Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Funding scholarships and education

Since 2001, Shepherd of the Valley has provided scholarship support for Tanzanian students who would not otherwise have the opportunity to attend secondary school or college. One of the great joys of this partnership is meeting students who have put that opportunity to good use, growing in skills and confidence, preparing for lives of service in their communities.
·        Shubi, a young woman from the Maasai tribe and the village of Isanga, was the first girl in her family to attend school. She did well in primary school, graduated at the top of her class in secondary school, and started college in October, attending the University of Iringa. Her pastor congratulated her and her mother, saying, “It is so hard for the Maasai to send girls to school, but you see she is confident and will go far.”
·        Mfaume graduated from college several years ago and now works in Mbeya as a community development officer. During our visit, his home congregation proudly announced that he had contributed two thirds of the metal sheets required to roof their new chapel. What a gift!
Each fall, we gather contributions to fund scholarships and educational projects with our partners in the Iringa Diocese. The largest portion of these gifts provide individual scholarships to students in  Makifu, Tungamalenga, and Usolanga Parishes. In addition, we support educational projects that improve educational opportunities for a wider group of students.
·        The Tanzanian church is growing so rapidly that there are now 35 congregations in the Iringa Diocese that have no St. Paul Area Synod partner. To provide their students with access to scholarship funds, SOTV contributes to the Bega Kwa Bega Scholarship Equity Fund.
·        Diocese schools want to improve their infrastructure. Last year, we contributed to the construction of science laboratory classrooms at Lutangilo Secondary School. Students will finally have the opportunity to learn through hands on experience rather than just by reading about science experiments.
·        Diocese teachers want to improve their instructional techniques. We provide funds to support teacher training workshops that help them improve outcomes by actively engaging students, rather than just teaching through lectures.
Thank you for your gifts to the SOTV Tanzania Scholarship & Education Fund. A secondary scholarship, including tuition, room and board, costs an average of $400 per year. College fees range from $1000 - $5000 depending on the institution and degree program. You can contribute online at www.sotv.org/give or write a check to SOTV with “TZ Scholarship” in the memo line.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

More stories

Here's one of our most important stories from the July trip.

But Mpalapande is not the only story from our trip. If you'd like to hear more, please join us at Sunday Forum, 9:45 AM Sunday, September 17 in the Chapel at Shepherd of the Valley.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A sign of our love

July 17, 2017

During our visit to Makifu Parish, we were routinely given small harvest gifts at every village. A parent would come forward with a bag of rice, a tin of maize, some sugar cane, or ground nuts. We've told the story before, of how we learned that we all have gifts to share. One year SOTV travelers decided to purchase some rice from our partners and delivered it to Huruma Center, the diocese orphanage. As our parish partners learned more about the diocese orphanage (some didn't know it existed), many individuals began to give us gifts to carry back to the Center.

Parents of scholarship students used to give us personal gifts for the sponsors - a cross necklace of Maasai beads, or a kitange. But when they learned of Huruma and its work, they began to give us gifts of food, understanding that the gifts would be delivered to feed the children.

It has become a beautiful circle of giving.

We arrived at Makambalala in the early afternoon, got out of our vehicles along the roadside and walked the short path to the church, with singing and palm branches waving all around us.

At the entrance to the church, we found another collection of harvest gifts.

There were parents - and a few students - here from all nine preaching points. All the evangelists, pastors, and many of the church elders were here as well.  Pastor Madembo remarked, "I don't know if Makambalala planned for this many guests!" Then he thanked the congregation for welcoming us, the SOTV guests, with such enthusiasm. 

Pastor Joyce, our interpreter and the Director of Huruma Center, introduced herself to the congregation and told about the work of the Center. You could see the congregation listening with rapt attention as she told some of the sad circumstances that bring children to the Center for care - death of parents, or neglect and abuse. There were murmurs and sighs as she spoke. 

