Dazed before Departure!

I was devastated this morning. While glaring at the mirror I realized I actually looked like my passport photo—not really good! I remember thinking I could have used an earlier passport photo [insert]--although authorities might well have agreed the eye colour and the nose matched, I was sure my lack of hair could have ended up in my being sent to some foreign cell. I had a night of gray-zone sleep—some blur from between being too pre-occupied to sleep and too sleepy to get up and do anything meaningful.

As I pulled my sweater over my head, I lamented that my eyes could no longer focus only to find the uncomfortable object in the middle of my back was my displaced pair of spectacles.


Trying to arrange Xerggyo's and my trip to visit Hanneke, her kids and friends and to participate in the official opening of the Evangelism Office challenged my dazed mind. My arrangements were rather simple and reasonable—leave Toronto on the 27th and arrive in Nairobi on the 28th, via Addis Ababa on Ethiopian Airways on the 787--the one with suspicious batteries. Get a place to stay and then trudge back to the airport in the middle of the night to meet Xerggyo, hopefully. He would fly from Istanbul through Cairo to Nairobi. [Executing that arrangement was a challenge for a Canadian. But arranging travel for a Mexican to several secure countries raised some red flags and my blood pressure.] Later that day we would cram into a bus to get to the Tanzanian border. There in the darkness of a long African night, we would have to walk across the border through immigration and find another bus, which would hopefully bring us to Hanneke in Mwanza.

Maybe the myriad of vaccination shots I took had a hand in making my sleep so elusive--these shots, passport and visas made me realize the cost of flying isn’t really that high!


Sleepless at high altitude


Here I am, somewhere between home and beyond. Fancy, if my sleepy eyes could penetrate the fluffy clouds below, I might be able to spy Gus and Marliese, sleeping soundly as we cruise at 2.5 km overhead in their starlit sky.


So far I am enjoying Ethiopian Airlines. The flight staff is attentive and very down to earth [even at 12,000 m]. The food, too, is good and plentiful.


The 787—which does not look assembly-line new already seems a bit quieter and the cabin air is a bit more breathable: not so dry with a cm or two extra leg room. The windows don’t look all that big and need to be cleaned, but the electronic blackening is fun to play with.


Looking forward to lying down in a bed. I guess now we will fly from Nairobi to Mwanza instead of taking the midnight bus. It might be better than having Xerggyo turned back in the secure airport rather than at the border in the middle of nowhere with Mayan-hunting lions—because he does not have his proper yellow fever health card. It has been a sleepless night—lots of kids crying. Across from me is an uncle trying to keep two kids squealing by tickling them and making loud animal sounds whenever they might exhibit any semblance of quietness. The stewardesses feed us every time we look in the direction of the galley.


This is a long, direct flight from Toronto to Addis Ababa. Ten hours seems to demand more padding in the seats.


Now I have come to a sudden screeching halt! I'm sitting in the Addis Ababa airport. Arrived a bit early but the next flight does not leave for Nairobi for another four hours. The transit area is rather insipid, drab, and dusty. The seats are designed for those carrying their own cushions. There are quite a few lounge-type affairs, but they're all occupied by the friendly staff. Just looked at my ticket again and my muddled thinking imagines that on the way back I have over 14 hours to kill here. But this was cheap fare, remember? Fortunately the reality is I just have to wait four hours. No internet here, except a crowded cafe, so I will wait until I get to Nairobi.


A prearranged driver met at the Nairobi airport and took me to the AIM guest house: Mayfield. Amazing haven of rejuvenation. There are workers here from all over central Africa. This was a weekend when parents came to spend time with boarding school students. Their relationships were encouraging. Bill Fitch stays here on his many journeys to Kenya.


One fellow is involved in a ministry of spiritual healing. He concludes that Jesus did not heal everyone he met, but did heal everyone who came to him—whether by themselves or when brought by a friend. He says Scripture does not mention that Jesus is ever unwilling to heal and he refuses to opt out with the phrase, “of course if it is Jesus' will.” He affirmed Jesus is not just Saviour, but also the Healer and Deliverer of those who come to Him


Truly this is Africa. The sound of the crickets drown out all the other sounds here. Since I have been awake now for 32 hours I think I'll just pull down my mosquito net and let the cricket serenade lull me into unconsciousness.


