Helen and Alastair - some background

Helen and Alastair - some background : We have always hoped to return to Africa once more before we're too old (perhaps we already are!). Alastair first went to Africa in 1974 as a junior doctor, working for the Church of Scotland in a small hospital in Transkei, South Africa. I met Alastair there in 1982, were married in 1984 and continued in Transkei until 1988. From there we went to Kenya, as employees of the Church of Scotland, where Alastair ran Chogoria Hospital. We left in 1995, with Alec, Peter and Becky to establish the children's schooling and our work in Britain. Here Alastair found himself as consultant in Breast cancer surgery, and Helen initially trained and worked as a GP before "evolving" to full time ordained ministry. Alec is now married to Ruth, and they have baby Zach; Pete is in his final year of medicine in Edinburgh, and Becky half way through nurse training in Oxford.

The Diocese of Western Tanganyika is a partner of Gloucester diocese. The plan is for Helen to join the teaching staff of the Bible College, teaching those preparing for ministry. Alastair will teach English to the students at the college, as well as doing some surgery at the church-run hospitals, and helping with project management in the Diocese.
We will keep you updated on our plans over the next few months and will greatly value your prayer support. Our current prayer requests - and thanks to God of course - will be posted on the side bar.

Friday, 6 June 2014

on our way.....

Farewell to Western Tanganyika
We eventually finished packing, thanks to Daines' help in the house, Paulo in the garden keeping a large bonfire going, and many willing recipients of our accumulated stuff. Life is now in 2 suitcases, and we are having a very much needed 2 days at the beach to take stock. Swimming and sleeping are very healing!
I will post a blog once we are safely home; but then I'll close this blog. Thank you to all who have so faithfully followed our life here through the blog, and for all your encouraging emails, thoughts and prayers. When I say that they have 'kept us going', I really mean it.
Any futureblog - rather than 'sammonsinafrica' -  may be entitled 'sammonslivingaquietlifeinCranham.blogspot.com!!
Sunday 15th June (Father's Day and Trinity Sunday) I will be presiding and preaching in Cranham, at 11am. After the service we will give a short 'slide-show-talk'. (and I hear there will be a glass of wine!).

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Last sermon.... and count down

Last sermon
Leaving presents!
Yesterday I preached at the ordination of the new deacons - a huge service, 7-800 people. My last (?ever?) sermon in Swahili! It was a great privilege as the men being ordained were those I have taught, full time, for 2 years. Preaching in Swahili is not something I will miss, but I will miss the big congregations, the enthusiastic feedback during a sermon, and the opportunity to preach for a full 30 minutes!
We have been attending a great round of leaving parties - so far 6 events including Alastair's 3 hospitals, the Bible College and our local church. We have eaten a lot of chicken and rice, given many impromptu speeches, and received a wonderful  collection of leaving presents, including dresses, shirts, fabric, drums, baskets... - a selection shown in this picture.
Now I have to mark an enormous pile of exam papers, finalise all the college admin.... and there's still no sign of packing!

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

and the Dean came to stay

Stephen Lake, the Dean of Gloucester, has just returned home after his first visit to the Partnership, and in fact his first time in Africa. He was welcomed in full African style, with  local tribal dancing, singing and giving of gifts - there is enormous respect here for 'important people'. Stephen entered into each new experience with enthusiasm - from preaching in the Cathedral at the ordination of priests, to a trip around the local vegetable market. (not to mention staying with us and quickly becoming an expert on the bucket shower system).  
This Sunday I have my last sermon here - at the ordination of Deacons. Our leaving parties and events are underway and will continue apace. Needless to say there's still no sign of us beginning to pack!  We hope to get to the beach at Kigoma for a couple of nights next week before we fly home.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Exam week - and final surgery

Difficult questions!
 It's the beginning of exams for our students, and today 35 of them are sitting an external exam in Bible Knowledge. I have been teaching extra revision classes for 2 weeks, but because it is in English they are really struggling. Exams will continue all through next week, and as 'Academic Dean' its my responsibility to organise everything : buying paper, collating exams questions, ensuring discipline, overseeing the invigilation etc. Therefore not much chance yet for thinking about packing for coming home. However by way of relaxation the other day I used all my scraps of African fabric to cut out a decade's worth of jolly jam pot covers to bring home!