Then speakers began a litany of thanks for the gifts of this partnership. 

thanks for the work we do together
thanks for the nice chapels being constructed
thanks for the bikes that enable our evangelists to do their work
thanks for mosquito nets
thanks for the water pipeline to Mahove
thanks for the dispensary in Tungamalenga
thanks for sending my child to school
thanks for bringing guests to Minnesota and for coming to visit each year
thank you for the things we are planning to do in the years to come

Shepherd of the Valley travelers had our own words of thanks

thank you for this overwhelming hospitality
thank you for coming so far to gather today
thanks for encouraging your children to study hard and use this gift of education
thank you for your prayers for our congregation
thank you for the beautiful singing and dancing
thank you for your witness to the good news we have in Jesus
thank you for your faithfulness

Pastor Madembo explained that at harvest time each year, the Tanzanian church has the tradition of bringing harvest gifts to the church. Those gifts are sold and the funds are used for parish projects. For the past five years, Makifu Parish members have brought an additional gift, a harvest gift for Huruma Center.

This is a sign of our love.

Then, an amazing procession began.

Parents lined up in the aisle, processing with their gifts. Evangelists and Pastor Joyce held large bags, and gifts from smaller bags were consolidated. George recorded every gift in his notebook. And all the while, there was singing.

The gathering-in took quite some time, and many songs.

We are here together because of the love of Jesus. When you leave, the love of Jesus is still with us. As parents, we have decided to give this sign of our love.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Visiting Makifu

July 15, 2017

We began our tour of Makifu Parish at the main station with Pastor Nejabel Madembo welcoming us with his warm smile.

While waiting for everyone to arrive, we got a tour of the newly roofed parsonage and had a chance to share photos with friends. Then it was on to Kisilwa.

There was a lot of joy here as the congregation proudly showed us the finished roof on this chapel that has been waiting several years since the walls went up. Even more impressive is the fact that two sons of the congregation contributed most of the money to buy iron sheets for the roof. Funds from SOTV were used to buy lumber, nails, and other supplies.

Next, the group from the game park rejoined us at Misufi. This is a newer preaching point, still renting a house to use as a worship space. It's a two room structure, so it's kind of awkward for a gathering.

Evangelist Lazaro Mlunza explained that there is a new primary school in Misufi and this day was a day for parents to work at the new site, doing some landscaping. Despite the absence of some, the place was still packed with church members.

At each stop, we are introduced to the secondary students we have sponsored, or their parents, who offer words of thanks.

Our next stop is Mahuninga, and we arrive earlier than expected. There were just a few kids here when we arrived, but the room was full by the time we left.

We're starting to receive gifts like this at every stop. These are harvest gifts, gifts of thanks from families who have received scholarship support.  They know we will deliver these thank offerings to Huruma Center, the diocese orphanage in Iringa. Pastor Petro invited members to gather on Monday afternoon. "To welcome guests is our joy," he said. "When we bring crops for the children who have no parents, we in Makifu are now parents to those children."

That evening, Pastor Joyce Ngangdango and Dr. Barnabas Kahwage arrived in Tungamalenga via the bus from Iringa. Pastor Joyce joins us as our interpreter. She is the director of Huruma Center, and we've invited her to be with us here to see the generosity of the people of Makifu Parish. Dr. Barnabas has been called away the entire previous week, on a mission from the district medical officer to do outreach clinics all around the district. Barnabas and his wife Alice, along with Pastor Joyce, joined our group for dinner that evening.

Sunday morning we worshipped at Makifu. There were so many children! Pastor Rick preached, with Pastor Joyce as his translator.

We celebrated holy communion, and after the service had a delicious lunch in the new parsonage.

Our tour continued to Ikwavila, where our hosts had constructed a shaded area for our comfort. They worship beneath a large tree, and have a foundation for their new chapel.

We spoke together about the challenge of water in this area.  The women walk to a small seep partially protected by the roots of a large tree. We have been planning a water project, and have a three stage proposal from engineering students who were here a year ago. The local village chairperson is here, saying he is glad to meet with us again because he knows some day these people will have water. We are cautious in our response, knowing we have yet to raise funds for this project at home. Having been through one water project with Mahove, they seem to understand that this won't happen overnight. They are gracious with us.