Have to leave this oasis at 5:00 in the morning to catch the flight to Mwanza. Sure hope to meet Xerggyo at the airport...



Continuing my search for the young Mayan


Last night I got into a real bed very early, since I would have to leverage myself off at 4:00 a.m. to be at the airport at 5:15. Purred away while I had a wonderful shower. Haven't really been gone that long. Why does it seem like an eternity?


Then ring-ring and it was a happy but confused-sounding Hanneke. Somehow she thought that our tickets were for Sunday morning not tomorrow. With all the last minute bookings of the flight to Mwanza rather than my preferred bus, I thought I had made a mistake. I searched my bulging backpack for my e-ticket but could not find the printout. Must be floating around in one of my many unpacking jaunts, shoe and belt removing sessions in  the security check areas. Hanneke emailed me one and I do still imagine I'm to be there this morning to see Xerggyo and head on to phase two of our journey. That got my adrenalin racing, so thinking of sleep became an even greater challenge. Then I flopped down yet again and had almost managed to doze off when my phone alarm started to clang. I had set the alarm but the phone was on home time which meant I no longer trusted my alarm. Decided to just lie in another sleepy zone but without the sleep. After a  few hours, although it was actually only minutes, I heard a sudden gush, like a huge fan being turned on. The blasting sound lasted for two minutes and then went silent....then swoosh again. This time I realized I was actually hearing a real African torrential downpour. There were about three such outbursts in about 15 minutes. Then all became silent.


It is now 4:05 a.m. and I'm quasi awake following a brief few hours of quasi sleep. Can you imagine the reality check a bright, icy white fluorescent bulb over the washstand offers? I'm hopefully going to cast my bloodshot eyes on Hanneke and Xerggyo and then move on to visit Ngassa, whose leg has had a bit of a setback.



How do you cook a rooster?

This is what I muse after over 48 hours of intermittent to nonexistent sleep. Just had a wonderful five hours with the sounds of the African night outside as I lay on a real comfy bed...one that is actually flat! It is 4:00 a.m. and the rooster has decided that enough of a good thing is enough. I am thinking that rooster in the pot might just taste good right now—but too tired to think of food. Maybe the scrambled eggs we are promised in the morning will make me forget his clarion, mistimed call. But then, roosters don't lay eggs, do they?

Backtracking a bit... Yesterday I sped off to the airport at 5:00 a.m. in a van crowded with enthusiastic kids in Nairobi for school break. They were full of joy but soon feel asleep as the van moved. I felt a tinge of jealousy.

In the airport, at the check in, I shamefacedly admitted I had lost my ticket, and thought that this was the day I should fly, but that it might well be tomorrow. “No problem—just insert your passport here. No, the other way up!” What a joy to see this was indeed the day and Xerggyo had already checked in. So I patiently navigated through immigration and quickly discovered one similarly exhausted amigo.

Our flight--not the bus--to Mwanza was rather pleasant, a small prop affair, rather a non event. While in Tanzanian immigration, Xerggyo wasn't even questioned about the yellow fever card! Thanks for praying.

Hanneke looked so great and quickly drove us to the shores of Lake Victoria for breakfast. To be at lake level, listen to excited conversation and have two favourite amigos revitalized me to an almost human state. Greetings were exchanged and Hanneke’s cell chirped with a text from Mahona wondering if his gringos had arrived. Hanneke called him and he could hardly talk for laughing happily. He'll take the nominalfifteen-hour bus to be with us next weekend.

We drove around town—not for the sane. Tried a couple of bank machines and none would take my card, so now I'm in debt to our hostess: the poor missionary whom we came to help. We drove north to Nassa and met Ngassa at his school. At 18 he has become tall and handsome. His key grades are excellent and may well allow him to enter medical school. He navigated with a noticeable limp though.

Soon we'll be off to church. There are three different services to choose from here at the school. Hanneke prefers the one with manageable volumes.


Price of a slave


Yesterday’s church service moved us all. A young black pastor spoke on 1 Corinthians 7:22, "For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave." He shared the significance of our freedom in Christ. Like a slave who has his market price paid in full. He realizes freedom for the first time. Being a black pastor from the dark heart of the slave trade empire made his message so emotional. He himself had been an abandoned orphan who had been rescued by a Christian orphanage.


