Not in the dog house!


Hi to you all,

It has been a good day, I know that because I am covered in paint and we are both sat outside with a cuppa for the last hour of sunlight – sun always sets around 6pm whatever time of year – Martin is quiet so I know he is tired!

Now that the plasterwork is finished and the ‘windows’ (read grates with mesh for windows) are in, we have started working back on the shower and toilet block that we built when the team were here – Martin is making doors for the cubicles and planning the plumbing and I am, of course, painting…

Jo preparing more paint

Jo preparing more paint

It took us just over a week to get the showers in the retreat house fully functioning, just in time as there will be a big group staying on the site for the next few days.

It is really good to notice that relationships with the staff on site are going well, as they now come and tell us about things that need fixing etc.
The bees have been a bit of a problem this week, that is African bees, with a bit of a reputation. They tend to swarm angrily around the workshop in the afternoons and we have to light fires, the smoke keeping them at bay. They also seemed to follow me around today wherever I was painting, they obviously have words to say about the colour or my sloppy technique? As long as you don’t make any sudden movements they are ok…
Staff were very happy when Martin made a new door out of scrap wood that was lying around for the dog house (ok so he wasn’t actually in the dog house, then…) see photo on facebook, if you are ‘friends’ !

I went along to a ladies prayer breakfast on saturday morning – sounds very civilised, and it certainly was – a great group of English speaking ‘gals’ from Zimbabwe, USA, Germany, Kenya, Tanzania as well as UK. We were saying goodbye to a German lady who has run an orphanage here for nearly 20 years. We had an interesting chat as she comes from Berlin and trained in the hospital where youngest daughter was born…

So life continues here in Morogoro and Sanga Sanga – not always full of excitment, like life the world over, but we are happy to work and know that the small things we do are making a difference.

I almost forgot! How could I possibly say that life is not exciting when the local council, or somebody official, came and scraped a few inches off the road surface up to our house this week – that may mean nothing but if you can imagine the difference between driving across the Grand Canyon and what is now a farm dirt track, then you will understand our joy!!

Let’s see what they can manage next week…?
Love to all,
Jo and Martin

Plumbing, Chai and Singing

Martin & Jo Sheringham

Hi to you all
We are getting a little hotter here, hope the summer in the UK is still a good one (I guess if you’re a gardener the lack of rain might make it not so?!) Sounds like CBC has been and is very busy, for all the right reasons.

Our main job at the moment is sorting out the hot and cold water systems for the showers both in the retreat and on the campsite, not a fun job, although Martin is determined to get it all going, literally by hook or by crook! We have deployed an old electric water heater for the campsite which by end of play today should be up and running…tomorrow ‘we’ will be attempting to re-plumb the retreat system, please pray as this has been teeth-grindingly tricky and frustrating to fix!

Steve and Ruth have family visiting and have been able to enjoy a few days away with them, Cath Swanson has been in Senegal but is back now and Tony has been here but is now in Uganda/South Africa till next week. The whole team here have been so supportive and thoughtful and have allowed us to fit in as best suits us, which is perfect (hope they think so too!) They were especially kind this weekend as I was under the weather again and slept thru most of it, but all back, up and running now…

As mentioned in an earlier email the Tanzanian regular staff here have a chai break late morning but they always have a little service beforehand – singing, praying and reading the Bible – I joined them yesterday and they came and asked us to come again today. They have a book with the words for singing otherwise I would be totally lost and I can just about follow the Swahili Bible readings, if it is a familiar passage that is. Even though I understand so little I can still sing ‘Yesu nakupenda’ !

I just asked Martin if there was anything he wanted to add and he said…’he is mortally wounded because they don’t have any Knipex plumbing pliers here!’ His words not mine… He thoroughly enjoys the mad chaos of Morogoro town, driving badly is a forgotten art in England, he says!

We are home now from Sanga Sanga, cup of tea in the garden and watching the monkeys.

Love to all,
Jo and Martin

Hello to you all and greetings from Tanzania!

Martin & Jo Sheringham

It is winter here atm and so working in the mid-twenties is not too bad at all, I gather the UK has been hotter?!

