Monday, January 3, 2011

Busy times indeed

We’ve really had a lot on our plate lately. Two weeks ago the elder’s school (or Kingdom Ministry School) was held in the extendable kingdom hall, followed by the ministerial servants’ shortened version the next day. Then the host visit of the circuit and district overseers and their wives began on the following Tuesday, and then on Friday afternoon there was the Annual Pioneer Afternoon. Immediately following that was the two-day Circuit Assembly.

On January 9 there’s the zone visit in Dar es Salaam, and in February we look forward to the dedication of our Extendable Assembly Hall.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Lake Chala

In November Avril and I impulsively decided to strike out for the Kilimanjaro foothills and see some more of the country that feels so much like home. Another opportunity to enjoy Jehovah’s creation was nigh.

We took our tiny new tent which we were given by Graham White last year and our little stove and off we went, first to Moshi then on a little bus up into the hills. We were headed for Lake Chala, an isolated volcanic caldera filled by underground springs from Kilimanjaro herself. The lake lies astride the border of Tanzania and Kenya.


Uplink to the mothership


Did you see what he’s got?


It’s supposedly really really deep.


Kilimanjaro is hiding in those clouds in the background.


What struck us as extraordinary was the sheer biomass of insects that inhabited the area. When I say ‘biomass’ I choose my word carefully – the insects were both numerous and large! Not a camping trip for the insect-wary, it nearly drove us crazy on the first night. Safe inside the tent, we kept wondering if it was raining; the pitter-patter was actually and endless succession of different insects impacting with the outer wall of the tent.

The scenery was marvellous, though, and the lake beautifully clear and lovely to swim in. We were warned to keep an eye out for crocs though – a tourist was apparently lunch for one a couple of years back.

We also spent many hours looking for Bush Elephants that roam free around these parts. It seems that they had decided on a last minute package holiday and were nowhere to be found. They’d left plenty of poo though – no doubt they were crouching just around the next bush.

We stayed five nights in the end, and had a picnic with our buddy Rebeka Jameson from Moshi and her mate Katie on our final day.

Then, on our way back to Moshi, we got hopelessly stuck in the mud in Rebeka’s car – our efforts to extricate the vehicle only got us filthy with bright red mud. We ended up staying over at Rebeka’s place and finally made it back on the following day.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

1 Year On: Angela Wendy Dowds 1943-2009


Mum has never left our thoughts this year, since she died on November 5, 2009. She was a loving and conscientious mother.

Though none of her four children will forget her even for a moment until we see her again, an anniversary nevertheless has a certain significance for me personally.

If you have experienced loss like I have then you know what a distress, what a burden it can be. It can last for many years. But with each year that passes I feel that I have moved further from the hurt. What’s more, even something as excruciating as the death of a dear parent can benefit the bereaved. We can grow because of our sadness, develop in new ways, become better, more thoughtful, more considerate people capable of greater empathy.

I know for a certainty that ‘the hour is coming when all those in the memorial tombs will hear [God’s] voice and come out.’ I know likewise that ‘the righteous themselves will inherit the earth’ when God’s will is finally ‘done on earth as it is in heaven.’ Then our family can continue growing closer and knowing each other even better forever as perfect individuals. (John 5:28; Psalm 37:29; Matthew 6:9, 10.)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Congratulations Avril!

Today, on October 31, 2010, Avril has served as a regular pioneer for fifteen full years. What an achievement!

Pioneers are those of Jehovah’s Witnesses who have the circumstances and the motivation to preach and teach non-witnesses about God’s Word for a number of hours each month that is agreed in advance. Many Jehovah’s Witnesses with children or ill health might manage a couple of hours each weekend in the ministry. Regular Pioneers do 840 per year, or 70 per month. Auxiliary Pioneers do 50 per month, and Special Pioneers 130.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Congratulations Kirsty!

This week on our service meeting programmes in congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the globe is a fifteen-minute audience discussion entitled ‘Be Self-Sacrificing.’ The source material for the item was a selection of three experiences from the 2010 JW yearbook, including one from England found on page 58. It’s accompanied by a picture.

Our sister Kirsty has been learning Lingala in order to help people learn about Jehovah. She noticed this Congolese lady struggling with her bags of shopping and offered a helping hand, all the way to her front door on the 3rd floor. After greeting the rest of the household, she was able to start a bible study there.

