Below you will find a copy of the latest newsletter from Dr Ruth Hulser, our link between FMI and the UK. Please download a copy and read how the team on the ground are getting on and about some of the challenges that they are facing.
If you would like to donate to the work of Familia Moja this Advent Season, you may wish to download and use a resource that one of our supporters created for us. The Gift of Life Advent Calendar provides a challenge for each day.
[Members of Bunyan Baptist Church – Please note that our church has also issued a similar project for another local charity. This FMI calendar is aimed at supporters not involved with Bunyan Baptist Church. While that doesn’t mean you are prohibited from using it, we don’t wish to compete with that, especially as Bunyan’s main Christmas giving will be for FMCP-UK]
The word Gospel, when used in the Bible, is a word ‘stolen’ from the Roman Emperors. They would send out ‘proclamations’ throughout the Roman World which would often start something with the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον, evangelion, meaning “good news”. For instance there is an inscription in stone recovered from an ancient Greek city in Western Turkey that uses this word to announce the birth of Augustus Ceasar. The translation is something like this:
“Since Providence, which has ordered all things and is deeply interested in our life, has set in most perfect order by giving us Augustus, whom she filled with virtue that he might benefit humankind, sending him as a savior, both for us and for our descendants, that he might end war and arrange all things, and since he, Caesar, by his appearance (excelled even our anticipations), surpassing all previous benefactors, and not even leaving to posterity any hope of surpassing what he has done, and since the birthday of the god Augustus was the beginning of the good tidings [εὐαγγέλιον] for the world that came by reason of him”
The Gospel that announces Jesus is similar. Part of it is about ‘eternal life’ but much more of it is about bringing blessing to the poor and needy and health to the sick and restoration of the outcast.
Familia Moja is part of that ‘blessing for all nations’ that was promised initially through Abraham and then King David and then their descendent Jesus the Carpenter. This work is the followers of Jesus continuing that blessing.
Up until now, members of FMI – our partners in Tanzania – have been providing the service that you are supporting with little mention of the motivation and origin of the support. At one of their recent team meetings, it was felt that they should be a little more open about where the ‘blessing’ was coming from. With the blessing comes a challenge from Jesus – “Follow me”. Jesus called people to put their allegiance [trust] in him and become like him. This was no call to an intellectual acknowledgement that he existed or that what he said was good / true. This was a call to imitate him and tap into the supernatural power that God promises those who follow him. Eternal life is just the icing on the cake – not the cake itself.
A few days ago a couple who have benefitted from the work of Dr Ruth and FMI decided to very publicly announce their allegiance to Jesus [having been Muslims till now] and got baptised. N, now aged 81, has worked for Dr Ruth for over 10 years. His wife’s life was saved in a rather ‘desperate’ manner years ago by Dr Ruth.
Changing allegiance like this – from Mohammed and Allah to Jesus – is not an easy thing to do in their culture. They will no doubt meet resistance from family and friends. Please pray that God will continue to bless them and keep them safe in the knowledge that the community known as Familia Moja – ‘One Family’ – has their backs.
More need for this ‘good news’
The team have been assessing several new families.
One is a lady who had a stroke and has been bed-bound for 2 years. Her husband deserted her some time back. Her sister, who was already looking after a third sister with mental health issues and a child with severe learning difficulties, took her in. This put immense pressure on the family. This ‘carer’ was forced by her husband to go out daily to earn extra money to look after all these extra family members. But now her husband has now thrown out the whole accumulated family as he felt he could not support them anymore.
There is a 15 year old boy who suffered a fracture when playing football. Due to the unfortunate way the fracture term happened, the bone pierced the skin and he has an ongoing infection in the bone which is not healing. He was told by the local government hospital doctors that he would have to go to the zona speciality hospital in Mwanza. His mother, a single lady with four children has been earning the money by selling vegetable in the market. They cannot even afford the trip, let alone the treatment. This infection must be treated if the boy is to have any life at all. If untreated he will be disabled for the rest of his life. FMI is trying hard to engage with the mother to find a way to access affordable treatment that will help him.
