and Praise

  • Praise God for the progress Steve has made to date with his preparation. Pray that it will continue to flow and that the translation work will go quickly and
  • Pray for Steve as he juggles this prep with his Unit Leader work, and for Ruth as she prepares financial reports.
  • Pray for the 5 English students who received Bibles, and the opportunity to teach English over the radio.
  • Praise God for 10 years of marriage!

Thanks for all your prayers and support,

Steve & Ruth

Bird of the month

Pin-tailed Whydah, seen in our garden.

My Mum and the Queen – but which is which?!

"Flying home for Christmas!"

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

As I sat in a well-worn barber’s chair on Saturday morning, my mind began to drift towards our UK Christmas visit. As the scissors and the clippers did their work, it gave me time to ponder on how very different my surroundings would be in just a week’s time. They won’t be singing “snow had fallen, snow on snow” here in Morogoro and there’s no chance of “frosty winds making moan”, just warm and wet winds sweeping off the Uluguru mountains behind us. There won’t be any jingling of bells or the twinkling of fairy lights and, whilst there will be plenty of open fires, there won’t be any chestnuts being roasted – just rice, beans, maize, ugali and possibly some chicken. And as you walk around Morogoro you have to look very hard to find a tinselled tree or a laughing Santa – thankfully!

Christmas is indeed coming but there’s a very different feel to it here, where Christians remember the birth of Christ but in a ‘business as usual’ sort of way. The church services do get a bit longer and, quite possibly, a bit noisier! The AIC church here will be having services on three consecutive days, each one lasting for about three hours. Spare a thought for our team leader Tony Swanson who is preaching at all three and is very much looking forward to watching the choir dancing their way through ‘Hark the herald angels sing’! There might also be a few candlelight services happening on Christmas eve but that’s probably more to do with a regular power cut than wanting to create a cosy stable-like feel (?!) in the service!

By the way, talking of power cuts, what does my Tanzanian/Indian barber do in his psychedelic green shop when the power goes off? He cranks up a noisy generator and carries on with the job, which by this point is very nearly done. Out comes a razor for the finishing touch and out comes a rather large brush (the type that goes with a regular dustpan and brush!) to sweep away the cuttings from my head and shoulders. Finally a dab of un-manly fragrant talc is applied to the neck and the job is done. And all for just £2!

Back to the Christmas musings! Whilst there are many differences between Christmas in Tanzania and the UK, the real focus is still the same – it’s a ‘holyday’ to remember the birth of Christ. It’s a time to reflect on an occasion when God began to put his plan of salvation into action; a time when God chose to ‘put on skin’ and come to live on this earth as a human; a time when he chose to use a young peasant girl to bring into the world the Son of the Almighty God, who somehow was also there when the world began! What an outrageous story! And all for the benefit of humanity! Amidst the froth of Christmas let’s find the time to ponder afresh the astounding truths of what it meant for God to become man. And then let’s pour out our hearts in gratitude by giving our lives in service to Him. “What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a Shepherd I would bring a lamb. If I were a wise Man I would do my part. Yet what I can I give Him, I give my heart.”

A Tale of Two Churches
The IBM conference season has now finished for the year; Ruth is working on the year-end reports and I’m beginning to ponder the subject for next year’s teaching. We’re thankful to God that the conferences this year have all gone to plan, and that the subject of godly leadership seems to have had an impact.

Bearing in mind Ruth’s comment about statistics in our last update, I’ll refrain from going into detail about miles travelled, litres of fuel consumed (by the car!), sermons preached, and the number of times I’ve been stopped by the police! Suffice to say, whilst it’s been a busy year, it’s been a good one, and we’re finishing the year with a sense of satisfaction at what God has done through us as a team. I’ll round up the year by giving you a glimpse of what life can be like on the preaching road here in Tanzania, in the form of a few diary entries.

AIC Dumila: This was a long and painful day! Left home at 8am, and drove 75 kms to the church. On arrival I was given a dried chapatti and some tea; in hindsight, a mistake! Before I got up to preach, I had to visit the cob-webbed toilet shed three times, although it did give me the opportunity to escape the distorted noise of the generator-powered sound system for a few minutes! When the time came to preach, I then had to battle against the sound of an Islamic wedding party happening nearby. The hypnotic trance-like music seemed to have an effect on the congregation – or was that my preaching!?

There were about 70 people crammed into this small mud-brick church. The notices lasted 20 mins, and there were three collections; one of them a general one, another for some building work, and the other for the choir! For the last one, the guy on the microphone was on hand to call out the amount that each person put into the basket! Meanwhile, sitting rather awkwardly at the front of the church and being able to see through the hole in the wall where a window should have been, I tried to keep a close eye on my car which was in danger of being swamped by Sunday School children! They found it amusing to look at their reflections in the mirrors and to run their hands down the not-so-glistening paintwork! Once the service was finished, I sold 15 Bibles at a knock-down price and was later given a lunch of rice and beans. I finally arrived home at 5:30pm with a pounding headache and the need for a paracetamol!

