Looking back over the year, we’re all looking through COVID spectacles, plans cancelled, zoom church, social distancing etc. We know we had a very different experience here in Tanzania than many of our European and American friends. We thank God that the pandemic has not affected Tanzania in the same way as it has other countries around the globe. No lockdown has meant the normal day-to-day life has not really been affected, but other things, more lifestyle things have been.
In March, my Dad (Phil) was visiting us just as everything was kicking off. We went ahead with the annual swim gala while Dad was here, but it was the last activity for a while. Soon schools and colleges were closed, and we allowed our domestic and EI staff to stay at home. But by July the local schools and the children’s swim club re-opened and over the following couple of months, most things in Tanzania were back to normal. We have not heard stories of over-capacity hospitals or people dying on mass. It’s difficult to know exactly the extent to which the country is affected, but we feel safe and continue with our work here, pretty much as usual. We know all the fresh air, outdoor lifestyle and hot sunshine play a big part in keeping virus levels down.
The thing that affected us most as a family (other than having to do so much more cleaning and washing up with our staff staying at home through the long dry, dusty season!) was that we had to forgo our summer furlough(!) to the UK. We all miss our extended families, especially the children, who haven’t seen their Granma or cousins for over 2 years. And to be honest it would be nice to experience a few of the treats that being in the UK brings!
We continue to be amazed by God’s provision. We’ve never gone without things that would cause us to struggle. My biggest worry with moving overseas would be lack of books for the children, especially with one of them being such a bookworm. But we have never been short. Even without travelling to re-stock this year, we have never been short of books, either borrowed or bought from departing missionaries! We thank God for hard working grandparents who have scanned and emailed much of the kids’ curriculum.
In February we will have been here in Tanzania for four years (yikes!). It has been noticeable that fewer work permits have been granted to longer-term expats recently, with many, and pretty much all of our longer-term friends here having either already left, or leaving by the end of this coming year. We ourselves are preparing to submit our next application and are aware that it’s likely we will be given one final year without opportunity for renewal. Over the past four years we’ve become very settled into life in Tanzania, so it’s hard to imagine leaving, but we are open and prepared for whatever God has in store for us, whether it’s to stay or leave.
The EI Tanzania team lost two missionary families this year, the Van-Woerdens left Iringa in January, and the Mongers in July. This has meant the missionary responsibilities and workload has been shifted around. Our Iringa colleagues now have no missionaries to support day-to-day tasks, so we try our hardest to support remotely from Mwanza. Physical visits took a knock with our COVID policy preventing travel, but we have been meeting every week via zoom which has really been a blessing to all the team. Joel has taken over as Tanzania director and Simon now oversees the finances (not a small task!)
Training consumes a lot of the time of the work that we do here. I think historically more people went to low-income countries to do jobs, whereas, especially in countries like Tanzania, which have shifted to middle-income, the focus is more on imparting as much training as possible and developing skills in the local staff, so that one day they will be able to continue the project without the need for foreign staff. We have recognised this shift and our focus this year will be to invest heavily in our national staff.
It’s been great to see Emmanuel, our Kome Island field officer, grow into his role this year. He has thrown himself into the work of sanitation promotion on the Island. He is fantastic at creating rapport with the locals and has committed himself to the task of educating as many people as possible about sanitation approaches and distributing SaTos, a simple toilet improvement device.
The pandemic also provided opportunities to encourage good sanitation methods at a time when people were extremely receptive. We also saw how many of the approaches people have understood, and are able to use when they have the right motivation. Unfortunately a lot of the behaviours have returned to pre-pandemic normal, as worry about the pandemic has subsided, and communities haven’t fully grasped the benefit of sanitation methods for general good health.
We plan to travel to the UK for a couple of months in the spring, when hopefully restrictions will be freeing up a little bit. We’d love to be able to travel around and visit different churches, but it’s very difficult to predict what rules will be in place at the time. If we can meet up in person that would be great, but we did feel really well connected through the summer months when we were able to attend zoom church meetings at several UK churches. What a treat to see inside the homes (via webcam) of many of the church congregation who support us as a family. Thank you to all who involved us during those meetings!
We’ll be starting an email newsletter in the new year, which will allow us to share things on a less public platform. If you’re interested in receiving these updates please drop us a quick email at contact(at)theewings.uk and we’ll add you to the list.
We appreciate all the support again this year. We know that we wouldn’t be able to continue the work here without those of you who give regularly, pray with and for us, and stay in touch to help us feel connected to everyone in the UK. Thank you!
Here’s a new year verse for all of our friends who have had a rough time this last year in one way or another:
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.