Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Life is rarely boring in Tanzania!

Keith’s Report
The pace for life in Africa is a lot slower than we are used to in Australia and we have seen in the U.S. However, the month of February has been perhaps the busiest we have had so far - looking back it seems there was so much we did.
We started off on the first of the month heading north on the bus to Nairobi, Kenya. We went there to pick up Katie Burns who is going to be staying with us for 3 months while she is volunteering at a local school. It was a flying visit and we were soon on the bus again heading home.
While we were in Australia, Anne and I had medical check up and unfortunately Anne’s came back with negative results that required follow up. She had to see a specialist in Nairobi, and while we had tried to see him while up to get Katie, we unable and had to return the following week.  Having tired of bus travel I decided to make enquiries about driving across the boarder to Kenya. So, with the paperwork all in order we headed out in the truck to Kenya in the second week of February. Anne got her tests done and in between appointments we were able to do a bit of sight seeing, which we had not done in Nairobi before.
We went to Karen Blixon’s house, the author of “Out of Africa” and got to see how life was like in colonial East Africa. We then went onto the Giraffe Centre where they care for young and sick giraffes and we had the opportunity of hand feeding these graceful animals. Katie even had one take food from between her lips!
We got all we needed to done, the tests were taken and we were able to head back to Tanzania, Arusha and home. It was quite a testing time, getting through customs and filling out the paperwork. What we had to do was actually temporarily import the truck to Kenya. Driving in Nairobi was something else again. Darwin would have been happy there, it really is survival of the fittest and if you were hesitant at all, you were left behind. We made it through and all though we had to stay at different guest houses each night we did OK.  We have just got the results back and it looks like Anne will need a procedure, but we are still trying to work out how we are going to deal with that.
The work continues
Things are going well with the church here. We continue to have many studies each week, in Arusha itself and helping out the congregations in the surrounding areas.  I am particularly pleased with how our Leadership Studies are going. The local preachers and leaders get together once a week, on a Tuesday, to study Leadership topics.  I am very pleased how the local preachers are applying themselves and helping to teach these important lessons. We have some very talented men here.
I have preached at two of the outlying congregations this month. At Mererani and Nkoaranga.  The trip to  Mererani is fun. It is about a hour and a half down some pretty rough roads and you end up in the frontier looking town. The church here is doing well though. They have rented a nice building and they are having regular studies with people in the community. The worship service was very good and everyone was very happy that we had come to be with them. After services we had a baptism. Which was very exciting!  
Finding water in the dry environment of Mererani seems to be difficult. We knew of a river where we had baptised others about a ½ hours drive out of town. So we loaded up with people and headed that way. When we got to the village were were told there was no water for baptisms. They use the river for irrigation and apparently they turn the river off until 10 p.m. on Sundays!!! We went down to the river anyway and we were able to find a pool that had plenty of water. The preacher from Mererani, Fred, baptised the young woman, Elizabeth, and did a very good job.  Here in Tanzania it is not unusual to find people who have never put their head under water, so baptism can be rather stressful. Fred talked quietly to Elizabeth, telling her exactly what he was going to do. He showed her how to cover her nose and really took his time to make sure that she was fully relaxed.  This baptism was the perfect end to a great trip.
Last Sunday we went up Mount Meru to the congregation at Nkoaranga. These are wonderful people who really love the Lord. Their singing is something to hear. In fact the preacher there, Mbise, and I are planning recording the congregation there singing a number of song. I will let you know when they are available.
The service went very well with all the brethren clearly demonstrating how happy they were to be there and how pleased they were that we had come. They have a really nice habit of singing their way out of the building. They file out and forming a greeting line, so as the rest of the congregation comes out we all shake each others hands, all the time still singing. It was very moving.
My New Blog
I have started writing a new on-line blog in which I am planning on detailing our life and work here in Tanzania. Please take time to have a look at it.  There are a lot of photos, stories and other things that I think you will find very interesting. There is also the opportunity to “comment” so you can  tell me what you think.  Its called “Tanzania Jottings” and you can find it at:

Servants are to Serve

Each Tuesday the preachers in the area around Arusha and other interested men gather together to have a Leadership Study.  This week Noah Msuya did a great job teaching us.  His topic was servanthood. He was pointing out that we have to live our lives as servants, showing us that Paul and Peter both lived their lives as servants.