AIC Kinzudi Dar: Due to the fact this church was off the beaten track, I had asked the pastor to meet me at the main road. On the way to the church he asked me to stop at the butchers so that he could buy lunch! With a quick glance towards the hanging lumps of meat in the shop window, I assured him that my favourite meal was indeed rice and beans, and that he needn’t go to the expense of buying meat just for me! Off we drove with me inwardly cheering! As we approached the church the track got rather more ‘off-road’ and somehow I managed to arrive without ripping the sump from the bottom of the car! Yet again, mine was the only car outside the church; there were a few bicycles but the other 40 people had walked there. We started 25 minutes late and people continued to arrive as the service progressed. In a number of churches I’ve even seen people arrive with five mins of the sermon to go!

What a pleasant surprise! There were no microphones or speakers to shake the internal organs, which meant that I wouldn’t need the wax earplugs that I’d put in my pocket! There was only one collection, one song from a four-woman choir, and lots of congregational singing, much of which I couldn’t really understand, but nevertheless it proved to be a tonic to the soul! The tin-roofed church provided oven-like conditions in the humid heat of Dar, and I noticed that the pastor’s shirt was somewhat damp with only a few minutes gone! I’ve learnt that when preaching in Tanzania, it’s always wise to carry a flannel with you, and indeed, it proved useful as the service went on! I preached from John 13 – the section where Jesus washed the feet of his disciples just hours before the cross. We’re urged to stoop and serve as Jesus did, and that includes ‘washing the feet’ of those we don’t get on with, and those who may have wronged us in the past. I don’t recall reading that Jesus refused to wash the feet of the man who was planning to betray him – such a challenge to us all. As the service drew to a close, we filed out whilst singing the closing song and stood in a long line having shaken each other’s hands. And then……time for some more rice and beans!

Diary Dates:

16th Dec – 4th Jan:           Christmas & New Year with family in England & Scotland!
5th- 7th Jan:                      Unit Leader meetings in Kenya
8th Jan:                             Return to Tanzania
19th Jan:                           Our 10th wedding anniversary!
Jan – dates tbc:                Ruth teaching Intermediates English course
Jan/Feb/March:                Steve preparing seminar teaching material

Progress at Sanga Sanga.  Forget the view – look at those new window frames!

Prayer & Praise:

  • We’re thanking God for the past year and for all the plans that have come to fruition; for safety on the roads and in the home; for the opportunity to teach from God’s Word; for the progress made at Sanga Sanga. We’re also praising God for you! We’re thankful for the fact that many of you are journeying with us and providing finance and prayer. Thank you so much for being such a blessing!
  • Please pray for Ruth as she continues to provide administrative support to IBM & Sanga, and as she balances the books, handles bookings and manages the housekeeping staff there. The site is certainly being used more and more, with groups coming on a regular basis to use the facilities, but with that growth comes busyness!
  • Please pray for Steve as he spends the bulk of Jan/Feb/March preparing teaching material for the IBM seminars which begin in May. Please also pray for the Swansons as 2018 will be their last year in Morogoro! They’ll be leaving in December 2018 and heading to a new assignment in Uganda. It raises all sorts of questions as to ‘what next’ for the team, for IBM and the work at Sanga. We would value your prayers as we try to discern the best way forward, and seek to recruit new personnel to cover Tony’s roles.

Further ahead: I’ll be leading another Oak Hall Israel trip from 30th Mar–9th April and it would be great to have some familiar faces on the trip! If you’re interested in seeing the sights of Israel & Palestine with your Bibles open, please see this link for further details: http://www.oakhall.co.uk/israel/israel.

In our last update Ruth reported on Oak Hall’s first Tanzania trip which took place back in August. Well, there’s another trip planned for next year (18 Aug-1 Sep), so if you want an idea of what the trip looks like, or maybe even fancy the idea of staying at Sanga yourself, have a look at the online brochure: http://www.oakhall.co.uk/summer/tanzania.

We wish you every blessing for Christmas and the New Year.

Steve & Ruth

There’s a push bike in there somewhere!

Oakies in Tanzania!

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

One of highlights of life here in Morogoro is the Book Club that I (Ruth) attend every month.  Half a dozen Christian ladies get together to discuss whatever book we are currently studying.  Right now we are reading through Sally Breedlove’s book ‘Choosing Rest’.  It’s subheading is, “Cultivating a Sunday heart in a Monday world.”

Rest is an interesting concept for missionaries when there can be many demands on our time.  We can often feel the pressure to ‘redeem the time’ for the sake of those who are supporting us financially.  And, frankly, sometimes there is just so much to do.  But rest is vital if we are to be here for the long haul.  It’s sometimes difficult to get the balance right.  2017 has been an exceptionally busy year for us and we are looking forward to a rest.  But first, what have we been doing since we last wrote….?

August—Oak Hall in Tanzania!

Steve and I have been connected with Oak Hall Expeditions for over 10 years and Oak Hall has also been a generous supporter of Sanga Sanga Retreat Centre.  So it was a real pleasure to host the first Oak Hall trip to Tanzania!  Twenty-four intrepid souls came for a taste of mission and culture.  The trip started with a hiccup as fog in Amsterdam meant the group missed its connection and ended up coming on 2 separate flights much later than expected.  Good job our Oak Hall training and experiences in Africa have taught us to be flexible!