Pastor Joyce sees the foundation for their chapel and commented, "Last year I went to visit the Germans. I saw many things - big churches with no people attending! I joked with them, that if I could, I would lift their buildings and set them down in Tanzania, where we have many people who worship but not so many buildings. Today I am very happy for the people living here because they see it is special to worship God. Their hearts - God bless them. We can see the foundation, and we know the building will move."

Our last stop of the day is Mahove.  There are several members of our group who are disappointed that there was not time to do the water walk again. But it is growing late, we can see the sun about to set over the mountains, and our driver wants to return us to camp safely before dark. 

Still, who could resist a stop at Pastor Petro's home? The shadows are lengthening but there is much to see, pens for the cattle and a day old goat. It has been a day of blessings.

We spent our last day in Makifu Parish visiting Malunde, Isanga, and Makambalala. Malunde chapel sits atop a hill after a road so narrow that we walked the last half mile. 

There are plans to complete the chapel with plaster, flooring, doors and windows. Again there are gifts - Maasai clothing for Pastor Rick, necklaces for all of us, and then gifts for the children of Huruma Center. Evangelist Hosea Visima presented them saying, "We have these gifts, because we are touched in our hearts for the children of Huruma Center."

Finally we are at Isanga. We joke about how this chapel has been relocated four or five times. This is a temporary structure but they have a permanent place selected. The foundation is done, and they are building bricks.

Another set of gifts are presented, among them, sugar cane for the children at Huruma.

Another kind of gift for those of us lucky enough to return year after year, is reconnecting with particular friends. The little girl above is someone I met on her birth day four years ago. Her mother asked me to name her, so she is Isanga Emily to me. For the past two years, she has been at that stage where she cried every time the wazungu tried to get close to her. This year, she is willing to say hello and have her picture taken.

Another gift is meeting the students that we sponsor. Here, Shubi Sendayo is a student who completed her secondary schooling and will now attend University of Iringa. She is clearly a young woman with intelligence and drive.  Pastor Joyce commented, "We appreciate the parents sending her to school. For Maasai, it is so hard to send girls to school. You see she is confident and will go far."

Evangelist George Kioniani told us, "Here you see the testimony of parents and children at school. I know you can give many gifts, but education is a very special gift because it takes a person from one stage of life to another."

Our visit to Makifu Parish ended with a gathering in Makambalala. There is simply so much to say and to show about that gathering, it will have to wait for the next post.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Safari Day 2

July 14, 2017

While some members of our traveling group were out at Ruaha National Park, getting closer to nature, Bobbie and I spent the day in Makifu Parish. 

Pastor Nejabel Madembo welcomed us to the church. Pastor Petro Shangalima and parish secretary George Kioniani were also there, along with partnership committee members Hosea Visima, chair, Evangelist Yohanna Ole Tunyoon, Evangelist Adam Kangai, Evangelist Joseph Kingiliyepi, Evangelist Azuberi Mhema, Evangelist Atuletye Msigwa, Evangelist Meshack Mkula, Dorothy Mota and Mariam Massinga.

Our meeting had five agenda items: construction, water project, scholarships, transport, and SACCOs.

We began by singing Yesu ni Rafiki Yetu [What a Friend We Have in Jesus] and reading John 12:26. Pastor Madembo led us in prayer.

Makifu parsonage

The parish reported that in the past year, three ongoing construction projects were roofed - Kisilwa chapel, Malunde chapel, and the pastor's house at Makifu. Coming up next - roofing the house in Makambalala. This will be the parish #1 priority, and is estimated to cost 3 million TSH. The second priority is to finish the pastor's home.
That will entail plastering the interior and exterior, flooring, and connecting the house to the local water line at the road.

The parish noted that the chapel at Kisilwa was roofed largely through the generosity of two individual members.  One, a former scholarship recipient, purchased 50 iron sheets. A second person purchased the other 20 sheets. SOTV contributions paid for timber, nails, and a pesticide to prevent termites. The parish noted that this year they put almost all SOTV contributions toward the prioritized construction projects.  That included our gift toward their strategic plan, their earnings from handcraft sales, and the gift from travelers. In the past, funds from handcraft sales were divided among the many village congregations who contributed handcrafts.  

