Judith Nandikove, from Nairobi and Pamela Ngoya from Nakuru travelled with me down to Tarime, Tanzania. We were greeted with sad news that the elderly woman from Mukumu who they honored last year had died last month, that Borega Friends Church had blown down, and Tarime Church still had no roof. But we also received joyful news that they were going to honor.
Esinas Mwita, the humble mama in Tarime who has been hosting all of us many times over the years. Each session was held in the church with no roof, while turkeys and guinea fowl and a few cattle wandered around outside.
Judith gave an excellent series of lessons on table banking, got them divided into small regional groups who then organized how much each would contribute. They paid their first contribution on the spot. Judith plans to visit them a number of times throughout the year to ensure that they are following through on their promises and to advise them on projects to help boost their livelihoods. Each afternoon, Pamela led sessions on problems in marriage, and they had many questions and actively enjoyed learning from each other. (no one slept after lunch). I gave a session on some of the women of the Bible, especially some of the African women, and everyone listened with enthusiasm.
The main speaker was Deborah, a Lutheran woman from Tanzania who had graduated from the same Bible College in Migori as Dorcas Otieno, the pastor of USFW Tanzania. She was a jolly older woman and everyone enjoyed her style of preaching. She, Pamela, and I joined the dancing choir from Kisangura a number of times (a great way to exercise between sessions).
On Saturday, they honored Esinas. She was dressed in white and some of the former honorees escorted her in a singing procession. Everyone was eager to come give her a hug, and give token contributions of thanks. When she received the certificate, instead of just smiling and standing proudly, she humbly bowed with thanks- a woman of substance we all admire. She was given a solar lamp and festooned with colorful homemade leis, some made of bisquits (cookies) and candy. We from Kenya also gave her a new dress, she has been such a help to all of us from outside Tanzania. Immediately after the ceremony, we had a heavy downpour of rain (showers of blessings), but the tarp that was draped over the top began to sag and collapse on top of the people.
The leaders had been begging me to take them to Kyela, where new meetings have started down near the Malawi border. (FUM has taken the men leaders, but none of the women leaders). We spent some evenings, figuring out the logistics. It was expensive- To send five people (three women leaders, one man who knew the way and myself cost about the amount needed to pay to send someone to the States!) I discovered that buses only travel during the day, requiring that we book hotels every night of the 3-day journey. Then found there is a Tanzanian law that prohibits any people to share rooms (except legally married couples), so we would have to book 5 rooms each night. Then the only time we had free to travel was right after Christmas or New Year’s holidays when fares are jacked up in price and vehicles are overcrowded. Also, we would only be able to very briefly visit two meetings, not really get to know the people. I had raised funds in USA to pay for the travel. The last night, I shared my leading that it didn’t seem right to spend so much money on it and suggested we cancel the trip this year and instead use the money raised to finish the roof on Tarime Church. (Tarime is located in the center of most of Tanzania Yearly meeting, and is near enough to the Tanzanian border to enable Kenyans to travel there in one day and thus is used as a place for training Leaders and Sunday School Teachers). The leaders agreed with me. Pamela, and Eileen Malova (who has a lot of building expertise) volunteered to travel with me right after Christmas to get the roof on, while Judith come to follow-up on the table banking groups.
The leaders met one evening and decided to meet next year at Kisangura Meeting on 4-8th Dec. They also decided the theme, main speaker, and the lessons. The last day, Collins Ochieng, who will represent Tanzania at the Sunday School Teachers Collaborative at FTC in January, came with some balls, took all the children outside and soon a large number of village children joined them to play and listen to some stories. We used it as an example of a way to gather more members. (If kids excitedly tell their parents about it, parents often will follow).
We returned back to Kenya after a group photo of all, rejoicing in the way Tanzanian Friends are growing in numbers and becoming more self-reliant.
Thanks for all your prayers and support that made our travels safe, and our efforts worthwhile.