It has become very clear that over last 2 years the community around the office have struggled to cope. Food prices have increased. Some people are not eating for days at a time. And Covid-19 has added some additional economic strain with some being unable to work. Many people are suffering, and probably dying early, because they cannot afford treatment due to the economic down-turn that has happened over the last few years. Local reports suggest that in the last 2 months about 28 people have died in Kipalapala alone (the area local to the FMI office). FMI is looking to step up to try and relieve some of this need. Please pray that they will have the capacity to do this and that God will send them the resources – people and food and medicines and funding and the necessary rain [but not too much] – to be a massive blessing to this community as we approach Christmas.
While we in the West are still in ‘lockdown’ with the threat that the current Coronavirus restrictions will go on further, many in Africa just have to carry on. Thankfully in Tabora, problems due to Covid19 don’t seem to be so great. That may be because the population profile is much younger and so those who get ill are less likely to die. Or it may be that, as there is very little funding available for testing and monitoring, they just don’t know what effect it is having.
Recently we asked some local people in Tabora if they would use their mobile phones to record short pieces of film to give us an idea of some of the work that is going on in Tanzania. And so we were able to produce a short film [initially intended for a ‘Missionary Sunday’ service from Bunyan Baptist Church – part of their regular on-line lockdown offerings].
This film – available at https://youtu.be/PuKhYXIsOzg is entitled ‘A Tale of Two Charities’ and talks a bit about how the work of this charity [FMCP-UK] supports the work of the Tanzanian charity [FMI].
We hope that you will enjoy watching this if you haven’t seen it before.
While writing I would like to say again a big thank you to those of you who have generously supported this work. There have been a couple of significant donations in the last month or so and so we say thanks to those people, especially. If you would like to donate, the best way is to do it through our CAF Donate page at www.cafdonate.cafonline.org/11331 . CAF Donate will automatically process Gift Aid etc for us and so make the donation process so much easier for us as a charity.
In this post I want to share some of the good things that your support of Familia Moja has brought to the people of Tabora.
Food and water are key to survival – and the ponds and the gardens and smallholdings that surround them are central to the survival of many families. FMI has gardens where food is grown for the workers and the clients that we serve. Not only do these provide food but they model farming practices that are enriching the soil and increasing the yield significantly. By sharing this learning with the local community, many more are able to benefit from this.
The abundance of water has allowed the growth of rice [seen being planted here is the water], velvet beans [not really a food crop but a crop that fixes nitrogen into the soil and is a good source of greenery for making compost ready for growing onions], and of course the maize crop. The presence of the ponds will be key to irrigating these crops. The need to grow crops is so great that even Spiderman gets involved – see https://youtu.be/DqnM3OTf6M8 !!
Not only does FMI grow food but they also distribute food that has been purchased by donations. Providing medical care is no good if people are starving or malnourished so this is essential to saving lives.
In order to deliver medical care, staff need transport. The motorbikes that they have been using over the last few years have failed and FMI staff have been visiting using pushbikes. Obviously this is time consuming, especially when there are fields to be tended. So we have invited FMI to bid for some new motorbikes. At about £700 each, this is something we have been able to fund. Staff are shown here at the motorbike shop choosing the bikes that will save them so much time. Of course unless the road are OK these might not be much use. Three truckloads of red earth and broken bricks were delivered to repair their local road so FMI can continue to use vehicles
Going to school is an essential part of life. In Tanzania, access to school is dependent on having a uniform and exercise books etc. Not every family can afford these – so where needed, FMI provide these.
The services that FMI are rather like those offered by the NHS – ‘from cradle to grave’. Maria was one of our long term clients. She lived her last year or so in one of the FMI ‘homes’ built especially for our older clients.