The group was based at Sanga Sanga Retreat Centre for 10 days.  They threw themselves gladly into some practical work on 2 of those days, painting the outside of the conference centre and working on the hydroponics project.  Evenings were special times, spent around the campfire as we gathered for worship and Bible study, gazing at the stars above.  We took them to visit a nearby Maasai village where they tried some Maasai dancing; we visited a local NGO which trains ‘hero’ rats to sniff out landmines and TB (fascinating—visit apopo.org); we enjoyed a mountain hike in the Ulugurus and we had a day on safari where we saw everything including lion!

Worshipping at AICT Kiloka

But the real highlights for the group were the visits we made to  AICT Dakawa and AICT Kiloka, small village churches.  At Dakawa, as soon as the choir began to sing and dance our group jumped up to join in too!  It was amazing and surprisingly emotional—two sets of people, different in language, culture, appearance and economic status, but united in enjoying praising God.  The British aren’t so stiff-upper lipped after all!  At Kiloka we sang a couple of songs to the church (with actions!) and received a very warm welcome and gifts of rice and bananas.  It was fascinating to watch our group’s reactions and see it all through their eyes, as if for the first time.

Ruth’s birthday coincided with the visit to AICT Dakawa
and she was presented with a kanga

We ended the trip on the coast for a couple of days, including a day on a tropical island enjoying the golden sands and warm waters of the Indian Ocean—and all getting completely soaked on choppy seas on the way back!  All in all, it was a successful trip, tiring but rewarding, and we look forward, God willing, to hosting another group next year!  If you’re interested contact Oak Hall!


AICT Magambua

We travelled deep into rural Tanzania in September for a pastors’ seminar.  Magambua is in an area where the people group are classed as ‘unreached’.  Steve was again teaching on the subject of leadership with moral integrity.  We stayed with an AIM missionary couple , fellow birding enthusiasts!  Numbers attending the conference were lower than expected but they still enjoyed some lively discussion on the topic!  At the end of the conference we took an extra day in Magambua to rest and enjoy some bird watching.  I saw 21 new birds!

October—AIM Tanzania Conference & Iringa

Bob Hunt – Steve’s former
All Nations tutor

AIM has quite a number of missionaries in different parts of Tanzania and our annual conference is the opportunity to get together and catch up.  Steve, myself and Cath were responsible for organising this year’s conference but in spite of that it all went very smoothly!  Bob Hunt, Steve’s former tutor at All Nations, came to do the Bible teaching, leading us through the Gospel of John on some of the journeys of Jesus.  After conference Bob came back to Morogoro with us for a couple of days and it was good to be able to show him a little of our lives here and, of course, Sanga Sanga.

Steve has just returned from Iringa where he has been teaching at the last of this year’s regional seminars.  If this were Steve writing you would now get a series of stats—numbers of kilometres driven, hours on the road, numbers of sessions taught etc!  Suffice to say, however, that 138 pastors, evangelists and their wives have received teaching on godly leadership this year.  Let’s pray that God will use them to shape His church into a model for the world to follow.

Thanks, as always, for your support and prayers for us.  Every blessing,

Steve & Ruth

Diary Dates & Prayer Requests:

5 Nov             Steve preaching at AICT Dumila
14-17 Nov      Evangelists’ plenary seminar at Sanga Sanga
19 Nov           Steve preaching at AICT Mbezi Beach, Dar
20-24 Nov      Ruth teaching English course for Intermediates
15 Dec           Travel to Dar/UK for Christmas break

– Praise God for the completion of this year’s regional pastors’ seminars and pray that God will raise up humble leaders.  We are thankful for the many kilometers driven safely and for the people who have received this year’s teaching.

– Praise God for a successful Oak Hall trip, after months of planning.  Pray that those who came will be open to God’s calling on their lives to serve him however he chooses.

– Pray for Steve in his Unit Leader duties—he will be travelling to visit various members of the unit over the next few weeks.

– We are planning a short break in the UK over Christmas and New Year.  It will be Ruth’s parents’ diamond wedding anniversary on Boxing Day.  Pray for safe travels and for a good time with family in Carlisle, Bicester, Newark, Nairn and Elgin!  We return to Tanzania via Kenya on 8th January.

One of our Oak Hall guests has a close encounter with
a hero rat!

Conference Conundrums!

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

Barazani, with dried up Lake Eyasi behind

Barazani: the town reminded me of an old wild-west movie set, although with a lot more poverty.  A number of ramshackled shops lined the rough-roaded street and the one main café in the town consisted of a small plastic-covered shed and a couple of charcoal stoves.  Youths hung about in the ‘pool hall’, many of them with glazed eyes and looking decidedly bored, a sure sign of unemployment in a town which is known for its seasonal onion farming!  The words on the gate of my accommodation read ‘Florida Guesthouse’ and outside loitered a couple of stray dogs.  I knew in that instance that I was not in for a luxurious stay and that this was anything but Florida!  Maybe the room rate of £2.80 per night should also have raised an eyebrow, but alas, this was indeed the best that Barazani had to offer.  Thus began the IBM conference season back in early May!  I’ll let my diary entry for that night set the scene:

The Florida guesthouse!

