We wrote our last blog in mid-December, which gave a quick summary of our 2014. We were feeling tired and needing a break. Well, we have had an excellent break and feel re-enthused – and are now into our second year here!
Moreover, having got very used to navigating the countless and ever-growing pot-holes in the road from home to work, weaving around them while trying to avoid the other vehicles doing the same, we have been surprised that over the last couple of months workmen have been busy filling in the holes. By Christmas we had a much-improved road – though with so many patches that it was difficult to tell whether any of the original road was still visible. So I am having to relearn how to drive straight! (It will give the lie to the local joke that you can tell who the drunk drivers are by the fact that they drive straight!)
Christmas and New Year
We certainly missed seeing family over Christmas, but it was interesting having our first Christmas in Africa. In some ways things were very ‘normal’, even singing most of the same carols at church. But in other ways it was very different – much less commercial, with many people away because it was the main summer holiday, and it was hot! Our main memory of Christmas Day was singing carols to all the guards who faithfully protect the university compound where we live; they are people with whom we have built relationships and who were working just as normal right through Christmas.
Our new year was quieter than we expected as Barbara had bronchitis, so we stayed in, read, and even tidied up old emails! Oh, we also watched series 1-4 of Downtown Abbey, which a friend lent us on DVD. I (Mark) had never watched this in the UK (“a soap in frocks”!), but it suddenly seemed quite appealing, reminding us of home. (What do you mean – our home in Sawston has an upstairs and a downstairs, too!!)
Barbara’s students bring her to tears
Towards the end of that period Barbara’s students brought her to tears. She received a call from one of them, saying ‘We need to visit you this afternoon’, but gave no further explanation. We wondered what the urgent problem might be. When the afternoon came her whole student group arrived at our apartment carrying gifts – a large carrier bag full of fruit and vegetables, which was so heavy it took two of them to carry it. They told her that they missed her and were looking forward to English classes again. So they all squeezed into our small lounge and drank chai, and before they departed Mark took this lovely photo of us all in our apartment.
Visits from home
Then it was back to work for us both – however, not for very long, as we had booked holiday time to spend with visitors from home. First, our great friends from our home church visited for a few days in January, and then Anna and Keith, our daughter and son in law, visited us for the first 12 days of February. Our friends, Geoff and Carolyn were able to see us in our new surroundings and to see us working and our way of life out here. Then we had a wonderful holiday with Anna and Keith and all enjoyed being tourists in Kenya.
Work at Tumaini has been very busy, with numerous missionaries in difficult circumstances being seen by the team. I am also involved in planning for a new Tumaini satellite in Kampala, Uganda – a new mini-counselling centre to better serve missionaries in central Africa. Everyone concerned is in agreement with the intention, but we need the right personnel to make it happen! We are very excited as we now have just the right person to lead this new team, who expects to be available from October this year.
There has also a been lot of time spent planning for a conference just starting nearby for missionaries working in ‘creative access’ countries, i.e. where they cannot serve openly as missionaries. As well as offering counselling and leading 4 sessions at the conference, we are hoping to pilot the idea for online ‘focus groups’ – in which AIM missionaries working in isolated or restrictive areas can link with Tumaini and with each other to ‘discuss’ online a range of subjects, such as ‘living and bringing up families in dangerous settings’, ‘women serving in challenging cultures’, ‘when to say ‘no’ in the context of sacrificial service’, etc. So, there is lots of thinking, praying and planning going on about these things!
We need rain
Meanwhile, it has been the hot dry season, and the country desperately needs rain. The ground is parched, and the plants and tress look sad, and the crops need water. So, today, when we heard distant thunder, everyone got excited. But there were just a few spots…
If you are the praying kind, please join with us in celebrating:
- Praise that God sustained us over Christmas, which turned out to be the hardest time to be away from our families in the UK
- Thanks for a break from routine and the chance to lay before the Lord the routines of life and to make adjustments
- For the safe travel and wonderful times with our friends and family when they visited us recently.
Please also pray for:
- The new ideas and plans at Tumaini, particularly for the current conference just starting and the AIM-Care Kampala base
- The Tumaini team as they work with people in great difficulty
- Discerning priorities in the use of our time
- And for rain!