Successful surgery

From Alastair: I am tailing down my surgery commitments as we get ready to leave.  I have one list only next week, and have been looking back over the last two years work. About  700 operations, 40% of them major.  Shunga hospital, where I have worked consistently with Dr Henry Ndege, has the biggest operation  total, but operations by me have dwindled to almost nothing as Dr Ndege has grown in confidence and competence. My visits there are now usually for support and encouragement rather than operating.
Our patient whose femur I repaired by inserting a motorcycle throttle rod  was delighted to have his picture taken standing happily on the injured leg -  now healed, and with the rod out.   
I have also worked a lot with Sister Saba at Kabanga hospital. She is a nun, qualified as a doctor a few years ago. She is very able, good as a surgeon, and has increased her range of operations.
On 30th May, Shunga village sees the celebration of 100 years since the first Christian mission to this area of Tanzania occasion.  We’ll be there with hundreds of others for this wonderful

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Parish Partnerships

St Barnabas and Kimobwa Parishes
We have just said farewell to our visitors from St Barnabas, who were with us for a week, to inaugurate their partnership with Kimobwa church. For Janet, Martin and Sheila this was their first visit to Africa, and we admire the way they coped so well and took such an interest in everything.  We arranged a full programme for them with visits to homes in the villages so as to understand local farming, cooking, economy  etc which is the substance of life here. The special church service last Sunday was a great event with much celebration. This is the first parish partnership between the two Dioceses, so a historic and important day.
Kabanga church roof donated by Painswick Church
This week we were also delighted to see the completion of the church roof at Kabanga, donated by St Mary's church, Painswick. Church building here is so important with the rapidly growing congregations. Most of the building work can be done by the members of the congregations, using local materials and home made bricks. However the roofing materials are expensive and often a limiting factor to villages where there is little or no cash income. So another cause for celebration between our two Dioceses.
Our big news is that our car is back on the road, thanks to Alastair's patience, hard work, negotiation (and expense). It is far from a resurrection into immortality - but should at least see us through the last 3weeks!
Tomorrow is my last time to preach in the villages - my next preaching will be at the ordination of deacons on my last Sunday here, and after that in Cranham.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Vistors and students

Visiting Nicodemus and his family
The pink shirt group!
We are into our last 6 weeks here, which feels extraordinary (when we have time to think about it!) Life continues apace. We are delighted to have Sarah Miller, a clergy friend of mine, to stay for 2 weeks. Sarah has been sharing the usual round of church, college and local visiting with us, and was made warmly welcome when we were invited to the home of one of my 3rd year students, Nicodemus,  and his family. I am enjoying having a teaching colleague, and we laughed at the clothes co-ordination when she was helping a small group discussion during a class on preaching.
At the end of next week, after Sarah's visit, we will receive a group from St Barnabas, and at the end of the month the Dean of Gloucester will come.
Bride price paid
In the other photo is Ruben, one of our students training on the evangelists' course, with his fiancee.  We were at their church last week, and they were thrilled for the opportunity of an official photo together. They will be married in June. However marriage is difficult for young people here as there is still a tradition of bride price that must be paid by the groom, or his parents. Whereas this used to be in the form of cattle, or crops, it is now cash. The 'price' of an educated girl can be up to 2 million shillings (more than a year's average salary). Several of our students are hoping to marry but think that it will be years before they can find such money. It is a sad and difficult situation for many young people who I know.
Post script : Unfortunately the Easter week has not brought resurrection for our car, which has suffered an expensive and untimely death.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Easter Weekend

Easter Sunday Baptism candidates

Cooking Easter Sunday lunch for us
We wish  everyone who reads this a very Happy Easter.
On Good Friday I was  in the Cathedral - which was very full, 600+ people. The service was 3 hours (plus!), including 7 (not so short) sermons of Jesus' words from the cross. I prepared to preach one as I had been asked, but when I arrived found I was to preach a second one as well! Always take a pen and paper to church I've learnt, and be grateful for the choir singing long songs.
Hoping for a resurrection
In the afternoon we had time to enjoy our favourite walk, and a picnic tea,  following the stations of the cross up a hill just outside town.
On Saturday, I shared the baptism of 31 people, adults and children, in our 'home church' of Mwilanvya, and on Sunday - in the village of Rusesa - baptised a further 18 people, adults and children, including some converted from Islam. I'm rather chuffed as I can now do the words of the baptism in Swahili without the book!
The week has been somewhat dominated though by bad car problems, which necessitated a 2 hour  tow back from Matyazo. It's serious engine trouble, and Alastair is trying to get the spare parts sent here this week ('big end bearings' I'm told). Needless to say this is making life more difficult, but we're grateful to good friends who are helping us out.