“My room is 3x3 metres.  There’s no desk, no chair, no cupboard; just a bed with a multi-coloured chequered sheet on it!  There is electricity; it’s been in the town for a couple of years now.  There’s also running water, even when the shower is turned off!  Drip, drip, drip – onto the tiles.  The remedy is to pop next door and turn off the water supply to all of the rooms!  There is a window – but less than a metre away there’s a brick wall, so the view isn’t exactly ‘lake district’!  There’s no mirror in the small bathroom, so shaving should be fun, and to get to the squatty potty, I have to pass under the leaking shower!  Four glorious nights of this!  If I’m honest, I’m not relishing it and would rather be elsewhere, but I am here to do a job, and the job will be done.  I feel woefully inadequate going into this and, being as this is the first of the year, I am not sure how things will go.  How will the pastors respond to nine sessions of my Swahili teaching this week!?  Father God, I need your strengthening hand on me this week.  Please fill me with your Holy Spirit, enable me to teach your Word, and grant me fluency beyond the natural.”

Well, the conference did go very well and the pastors seemed keen to tackle the subject: “Show me a leader with integrity.”  In fact it was a hot topic that grabbed their attention and the questions and head-nodding (in agreement, not sleep!) revealed that this was definitely a timely subject that needed expounding.  On the final afternoon we were also able to encourage the local AIC pastor by visiting his small unfinished church building and praying for him and his family.  Their story, accompanied by tears, revealed that they were going through some very tough times and I left the church astounded, wondering how this guy has been able to cope in this isolated northern outpost.  His house made the Florida Guesthouse seem like the Ritz – or at least like a Travelodge!  As I lay in bed that night listening to the call of a distant hyena, and trying not to itch my 120+ bed-bug bites, I couldn’t help but wonder what it was I had to be grumpy about!

The house where trees live, Lindi

Whilst the Barazani conference is our most northerly venue, the second conference of the year took place in our southern-most venue: the town of Lindi, not too far from the Mozambique border.  One of my guidebooks describes Lindi as follows: “With one eye closed, you can even imagine that the main beach served as a resort of sorts, but today the beachfront benches are all broken and they probably go for weeks at a stretch without being perched on by a tourist.  In the town centre numerous colonial-era buildings are ruined or heading that way, whilst the old derelict German Boma has nothing in it except trees”!  The conference, although small in number (12), went well, but the humid coastal temps meant that, at one point, we had to move out of the tin-roofed church and under some nearby trees to get some much needed breeze!  Whilst some relief was found, the nearby wailing minarets seemed to become a tad louder!  The only issue to report was that, on one morning just before we were due to start, I was summoned to present my passport at the local immigration office and told that I had committed a crime by staying in the town without obtaining prior permission!  Whilst my Tanzanian colleague graciously asked if he could pray for the very officious Muslim official, I sat in the corner biting my tongue and zipping my mouth for fear of a longer confinement!

Our most recent conference (July) was actually on home turf, as we decided to hold the Pwani event at Sanga Sanga, instead of Dar.  Thankfully, with Sanga only being 12 miles up the road from our house, there’s little to report on the travails of travel!  The only drawbacks in trying to hold people’s attention at this venue were the nesting sparrows overhead and the stunning views of the Uluguru mountains!  We had to position the seating so that the pastors wouldn’t be mesmerised all of the time!  We met in the main upper room of the new conference centre, which as yet doesn’t have windows fitted, but the sparrows, the views and the breeze certainly made it memorable.  There was also some great singing during the three days, and it thrilled the soul to hear those African voices, especially as there wasn’t a keyboard or an amplifier in sight!!

The seminar room with a view!

The one thing that did stand out for me personally was how tough the first day was.  I taught three sessions but it felt as though I was wading through treacle for much of it!  I was aware of a lack of inner enthusiasm; the ummpphh was missing, and I stepped away from my homemade lectern a bit dejected.  Was it simply an off day, or was cultural fatigue showing through?  It could indeed be a bit of both, but my team leader Tony helpfully reminded me that what we’re doing at IBM and the subject that we’re teaching is bound to rattle the cage of Satan.  He is very much opposed to seeing teaching on integrity in the Church and, as we know, he comes to steal, disrupt and discourage us in our work.  Thankfully, days 2 and 2 went much better.  The ummpphh was back and I felt that I was more expressive in my Swahili teaching than I had been before!

Mum & Dad Lancs ‘gift-wrapped’ – literally!

Parental Visit!  The very next day Ruth and I headed to Dar to pick up my parents who had flown in for a two-week holiday.  One of the first things to be unwrapped from their luggage was…… a pork pie!  It’s strange what you long for when away from your home culture.  Following the Lancaster tradition, our holiday did not consist of much ‘sit-at-home’ time, and we packed a lot into our time.  We swam in, or rather were battered about by the eight-foot waves of the Indian Ocean!  We spotted scorpions, sea-snakes and storks – literally thousands of them!  In fact the bird list was certainly added to as we toured the National Parks of Tarangire, Manyara, Arusha and Mikumi.  We also spent some time in Tabora with a pastor and his wife who run an orphans and widows project, and came away humbled at the welcome we received by people who literally had next to nothing.  Another sobering moment came as we travelled back from Tabora and observed a disabled women crawling across a busy main road on her hands and knees.  Other more amusing journey sightings included a goat standing on the top of a speeding petrol tanker, and a man walking down the street with a pig on his shoulders!  We also gave a lift to a man who told us he had been walking for three days because he couldn’t afford the bus fare of £1.70 to get to his home town.  We had just driven his ‘three days’ in a little over three hours!  Never a dull moment on the roads of Africa!