Mwanza is really becoming a modern city with tall buildings crawling skyward. Mostly offices and hotels interspersed with crowded markets and traffic that cannot move. They fit in well it seems except for the shopping mall under construction which has such a geodesic design. Might well suit some. Had a relaxed meal on the shore of Lake Victoria with gentle breezes, lights sparking in the inky blackness, good food and three other missionaries—two from Richmond Hill.


Still waking early—it's now 3:00 a.m.--but I'm feeling great.


Hanneke was going to have to do a lot of shopping including buying 36 pairs of shoes for the orphans in Tabora, so she suggested we should go on a safari in the Serengeti for a day. That suited us.


Just got this email from Mahona who is planning to come to Tabora and visit us: “We also went to book a bus ticket today. My friend, who escorts me wherever I go, went with me too. We didn't buy it with the reason that, it is raining so much, so most of the buses  are not running  due to the roads have being horrible. We were given an older bus but my answer was very distinct. I am so nervous with the one which falled in a mud last month, I will use NBS, I have to wait until Wednesday when I will book to travel on Friday or Saturday next week. All are in God's hands.


"Through your prayers, the journey will be arranged well. I will take Richard's camera. Hope to take more photos there. The one of Xerggyo with Ngassa and the kid on the website is great." 



At home with Hanneke's kids in Tabora


We--Hanneke, the bishop, Xerggyo and I--rolled out of Mwanza at 9:00 a.m. We stopped at a roadside collection of seated vendors who pounced on us all sticking their dried fish through the windows, claiming their fish were better than their friends'. The carcasses  were flat but not too smelly. The bishop stocked up on the less-than-tasty-looking morsels.

The road to Shinyanga was very decent, South African construction. After a lunch of sodas and samosas at Mama Buyinga's we hit the real rough stretch of the road, tossed about from pothole after boulder for the next four hours.

We were warmly greeted by Mfaume, Margaret and Faraja at 4:30 p.m., a bit ahead of schedule. What wonderful kids. At dinner Xerggyo had so much fun trying his rusty Swahili and teaching Spanish.

Still struggling to get used to the 4:00 a.m. roosters, the night-long dog barking...and the daytime temperatures of 30ºC.


100 Kg Rice 





click photo to play Swahili worship


Click play arrow for more Swahili worship [4:13]


100 kg of Rice


We arrived at the office at 8:00 a.m. this morning, greeted by an incredible harmony of amazing voices in Swahili worship. The staff was having their daily devotional. The pastor read about the witch of Endor in Samuel and then led an animated discussion. In a country shrouded by the curse of the witch doctor, this aberration held an eerie, intimate reality. Prayer requests were given and then a group of eight prayed randomly. Prayer ended with the resonant voice of a woman singing. Her mighty voice, echoed with itself in the acoustics of the concrete room. We left a bit breathless with the feeling that we had been in the very presence of God.

Hanneke led us on a tour through the office. While outside groups provided financial assistance, the majority of the work and funding for the finishing had been raised locally. There is a tangible feeling of ownership. Xerggyo and I found it hard to take it all in as we recalled humping the huge boulders for the foundation walls. After receiving multiple greetings from everyone, we moved to the market through a street canopied by the leaves of mango trees.


We needed to order and pick up enough food for the opening celebrations whose anticipated numbers had swollen to 400 people.   .

In the mill, the sweet smell of warm rice and maize enchanted our noses. Xerggyo and I struggled to get the first unwieldy 50 kg of rice into Hanneke’s van. Two small-statured women carried the second bag.

The electric fundi [self-claimed specialist] came to help us with Hanneke’s strange electrical problem. The power would go off before a rain storm. Turned out to be a charcoal trace in the ground fault detector.

Xerggyo is enjoying his time with Faraja, often teasing me--the bad gringo. Mfaume and I spent time outside talking about many things. He shared his dream of becoming a doctor for his people. Margaret arrived home from school at 8:00 p.m., excited about her accounting classes.

We tried to book a return flight from Mwanza to Nairobi when the internet sputtered out just as we punched the "accept" button. Will have to try again, and hope we don't end up with a double booking.

Tomorrow is Xerggyo’s birthday. Hanneke was able to bake a cake secretly between power failures.



