Rain, Seed, Snakes, and Hunger

Dear Family and Friends,

Greetings from Usandawe Tanzania in this new year! Sorry it’s been a while since we’ve sent an update. This one’s a bit long, but feel free to chew on it in pieces! I’ve broken it up in to different segments, mostly ministry related. After RVA mid-term break we’ll send out a family news update.

We’ve started off the year with hot sunny days, and other days rainy and cloudy. Everyone and his brother are out in the fields these days planting and weeding, the trees are green, the asthma is kicking in for some, and the snakes are on the move. If you look around, it’s quite beautiful with all the green everywhere, but for many of our neighbors, this is the hardest time of the year. It’s the beginning of the planting season, which means that the food from last years harvest is starting to run out. January and February are the lean months, and we’ve already heard of certain villages, like Wairo, where many villagers are starting to go hungry. The earliest they could start harvesting is March.

SEED RELIEF – In December we ran in to a big problem with our seed relief effort. The batch of corn seed that we got from the Tanzanian Food Agency didn’t sprout! Not good, because we sold it at a discounted price to villagers through the church, and it was botched seed! Thankfully we recognized the problem early, were able to refund people’s money, and then take most of the stock back to town where the store exchanged it for a different kind. This second kind has sprouted well without difficulty. Both Magambua church and Kwa Mtoro church have been distributing discounted seed to help the local villagers now since December.

HUNGER RELIEF – Food prices are high, and shortages are present in 11 regions of Tanzania. It’s hard being white and relatively rich compared to the subsistence farmers we live among. Our dogs are eating better than some. Our hearts break for the struggle they have to just put food on the table. We’ve asked the Lord for wisdom how to respond, and through the church here, we again are looking to provide 50 sacks of millet or maize to help people through the next month or two. We’ll run the relief in a similar way to how we did it last year. We’re hoping to raise about $2,200. If you feel led to give, you can donate to our ‘Magambua Medical ER TAN 111 U’ project fund with a footnote saying ‘2013 Hunger Relief’. Checks could be made out to ‘Africa Inland Mission’ and sent to the mission address below, or you could donate online at http://www.aimint.org/usa/ under the Give tab, then Online Giving, then search for ‘Magambua Medical’.

SUNDAY SCHOOL BUILDING PROJECT- The new Sunday School building is looking great, the windows are in, the drop ceiling is done and this week they are finished up painting. The last thing to go on will be the doors. The local kids from church have already started to use the building, they bring in rocks and planks to sit on because we haven’t gotten the benches made yet, but they don’t care, they like the new space so much better than the crumblindg stick and mud structure with dirt floor! Over the next couple months we plan to use the remaining funds to make a black board, build some benches, and purchase some Sunday school books.

MEDICAL NEWS – We continue to thank God for the chances to serve people through the medical work. Just last week I had a challenging visit. A young woman, engaged to get married, came for an HIV test. It was positive. Last year she had a boyfriend in town that she thinks may have been the one she caught it from. We spent quite a while in counseling. She goes to a pentecostal church, and I tried to encourage her in the faith, that we have hope through Jesus in this life, AND for eternity. We talked about the decisions she needs to make now, and how to break the news to her fiancee. I tried to encourage her that on medication she could live many healthy years. She begged me to scratch out the test result in her booklet and write something else, because her fiancee told her he wants to see the result as soon as she returns. She really has a hard road ahead of her. I’d love to see her relationship with her fiancee mended through repentance, forgiveness, and honesty in Christ. Who will show them that road? So often the reality here is one of hiding, lying to a partner, denying the problem. The social stigma is huge. It’s unlikely her fiancee will agree to marry her if she tells him she’s HIV positive. Please pray for D.H.

With the rains come the long grass, and the snakes. Driving back from a family picnic this past weekend, Melissa spotted a long dark snake half way across the road ahead of us. It reared it’s head and looked straight at us. We pulled our binoculars up to our eyes to get a good look, the coffin shaped head was unmistakeable – it was a black mamba. “Roll up the windows” Melissa said. We’d heard stories of mamba’s getting in to cars, under the hoods, catching a lift. We waited, sitting fifty yards away on the road, and the snake turned and went back in to the brush. We carried on without incident.
I’m seriously considering ordering some anti-venom from South Africa. The closest anti-venom to us is in Arusha, and they get theirs from South Africa. It’s very expensive, but we’ve had about six or seven snake bite deaths here at the clinic over the years. Most were mamba bites, one a cobra, and two puff adder bites. Thankfully, the vast majority of snake bites we treat recover completely. We average about one or two bite patients a month.

It’s a been a great blessing to have a new working ultrasound machine since the 1970’s machine we had finally stopped working. I’ve been able to diagnose twins again, date pregnancies and check the overall well-being of the babies. I’ve diagnosed a dropped lung, some fractures, and a likely lymphoma. It’s encouraging to be able to counsel and treat people with more clarity.

NEW TEAM MEMBER- We are very excited to be welcoming a new team member to Magambua later this year, an AIM missionary from Australia named Margaret Papov. Margaret is a nurse midwife by training, and also has some Literacy training through SIL. She has served before in northern Kenya and Mozambique. She’ll be coming to Usandawe to serve in a mixed medical and Bible study ministry. Please pray for her preparations. Pray for a reliable vehicle for her, for preparations for a Swahili refresher course, residence permit process, and all the transitions ahead.

LOOKING FORWARD TO – Camping over mid-term break with Josh and the French’s this coming weekend in Kenya. Melissa’s mom coming for a visit later this month. Another trip for our team to Alagwa-land for a mobile medical clinic this Spring. A Physician’s Assistant student from one of the BFC churches coming this summer.

Please pray for:

Our team as we strive to care for patients both physically and spiritually as we share Jesus with them.
Safe travels for mid-term break.
Margaret P.’s preparations for coming to Usandawe.
Peace in Kenya during the impending presidential elections scheduled for March 4th.

We’ll try to send out more of a family update in a week or two.

Blessings in Christ,

Jon for all of us

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