Life in Ruth’s Lane!  Every year AIM’s female missionaries in Tanzania get together for a time of retreat.  This year’s retreat was held in May on the coast south of Dar es Salaam.  Kathy Larkman, our pastor’s wife from Corsham Baptist, came to speak on ‘Christ’s Love Compels Us’.  It was a special time of relaxation, catching up with friends, praying with each other and having a few laughs too.  Unfortunately I had again been suffering from a few boils, and a large abscess on my side distracted me somewhat from the retreat.  I was able to have a small surgical procedure at a clinic in Dar before we headed home to Morogoro.  Thank you to everyone who prayed for me during this time – it has healed up nicely now and added to my collection of scars!

We’ve had lots of visitors at Sanga Sanga over the last few months, including two large AICT children’s camps.  We converted the pump house into a temporary dorm to add to our capacity!  It was lovely seeing the children enjoying the fresh air, space and their Sunday School lessons.

One of the highlights of the year so far was the visit of a work team from our church in Corsham who came to help build a shower block on the campsite.  Nine folks came and joined with our local team to lay bricks, mix cement and plaster walls.  Some of the nine were returnees from last year’s group but some were new and had never visited Africa before.  They coped really well in the unfamiliar environment and even picked up a few words of Swahili.  They were very focused on their task and at the end of the trip the roof was on – a great achievement!  We are so thankful to our church for sending them and for raising the funds to build these much-needed facilities.

I had a few days of holiday at the end of May when my friend Rachel from Tearfund/Oak Hall days came to visit.  We had 3 nights on Zanzibar and a day on safari.  It was her first time to Tanzania so it was lovely to show her our ministry and home life here.

Cookery course students

One part of my role that I very much enjoy is spending time with the staff at the Retreat House.  Francisca, the housekeeper and cook, is a bright spark who has all sorts of ideas about generating funds for the Institute.  One of them was to hold a cookery course for Tanzanians who work in western households in Morogoro.  She already knew how to cook a few western dishes but we had great fun one afternoon when I was able to teach her how to cook chilli con carne, spicy chicken and guacamole, among others.  It means we are able to offer a more varied menu to our guests at Sanga Sanga.  The cookery course itself was a big success and we have plans to hold more in the future.

Diary Dates & Prayer Requests:

1-5 Aug:               Ifakara IBM pastors’ conference (Steve)
16-30 Aug:           Hosting, speaking and leading on Oak Hall’s first Tanzania trip!
20 Aug:                Ruth’s birthday!
5-9 Sept:              Magambua IBM pastors’ conference
18-22 Sept:          Ruth teaching an English course at Sanga Sanga
25-30 Sept:          Mbeya IBM pastors’ conference
12-17 Oct:            AIM Tanzania conference in Dar es Salaam

There’s always room for one more bag!

We’re praising God for a busy few months at Sanga, for safety on the roads, for plans that have come to fruition, for teaching that’s gone well, and for a great holiday with Mum & Dad.

We’re also thankful for our home church and band of faithful supporters who have enabled us to be here for four years now!  Yes, it really is that long!  On 11th July we celebrated our four year anniversary here in Tanzania.  Thank you to those who support us through prayer and finance.  We couldn’t do what we’re doing without your support.

Please pray for Steve as he continues to teach at the IBM conferences on the subject of Biblical leadership and moral integrity.  The next one starts on 2nd August.

Please pray for Ruth as she handles bookings at Sanga and manages the Retreat House staff.  Pray that we would be able to move forward into completing the conference centre build.  Things are certainly happening but on a slower basis, although we’re now in a position where we can use some of the rooms.

Please pray for us both as we host and lead the first ever Oak Hall Tanzania trip in August!  Obviously, we’d love for this trip to be a success and for the guests to go away having had a real taste of Africa and a taste of mission.

Please pray for us both (and our team mate Cath Swanson) as we continue to plan for the AIM Tanzania Conference in October.  We’re looking forward to welcoming a certain Bob Hunt as our speaker, and we’ve now got a children’s team all lined up!

As always, Dad needs help with his phone!

Visits from family and friends are wonderful but also tend to make us long for home—we sometimes wish we were going with them as we wave them off at the airport.  Pray that we will be fully focused on our calling to Morogoro and that our hearts and minds will be guarded by the One who called us.

Many thanks.

Steve & Ruth

“Insects, Integrity & Israel”! (There’s a combination you don’t see too often!)

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

How’s that for a gigantic leaf!

“Wake up and smell the coffee”!  It’s a phrase normally used to encourage someone to ‘get real’ about a situation but this morning it took on a more literal sense.  As I (Steve) sat down at my desk to scan the online news, a pesky mosquito managed to bite me four times!  And this one seemed to have it in for me, as it left extra-itchy bite marks!  The insecticide spray was quickly found and the hunt was on!  But in the process of moving my desk, the coffee cafetiere was knocked off and its contents splattered all over the tiled floor!  I guess I should be thankful we don’t have carpets here!  The wee beastie was eventually found and dispatched with determination – or is that ‘extermination’!?  Thus began my coffee-scented morning!