Crying to Rejoicing 


Already there was a line of people needing help when we arrived at the Manoleo clinic:  one group to see the nurse and doctor and another smaller group waiting to see Hanneke.

What a refreshing night! Just a momentary, Niagara-force downpour has freshened the air and the humidity has plummeted.

Hanneke’s household rouses up at 6:30 a.m. in a flurry of meaningful activity. Each of the kids has some task and accomplishes it without murmuring. Hanneke’s dedication to them and her personal work ethic have become driving dynamos. Happiness and love for Jesus live here.

After morning devotions at the office we followed the ruts downtown to pick up 400 sodas for the grand opening on Sunday. Already there is a borrowed stage and canopy set up for the event. Tomorrow we will pick up enough fresh beef--Hanneke’s modest freezer is already full of kukus (chickens).

A very young orphan received a skirt, shirt, sandals and school books. She left clutching her treasures that would allow her to attend school.

A noticeably exhausted mother walking with great effort arrived. She suffers from full-blown active AIDS. Her husband is an alcoholic. They have three children. The five-and seven-year olds are hoeing their maize patch while a two-year-old boy saps her remaining energy. Her immune count

was approaching zero. She is thirty-two, yet any further health issue will terminate her young life. Hanneke could only give her fortified food and vitamin supplements and make arrangements to temporarily allow the two-year-old to stay in an orphanage for six months so that she might regain some strength. Hanneke feared that the three-km walk home in the humidity might be too much for her. Peter, the social worker-evangelist, took her home. Xerggyo rode precariously on the back of the pikipiki (small motorcycle) keeping the weak lady from toppling off. She is just one of the legions of barely coping souls who shuffle their final steps to get any help. Too often medical aid is not available after a 20-km walk and some never return home. For too many just keeping alive is their full time occupation and smelly dried dagaa fish their only real treat.

Xerggyo’s Swahili is significantly improving and he has garnered a number of friends.

An 84-year-old woman with a faded sparkle in her deep eyes, admitted to just feeling old. Hanneke gave her some vitamins and fortified food. She left, stick in her slender hands for the two-hour walk.

A man with diabetes and high blood pressure wasn't able to afford his medication from the government clinic so Hanneke gave a new prescription for the clinic here, where the cost is affordable.

This was a day of fasting and prayer for the opening of the office on Sunday. The afternoon prayer was one amazing event. It began with Scripture reading and explanations. Then everyone (some 20 people) was given specific prayer items. We joined hands and sang “Bind Us Together” in many languages, led by the powerful, amazing voice of our passionate woman. Resonating voices soared. Then we all prayed privately, facing the wall. It's a recent Christian tradition to shake hands firmly after a time of prayer.

At 10:00 p.m. Mahona arrived at the gate with a hodie, hodie. He is so tall, and slender. He has more warmth and enthusiasm than can be described. And a smile that could swallow the world’s woes. He picked me up and swung me around, praising God for the chance for us to meet. Then he gave Xerggyo the same greeting. He had had a 15-hour bus ride and spent part of a night in a mosquito-infested guest house. He turned on the television thinking maybe the mosquitoes might discover its glow to be more attractive, but that idea failed. Hopefully he will not face another bout of malaria.



 Runaround Day


There are over 300 kids, all in blue skirts or trousers crowded in the field beside the church. This is a local church-sponsored Compassion International group. The kids will get two nourishing meals and a barber will shave their heads, inspecting for scabies and insects. Then any who need it will receive treatment. They have an exciting Bible program, sports and everyone is given some small, meaningful task.

Xerggyo remained at home with Mahona and Mfaume to discuss their math questions. Hanneke collected her head cook for the opening and charged back to the crowded market. We went from smell to smell inspecting the widely varying offerings—from potatoes to toys to clothes to cookware—mostly from China. We bargained for a large bunch of bananas and purchased potatoes from another vendor, set up on the floor. He plunked weights on his scale, filled the basket and bagged them in black plastic bags, purchased from a roving bag salesman. Navigating the huge bags through the market-maze took more experience than I possess...dodging shoppers carrying heavy loads moving in a myriad of directions, others running with buckets of oil while carts and bicycles also vie for passage.