"A person who is a servant, serves others."

Msuya used as his text Romans 12 and showed us how we as leaders should be an example to all those around us. They should see our holy lives, living according to the mind of God. We should serve others and not seek to be self serving.

Psalm 37:1-11
A Psalm of David. 

Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers. 
For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb. 
Trust in the LORD and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. 
Delight yourself in the LORD;
And He will give you the desires of your heart. 
  Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it. 
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday. 
  Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. 
Cease from anger and forsake wrath;
Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. 
For evildoers will be cut off,
But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land. 
Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more;
And you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there. 
  But the humble will inherit the land
And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity. 
We were taught that we need to remain faithful, serving one another, even when we face adversity and apparent unfairness. The Lord will bless those who remain faithful to Him.

All were uplifted by Msuya's lesson, it is a real blessing working with such talented and faithful men.

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. 
Matt 5:16

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


I have been rather remiss in not writing about our wonderful guest, Katie Burns.  Anne and I are so pleased to have her staying with is, she has fit in so well, she feels like the daughter we never had.

Katie is planning on being here in Arusha for 3 months, having arrived about 3 weeks ago.  Anne and I went up to Nairobi on the bus to pick her up from the airport (Nairobi is the capital of Kenya, about  5 hour drive from here). We had to go back up to Nairobi the following week for medical reasons for Anne, Katie came with us then too and we were able to do some sight seeing with her.

We have had so much fun with Katie, she is such a wonderful young person. The brethren here have really enjoyed being with her also, her out-going nature and her love of life is evident to all.

Katie has come to Arusha to volunteer at a local school for disadvantaged kid - The Umoja Centre. Many of the students are former street kids who are now being given a second chance. You can see their web site by clicking on this link.

It is a wonderfully thing that she has done. She has given  up 3 month of her life to move to a foreign country and help people she never knew before. She has left behind family, friends and all the comforts of home, not for herself, but for others. We are very proud of Katie!

Katie has a photo blog that she is putting together, have a look at it here. Go there often to see her GREAT photography and see her adventures.

I have some photos of her on my "Photos" page, so check them out also.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Waiting for the rains

This is the hottest month here in Arusha and everything is dry and dusty. Just driving down the road from our house to the main road is like driving through the Kalahari desert with dust billowing up behind - if you have to stop you are immediately engulfed in a thick cloud of the stuff!

The dust is so fine - like talcum powder! Anne has to clean the whole house everyday. Where it comes through is a mystery, we have tried to seal up all the cracks. Still, a think layer of dust covers every flat surface each morning.

The whole town is waiting for the rains. It is the talk every where. When you go shopping people mention it, when you visit farmers, they are anxiously looking towards the sky, hoping for a good rainy season. It seems that everything is slowing down waiting for the precious rain.

There have been a few small showers, but these have just been teases. We say, "The rains have come!" only for the showers to be over in a couple of minutes and the clouds that looked so promising vanish away.

Mount Meru waits for the rains. Each morning I look up on this beautiful mountain and see it covered in promising clouds, but by afternoon they have dispersed and we know we have to wait another day. It is fascinating that while this is the hottest month here in town, it is when it snows on the very top of the mountain. When the clouds part you might catch a glimpse of white snow in the gullies far up the mountain.

And so we wait...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

WANTED - used lap top

If any one has an old laptop sitting around that they are not using, we could certainly use it here in Tanzania.

One of the things I am trying to do is get written material produced and translated into Swahili. To that end I have been writing tracts, getting them translated and then printed. These have proved hugely successful with one brother here at the Philips congregation accepting the gospel after receiving a tract already. We have also received a number of phone calls and enquiries.

Tracts are not viewed here as they are in Australia or the U.S. For instance, I can vividly recall numerous times I have been handing out material only to see them thrown into a bin a few meters away from me.