It’s the time of the year when insects of all shapes and sizes are plentiful and it can be a losing battle trying to keep them out of the house.  In addition to the insects, we also had to dispatch a small snake from the bathroom last week!  And this increase in creepy crawlies is all down to the fact that there’s been a humungous amount of rain here in Morogoro; so much so, that it even found its way into our kitchen through our roof!  The reddened dust has been dampened, the maize crops are reaching for the skies, the waterfalls are tumbling off the mountains behind us, and everywhere is a verdant green.  Temperatures are also dropping into the mid-20’s and some of the missionary folks can be heard uttering the words ‘It’s getting cold’ – hmmmm!

Conference season begins!  It’s also the time of the year when the IBM conference season is about to begin and yesterday marked a significant moment for me.  As you know, my main focus for the past three months has been the preparation of teaching material for this year’s pastors’ conferences – and yesterday, with a fair amount of relief and satisfaction, I was able to take my twelve teaching sessions to the printers! Actually, the relief was far more palpable than I expected it to be!  During the last sentence of translation with my language helper, as I pressed the ‘full-stop’ key on my laptop, I broke down and sobbed my eyes out!  Finally, it was ‘mission accomplished’!

Working hard with evangelist Yohana Dutuyi

I’ve been very conscious of people praying for me over these last few months, and am indebted to those who’ve been lifting this cause up to God.  During this time I’ve been praying a verse from the prayer of Moses in Psalm 90: “May the favour of the Lord rest upon us, and establish the work of our hands for us.”  In other words: “Lord, enable me in this process, and make my labours effective and enduring for your glory.”  And I’ve definitely felt blessed and strengthened during this time.  On a number of occasions, whilst lying in bed at night with strained eyes and an aching neck, I would pray that I would be strengthened beyond my natural self to continue the next day.  Low and behold, I was!  It was tangible, and I felt God at work through this process in a number of ways.  He also provided me with a wonderful translator to work with, who’s been such a blessing to me.  When the energy to move forwards has been flagging, he’s spurred me on, and together we’ve pondered God’s Word and chewed the spiritual cud!  So, a huge thank you to those who have prayed; I believe those prayers have been answered.

Our subject this year is: “show me a leader with moral integrity”, based on a book by a Tanzanian bishop. Amongst the things we’ll be focussing on are the following topics: a mini study of biblical leaders with integrity; the qualities of a leader with integrity; the example of Jesus; servant leadership; compassion in leadership; obedient leadership; and how we deal with temptations and conflict in the ministry.  With several recent negative reports concerning church leadership here in Tanzania, and with various church leadership elections around the corner, there’s a feeling that this is exactly the right topic for this year.

The first conference starts on Wednesday 3rd May, so I’ll be leaving home on Monday, to do battle with the roads, some of which will be rough and not-so-ready!  We’ll be based in a small town called Barazani in the north of the country and, as you’ll see from the map, it’s situated right at the top of Lake Eyasi in the Rift Valley, just below the Serengeti plateau and the Ngorongoro Crater.  Whilst I did visit Barazani seven years ago (when the lake was completely dry!), I haven’t been to the church where the conference will be held.  I’ve been told that “at least the church has a roof”, so it could be interesting!  The towns marked with a blue star are the locations of all the conferences that will be taking place over the next seven months.

What’s Ruth been up to?  Ruth has been busy over the last couple of months with various projects.  An English course for beginners in March went well, despite having students with a wide range of abilities.  Part of her teaching included learning two worship songs, some simple prayers and memorising Psalm 117.  Two of her students, one a nominal Christian and the other a nominal Muslim, asked for Bibles at the end of the course, which Ruth was delighted to give them.  Pray that Monika and Thabiti will read their new Bibles and come to know the Lord.  The Retreat Centre has been fairly busy with different guests and groups.  We are running three courses at the Centre in May and June is fully booked with a couple of children’s camps and we’re looking forward to welcoming a work team from our home church, Corsham Baptist!  Ruth will also be attending a retreat for AIM ladies in May which is being held on the south coast of Tanzania.  In spite of her busy schedule Ruth is finding time to attend one of AICT Morogoro’s home groups on a Wednesday afternoon.  It means that she is getting to know various members of the church a little better and it’s good practice for her Swahili.  In fact, during the prayer time Ruth has been asked to pray on several occasions – which is rather daunting and out of her comfort zone!

Stepping in the footsteps of Jesus – again! In early April, I was able to fit in a trip to Israel with Oak Hall. Flight timings and stopovers were not so friendly, but the privilege of showing people around this biblically significant land and treading in the footsteps of so many biblical characters, far outweighed the airport hang-abouts and blurry eyes!  Plus, the views from above weren’t too bad either!  Snow-covered mountains in Turkey, the Bosphorus Strait near Istanbul, the sprawling city of Cairo, the meandering Nile, the horn of East Africa, and the infamous city of Mogadishu!  The tour itself went very well, and it was great to see the guests taking in the sights and having their ‘wow’ moments as we opened our Bibles to reflect on events that happened over 2000 years ago and yet still have such an impact today.  We stayed in Jerusalem, Galilee, and Bethlehem and packed in as much as we could in the time available.

