Friends in both Uganda and Tanzania are starting many new meetings. (Not because of splits over leadership as in Kenya, but due to new people joining Friends).
On the eighth of April, Rose and I left Agneta’s and travelled to Amalemba Friends in Kakamega, (Eileen’s church). On the way, the chain of the piki that carried Rose got loose so we stopped and fixed it at Kalenda Junction. We managed to arrive at the church just at the same time as Eileen was arriving. It was a family service, with all ages sharing in choirs, including a surprisingly well harmonized Quaker men choir. The pastor spoke on God using difficult situations in our lives to speak to us. I thought of our pastor in jail back in northern Uganda. After the service, they held a harambee fundraising for their social concerns committee that helps widows, orphans, and other destitute, or needy people in the area. They competed in groups according to their professions (all medical workers, teachers, businessmen, lawyers and accountants, retirees, those searching for jobs, etc.) They raised over a million shillings!
We ate lunch at Eileen’s and caught her up with news of Uganda. Then joyfully went to Elizabeth’s to rest. No electricity for the day when Rose needed her aspirator machine to work!Electricity came on only very briefly around noon the next day, so Rose was able to get a dose of her breathilizer. I worked on financial accounts all morning, and when my computer and phone lost all it battery power, I went to Kakamega and a woman from Ebwambwa who works at a bookstore next to the bank charged up the phone freely.
On Tuesday, we found Roses breathilizer didn’t function any more. I tried to encourage her to get medical help (that is available in Kenya but very rare in rural areas of Uganda or Tanzania), but she refused. I then took off to Kaimosi to try to pay money owed FTC staff who helped us at the Uganda Pastors Conference. Eileen and I decided to delay a day before going to Tanzania for three reasons; to make sure Rose was okay, to let Eileen try to get rid of her cold, and to wait for the grant money that had come through FUM to finally arrive in our bank account in Kenya. I travelled down to Kisumu to deliver the 20 plus pages of receipts to FUM so they could reimburse us for the travels of the Kenyan women from the grant that had been received. Was joyfully surprised to find John Muhanji in the office having a staff meeting with Kate and the new staff, Katrina and Shawn McConaughey. It was a joy to finally meet Katrina and Shawn. Meanwhile Rose rested at Elizabeth’s preparing to travel to Busia, Uganda with Alfred Wasike, the general secretary of UYM.
The money finally came in Thursday morning and Eileen and I took off to Tanzania, leavingRose to rest another day at Elizabeth’s. We found Dorcas and Nicholas Otieno waiting to see us at Migori bus park. (Dorcas is a Kenyan from Migori who is the only trained woman Friends pastor for USFW in Tanzania). They had finally received (after 3 years waiting) a work permit, but were still waiting for the residency permit. Dorcas travelled with us to Tarime where we met Mary Joseph, Presiding Clerk of women at Esinas Mwita’s home. We had a good time of catching up with the news of Tanzania Friends women. Dorcas then returned to Migori.
Friday, Eileen, Mary and I travelled on to Mwanza. The bus was called a “luxury coach”, but it was only a luxury in going very slowly and stopping at every place, including three police check points who checked all passports of outsiders (Kenyans and myself). In the Serengeti, there is major flooding and we went by some villages where everyone was staying on the built-up highway as all the houses and shops were flooded. You probably think of savannah and grasslands in Serengeti, but in this area, rice fields are flourishing.
We finally reached Mwanza and took a local matatu over to Buhongwa, south of Mwanza. Here we were met and hosted by Febisa Mussa, a Tanzanian who is studying for a diploma at FTC. Her husband had trained the year before getting a certificate, plus learning some English. They hadn’t planned any meetings until the next day, so Eileen and Mary who both had bad colds/cough slept (after we had purchased medicine for them) while I went out and had fun playing ball with the local children.