Members of the committee noted, "When we divided the funds among many preaching points, it took many years to complete one project.  Now we all discuss, decide on one project at a time, and all congregations are working together. Start one, finish, and then move to the next."

We also received thanks for the Christmas gift funds, which were used for evangelist gifts. Pastor Madembo explained that the evangelists are doing the work in each local congregation, and are only paid 3000-5000 TSH per month ($2-3). "So when they get a Christmas gift, they see it as a gift from God."

Moving on, we discussed water projects.  Funds are already in Iringa for the project to connect the parsonage to the community water pipeline.  That project also includes locating a spigot outside the Makifu chapel, for community use.

The Ikwavila water project has been on the back burner for a couple years.  University of Minnesota engineering students studied the location and developed a three stage plan to provide water to this remote village and also upgrade the system that serves multiple other villages from Kisilwa through Mahuninga, to Makifu.

"We are ready to start digging the pipeline," we were told. And Azuberi cautioned, "when the project starts, let's have the work done in June or July rather than in January when the people are busy with farming."

SOTV's homework on this topic is to connect with St Paul Partners when we return home.

Next, we discussed scholarships. Last year, scholarship funds sent 48 students to school, including six who attended colleges while the rest attended secondary schools. 

The new BKB program for providing post secondary scholarships was introduced.  There were many questions about how the review board would select students from all those who apply. We were asked to speak on behalf of the idea that recipients should represent all areas of the diocese, even the remote parishes, and not just those near town.

Joseph spoke next about the continuing need for sturdy bikes to carry evangelists to their work over the rough roads. Someone from the committee will meet us in town next week to purchase four bikes.

Next there was a discussion about starting a parish savings and credit co-op, or SACCOs. Tungamalenga has one that is part of the Iringa Hope umbrella organization, and the evangelists here are wondering whether they could start one among themselves. There are several individuals who have experience with SACCOs and they caution that it may be easy to start but difficult to register as a legal entity with the government. In the end, they decide to consult with Iringa Hope.

Again, we purchased a large bag of rice to be delivered to Huruma Center.  We also mentioned that Pastor Joyce, the director of the center, would be coming out to serve as our translator over the weekend.  

Committee members then started a circle of sharing thanks for the many things SOTV has done. They thanked us even for the school at Mpalapande, which many of them had seen or heard about. "Thank you that we are working together for many things, for our family, our kids, our country and community."

Then our safari continued with an afternoon walk from the pipeline juncture at the bridge to Mahove. This is the fifth year I've walked the pipeline with our friends. It's kind of an inspection tour, noting where there are leakages or where pipe is exposed to the air and needs to be buried again. It's also kind of a memorial walk, reminding us of the daily trips the women and girls of this village used to take. 

This year there were only five places like this, where surface mud indicated a leak or break in the pipeline below. The first year, there were thirteen such places. It gets better every year, largely thanks to the local water manager, Efrim Matto.

Many of our village friends met us at the top of the hill, and we sang around the water spigot. Water is a gift here.

Safari Day 1

July 13, 2017

Who's ready for a safari to the national game park, Ruaha?






The day began with a partnership meeting with Tungamalenga Parish's partnership committee. We gathered in the grassy area behind the camp, with tables and chairs that kept moving as the sun and the shade traded places throughout the morning.  

To start, we were honored with the gift of clothing. Shirts for the guys, blouses and skirts for the women, we were all dressed to show our unity with our hosts.

Pastor Rick, Matt and Christina were present for the first part of the meeting, until they had to depart for the game park along with Andrew, Lydia and Isabella. Bobbie and I remained. See above for some of the sights on safari.

Pastor Eva was busy throughout the meeting, in many roles - senior pastor, translator, and even chair of the meeting until Daniel arrived to take on that task.

The partnership committee included three new members this year, Romanus Mbwillo from Mapogoro, Jameson Ndondole, a retired teacher from Tungamalenga, and Matambili Mgema from Namelok. They joined Pastors Eva, Bryson and Paulo, along with parish secretary Lukimbililo Mkuye, Noeli Kalulu, Evangelist Shakuru Mbeya, and Asunta Joseph.