Steps up to the Huldah Gates – newer steps to the left,
original steps to the right

On one of our mornings in Jerusalem we visited the south end of the Temple Mount and looked up at the steps leading to the Huldah Gates, through which many a biblical pilgrim would have entered on their way up into the Temple area.  We imagined the early church congregation meeting under Solomon’s Portico, just above the gates, and we read about Jesus and his disciples entering the Temple.  Apparently, so too did the astronaut Neil Armstrong!  When he visited Israel sometime after his trip to the moon, he was taken to these gates (now blocked up) by an Israeli archaeologist.  Armstrong asked whether Jesus might have stepped anywhere around there and the archaeologist replied: “Well, being as Jesus was a Jew and these are the steps that lead to the Temple, he must have walked up them many times”.  Armstrong then asked whether the steps they were standing on were the original steps, and the archaeologist confirmed they were.  Armstrong, who was a devout Christian, pondered for a while and then said this: “I find that I am more excited stepping on these stones than I was when I stepped on the moon.”  Whilst I can’t make the same comparison with standing on the moon, I can certainly appreciate his excitement and I guess that’s one of the reasons why I never tire of visiting this fascinating land.

We’ve included some diary dates below, and would be grateful for your prayers as we enter a busy conference period.  Please pray that God would move in the lives of the pastors and evangelists, and that He would enable me to teach well, with a Swahili that is beyond my natural ability!!  Please pray that we’d also experience good health and safety as we travel.  And join with us in thanksgiving for the fact that our conference budget has been met for this year with a generous donation, and for the progress that continues to happen at Sanga Sanga.  Many thanks!

Steve & Ruth

Dates for the Diary:

1st-7th:       Steve to Barazani – IBM conference 3rd-5th
4th-9th:       Ruth to Kilwa for AIM Ladies Retreat
15th-19th:   Ruth teaching English course at Sanga Sanga
18th-20th:   Steve to Dar for unit leader meetings
27th-31st:   Steve to Nairobi for UL meetings/Ruth holidaying with a visiting

13th-18th:  Lindi (south) – 2nd IBM pastors’ conference
20th-30th:  Corsham Baptist team arrive to help out at Sanga

4th-6th:     Sanga Sanga – 3rd IBM pastors’ conference
7th-25th:   Ma & Pa Lancs come to visit!

1st-5th:    Ifakara – 4th IBM pastors’ conference

‘Deluxe’ to Dar, sheds to warehouses, and light into darkness

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

Welcome to the warehouse church – started
18 months ago!

From “The Shed” to “The Warehouse”!  Last Sunday Ruth and I returned to AICT Dakawa – the ‘Shed’ Church – for the first time since last February.  However, there wasn’t much activity in the lean-to shed adjacent to the church leader’s house because the new partly-finished church building, just 100 yards away, is now in use.  Compared to the shed it feels like a cavernous warehouse, especially when there are only 30 people sitting inside!  There’s still work to be done (cementing the earthen floor, fitting the remaining window grilles and doors) but it’s testament to the dedication of the members that they are even at this stage, having only begun eighteen months ago!  Listening to the notices I worked out that their average weekly collection is about £5.50, so goodness knows how they’ve managed it!

How’s that for a central aisle?!  Men on one side,
women on the other

The choir danced and sung, the generator spluttered outside, the microphone hummed, and the boy on the keyboard insisted on playing sound effects whenever the leader finished a sentence!  It was amusing at first but after 2.5 hours not so much!  From a preaching point of view there were certainly fewer distractions, although I might just miss those pesky cockerels which used to hang around ‘the shed’!  I preached in Swahili on the letter to the church at Ephesus from Revelation 2 where Jesus rebukes the church for having lost their first love – and so the focus turned to our love for the Lord, and for each other.  Putting it into practice is always the hard part but I did manage to shake hands with the boy on the keyboard afterwards!!

All 20 carriages of the deluxe Kigoma-Dar train
going at break-neck speed round a bend!

An adventure by rail!  I attended Unit Leader meetings in Nairobi in January and decided to do the first leg of my journey using a different mode of transport!  Despite a couple of raised eyebrows from colleagues here, I chose to travel from Morogoro to Dar by rail.  You may well question the raising of eyebrows at such a choice but when there’s only one ‘deluxe’ train a week that doesn’t guarantee delivering you to your destination on the same day, it becomes a bit more understandable.  It took me 6.5 hours, sitting in a surprisingly new and comfortable carriage, to travel 115 miles.  That means that the average speed was 18 mph!!  I had ample time to watch the Tanzanian world go by, even though it was accompanied by the monotonous drone of African rap music echoing down the carriage!  Still, it was much preferred to the alternative coach journey and it did take out the risk of getting stopped by the traffic police had I gone by car!

Two weeks later and the Deluxe derailed!

That being said, having mentioned the word ‘risk’, imagine my surprise just two weeks later to read in the newspaper that the very same train had derailed on its way to Dar!  Apparently the intense sun had buckled the rails and the driver, despite maxing out at 18 mph, hadn’t been able to stop in time!  So maybe there was some justification in those raised eyebrows after all!