Maria Salum became very weak over the week following Christmas and started to develop bedsores. She passed away on 29th December at 9 pm. Her only known relatives were one grandniece and an equally old sister-in-law. Due to having no-one who could afford a funeral, FMI stepped in as her adoptive family. A coffin was bought and the funeral was held at 3 pm the following afternoon with the FMI team being the main mourners.
Thank you for your support.
“Lord, when did we ever see you naked and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?” And the king will say, “I tell you the truth, when you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters, you were doing it to me!”
As we celebrate the birth of Jesus – the Messiah who came to serve the poor – we also celebrate the gifts that have come to us courtesy of many of you and especially from the Family of Martin Knight, Bunyan Baptist Church and St John’s Church in Yeovil. Thank you to all of you who have contributed to this work whether in small one off gifts or regular donations.
Thank you for your generosity!
At the beginning of 2020, it was estimated that we would need to raise approximately £16,000 [based on the first six month’s expenditure] within the current financial year. As we started the year, we were thinking about how we might run quizzes and other fund raisers and how we could make the work of Familia Moja more well know. The arrival of Covid19 put paid to all of that!
And yet at the end of the year we are able to report that our finances are in a far better position than we could have ever imagined!
And much of that is due to the very kind donation of over £8,000 by the family of our friend and long term supporter Martin Knight, who passed away about this time two years ago. His life was a blessing to our work in so many ways – he even visited the project in Tabora and is fondly remembered by FMI staff with whom he worked. His family have been exceptionally generous with the legacy that he left and this donation will allow us to continue to save lives and improve the health and wellbeing of the poorest in Tabora.
So thank you to all of you who have donated. And thank God for his timing – sending us the resources we need at just the right time.
If you have not seen it or would like to download a copy – our first annual report [from our start in September 2019 until the end of our financial year in April 2020] is available here.
In Tanzania the rains have come. Hopefully this year they won’t be in quite the excessive quantity of last year [though hopefully that will have replenished underground aquifers and filled some of the local wells].
In order to support the local communities that we work with in Tabora, there is a need to provide the basic necessities such as water. Water to drink, water to irrigate your food crops, water for the animals and water to restore the land to make it productive and fertile again.
We have struggled this year with building ponds – partly due to it being so wet; too wet to use heavy machinery to dig. And partly because the machinery wasn’t available. There is an election coming and roads need to be repaired!
But we are pleased to say that we have just completed two more ponds, the latest being the biggest so far [though we are not entirely sure it was planned this way!]
Thank you to all of you who have donated in order to make these a reality. They really do make a difference when the rains fail to arrive as hoped for.
Crops [when others have none]
Most amazingly, God answered our prayers about Tanzania being spared a significant problem in this worldwide pandemic. This is amazing, particularly as any shutdown other than the early school closures (a week before the UK lockdown started) would have directly resulted in essential food crises for a significant part of the population.
Our prayers were also answered regards the rice harvest! Even we managed to harvest a bumper crop of 32 ‘sacks of rice, even though we harvested only 9 sacks of maize (and we had hoped for double.) That having been said, this maize harvest was much better than most saw, and encouraged us by proving that our method [known locally as ‘Farming God’s Way’] does stabilize crops.
The groups of worker using this method have been working very hard; initially planting and harvesting maize and rice and then preparing compost and market gardens for the dry season. The first field of watermelons are ripening. And a second field is beginning to show promising signs of growth. The watering is truly back-breaking work, and too much really for the 5 regular members (Maduma and Neema are usually looking after clients most days). We are urgently searching for a specialist in ‘drip irrigation’, for the next market gardens so we can more efficiently irrigate out gardens.
We thank God that [with your help] the work to restore the land is bearing fruit and that FMI have food stores in place to feed our clients through the next few months.
