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!
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!
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.
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