While at Mwanza we feasted on fresh fish every day (fresh from Lake Victoria) which is cheap since they border the Lake. We also found cucumbers and tangerines, which are very rare in Kenya. (We even brought some back to Elizabeth).
There are now 6 churches in Mwanza area. Peter Mussa and Febisa are pastors at Wigalula Friends Church, which started 6 months ago south east of Buhongwa. We met with some of the leaders at Buhongwa where many have left the church because of the pastor. After fundraising some of the money on a weekend, a business meeting had been called to let the members decide how to use the money. Instead the pastor began building a church on his personal property. The pastor and woman leader did not meet with us, but we did meet the presiding clerk and the wife of the pastor and they were interested to learn of the various conferences and trainings we offer in Tanzania YM, including the annual YM sessions that are to be held in Mwanza in August.
Then we travelled by matatu and piki over to Kijereshi, an active and growing meeting that is located next to a steel mill between Kisesa and Mwanza downtown. Their pastor, Peter Marini, is younger and active and had been training at FTC, but could not afford his transport back, so only did half of the course. Other churches include: Sinyanga, Kahama, Kisesa, and Shirati. We plan to travel to visit all of these and possibly Kyela area churches next year if we can raise the money. (Kyela, Dar es Salaam are at least a 26-hour bus ride from Mwanza or Migori.)
We stopped in Mwanza downtown to do some errands and got caught in heavy downpour.It rained heavily the rest of the afternoon, so that the meeting that had been planned for the afternoon at Wigalula did not happen. However, as soon as the rain stopped just before dark, Mary and I walked up over the rocky hillside to the bamboo sheeted church and took pictures of the pastors and some of the Sunday school children who gathered. (Mwanza is a city known for many large boulders on their hillsides – the big house-sized rocks are interspersed among the houses that had been built there.
Than night, the lens from my prescription eyeglasses dropped out. We rejoiced when Febisa and her daughter Uni managed to find it in the dark late at night! The next morning, the taxi we used to the bus stage ran out of gas on the way, which delayed us a bit.
As we returned to Kenya the next day, Mary alighted at Bunda and took a bus back to Kisangura. We also stopped at Tarime to purchase some cloths and some high-quality mosquito nets. (They had far more beautiful and a variety of cloths than we had found in downtown Mwanza.) We travelled like “first class” across the border, as the taxi we used from Tarime was not crowded and it offered for carry us across through customs and over to the bus stage in Isabenia, that is a distance from the actual border. We finally reached the home of Dorcas and Fanuel Simiti in Migori, after walking up to their house in pouring tropical rain. Dorcas Otieno and an elderly pastor from Bware YM were there visiting and we had a good sharing about the joys and challenges of doing ministry in Tanzania and Uganda.
Yesterday, Eileen and I got a matatu that switched us at Rongo junction to another matatu that had a very bad conductor. He loaded 5 people to sit in front along with the driver, and tried to squeeze five in each row of the van. The driver then tried to use a cell phone while driving and they both refused to listen to the complaints of all the passengers. In Ahero, some people got off and we heard loud noises (in Luo language). When we arrived finally with great relief in Kisumu we discovered that Eileen’s large bag was missing. The driver ended up taking us back to Ahero where we found the conductor had dropped them at a bus stop along the main Kusumu-Nairobi road! The conductor has also left the vehicle before arriving at Kisumu without giving back passengers who were waiting for change. Praise God, we managed to retrieve the bag after retracing our journey back an hour from Kisumu.
We arrived in Kakamega and were surprised to find that Rose had not returned as planned. I finally was able to reach the Pastor of Busia to learn that they had decided to delay two days in Busia. She and Alfred had found four new meetings and were helping several women’s groups on how to start projects to become more self-sufficient.
Tomorrow morning, Rose and I plan to travel with the Kakamega women to Nakuru for the USFWK Triennial, on our way back to the States. I expect we will have one more message to send from Nairobi before boarding the plane to NH.
Thanks for all your support. Marian