nearly two years in tanzania — an update

You guys know that every month or so I write a work report of sorts to those who’ve subscribed to our email list.  And I usually post a watered down version here on aliens and strangers.  At the end of March, we will have been in Tanzania for two years and — seeing that February and March are going to be extremely busy months for us — I’ve written our “two-year work report” ahead of time.  The next several posts here will be concerning where we are in our work up to this point.  We’d appreciate it a great deal if you’d pray as you read through these posts.


This post will give a summary of what what we’ve done thus far in our time in country.

March – December 2009

  • arrived in Tanzania at the end of March 2009
  • spent several weeks with the long-established Mwanza mission team (who also work with the Sukuma people — and whom we love dearly)
  • discovered Christie was pregnant in April
  • visited a few other mission projects in East Africa to better understand existing works
  • bought a used truck to get us by until purchasing a new truck was possible
  • began Swahili language school in May
  • gained Tanzanian residency in May
  • ended Swahili language school in August
  • attended a Church Planting Movements seminar in Rwanda in August
  • moved to Geita in September
  • lived with the McNeals and Groens in a (small) rented house until November
  • spent November in Dar es Salaam, (anxiously) anticipating Baylor’s arrival
  • Baylor was born on December 4, 2009
  • remained in Dar all of December because of
    • Christie’s post-birth complications
    • and the obtaining of Baylor’s birth certificate and passport

    January – March 2010

    Family and Life

    • We returned to Geita with Baylor in January, and lived in the Kroppach and McNeal houses for 5-6 weeks.  We moved into our (unfinished) house on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day.  Brett left for the East Africa Men’s Missionary Retreat in Kenya the very next day (which was also the first day we had running water in our house).
    • Christie’s parents, along with her sister, arrived in late February to meet their granddaughter.  Brett’s mother and aunt did the same in early March.  It was great to have our families here with us, so they could both meet Baylor and see where and how we live in Tanzania (admittedly, though, we were only figuring out how to live in Geita at this point).
    • Christie and Baylor went to the East Africa Women’s Missionary Retreat in Kenya and, shortly after, Baylor became a legal resident of Tanzania (after two attempts and a short wait).

      Evangelism and Discipleship

      • Brett attempted to preach his first Swahili sermon (ie he was put on the spot and asked to preach) in a village outside of Mwanza.  His lesson was less than 10 minutes long, and he struggled through it, but you have to start somewhere.
      • The Geita team was asked by the Mwanza team to consider “adopting” three of their church plants which are in closer proximity to us than them.  Brett visited one of those churches (Mwakiwasha) for the first time in March.  He shared a couple of meals and worshiped together with them.  He also preached his second “sermon,” keeping his comments shorter than in his first attempt (and therefore his Swahili slightly better).


        • In January, we finally completed the task of raising moneys to match our proposed budget for living in Tanzania.  This was quite a relief.

          April – June 2010

          Family and Life

          • Much work was put into making our house more livable.  Among other things:
            • washing machine
            • deep freezer
            • began using our milk pasteurizer
            • bought and installed a gas-powered generator
            • built a dog kennel
          • We first began having Tanzanians into our home (hospitality is extremely important in Tanzanian culture), and even hosted a couple of parties for large groups.

            Evangelism and Discipleship

            • Our first “Discovery Bible Study” began in Nyamarembo, and went very well (in the beginning).  Edward was our facilitator, and we quickly began averaging 12 adults and a lot of kids.  Brett mentored Edward weekly in how to facilitate the Discovery Bible Study, and the group continued to grow and mesh for a few months.  However, Edward’s work schedule began to interfere with his ability to facilitate.  So we added a second facilitator, who was called away for work not more than 3 weeks later.  The group, though, was beneficial and encouraging to all involved.  We even considered dividing into two smaller Bible studies when numbers remained consistently above 15 for several weeks.

              Development and Service

              • Brett began doing initial research (having conversations with local farmers) concerning the state of farming in/around Geita.  He was also invited to meet with a couple of local NGOs in Kahama and was able to visit a grassroots chicken project in Kakola.  These relationships will likely be of great benefit a little later, and may even serve as models for similar works and projects.
              • We slaughtered and processed our first pig, which made us wonder about the feasibility of raising hogs on the demonstration farm.  Brett began asking around about the possibility of renting or purchasing lands for that farm.  He also began introducing himself to some of the local government officials (probably a little late, but no one seemed to be offended).
              • Christie began her first English class with 8 students.


                • We began raising funds to purchase and have a new vehicle delivered.