The team have gone and Martin and I are now on the second bit of our little adventure in Africa… They did an amazing job and we can verify that the shower and toilet block we built is still standing. The Tanzanian builders who worked with us are now cracking on with the finishing off and we see them everyday even though we are now busy with other projects. I am mostly painting so far (I feel that that will be a never ending task, which is good as I quite enjoy it) and Martin is fixing things all over the place, no surprise there… Of course we cant just nip down to our local DIY store or plumbers’ merchants and pick up a widget or two, they don’t really exist in the same way here. But that is good as it stretches the brain and we have to use whatever is available: the throw-away-society doesn’t really exist either…

We are staying in a house in Morogoro at the foot of the Uluguru mountains, the view is really lovely! There are banana trees in the garden – not sure who will get the nearly ripe bananas first, us or the monkeys… We are trying to dive right into everyday life here, Swahili is improving a little each day (?) and we have been to the local church, all in Swahili, rather than the English speaking one.

God has kept us safe through all the new experiences and changes, which have been a little overwhelming at times and we realise more and more each day how much we need to bring to Him in prayer – He is so faithful and so good to us!
This verse struck me today as I was reading at lunchtime:

‘Take courage, do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded’
2 Chronicles 15:7

It encourages us when sometimes we feel that what we are doing is not very much or we are just tired of the physical work and it isnt really making a difference , not that we do it for a reward but rather that our Father – ‘Baba’ (Swahili) – sees our hearts and encourages us to keep on going!

Love to all and enjoy a good English summer…
Jo and Martin

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

This post by Ruth 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 Eph 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 Hobbit 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.

Motorbike helmet: 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!

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 eyelids! It’s an owl, but what sort?

New site for Steve & Ruth

The Lancasters have a new blog site

but you do not need to do anything, because posts will appear here automatically.

Ruth says they have hit the ground running, with Steve travelling lots and both are heading to language school for a refresher course. More soon…

Relaunching after ‘dry dock’

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

I heard from a friend recently that their mission agency refers to home assignment as “dry dock”: where ships are taken out of the water to allow maintenance and refitting work to be done.  I can see the analogy.  We’ve been taken out of Tanzanian ‘waters’ for the last six months and it’s been a time when the engines haven’t been at full throttle; an opportunity for some maintenance and repair work, both physical and spiritual!  It’s been a time of assessment and examination, and an opportunity to prepare for the next ‘voyage’ as we launch out for our next cruise!  Hmmmm!  I guess you can only take the analogy so far – I’m not so sure I like the image of a ship sitting idle for any length of time, because that doesn’t reflect what the last six months have been like for us, but you get the picture!  So, what exactly has this period of ‘dry dock’ been like for us?  We thought we’d give you an idea by giving you the A to Z of what’s been happening in the Lancs Lane during that time.  The following is a random collection of memories, observations and highlights which have made up a wonderful home assignment!

A: All Nations Christian College. We attended the AIM retirees conference at All Nations right at the end of our HA; a fitting place to finish as I spent three years there preparing for overseas mission!  These folks are serious prayer warriors and it was great to be at prayer meetings where there was barely a second of silence!  In fact it was hard to get a prayer in!

img_5062B: Blessings & Birthdays.  HA has been full of blessing and we’re grateful to God for this time.  All of our planning has come together well and I’m not sure it could have gone any better!  There has also been a number of significant birthdays to celebrate too!

C: Corsham Baptist Church; Cakes, Coffee & Chats.  Corsham Baptist is our supporting church, and not just in name!  The folks there have been so supportive, and again we’ve been humbled by that support.  The opportunity for cakes, coffee and chat with various church friends has been much appreciated by Ruth!

img_5051D: Deputation, Debriefing, Donkeys & Dolphins!  We’ve done 19 presentations to various church groups reporting on what we’ve been doing in Tanzania.  Debriefing was done at the AIM offices in Nottingham.  We made friends with the braying donkeys next door to us, and on Ruth’s birthday weekend we even succeeded in seeing the dolphins of the Moray Firth!

E: Ebay & Endoscopy!  Ebay doesn’t exist in Tanzania and so we’ve made the most of internet buying whilst we’ve been home.  Something I didn’t get on Ebay was an endoscopy!  Results were good but they don’t explain the stomach discomfort that I sometimes get – load up on the Gaviscon!