There were three agenda items: construction, sponsorship, and transport.

Our friends reported on the past year's progress on finishing the construction of Namelok chapel. The plastering inside and out, floor, doors, windows, and altar are all expected to be completed within the next few weeks, thanks to last year's contributions. Benches might have to wait until next year if the money runs out. A financial report will be delivered once the work is complete.

Next year's construction priority is to finish the house at Idodi. Estimates include 3,917,500 TSH in expenses plus 1,160,000 TSH in parish contributions and volunteer labor. SOTV promised to send, by November, an estimate of our contributions to the project.

In discussing scholarships, there was a little discussion of how procedures have changed in the past several years throughout the diocese. Opinions vary about the options available to students - the value of schools close to home, schools father away, diocese schools, government schools. Communication around policy changes seems to be the key factor; when communication happens early and often, changes seem to be handled with ease.

Finally, we discussed the issue of transportation.  For many years, our partnership has provided bikes for use by evangelists and other church workers, to help them get around the parish with ease. There have also been purchases of motorbikes for the parish pastors. More recently, the parish has set aside its own funds to purchase one bicycle each year.

They debated their request -- several bikes now, or one more piki piki every other year?  They opted for the piki piki in 2018.

At the end of the meeting, we purchased a large bag of rice from the parish thank offerings. The rice will be delivered to Huruma Center for the orphans.

Finally, Pastor Eva thanked us for a "peaceful meeting." Pastor Bryson echoed that sentiment saying, "Thank you for the peace that appears when your group comes. Welcome again next year."

[A funny story from the start of the day.  Pastor Paulo was the first to arrive, on the dot at 9 AM. He and I looked at our watches, looked around as if to ask, where are the others? And then he said, "I am on time, I am an American!" We laughed and waited for the rest to arrive on Tanzania time.]

Bobbie and I spent the afternoon on a different kind of safari, a journey around Mapogoro and Mpalapande, to see the various parts of the water system that will one day supply the school. Atop a hill at the edge of Mapogoro, there's a tank.  Water flows in from a mountain stream, and is piped downhill to the town and surrounding villages. This water system has been in place for over thirty years.

Pipes are buried below ground and junctures with valves are protected by concrete covers like the one above.

The local water manager met us at the tank and was very kind, showing us all the locations on the map of a proposed addition to the system. Here is the location of the juncture where an additional, parallel pipeline could connect.

One proposal is to run the pipeline along two roads, parallel to the existing line.  Another idea under consideration is to run the line to the school cross country (diagonal to the 90 degree angle of the roads). One expert tells us that running the line cross country, "through the bush," would leave it more open to vandalism. Another person says, the existing line has already been tapped into by private individuals, and what would prevent them from tapping into a line running parallel to the existing line?

At the school, a line from this spigot runs from the tank in the background.

The tank also has lines running to the latrines (the tan building behind the vehicle) for flushing and washing hands. However, the tank has yet to be connected to the main water line.

We can't imagine building a school and not connecting it to water immediately.  There is another spigot not far away, at the church. Drinking water reaches that point two days each week.  When I asked several Tanzanian friends how urgent the problem of water at the school was, no one seemed overly concerned. I think they are so used to working and living in not perfect conditions that this is just another challenge of daily life.  Several shrugged at my question, saying, "Children can bring drinking water to school." They would be carrying it in buckets or in 20 liter plastic jugs. But carrying their own water from the relatively short distance from home is still a lot better than walking the four miles they previously walked to school.

It's all a matter of perspective.

Our water safari ended at the other end of Mapogoro, closer to Tungamalenga, where there is a new well.  We're told that the local Member of Parliament had a hand in locating this well and providing funds for a solar powered pump. A community spigot is located just to the left of this building, and the water tank in the photo will eventually sit atop the building.

Engineer Amos Byemerwa, regional water officer, has told us that if this well were connected to the national grid for its electricity, the well has sufficient water to meet 80% of the community's needs. If that were the case, the pipeline to Mpalapande would be sufficient to provide water to the school.

In the end, we learned a lot on our safari of the water system, and still there is more to learn, and more to discuss with the community. A conversation for another day.