                  July – September 2010

                  Family and Life

                  • We continued work on the house about one day of every week.
                    • added kitchen shelves
                    • repaired a few machines and appliances
                    • made and installed curtain rods
                    • leveled the backyard
                  • July was the last month (to date) that we received water from the city.  Still, no one can determine what the problem is and why water is unavailable to our house.  [This has been a huge headache and frustration even until now.  At least 4-6 hours of my work time every week is spent fetching (or arranging to have delivered) water.]
                  • Christie and I celebrated our 6th anniversary with our first dinner without Baylor.
                  • We were invited to join the “golf club” at Geita Gold Mine, which allows our family to eat at a western-style restaurant, play golf, and go swimming on weekends.  This is really a treat for us, and makes living in Geita much more enjoyable.
                  • During this time, we first began to consider ourselves to be proficient at living in Geita.

                    Evangelism and Discipleship

                    • Attendance at the Nyamarembo Bible study began to decline, mostly because of work schedules and travel.  Facilitators were inconsistent for the same reasons, and we began meeting (what seemed like) bi-weekly for lack of leadership and/or commitment.  Brett continued mentoring Edward, but no longer weekly.
                    • Three of Mwanza’s Harding University interns spent a week with us in July, which was a great opportunity for us to invest in possible future missionaries and to think about our team’s future plans for hosting internships and apprenticeships in Geita.

                      Development and Service

                      • Christie’s English class continued to be successful.
                      • Brett continued the search for land for a demonstration farm — without success.  We discovered, in talks with government officials, that the lands we had considered prime area for this farm are not zoned for development work and/or projects.  The properties that are available to us are either in poor locations or way out of our price range.


                        • In July we ordered a new truck (currently still in port on 25 Jan) with funds raised primarily in June.

                          October – December 2010

                          Family and Life

                          • Still doing work on the house:
                            • shelves in our bedroom closet
                            • finally unpacked all of our boxes
                            • installed two ceiling fans
                            • added more kitchen shelves
                            • started having furniture built and moved into rooms
                          • In October, we met with Fielden and Janet Allison in Dar es Salaam for our yearly marriage/family counseling and missionary mentorship.  We also enjoyed a week of vacation while there in Dar.  We ended up remaining in Dar for an additional five days to have Christie’s staph infection treated.
                          • Baylor turned one-year old in December.
                          • We consider ourselves to be functionally or highly proficient in Swahili, but not fluent.  We attempted during these months to put greater emphasis on Swahili language learning.

                            Evangelism and Discipleship

                            • The Nyamarembo Bible Study stopped meeting.  Work schedules and inconsistent leadership were a constant struggle during our time together and, in the end, did the group in.  I realized at one point that, if it were to continue functioning, it would be me holding it all together — and so I made sure the leadership knew I would be present and involved at any study they arranged, but that they were responsible for the group meeting or not.  Not was the result.
                            • Brett went to Bulyahilu village for his first extended stay and Bible “seminar” in a village church.  He accompanied Jason Miller (of the Mwanza team) and did no teaching himself, but participated in the activities and studies with those present.  [I learned a great deal about village culture and life, and am looking forward to doing much more of this in 2011.]
                            • Harding University’s study-abroad in Zambia program came through Tanzania in November with the goal of spending time with mission teams who are functioning in the local language.  Dividing their group between Mwanza and Geita, our team ended up with 11 students and one teacher.  We were greatly encouraged by this group (it’s nice to worship in English with more than our three families), and we hope their time with us was beneficial as well.

                              Development and Service

                              • Christie’s English class is continuing to go well, and she has plans to begin a second class at some point in the next few months.
                              • It looks as if the demonstration farm will be on Neema House property (the orphanage the Groen family is working to begin), though that land is not actually in hand.  This means it will be next December before we “unveil” that area as an educational farm.


                                • Because we’d been settled in our house for over a half-year at this point, Christie and I made a full revision of our budget in order to more accurately reflect our needs and expenses.  We also prepared our 2011 budget which our sponsoring churches have now received.
                                  * Next post: Current Mission Timeline — Harrisons in Geita


                                  Filed under living in africa, updates from geita

                                  2 responses to “nearly two years in tanzania — an update

                                  1. jay @ bethegospel

                                    Keep up the good work man. My wife heard a speaker say one time that God is picky on who He will send to Africa. Thanks for going!

                                  2. Pingback: Starting Out | Five For Togo

                                  Leave a Reply

                                  Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:


                                  You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

                                  Twitter picture

                                  You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

                                  Facebook photo

                                  You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

                                  Google+ photo

                                  You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

                                  Connecting to %s