Here in Tanzania written material is treasured. It is read and then shared. It is passed on to other people. One tract can literally reach out to dozens of people.

To illustrate that, the brother who was baptised after receiving the tract, Fredrick; no one knows where his tract originally came from - who gave it out first of all! All we know is that some how it got into Fredrick's hand, he read it, came to church, studied with us and was baptised.

Why a laptop?
What we need the lap top for is to prepare the translations. We have good people able to translate the material - we need the laptop for them to type it out so it can be prepared for the printer.

We don't want a new one, just one that you are finished with. Is it bruised and battered? No worries, as long as it works (a working battery would be a great as electricity is a problem). I would charge up the computer and lend it to the brother doing the translation and then get it back and get the file ready for the printer.

If you can help, the easiest way to let me know is add a comment at the bottom (btw, I think we can arrange to get it over here OK.)



Saturday, February 18, 2012

A day of surprises

 My last post was all about the frustrations of living here in Africa. Now I am going to tell you about the other side of the coin - the fantastic things that happened yesterday. (Of course there was the frustrations the day before that, to do with getting a driver's licence here, maybe that will be the subject of a future post.)

Yesterday I went to an area just to the south of Arusha called Muriete for the first time. At services on Wednesday a brother called Solomon Ming'arai made the announcement at the end that he had started a new congregation there last Sunday. We were all very happy of course, but I was a little confused. No one had know about any this. So I arranged to go there Friday morning with Allen Mkita and Solomon.

Muriete is about a half hour out of town in a new developing area. We arrived there, not really knowing what we would find.  Solomon told me to park the car and we headed towards a new house that was nearing completion.  When we got inside we found pews set up, a pulpit and even a nice new cloth over it.

Solomon had visited friends in this area, told them about the Lord's church and the decided that they wanted to start worshipping. Some donated some pews, others some money and they had the pulpit made. A woman donated her some fabric and her time to make the covering on the pulpit. Solomon arranged to rent the building and paid the rent for one month out of his own pocket.

We met with seven people who had worshipped last Sunday. They came to the building after we arrived and we had a great bible study followed by some wonderful questions. I taught them about the one church and how the church of Christ is not a denomination. They then went on to ask questions about baptism and we had a very good discussion.

I am so thrilled with this new work. This is how the work here will really grow. Men and women taking the gospel to their village, to their friends and their families. That's how the gospel spread in the first century and that it how it is spreading now.

The day was not finished yet.  I went home to get lunch and then picked up Anne and Katie and we headed off to Nkoaronga for a study up there.  While there were not as many people as they had hoped we had a good service with great singing. Every one loved Katie and asked her to come back often - even to come up and teach at an English class a few of them have organised for the local school children.

We were on the way home when I got a phone call from brother Noah Msuya. He is the preacher in Makamira, just down from Nkoaranga. He knew I was in the area and wanted to know if I was willing to give a lift to go and baptise a lady. Of course I said yes, so we went back up the mountain picked them up and headed off to the river. There Msuya baptised our newest sister, Maria, into Christ.

What a wonderful day. You see it is just like a huge theme park ride - you never know what is around the next bend.

Keith Thomson

The church building at Muriete

Solomon is wearing the blue shirt, carrying the red cap

Msuya and Maria

After the baptism
To see more photos of the day, go to the "Photos" page.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

It's all part of the ride!

Life here in Africa can be full of all sorts of frustrations. Some of them are little things like not being able to get the brand of item you really want from the store (they call them supermarkets, but there is not much SUPER about them).

Some of the frustrations really big things, like having a Dala dala (mini bus, taxi) hurtling toward you on your side of the road as it overtakes on a blind corner.

There are other frustrations like dealing government officials. Many of the police officers and office workers press you hard for bribes just to do the work they are paid for anyway. Traffic police will stop you and look for some petty reason to extort some money out of you, "tea money".

Office workers will stop your paperwork going through because you have not given them a gift, and what should take hours can take weeks or even months!

It would be easy to let these frustration wear you down like a river on a stone. I have seen people who's frustrations overflow and get mad, but that does not work here. "Hakuna Matata" (no worries) is all you will get back.