While the rest of the world is semi-paralysed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the work in Tabora continues. There is currently little evidence of this disease having reached Tabora. This may be due to the fact that the population profile is very different to that in the West – whereas ‘western’ countries often have ageing populations, about half of the population of Tabora is under 18. Schools and universities were closed very early by the Tanzanian government and masks became mandatory very early on. It may just be that the problem is hidden due to the inability to test. Please continue to pray that Tabora will continue to be spared.
The bigger risks in this part of the world are illnesses like malaria, HIV infections, sickle cell disease and TB and the risk of the harvests failing. FMI staff are working hard to protect the clients that we look after and now the rainwater ponds are full and the floods have subsided, planting, compost making, watering and growing can start. Potatoes are growing OK at the moment. There will hopefully be a crop of cassava in September. But the maize harvest which has been poor means that this staple may run out very soon.
One of the problems locally is that local farmers will sell their food for export. There are good roads to the country’s borders from Tabora. Unfortunately, while selling food now may bring in an income, in a few month’s time the prices may rise rapidly if the harvest is poor [and they haven’t been good recently]. To protect our clients FMI buys food now while it is reasonably priced and places it in secure storage for distribution over the next few months. FMCP-UK didn’t need to pay for this lot of food as it was funded privately by another donor. A lorry had to be sent into the bush to collect 72 large double wrapped 120 litre bags of rice. This is hard work and the workmen needed to be fed when they returned.
This food will be used to help support clients like Luka and his family. Unable to afford to pay for the epilepsy medicine that they need, FMI provides support and care to this family. Those of you who have followed the Familia Moja story from the very beginning will possible remember the miraculous story of Luka. You can see it here on another of our ‘FM Shorts’ – a short FMCP-UK film about the work undertaken by FMI.
This is the first of a series of short films describing the work that has been done by Familia Moja over the years. Immanuel was first contacted in 2008 when Familia Moja was a project linked to Dr Ruth Hulser’s work with CMS. Now that FMI [Familia Moja Itetemia – our Tanzanian Partner Organisation] has become a government recognised Community Based Organisation in Tabora, our UK charity is helping to provide the support that he needs.
Uganda and Kenya have experienced some very poor harvests due to flooding and also locusts which eat any plant in sight. Add the Coronavirus pandemic to that and the outlook is grim.
Tabora, however, has been spared the worst of the problems. The locusts have not come and so far the Coronavirus seems not to have arrived like it has in Europe and other parts of the world. And food is growing. With wet fields, rice has been the crop of choice so far and so the FMI clients are able to eat what many of them would consider to be a ‘luxury food’. So they are relatively happy at present.
The FMI gardens are currently planted for water melons and it is hoped that ‘crop rotation’ will provide them with a second harvest of maize and then a third harvest of a root vegetable such as onions or carrots. By rotating the crops and feeding the soil with specially prepared manure [part of the ‘Farming God’s Way’ technique that is being taught to FMI clients], it is hoped that the soil can be enriched and become more productive. The plot that has been prepared this year is twice the size of last years.
One of the big risks is that local food will be sold for export. There are good tarmac roads from Tabora to the borders and this often encourages local farmers to sell their produce. FMI are working to stockpile some of this so that when the food runs out [and the maize harvest so far has been poor], there will be food for their 100+ clients who require food aid.
As of 1st May 2020, Tanzania has reported 480 cases of Covid-19. 167 people are reported to have recovered while 16 others have died. [Source BBC News ] The government has suspended social gatherings, concerts and ordered the closure of schools and colleges. However, places of worship remain open. [President Magufuli has been encouraging people to pray communally in churches saying the virus could not thrive in the body of Christ. We admire his faith in our supernatural God but might question his wisdom!] All international passenger flights are suspended. The recorded cases are mostly in Dar es Salaam and Arusha.
But there are greater issues than this. Climate change has not gone away and heavier than expected rainfalls have caused chaos across Africa as well as in the Tabora Region of Tanzania.
With lots of water come mosquitos and with them comes malaria. And of course TB is still a major problem in the area. These diseases kill many many, more each year.
