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News for end of October 2002

Tanzania is indeed also a land of variety I have discovered this week. Last week at Kondoa the location for our seminar was dry as a bone. People were digging holes up to 20+ feet deep, at great risk to their own lives, to get small quantities of dirty water to survive on. This week we are over 2000m above sea level on the Mbulu plateau at a green and fertile place abounding in water!

Last weeks seminar drew over 200 people. For three days we concentrated on church leaders, two more days for everyone, and then the closing Sunday Service. The planned seminar for this week at Kiru has fallen through so we came here to help the ex-Bishop to conduct a wedding (which has taken two days). As I write it is 11.15 a.m. and we are waiting for todays seminar to begin. It was due to be at 9.00 a.m.!

The place we are at is called Irak, and the people who have lived here on the Mbulu plateau for centuries are the Irak people who originate from Ethiopia. The normal situation in Tanzania is to find tribes mixed up, but Mbulu here is apparently an exception and extremely mono-tribal. The two problems the Irak people apparently labour under are the widespread practice of witchcraft and drunkenness.

Despite the fertility of their land, on which almost anything seems to grow in the dry as well as the wet season, the Irak people living at Mbulu are incredibly poor. There is almost no money economy at all, so what little exchange that occurs is largely by barter-trade. Walking is almost the only way to get around - an old lady was carried 12 miles up and down hills to the nearest clinic on Friday. Trade with the rest of Tanzania is extremely limited by the steep slopes surrounding these people's plateau. There are no markets to which farmers can take their products!

Please pray also for the many other projects the Church of God here in Tanzania is involved in. The Church of God alone, as I understand, administers about 700 sponsored children (through different Western based organisations). There is a Bible school in Babati (most of whose teachers are my ex-students from KIST!) teaching a three-year secondary level diploma. There is now a secondary school that has been running for about 5 years and a primary school plus a whole variety of other projects administered by my missionary colleagues. There is a nurse who travels widely doing health education etc.

From Tuesday (29.10.02) we should be spending 2 weeks at Singida. This is again a very dry place where water is a major problem. Many of the people in that area have cut down all their trees, through fear of cattle thieves that otherwise crept up un-noticed. This has had a detrimental effect on the ecology of the whole region. Pray also that people will find peace and be able to attend our seminars without issue despite there having been recent problems with church splits.

Jim Harries