Kirsty is a dear old friend of mine and I wanted to congratulate her on being discussed this week in 100,000+ congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but she’s changed her phone number. ;-(

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cat Dilemmas

When we returned from Mwanza we were horrified to find that our dear cat, Paka Stanley, was missing. I must say that it ought not to be all that surprising, since we had moved house just a week or two beforehand, and it was clear that the poor moggy had not yet come to terms with her new territory. Things were no doubt complicated further by the presence of a yappy excitable dog named Winnie, the property of our neighbours Mike and Terri Kanellos.

Avril was very disciplined in her reaction to this unmitigated disaster. Nevertheless, after two further weeks of looking for poor Stan it became clear that a new cat was needed.

We advertised on a local mailing list for a neutered adult cat and within a couple of days we had collected Schlafum, an enormous dopey tom, half coarse ginger fur, half really soft white fur. Schlafum was so affectionate that he would get cross if you weren’t petting him. Avril took to him right away. Not only was he already housetrained and neutered, but he even had his own fully endorsed German passport. Well, you never know, maybe I’d be able to get German citizenship on his account.

Everything seemed to have gotten worked out and looking rosy, though quite naturally Avril still missed poor Stan. I even climbed up into Mike’s attic to see if her tiny furry body lay there, electrocuted by the deathtrap wiring.

Six days after our acquisition I was in a local supermarket when an Asian man whom I vaguely recognised approached me and insisted that he had spotted our cat. The man was our neighbour when we were in our old place, and he reckoned our cat was living in the roof next door to where we had been living. She had made it all the way back the three blocks to our old place, nearly a ten-minute walk for a person.

Avril needed only to report to the scene with a little of her favourite food and out she came.

So now we had two cats. Would they get on like a house on fire? Well, it became clear after only a short time that the two cats would never cohabit in our very constricted living space. We could see the appeal of having two cats, but not if they couldn’t get along.

Sadly, then, finally it became necessary to say goodbye to Schlafum, who was taken from us by an enthusiastic young lady who wanted to solve a vermin problem.

Here we are, then, back where we were at the start. Avril’s thrilled, of course, to have Paka Stanley back in good health, and I’m happy to report that she has finally made our little yard her own.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mwanza Missionary Visit

In July following Avril’s return from the UK we decided we deserved a holiday together and booked flights to Mwanza, where the missionary family have been inviting us to visit.

If you examine a world map, you’ll see a substantial blue spot in East Africa just to the north-west of Tanzania, and it’s called Lake Victoria. Mwanza is the fairly large town that looks northwards across the lake, which they tell me is about the same size as Belgium. Though in theory you should be able to spot Uganda and Kenya off in the distance, it’s just too far. It might as well be an ocean to an observer in Mwanza. The water, however, is not saline like the ocean, and is very deep and rich with life.

We’ve been insistently invited to Mwanza for some time now, ever since Steve and Karil Thompson were reassigned there. Subsequently George and Liz Quawey have been assigned there as special pioneers and then Scott and July were also sent there. Since January Steve and Karil are actually assigned to our congregation here we felt we had four reasons as least to visit.

One distinguishing factor which sets the region apart geologically speaking is the presence of many huge boulders, many standing precariously or even perched up on others. They range in size from a few tonnes to the size of a large house, and they’re just everywhere. The beautifully-appointed missionary home where all our friends live is on the side of a steep hill, and has a fairly large garden around it, in which several such boulders provide a centre-piece around which everything else has been planned, including even the house itself.

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We were able to preach in the field around about along with our friends Scott and July, and we were able to test the fertile territory in which several congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses thrive.


That didn’t mean that we didn’t have time to relax though! The missionary home has a long, wide tiled veranda which looks out over a panoramic view of the lake, 180 degrees around. Down on the lake, a hundred feet below perhaps, ferry boats and other craft criss-cross the lake, and the sun sets over to the left over a distant promontory, bright red. It’s a beautiful place. Especially if you have a cold beer in your hand.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Moving House

Partly in the name of cutting costs and partly to reduce housework, Avril and I took the opportunity to move into Pete and Carla’s old place when they vacated at the end of May.

The house itself is an annex, a granny flat, if you will, tacked onto the side of the house currently occupied by our brothers in the faith Mike and Terry Kanellos. Before they moved in, Charles and Sonya Larry lived there. Prior to Pete and Carla’s occupancy of the annex, Glen and Jo Cole from Wales lived there during the missionary home construction project.

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While our old place served us admirably for so long (nearly three years, as it happened) we really didn’t need three bedrooms and were tired of having to share our house with others as well. We just needed a little privacy. (So if you stayed there with us personally, hah, no offense intended.)

