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