No! The way to deal with it all is like I read recently in a book about a man traveling through Africa in a 4X4. The author was bewailing his frustrations to a fellow traveler. This traveling philosopher replied, "Relax, its all part of the ride!"

He was right. Living in Africa is like living on this huge theme park ride! Some things are not so great, and can be down right frustrating, but just around the corner.... another adventure!

There are so many great things her that we have lost in the West. Things like curtesy - even though the driving is atrocious I have NEVER seen any road rage. You come to a grid locked intersection and people will smile, wait for you and let you through!

You meet such wonderful people here, so friendly and kind - we have made friends for life.

So, yes there are frustrations, but they are just part of the ride.

Sit down, do up your seat belt up and enjoy it!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Church at Mererani

Last Sunday we went and worshipped with the brethren at Mererani, which is about a 1 1/2 hour drive from Arusha. We had a wonderful time there and were uplifted by all the Christians we met.

We picked up Allen Mkita, who would be my translator for the service, at 8.00 a.m. and headed out of town to the East. The first part of the journey was good and fast, going down Mt. Meru and heading out to the Kilimanjaro International Airport.  Just at the gates to the airport we turned off and left the good road.  We then drove on a rough and rattly road that has a sign proudly saying that Tanzanite One looks after this road.

Mererani is the only place in the world where you can find Tanzanite and Tanzanite One is the South African company that does most of the mining. It seems they make a huge amount of money out of the area, but put little back into it.

We made it into a dusty, dirty town that would not look out out of place in an old western movie. It really has a pioneering feel to it. We were able to refresh ourselves at the aptly named Kangaroo Hotel (remember that Anne and I are Australians) with a cup of tea and met the preacher from Mererani, Fred, there.

We then headed out to the church building. As we got out of the truck our ears were greeted by the sweet sound of Africans singing gospel songs. As at most of the congregations, the brethren sing hymns as they wait for services to start. As they finished their song we were greeted warmly.

We had a great service and I was asked to teach and officiate over the Lord's table. I taught on following the pattern - how God has always given his people patterns to follow, from Noah, to Moses and how Jesus taught us we must worship in spirit and truth (Jn 4:24). We too have to follow the pattern given to us in the New Testament.

After services we were told during announcements that there was a lady there requesting baptism. Everyone was very happy! I was asked if I could help them out, of course I was more than happy to do so.

One of the difficulties they have in Mererani is the lack of water. None of the brethren have any transport and the nearest river is a long way away. I was happy to drive there for them. We had a lot of people who wanted to go, but the truck can only hold so many people, so some were disappointed.

The river is about 20 minutes drive out of town and although, when we got there, we were told there was no water in it, we found a pool that had sufficient water. The river is used for irrigation and sometimes the water is needed elsewhere.

When we got down to the river Fred conducted the baptism. I was deeply moved by the quiet and respectful manner in which he officiated over this act. Our new sister in Christ, Elizabeth, was warmly welcomed into the body of Christ by the brethren. After a prayer we made our way back to town.

We left Mererani very happy with the day and stopped for a picnic lunch under a shady tree.  There were 3 little boys sitting there and we gave them some bread to eat and a soda to drink. They told us that they we sheep and goat herders and following their pointing fingers we could pick out their charges in the distance. A little later a Masai man came up, we gave him some bread too and had a very interesting conversation with him also (Allen doing the translating of course).

So, that was our trip to Mererani. The Lord's work is growing here in Tanzania, please pray for it to continue.

Keith Thomson

P.S. you can see some photos of the trip on the "Photos" page about.

Welcome to my new blog

I warmly welcome you to my new blog, Tanzania Jottings.

Here I plan to jot down things of interest about my life and work as an evangelist working in Tanzania, East Africa. There will be stories of my travels, visit to local congregations. You will be introduced to some of the fantastic people I know and work with. And hopefully you will get a small taste of this wonderful country and the Lord's work here.

So, please sit back and enjoy yourself. Come back often and please, PLEASE, write comments, ask questions or just say hello.

As the locals say here in Tanzania, karibu sana (you are most welcome).

Keith Thomson