But there is hope. The flood waters are possibly keeping the locusts and Covid-19 away from Tabora and the work of Familia Moja still goes on, bringing care, food and medicine to the poorest in the region.
The excessive amounts of rain may well cause the maize harvest to fail but the rice harvest may yet survive. And Familia Moja will be there working to help improve yields wherever possible and to provide food assistance where it is needed. And Familia Moja Itetemia has rice crops growing in the fields!
And the work being done to ensure that there is water for the rest of the year is helping to create more and more green land that can be used for growing crops and also breaking the cycle of climate change. It may be a small corner, but the world is looking at such projects and seeing just how key they are to the regeneration of arid lands. And you as supporters of Familia Moja are playing your part in this movement; not only to save lives in Tabora, but also across the world.
If you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD— and he will repay you!
As I’ve been writing our first Annual Report to be submitted to the Charities Commission, I’ve been pleased to see what has been done. We will share this with you soon. [We have only been a registered charity for 6 months but as our financial year ends on 31st March, we are required to produce an ‘annual’ report]
In the last 6 months we have sent seventeen and a half thousand pounds out to Tabora, about six thousand of which has been spent on pond digging. The rest has been spent on visits to families providing them with food, medicine and hope.
Thank you to Bunyan Baptist Church, St John the Baptist Church in Carlton, Nottingham, Holy Trinity Church, Stevenage and St John’s Church in Yeovil for significant donations totalling nearly £30,000. And thank you also to our individual donors for have helped us raise an additional £790 in the last few months.
In the next year we will need significant financial help from you to carry on this work. It is anticipated that we will need to raise about £18,000 to keep this work going at the current rate. Will you play your part?
We set up our bank account with CAFBank [part of CAF – the Charities Aid Foundation] and they offer a service called CAFDonate. They use this to collect and process our donations and also deal with Gift Aid [for a tiny fee].
The ponds are full. There is greenery around. The Familia Moja Team are preparing the fields, making and adding compost and building up the growing beds to ensure they are above the mud.
Here they are preparing for the market gardens for the dry season. The beds are prepared with green manure to aid growing and improve the soil so they get a better crop. This is backbreaking work. It takes 4 people one day to do one row.
And making the compost is hard work too! It is made from 40% dry material, 40 % green leaves, 10% cow manure and 10 % of woody stuff like wood shavings.
Last year the FMI Team prepared half an acre of land and planted onions. Although the year wasn’t very good for the whole country, the team harvested three 100 kilograms bags of produce which was a success and encouraging.
At the end of last year, the team prepared another half acre for planting another garden in 2020. While doing this they trained 12 local people on agriculture best practice: how to prepare composts and how to take care of the environment through choosing plant species such as Mucuna [also known as ‘velvet beans’ – see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mucuna_pruriens] that help to add nitrogen to the soil of their land as well as producing greenery for the compost.
This year they have also prepared another 2 acres of land ready to plant maize during these early months of the year which are Tanzania’s ‘rainy season’.
Please pray that all of this hard work will pay off and provide food for local families over the next year. However, the whole lot is somewhat at risk as some parts of East Africa are seeing some of the worst plagues of locusts for many years. [See the Channel 4 report at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dOD0LCa6Jg ] There are two main risks – firstly that the locusts will reach Tanzania and secondly that Tanzanian food will be bought up by other African countries and there will then not be enough for the Tanzanian people.
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
Jesus of Nazareth
When not involved in the agricultural work, the small team are also providing medical and social care to some of the poorest in the local area. In 2019, 676 household visits were made to 45 households reaching 130 family members for client services. During these care visits they provided food supplies and home-based care treatment such as wound dressing for 16 clients and medication to 45 chronically ill patients. FMI were also able to provide [thanks to your generosity] some of these clients with access to hospital care by providing transport, paying for their medical costs and food costs while there and looking after family members left at home.