Christmas Capers

  Filed under: Mission and Ministries, Overseas Mission 

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

As I type the thunder is echoing off the hills behind us and the rain is drumming heavily on our tin roof, and all around is either verdant green or muddy red!  A week ago, as Tony and I attempted to tackle the fourth fairway of the local golf course, we were forced to abandon our game due to thunder, lightening and driving rain; in fact the rain seemed to be ‘driving’ with more effect than we were!  Needless to say we got an absolute soaking!  And then a few weeks ago, the New Year celebrations here in Morogoro were dampened as the outdoor market was deluged; the rickety old wooden shacks and stalls were marooned in waist-deep water!  It seems as though the rainy season is well under way although, with weather patterns across Africa becoming unpredictable, we’re not sure whether it’s the ‘long rains’ come early or the ‘short rains’ come late!

Celebrating with the Lancasters at New Year

As you know we celebrated Christmas and New Year in the UK with our families – and what a wonderful time of reunion/ blessing/fun/laughter it was, except for one night of hospitalisation for Ruth in Lincoln!  Under a general anaesthetic she had a minor operation to drain a large abscess, which had started off as a boil and developed into a nasty carbuncle – we’ll spare you the photos! Although it made a slight dent in our schedule, it was timely as we were able to use the services of the NHS rather than have it done in Tanzania.  Nearly four weeks after the operation the wound is more or less healed, and thankfully, Ruth hasn’t had another boil.

Despite the fact it was only a brief visit we managed to pack a lot in (travelling between Newark, Carlisle, Elgin, Nairn and Bicester), and yet our time didn’t feel too squashed.  We wandered the beaches of Nairn, revelled in the frost of Elgin on Christmas Day, meandered through the frozen forests of Culbin and then, in complete contrast, jostled our way through the crowded streets of London, watched The Hobbit in Bicester cinema – and ate rather a lot of food at various family gatherings!

Twins!  But which one is Ruth?

Did it feel strange to be back in the UK after being in Tanzania for the past 17 months?  In all honesty, not at all.  I think we expected to feel a bit strange given the many differences there are between the two cultures – but it all felt very normal, although we took a great deal of pleasure from some of the things we once took for granted.  It was so nice to eat chips from a chippie, to drink water straight from the tap, to wander around the spotlessly clean and varied aisles of Sainsbury’s (!), awesome to drive roads which weren’t littered with pot-holes and vehicle wrecks, relaxing to feel safe on those roads, and great to feel chilly when you first get into bed!

The machete sharpener!

But now – we’re back here in Tanzania.  All our flights were bang on time and we managed to fly in and out of Nairobi airport just a few hours before the runway closed after a plane belly-flopped onto the runway following landing-gear failure!  The airport was closed for six hours and all flights diverted to Mombasa!  I found myself pondering the many differences between the UK and Tanzania as I sat in the barbers the day after we returned.  Sat next to me in the no-frills shop were three Maasai men dressed in their traditional red attire.  The doors were wide open, the air was hot and humid, and the noisy generator was chugging away outside because the power was out once again – and the haircut cost me £1.50!  It’s back to sleeping under a mozzie net, watching the geckos hang off the ceiling and hearing the various minarets ‘singing’ out their calls to prayer.  It’s back to the land of whacky races, swerving to avoid pot-holes, people, bikes and mini-buses on the roads.  It’s back to the noises of the night – the cicadas, crickets and frogs; it’s back to being confronted with the poverty that many people here experience, as well as feeling tongue-tied as I grapple to find the right Swahili word!  It’s back to seeing children walking to school with machetes and brooms in their hands!

And as the New Year begins it’s also back to work, serving the pastors of the Africa Inland Church here in eastern Tanzania, and helping out at the home of the Institute of Bible & Ministry at Sanga Sanga.  And do you know what?  It’s amazing how normal it all feels!  And that’s because this is where we’re meant to be doing for this chapter of life.  That being said – it also feels rather daunting as we enter our second full year here in Morogoro as things are going to get busier and more involved.  I am trying to set aside Jan/Feb as study months for my teaching sessions for the year ahead.  I’ve been set the task of looking at the person and role of the Holy Spirit; both exciting and of course daunting! I’ve also been asked to preach in Swahili once a month (from March) at the ‘back-garden’ church featured in last months blog, and from April onwards I’ll also be taking on the role of unit leader for the northern part of eastern Tanzania (more info next time).  Ruth is planning her English classes for the next few months, wrestling with the accounts and working on how to raise funds for the next phase of construction at Sanga.

The site where the conference hall
will be built

The 13 acre site at Sanga currently has a number of agricultural plots and bandas, a pump house with a  container-style office, a campsite for passing travellers and the recently constructed Retreat House which has a small meeting room and sleeps 13 people.  The next stage is to build a 250-seat conference hall towards the top end of the site complete with a seminar room and a small library to aid visiting pastors in their studies. The site has been cleared and various test holes have been dug and the boys with the shovels are about to ‘break ground’, although the speed of progress will depend very much on what’s in the kitty from week to week!  Apart from an annual gift from AIC Tanz the development of IBM & Sanga relies on donations – so if you’re looking for a project to support in 2015, and believe in the ethos of IBM (which is to enable, mobilise and inspire pastors and evangelists to a deeper relationship with God and effectiveness in ministry) and want to contribute, then please consider giving to either the training/seminar project or the development/building project. For more info on IBM or to make a donation, please see the following websites: and

Praise & Prayer Points:

  • We’re praising God for a wonderful two weeks back in UK with family – loved it!
  • We’re thanking God that Ruth was able to get good medical care exactly when she needed it and we’re also grateful for a 7th wedding anniversary on 19th Jan! 
  • Please pray for Ruth as she continues to look for a language helper and as she prepares for new English classes (beginning 26th Jan);
  • Please pray for me as I knuckle down to preparing for my teaching on the Holy Spirit, firstly in English and then translating into Swahili.
  • And finally, please pray the words of Eph 1:17-19 for us as we head into this year, that “God would give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that we may know Him better. Pray also that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened in order that we may know the hope to which He has called us, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.”

Many, many thanks. 

Steve & Ruth

Random photos of the month:

Guess what the nephew got for Christmas!