Habari za leo?
What's the news?
The Tanzanian government is really clamping down on all sorts of things. Just to mention a few, all plastic bags are banned, and all financial transactions, including foreign exchange, must be accompanied by a receipt on government watermarked paper. Banks exchange only US$, Euros and Pounds. Other currencies are handled in one of the few authorised exchange bureaus which offer very poor rates.
What affects NGO’s most, especially the charity work of churches, is the government advice to use the new facilities they have provided, such as the secondary schools they have built in most districts and the dispensaries in almost all villages. This has a knock-on effect on the activities engaged in by the dioceses and the Sisters. People in the rural areas have little money due to a poor harvest. Thus some of them who would prefer to use medical and educational facilities with a Christian ethos and the spiritual support of the Sisters are unable to pay the charge involved and go to government dispensaries and schools.
There are big infrastructure projects everywhere, such as stretches of new roads often more than fifty miles long, new railway lines partly elevated, new airports and the revitalised national airline 'Tanzania Air' (nicknamed “Air Magafuli’ after the president). Much of it is financed by China, though a large project has recently been rejected as the government has woken up to the fact that the Chinese have ulterior motives in helping Tanzania. - The president, who is already canvassing for his re-election next year, is well liked by the poor but not by the rich, presumably because he has reduced corruption so dramatically.
This year I visited the country again, for a month during September and October. The Sisters and all our friends in the Diocese of Masasi are well and enjoying life in their usual way, content with the little they have. Perhaps we would also be happier with less clutter!! Although things are moving forward very quickly in their attempt to catch up with the West, some things don’t work as intended. For example, in trying to get a visa for my visit, which can only be done online now, I received not only mine but also one for a lady from Brazil!
Water is still a big problem in many areas, not only because of the population having doubled in the last 25 years, but also because climate change is bringing less rain. Since much of the electricity in Tanzania is generated by hydro-electric power, as the water level in rivers and dams drops this in turn means that there is often no electricity, as was the case in Masasi on most days while I was there. Solar panels help, but when there is no direct sun there is little power.
The 16 girls at the Hostel are fine - a happy bunch, very thankful for the support we give them. They have formed a choir and sing at the Sisters main Service each Sunday, play basket ball in their spare time and work in their vegetable garden, feeding the chicken and are ready to help wherever it is needed, especially those who cannot pay the annual fee of £100 for their stay. We decided to support these orphans as they are contributing to the good atmosphere to the Hostel. When I asked the matron how things are going, she said to feed those hungry youngsters is a problem at times due to lack of funding. The girls have not had any meat this year as it is too expensive, but they get an egg once a week.
The fridge we collected for during lent, is a great blessing. They can now store the milk and eggs they sell to people who come every day to collect those.
Quite a few of the Sisters are also studying, in colleges and secondary schools, as the need for further education is really the key to their future. Much of their land in Masasi has been taken away for future housing developments and the status has been changed from ‘agricultural’ to ‘residential’. This means that their reliance on agriculture is reduced by the loss of land, but also through the effects of climate change. More of them will have to work in public institutions like schools, hospitals and offices, which will be a great opportunity for mission as well as bringing in much needed income. The girls' hostel and the nursery school in Masasi already provide opportunities to spread the Gospel and show that the Sisters are active in the community, and not living in isolation in a convent.
This year I visited eight of the Sisters Houses, going as far as Liuli at Lake Nyassa. That meant traveling over 1,500 miles, mostly by bus, which was fine as on some of the visits a group of eight Swiss friends accompanied me. They wanted to see the work of the Sisters before going on to Northern Mozambique to support churches there that had suffered badly after the two cyclones earlier this year.
Coming to one of the Sisters' Houses I was given a little baby girl to hold while they fed another one. The twins were born in June. The mother died within days and nobody wanted these lovely little ones, so the Sisters took them in and are looking after them now.
One day I went with the Sisters from the House in Dar Es Salaam to their farm, two to three hours away. All the Sisters farms are now far from their Houses due to the tremendous growth of the population and the consequential spread of the built up residential areas. We drove through puddles like ponds, with water coming over the bonnet several times. On this trip a priest came with us. The Sisters asked the people to come together under a canvas cover held up with sticks while the rain was pouring down. Four children and one adult were baptised, and we celebrated this with a Service of Thanksgiving afterwards.
It is always so reassuring and moving to experience how the Christian Faith is spread through the work of the Sisters as well as by many other dedicated people. May the Christian Church continue to grow at a fast rate.
We pray that God will bless the CMM Sisters as they carry on their important work for many years to come.