Cleo the butcher hacked at the fresh beef with his razor sharp machete, coming dangerously close to his head and hands. Drops of blood dripped on the floor and a scrawny chicken visited for a morsel of meat, which it was unable to chew.

Once again we bounced outside town to the farmers’ market where our 20-kg purchase of fresh spinach amused the whole market.

Then back to the church with all our purchases. There the kids welcomed us along with the former bishop who had been invited for the next day's celebration. The children and adults sang while lining the roadside.

By now the stage had been set up, with red carpet and brightly coloured drapes. The lawn had been manicured with machetes and the delivery men had brought 400 plastic rental chairs.

We spent a pleasant evening with fellow missionaries from Oregon. They had television so we caught up on the world outside—but somehow it seemed to have moved so very, very far away.




Hanneke's Harmony 


It's unique to be part of Hanneke’s bustle. The rhythm of any day is unpredictable. Sometimes it's like a symphony and more often like a rock concert. However there's always joy in the music. Shortly after 6:00 a.m. Faraja’s happy chatter drowned out the roosters’ crowing and the milkman banged on the gate. One by one the kids awakened and systematically began their morning tasks with joy.

The kitchen is central. Hanneke, Naomi and Margaret  prepare amazing food with whatever is locally available, which depends on the rains, with seemingly no effort.

There is the usual family of six at the table but that number often swells to include many unexpected guests. Today we'll have pancakes with fresh whipped cream—enthusiastically referred to as white sauce by the kids. We hold hands as we thank God for the food and each other. This is how God has blessed Mama Hanneke and her home. “Sacrifice” would be an offensive word, too far from the reality she lives.




The Grand Opening 


White plastic chairs covered the lawn in front of the red carpet that ran from the red earth up to the stage in front of the new office building.

We were ushered to seats up front and the choir exploded with high energy, over-amplified songs, accompanied by a single keyboard. Hanneke and others covered their ears. Although we understand neither the choreography nor the Swahili, their joy is not lost in the translation.

Flowery introductions were followed by lengthy prayers and then the former bishop of the Tabora region was introduced. He was invited by his successor to this special occasion. He is 84 and full of fervor. His presentation was dynamic and very expository. At the conclusion a number came to the front to receive Christ.

The freshly installed marble cornerstone was draped with a cloth. The bishop and dignitaries assembled and we all crowded around to steal a glance. A lone soloist sang hauntingly while another prayed. The bishop unveiled the plaque to jubilant applause and vigelegeles from the women.

The bishop was honoured for making this day so special. Women paraded up to him with a large sheet of material to make him a new suit. Others brought bananas and finally three buckets of Tabora honey were presented to him (Tabora is the honey capital of Africa). He accepted them humbly. There is ample mention of Mama Hanneke and the two musungos (usually refers to white foreigners) from Canada and Mexico who made the whole vision a reality.

Then came the offering procedure—very unique. Honoured guests first. We swaggered forward to the din of the choir and handed our envelope to someone who rushed it to the team who counted and registered each donation. Then we greeted all the highest dignitaries and received their blessing. Over 10,000,000 TS were collected (roughly $10,000), an amazing amount considering the meager incomes of the community. This will allow for the furnishings, windows and wiring  to be completed.

The sense of ownership is evident. The community plans to use the centre to reach those who need to hear the gospel and receive healing.

We were all invited to the sit-down meal on the lawn. Special guests were seated at tables where we served ourselves from huge pots of rice with two varieties of meat: beef (I recall Cleo the butcher) and kuku (chicken purchased from Glory to God kuku shop) with spinach and bananas. Each table had an abundant selection of cold sodas and cold water. It is a fine feast, after all the bishop was there.

Afterwards, the youth stacked the chairs and soon the delivery wagon arrived to collect the rental chairs, Most of the guests left slowly on foot—well fed from the great Spiritual feast.

Huge, noisy birds soared overhead, eyeing for crumbs. Hanneke is ecstatic as we bounced homeward..



Fundi Foray


Hanneke offered us two bikes so we could ride around town. We discovered numerous problems with them (“very disaster” Xerggyo mused). We decided to just go for a stroll.

We walked down to the railway track and followed it into town, greeting many new friends along the twisted steel ribbon. No trains were moving at the station, but some vendors were still hoping for a sale.

