06 April 2013

Visit to Shinyanga and Mwamalili

Last Friday Wesley and I went down to Shinyanga last Friday to work with Path of Hope again and to see the Blakeman family, some American friends who are working with Lahash in Uganda and were visiting Tanzania. Edwin also came over to Shinyanga so that we could meet about a few projects. We got to celebrate Easter with the church at Nguzo Nane in Shinyanga. This church is the location of our first group of Lahash-sponsored kids. I really enjoy this church, because, although it is small, it is young and vibrant. (Children were nearly half of those present on Sunday.)

As always, we loved staying with the Nyakyemas. Wesley got lots of time playing with his buddy, Christopher, and I benefitted from the wisdom and cooking of Jeanette. The first morning we were in their home, Wesley sat on the Bishop’s lap all through breakfast eating his pancakes and sipping tea, like such a big boy!

One of the real highlights, though, was a visit to Mwamalili village to register 25 new kids for the Lahash program. You will remember, Mwamalili is the church that just lost their pastor, Msiba Masatu, whom I wrote a tribute about last week (find it by clicking here). We drove out to the village for a 4pm meeting. We had to leave at 3pm, because the “short cut” road has a lot of holes from recent rains. To get to Mwamalili, one drives to Old Shinyanga (where the town used to be before they moved it closer to the highway). Just past town, one turns off the road onto a dirt track (I won’t even call it a road). From that point on, if I were told to find my way to the church, I couldn’t even remotely tell you. There isn’t much of a road, or trail, even, and to the unfamiliar eye (like mine!), it appears that we’re just driving off into the middle of nowhere bush. The directions are along the lines of “continue along the dry river bed, look for the row of shrubs, just past the cattle path, with the new rice field on your left, but be careful of the ditch they have dug to drain water into the rice field.”

When we arrived at Mwamalili church, I was reminded of the other hardship this church has faced: on Christmas Eve, some wind or some hands pushed in one wall of the building. The believers have been experiencing a lot of opposition from the local witch doctors and their followers, so, although no one can say for certain, it is strongly suspected that theirs are the hands responsible for the damage. It is impossible for them to meet in their building now, so they meet under the tree outside, right next to the damaged church they had built with their own hands and the pile of rocks they have been collecting for a foundation for a permanent building. To repair the existing mud brick structure would be approximately $300, and to build the permanent church would cost an estimated $2,500 to $3,000, but both of these figures are far beyond the capacity of this small, poor congregation.

The congregation had been told that some guests from Lahash were coming on Tuesday afternoon to meet with the children and their parents. Actually, they were reminded of the “American lady with the little baby who came here before” and when they heard that I, or more probably, that Wesley was coming back, they cheered. One of the biggest needs in this village is for the parents to prioritize their children’s education. In an agricultural and livestock community like this one, school-aged children are very valuable shepherds, cattle herds, diggers, planters and babysitters while the parents work. It is completely logical, in the short-term, to keep their children home to support the family, but we are trying to give them a larger vision for their children, who could come back to be doctors, entrepreneurs, politicians and pastors and build the community.

Edwin and I are the only Lahash representatives who have been able to visit Shinyanga so far, but we are so grateful to have another great partner. The team at Path of Hope is facing so many obstacles, but they are united in caring for the kids and looking for ways to serve them and their families. We’re really excited to see the children in these two chapters, urban Nguzo Nane and rural Mwamalili, grow and mature!

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