F: Family.  You miss those family happenings and gatherings when you’re away, and so it’s been a real joy to spend quality time with family in places like Bicester, Newark, Portsmouth, Nairn, Elgin and Carlisle.  Some quality memories are stored in the memory bank!

img_4615G: Golf & Generosity.  Many a hole has been played in various parts of the country and it’s been a nice change to play on ‘greens’ not ‘browns’!  My wife gave me a birthday card with the following words on it, and it seems she knows my game well!  “If the ball goes right it’s a slice; if it goes left it’s a hook, and if it goes straight it’s a miracle”!  In terms of generosity, we’ve been blown away by people’s kindness and support for us and, indeed, for the work of IBM at Sanga Sanga.

H: Health.  Ruth has been able to see a specialist haematologist with regard to the blood clot she experienced on our outward journey back in July 2013, and whilst she needs to take various precautions, she’s been told that she doesn’t need to be taking meds on a daily basis.  Thanking God that there’s been no reoccurrence of the DVT.

I: Invitations.  We’ve been on the receiving end of some serious hospitality!  On 30 occasions we’ve been invited out for meals – wonderful times of sharing and fellowship and eating!

J: Jerusalem & Jericho.  Once again, I had the privilege of introducing people to the land of the Bible with another Oak Hall trip to Israel and Palestine.  Despite the ongoing tensions that exist in those lands we didn’t feel unsafe and the trip went without a hitch.  Highlights included an early morning run around the city walls of Jerusalem and an ascent of Mount Arbel in Galilee!


Steve surveying the view from Mt. Arbel


By blue Galilee!

K: Keswick & Kilograms.  I was able to take in some Bible teaching at the Keswick Convention, a conference that in the past has been used mightily by God to call men and women into serving overseas.  In terms of kilograms, owing to the numerous meal invitations we’ve received, and also to the amazing variety of food one can buy in UK, we’re going back a tad heavier!

L: Long summer evenings.  In Tanzania it’s dark by 7pm all year round so we’ve enjoyed the light summer nights.

M: Ministry, Miles & Motorways.  The little red car that Mum & Dad lent us has clocked up over 14,000 miles in the last six months and has enabled us to motor around England, Wales and Scotland visiting friends and family, and also to talk about our ministry at various churches.  Oh, the joy of motorway driving – except for the often-clogged-up M6!

N: No mosquitoes!  It’s been a welcome relief to be away from those munching mozzies and not to be spraying ourselves with the sticky stuff that’s meant to keep them away!

O: Ornithology.  Whilst Tanzania is great for birding, we’ve managed a couple of birding forays here in the UK and have seen Osprey, Marsh Harrier and Turtle Doves – and the odd Blackbird, to name a few!

P: Pulpit & Preaching.  It’s been great to get back in the pulpit to preach in English again and I’ve had the opportunity on 16 occasions.

Q: Queuing.  This is something the Brits are good at!  Whether it’s at the bank or the post office we like our orderly lines and as I sat there in another M6 queue I wondered what the equivalent would look like in Tanzania.  It certainly wouldn’t be three orderly lanes and an empty hard shoulder, so maybe it’s a good job they haven’t got any motorways!  It’s bad enough on a single track road!


Ruth, Steve and twin Rachel relieved to have finished the race!

R: Running.  We enjoyed running the country lanes of Wiltshire in a sensible climate!  Our training schedule saw us run about 200 miles in preparation for the Nairn half marathon.  T he event itself went well – even if it was a tad hot!  We both managed personal best times (1:58) and Ruth managed to raise £1,950 for IBM—thank you to everyone who donated.

S: Skiing in Switzerland.  After a three year absence we were finally able to strap our skis on and hit the slippery slopes of the Alps!  Wonderful weather, stunning scenery in the surrounds of the Eiger, good snow and great to be cold again!

T: Tree work.  In a former life I used to be a tree surgeon and so it was great to be able to wield a bow saw again!  I spent seven days in my sister’s garden in Elgin pruning various trees and reducing the height of a long Leylandii hedge – loved it!

U: Unpacking & repacking.  Being on the road has meant some heavy usage of the suitcases!