We reached home after walking steadily for over four hours. Xerggyo’s accident-damaged knees had had enough and they felt like they were being jabbed with needles.

Mfaume and I pushed the battered bikes for an hour until we reached the fundi’s (bike specialist) shop. Actually he usually sets up his workshop on the sidewalk outside a feed store.

The bikes needed new bearings in the steering column, bushings and bearings in the crank and many major adjustments. One tube, like a war-weary veteran, had fourteen patches.  We were sent across the road to the duka (store) to purchase the needed parts. Our fundi borrowed tools and a pump from a competing fundi. His cost was 7,000 TS (about $7). After over two hours we were back in the saddle.

Being an unfamiliar cog in the illogical chain of bicycles; pikipikis; huge, fume-spewing transport trucks; delivery vehicles; pedestrians scattering and beeping cars was a bit stressful. Plus one must always remember that brakes, in Tabora, are only gentle slowing devices. Praise God, we made it home without damage to us or our refurbished steeds.




Final moments



Yesterday we picked up Hanneke's kids: Jackie, Kiri and Baraka, from Rocken Hill School. It is an amazing place—over 1000 students, all in uniforms. Student pick-up was well organized by staff and teachers. Guardians must identify themselves, then the children are brought to a meeting hall. The grounds are impeccably kept and the teachers are highly qualified. It is the most highly rated school in Tanzania with students from several other countries. We took the kids for sodas and chocolates and then began the 3 ½-hour return journey. On the bouncy-castle style ride they sang fun school songs and chattered so much about their school, friends and their classes—including challenging each other on Roman numerals. They were so glad to arrive home and have the good gringo, Xerggyo, greet them.

Today after morning devotions, which included the woman with the amazing voice, we had a chance to say farewell to all the staff who had gathered. Then we went to Manoleo to pick up the father and his two-year-old son. Hanneke would like the son to stay at the orphanage for at least three months to allow the mother with AIDS the chance to gain some strength. Peter, the social worker, had given the family 50 cents to buy soap. The father and son looked really clean. The boy is a charming little tyke, about half the size he should be for his age. The father was feeding him some juice and observing the intense bond was encouraging. We drove back into town to make formal arrangements with Mr. McCoy, the town social worker--a capable, blind man with a great heart for the community. Then back to the orphanage. Little Saidi will be the third orphan. They have room for twenty and have recently restored and freshly painted the rooms. A couple from Northern Ireland manage the orphanage. Peter said that as a result of this project, many young children will be saved. Too often unwanted children are cast aside to die--abandoned in the bush, in the garbage heap or even down the latrine. The orphanage has accommodations for guest workers. Anyone who would like to visit for a short time, just to play with the kids and encourage them is welcome. click here


Sadness and maybe a tinge of guilt


On our final afternoon, Mahona, Xerggyo and I rented three pikipikis (motorcycles) and drivers to visit David Livingston’s final home just outside Tabora. Putzing along for thirty minutes through the rural area was exhilarating. We headed across fields a couple of times to bypass herds of cattle and goats. The Livingston museum is filled with haunting memories of his dedication to living out the gospel message in a much more violent era. His struggle against the slave trade—the sound of anguish and rattling chains--that he heard daily were shown in the chains and yokes that rested against the mud block walls.

As we dismounted our Chinese-made steeds, I didn't realize I was standing on the edge of a concrete bridge. As I reached out to shake hands with one of our pikipiki drivers, I threw myself headlong into the ditch. This sudden disappearing act made everyone concerned, until they helped me out. I was no worse for wear, apart from a minor scrape and irreconcilable ego destruction. We all laughed so hard I began feeling a new pain.

Monday was our last glimpse of the lush mango trees of Tabora, the last sounds of the lonesome whistle of the decrepit train through town and the final farewells to all the kids.

Mahona began his epic bus ride in the 5:45 a.m. blackness of the night when a pikipiki arrived at the front gate to take him and his luggage to the bus stand. Mahona seems to choose his buses poorly, but there is no other route out of Tabora. (Read his account of his trip.)

We left at 7:00 a.m. Hanneke navigated the endless brown-red dirt paths with occasional asphalt patches for eight hours with all the skills of a stunt driver. We shared the road with countless bicycles, carrying amazing loads, pedestrians and a myriad of other vehicles including many heavily laden donkey carts.

