I returned to America on Friday (The title means “I have already returned here to America”), and I want to tell you about the work we did over the last seven months. I’ll try to tell it like a story, but I imagine it will feel more like reading only the opening pages. It feels the same to me. We’ll write a few more pages together after I return in March 2017.
Once I finished Swahili school in mid-July, I started visiting the church leaders and their families as much as possible, hoping to learn what their lives are like, hoping to see how they think, and hoping that we could come to trust each other.
On August 2nd, we started doing a weekly asset-based community development program. This program starts by explaining why the church should care about material poverty, then encourages the churches to build relationships with the community, then helps them identify the resources they already have, then teaches them how to make an action plan to mobilize these resources (For a case study, see Ishishangh’olo or 3272-ccm-case-study-tanzania). As the leaders began to see their responsibility to alleviate material poverty, we brought in Henri Kanyumi, a Tanzanian pastor who has been doing development work with the churches in the Mwanza area for years. He taught them how to start savings and loan groups.
From the beginning of September until mid-October, the churches searched for group members, and then started saving together. In early November, so many wanted to join the group at Lumala UMC that they decided to split into two groups of twenty members each.
Through this period, I continued to visit the church leaders as often as I could, for the reasons listed above, but now with the added motive that it helped me to casually monitor the groups. Around this time, I started to see that many of these folks were less interested in being friends than I had hoped, and a lot more interested in what I could give them directly. This has intensified as the months have gone by, making me increasingly thankful for one Tanzanian family who have been consistent and faithful friends. Here I am with them: Zach and Benna Ouko and their daughter Nereah.
Around mid-October, we hoped to build the shed and water source for the brick machine project, though we could not afford the machine yet. We didn’t want the site to sit unused for several months, so we asked the church to start a project that would make use of the shed and water until we got the machine. The church made a plan for a garden project at the site, but it was clear that the church expected us to fund and manage the garden. We explained that this wasn’t the case, and that their plan needed to detail how it would be funded and managed. They made a new plan explaining the management but not the funding, so I told them they needed yet another plan. By the time we finished the final plan, it was time for me to leave, so we decided not to do the project.
We have seen the setting and rising action, and even in spite of the challenges, we have a good plan for the next year. I am looking forward to continuing the story in March.
I have tried to keep you informed about our work, but I would love to meet with you, explain more, and answer your questions, now that I am back in America. I will be living in Mobile, but will visit Montgomery, Auburn, and the Wiregrass often. I am looking forward to sharing with you, friends.