An African Puff Adder, much like the one we
nearly stepped on!

Anyone for a stroll?!  For those who tend to get a bit wobbly when the word ‘snake’ is mentioned, avoid this paragraph!  During our New Year team retreat in the idyllic surrounds of Masumbo Camp, Iringa, the suggestion of a stroll to the river rapids sounded very non-threatening.  But this is Africa!  We enjoyed some bouldering as we clambered over the rocks near the half-empty river, but not before encountering a rather fattened Puff Adder!  We were walking single-file through the bush when, suddenly, I froze mid-stride because a few feet away, lying right next to the path, was a 3ft snake.  This is how Wikipedia describes it: “The African Puff Adder is responsible for causing the most snakebite fatalities in Africa.  It’s normally a sluggish species and relies on camouflage for protection, but as its Latin name implies, it can strike violently.  If disturbed they will hiss or puff loudly, adopting a tightly coiled defensive posture.  They may strike suddenly and at a high speed, to the side as easily as forwards.”  Well, it was indeed sluggish and camouflaged, but we were mighty thankful that we didn’t experience the rest of the description!  In fact, it didn’t move a muscle, except for its tongue which was busy sensing our whereabouts!  We backed up rather slowly, gave it a wide birth, and continued on our merry way, mindful of the fact that for many a rural African, such encounters don’t end as well as ours did.  The remainder of our retreat was spent talking and praying through team issues, relaxing in our little hobbit holes, and playing pickleball!  Ruth organized our New Year’s Eve celebration with party games, poetry and sparklers!  We closed our time together with a communion service, sitting around a campfire under the African stars accompanied by a gaggle of glow worms!

An African Hobbi hut at Masumbo!
Some of the team relieved to have survived the
snake encounter!

Power Encounters: One of the joys of being unit leader is that I hear about what happens in other ministries and locations around Tanzania.  Whilst I sometimes hear stories that make it seem that there’s not much visible fruit, I also hear stories that thrill the heart and reassure me that what we’re doing is certainly not in vain!  Over the last few months it does seem as though a few exciting things are beginning to happen in places considered to be ‘unreached’ with the gospel.  One particular team is rejoicing over a number of healings, a baptism in the sea, and a neighbour who came to Christ.  Another small team in a rural village is rejoicing that a guy, who asked them for a copy of the New Testament so that he could compare it with the writings of his religion, has now decided to give his life to Christ.  He’s since been baptised and has changed his name to reflect this!

Just a few weeks ago, I heard from another small team where ‘the light of the Gospel is beginning to shine and the Holy Spirit is at work.’  The team had only been in situ for a few weeks and was looking at ways to reach out into the community.  A number of students at a local primary school had been experiencing demonic attacks and their religious leaders had already ‘prayed’ for them, but with no result.  The team offered to pray for the students and, somewhat surprisingly, their offer was accepted!  When they arrived to pray there were 26 children in the classroom who had been suffering from these attacks!  The team was able to share the gospel and, during a mammoth three-hour prayer session, some of the students were delivered from demons!  God provided this incredible opportunity for this team and already there are signs that a number of people are keen to know more about Jesus.  Please pray for this ongoing situation and for the protection of the team as they continue to shine their light into what has been a very dark community.

Stories like these warm the heart don’t they?  They open our eyes, broaden the mind, deepen and refresh our faith, and even challenge some of our beliefs!  They encourage us to pray and they cause us to rejoice in a God who is still in the business of changing lives and moving powerfully against the enemy.  Despite the hiccups that we sometimes experience within the Church, it’s great to know that people are being introduced to the gospel, lives are being changed, disciples are being made, and His Church is being built and strengthened through a whole range of ministries.

Points for Prayer & Praise:

The conference centre at Sanga has certainly entered the final phase. Whilst there is still a lot of work to be done, most of the walls are now up and the place is a hive of activity as fundis work on the plastering and begin work on the interior. Building supervisor Matt and his family head off on home assignment in April, whilst Tony holds the reigns!

Ruth has been immersed in Sanga administration and end-of-year accounts and is also busy preparing to teach two English courses at Sanga in February and March.

Why throw it away when you can sew it up!

I’m trying to keep the travelling to a minimum during February and March so that I can concentrate on preparing teaching material for the IBM conferences which start in early May. The subject this year will be something along the lines of ‘Show me a leader with moral integrity’, and my hope is that much of that prep will be done before I head off to lead an Oak Hall Israel trip in April.

For those who also like to pray through our itinerary we’ve included some dates below.  Many, many thanks for your support and your prayers.

19th Feb:        Preaching at Morogoro AICT
20-24 Feb:      Ruth teaching English at Sanga
7-8 Mar:          Steve travels to Dar for UL meetings
27th-31st:       Ruth teaching English for beginners, at Sanga
2nd Apr:         AICT diocese-wide fundraising day for the conference centre at Sanga
3rd-13th Apr:  Steve to Israel
5th-8th May:   Ruth attending Tz Ladies Retreat (speaker: Kathy Larkman)

The bottle boys of Africa!  These guys walk the streets
collecting plastic bottles and in return they get the
equivalent of 13p for every kg collected!

Bird of the month – notice the pink eyelid!  It’s an owl –
but what sort?