The new place could hardly be smaller. Following some minor adjustments there’s a tiny shower / toilet room, a store, a corridor / kitchen, a bedroom barely large enough for a double bed, and a small rectangular living room which is host to the fridge and freezer. It took a lot of thought to arrange our furniture to make best use of the little space that we have. Some have commented that it reminds them of a static caravan – no space is wasted.

After three months living here we could say that we’ve rather gotten used to it and will no doubt grow to love it in time just as we did our last place.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Moshi District Convention

At the end of the month of July we once more attended our district convention in a little stadium in Moshi.

We thoroughly enjoyed the programme, especially the audio drama of the book of Jonah.

We particularly liked the period drama of the flight of the Christian Jews from Jerusalem prior to its fall to Roman Armies in 70 CE. It clarified many fascinating aspects of this account, in particular the sensations experienced by those who left behind businesses and fields and even friends because of Jesus’ prophetic warnings. History showed that many responded faithfully and were saved. Any who delayed or who gave up later and returned to the city were conscripted or perished in the fighting or because of the famine in the city. It is a situation that mirrors the dilemma facing many who sit on the fence rather than decisively taking their stand in these last days.


Only the eagle-eyed will spot one of the world’s most famous mountains.

This year, sadly, Kilimanjaro  did not make her appearance during the programme, on account of heavy clouds. I include this photograph from 2008.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Goodbye to Pete & Carla


One of the hardest things to deal with here for us is the constant movement of brothers and sisters, to and from Tanzania. We admit that we find company with people from home comforting, especially when the world here seems quite alien sometimes. So naturally we take quickly to newcomers, who in many cases are only able to stay for so long. Then we have to say goodbye.

In May we were very sorry indeed to say goodbye to two friends whom we’ve both grown to love very much.

Carla and Pete Jennings are from Cornwall and came out here for about a year and preached a lot with us. The two of them provided us with much-needed support during an otherwise very trying time for both of us.

Take care both of you, and welcome back anytime!

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Serengeti with the Freedluns

During our ten-day vacation to Mwanza we consulted Scott and July on tourist activities and Scott mentioned Serengeti.

It hadn’t occurred to me that, though Arusha is the starting point for most of the Serengeti safaris, Mwanza is far closer (to the opposite end of the massive nature reserve.) Since the Freedluns have their own 4x4 and since we figured we could easily do a safari in a single day we decided that we couldn’t miss this opportunity. Serengeti safaris from Arusha are costly because they last at least three days on account of the long round trip to reach the park. Finally we’ve been to all five parks in the north of Tanzania and taken in another of its ‘must-see’ attractions.

So after doing a little asking around and buying a little map, off we headed on the 90-minute drive to Serengeti. Our enquiries revealed that we were fortunate on another count: that the famous animal migration would be passing through that western end of the park during July.

We’ve all seen these animals in captivity, but it’s really a different, more intense experience to see the real wild animals in their own habitats, doing what they do.

Here are a few of the photos we took.

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Wildebeest – walking lumps of silverside, the reason for the great Serengeti migration.

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Teeth still bloody from a recent kill.

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This image gives the impression of the migration – we’re surrounded by wildebeest on all sides.

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Vultures pick the bones of an unfortunate wildebeest clean, after the lion’s share has been taken.

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I’ve never had such a clear view of a hippo before. Just look at the scratchmarks on his hide.

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Nile crocs like this one grow up to six metres (18 feet) in length. This was some way off that, but impressive all the same.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mike & Cath’s Tanzania Project

Following Mum’s sudden death in November Avril and I were home and staying with my dear elder brother Michael and his wife Cath.

A couple of years earlier the two of them had considered coming out to Tanzania to set up shop here for a while, and finally moved to Dunoon. As well they did, since shortly after Dad suddenly died and Mike and Cath were able to look after Mum, who needed their support.

When Mum died Mike and Cath could no longer see any reason to stay and they came to check things out early in the month of January. They stayed for three months, by which time they had made some new friends here and had a taste of the ministry here too. By the end of their visit they had made up their minds to come to Tanzania for at least a year and booked their tickets to return for June.

So they’ve been with us for several weeks now and have settled into their own place up on the hill less than a mile from our place. For the time being it is their intention to remain with the Central (English language) congregation, but meanwhile they are making efforts to learn Swahili.

We’re thrilled to have them here with us, preaching with them each week. In July and August they’re both auxiliary pioneers, and starting in September Mike will go regular. Congratulations to you both!