We stopped at Mfaume’s school to say goodbye and replaced some of the money was stolen on his bus trip two days ago. He was a bit shy to be in the presence of the head master who welcomed us warmly and jokingly offered Xerggyo a teaching position because of his excellent Swahili and coming from a country famous for its soccer.

Ngassa, walking on a crutch, met us along the road.

The roads became increasingly crowded and we barely missed becoming part of an election parade, which would have added hours to our travel.


n Mwanza, Rock City--rumoured to be Africa’s fastest growing city--we went straight to the hospital for Ngassa’s leg. Because of Hanneke’s connections on many previous visits, Ngassa received quick attention—a consultation in five minutes and the x-ray in fifteen. This rather blew our minds when everything in Tanzania is polepole (slowly, slowly). The doctor examined the x-rays and was cautiously optimistic. Ngassa dreams of becoming a doctor so he can help others and the doctor took time to encourage him. All of Mwanza, including the hospital, is built on a rock. There are no level floors and only ramps that lead throughout, located in the bustle of markets and small shops.

We squeezed through the crowded stalls, over irregular rock-strewn paths and Hanneke ordered a pair of orthopedic shoes to compensate for Ngassa’s shorter leg, which causes him hip pain. A shoe fundi will use a sandal to add an extra cm on his left shoe...all for $10. We bought Ngassa a fancy solar-digital watch of considerable teenage proportions for $7. Hanneke picked up some used clothes for the rest of the kids.

Our final evening was spent at the foot of placid Lake Victoria; eating, talking and praying together, constantly reiterating how amazing our short time had been.

Then this morning Hanneke dropped us off at the airport where we sipped a final Tangawisi together (a ginger ale drink famous in Tanzania) and departed from Tanzania to Nairobi. Once we got off our Precision Air we hugged good-bye until we should meet again in Toronto. Xerggyo headed off to the transit area while I went through Kenyan immigration.

In the Nairobi AIM guest house, as I tossed on my way-too-comfortable bed, following a hot shower, I missed Hanneke and the kids. And felt just a tinge of guilt about my bad gringo amigo, trying to get through the next ten hours on the floor or benches in the transit area of the Nairobi airport. The time was too short to come downtown and definitely too long to stay at the airport. I face a fourteen-hour flight tomorrow from Addis Ababa, so there may be a touch of compensation since his flights are much shorter.

The briefness of these three weeks has been our only negative characteristic. To spend time with Hanneke and her amazing, hardworking co-workers and her kids has been priceless—an experience I wish you could have shared. She is only one example of our dedicated team of hard-working servants. She manages to stretch every shilling and experience joy in the smallest successes.

Your prayers are being constantly put to the test, and answered.

Additional editing by Grace Cherian and Nel Carpen



Mahona Pascal  


My trip back to Dar


Have you ever witnessed a 26 hours long bus ride by yourself without sleepy? Yesterday my travel to earn back to university started. We rode our NBS bus with peace and joy from Tabora to Morogoro where things came to be different after realized that the bridge between Morogoro and Dar has broken One student was killed and went with water.. We had to wait until it settled well. There were thousands of vehicle which stopped before our trip starts

 I couldn't reach the broken bridge to see it and take its picture, the reason was that, it was far away from where our bus stopped almost about one hour  and a half to get there..The guest house were full of strangers and are fewer than the number of visitors and are expensive.

 Talking with Mom, Don Xerggyo and Ngassa on the phone to narrate on our venture,, I suddenly received a text message with  an encouraging news from them,,'' Please stay with the bus''  Yes , I did so until the bridge was re-traced with  heavy iron. then we started the trip at 5 am from Moro-Dar, and arrived at 7 am. 

 I intended  to sleep after getting to my lodgings as I though of my properties would have had grabbed by the bandits while on the way. I held my bag tightly and has been praying for the trip. I divided 
 the amount of money I had into two different hiding place, if the one would have been taken, the one have to stay with me. I am thankful to our sweet and sovereign Lord that, nothing bad happened in spite of missing sleep and staying on the way for a whole day!

Thank you very much for your prayers, we made it safe in spite of passing in some forest. I value and put meaning to all prayers. Thank you once again and God bless you.