V: Val D’Isere.  What a wonderful family holiday we had in Val D’Isere (France) to celebrate Mum & Dad Lancaster’s 50th wedding anniversary.  Dad celebrated by doing some paragliding and Mum celebrated by anxiously watching on!  The week included running, boating, swimming, tennis and walking the heights.  One of the highlights was playing 18 holes of golf with my brother on Europe’s highest course; mountainous golf at its best!


W: Worshipping in English.  One of the things we miss when we’re in Tanzania is being able to sing out songs of praise in English, and to be back at our church in Corsham belting out songs and hymns we knew and understood was wonderful!

X: Xamine!  I couldn’t think of a word beginning with ‘x’ that fitted here so I had to bend the rules slightly!  Our time here has enabled us to spend time thinking, reflecting, and examining our time in Tanzania.  What did we achieve?  What did we do wrong as we tried to blend into our new culture?  What could we have done differently, and what will it be like second time round?

Y: Yatton Keynell & the Stable Cottage.  For much of our time we’ve been based near to the villages of Yatton Keynell & Castle Comb, and blessed with the provision of Stable Cottage.  This place was balm to the soul and we praise God for it.

Z: Zurich in the snow and Zzzzzz’s!  Our flight back from Tanzania in March took us through Zurich airport.  We were buzzing to find the place covered in snow and marvelled at how, just eight hours previously, we had been sweltering in the heat of Dar at temps in the mid 30’s.  Zzzzzz’s represents sleep, and having suffered with bouts of insomnia for 7/8 years, I think it’s safe to say that good sleep has returned because the last year has been much better.  During our HA we slept in 21 different beds!


What next? 
The ropes are being loosened as we prepare to set off on our return voyage!  We’ll be flying to Tanzania via Zurich and Nairobi on Monday 12th Sept and then settling back into our various roles with AIM and IBM (Institute of Bible & Ministry) in Morogoro, along with our team mates Tony & Cath and Matt & Amy.  Ruth is very much looking forward to seeing our ‘guard’ dog and I can’t wait to tackle those Swahili verbs again!  Within a week of arriving back we’ll be on the road to an IBM pastors’ conference near Mbeya in the west of Tanzania, although I won’t have any teaching responsibilities.

We would very much value your prayers for us as we begin our second term in Tanzania and here are a few Prayer Pointers:

  • We’re praising God for a wonderful home assignment and that we go back fully supported.
  • In many ways it feels as though it should be easier this time round as things are in place, we know where we’re going and what we’re doing, and we know a bit of language etc – but we also know more about the challenges before us!  Please pray that we’ll settle down quickly into our roles and into team life.
  • Please pray for safety and protection on the roads and as we go about our daily business.
  • Pray that God would use us for His glory as we seek to serve Him in Tanzania.
  • We will need to make an effort in terms of continuing to learn Swahili – please pray that we’d recall what we’ve already learnt but not used during the last six months, and that we’d really push on towards some sort of fluency!

The secretary of the London Mission Society Rev Arthur Tidman, back in 1840, wrote to David Livingstone with these words: “Let your ardour be sustained by incessant communion with Christ and your consolation drawn from the conviction of His power and sympathy, and then you will neither be faint not wearied in your mind, whatever obstacles may exist or trials arise.”  This is our prayer – that we would know Christ more and more in our lives, marriage and work; that we would be sustained by that ‘incessant communion’; that we would know more of His power in our lives, and so become more effective for Him as we go about our various roles.  It’s a big prayer, which is why we’d love you to join us in praying it for us!  Many thanks for your prayers and support.

Diary Dates:

12th Sept:          6am flight from London Heathrow to Dar via Zurich
13th:                  Travel from Dar to Morogoro
21st-23rd           IBM Pastors Conference in Njombe  (travelling 20th & 24th)
1st-8th Oct:       Hosting personnel from AIM UK office
13th-18th:         AIM Tanzania Conference in Dar
23rd-28th:         Showing AIM Eastern Region Staff around AIM ministry placements in
eastern Tanzania
15th-18th Nov:  IBM Pastors conference & the opening of the new Sanga conference
26th-17th Dec:  Intensive Language refresher course in Iringa?

Many blessings,

Steve and Ruth