Tag Archives: church

Cinema Night on the Hill

NCLC, our church in Mwanza currently meets in one of the local hotels.

However, recently they have secured the purchase of sone land up in the hills overlooking Mwanza. An area where many of their local congregation live. In tine to cone they will start to build a church there. For now this plot of land serves as a venue for a Cinema night.

These periodic events provide an opportunity for the children to play football and then to watch a  film – tonight some cartoons followed by a dubbed version of the story of Jacob. It’s an outreach into the community and some much needed entertainment. Many adults come to watch too as darkness falls in the warm evening air.

We joined them this evening to see what happens.


Today we are in Kampala. Kampala is obviously the Capital City of Uganda and a place we have used as a hub for our visits to Jinja and Murchison Falls.

Today is Easter Sunday and for us as Chritians THE most important Christian Holiday, remembering the death on the cross of Jesus on Good Friday and His Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Kampala is also known in Christian circles as the centre of Watoto Church, home to the Watoto Children’s Choir and it’s Sponsorship Program for underprivilidged children.

When we planned our Uganda Trip we quickly realised we were going to be in Kampala on Easter Sunday – so what better place to visit than Watoto Church. They have several services on a Sunday (8am, 10am, 12noon, 2pm) at a number of locations across the city and we opted for the 12noon service at the nearest centre. 

Watoto Church Building (one of many)

As we arrived we passed through a security cordon – bags were searched and we past through a security screen) certainly the first time I have been frisked going into church but security is tight everywhere in Kampala at the moment – especially those places Western or Christian!

Entering the building we were directed upstairs to the auditorium, the main hall must have seated 1000 and was full. We tried upstairs where another 300+ were seated and squeezed in. The auditorium was enormous.  


Worship was lead by a group of four singers/musicians backed by other musicians and a large choir on either side.  


The songs were all new to us but easy to learn and very much in keeping with the Easter Theme.

Notices focussed very much on the outreach programmes and a collection was taken. The preacher was from an affiliated church group in Canada it was a  very powerful sermon.  The theme Resurrection Power focussed on the commission given by Jesus to his disciples and Christians down the ages, after his resurrection.

People were welcoming and friendly. Though with so many the idea of tea /coffee at the end and any social interCtion was limited. Much of this in such a large congegation occurs through cell groups. This was certainly the largest church service I have ever been to and an amazing way to celebrate Easter Day.  


Happy Easter everyone.


After six months here we have settled into church and attend NCLC which meets just up the road at Isamilo Lodge Hotel. The church is a plant of Newcastle  Christian Life Centre. This church is part of Hillsong family of churches worldwide,and the Assemblies of God locally, here in Tanzania.

The other church plants are based in the North East of England (Teeside, Newcastle and Newcastle North), so Mwanza is a a little off the beaten track!

The Pastor and his family are from the UK, and founded the plant back in 2011. This followed more informal links between NCLC and Mwanza for a number of year.

It was the first church we visited back in September and having tried another church for a few months we started going to NCLC regularly in November. We have felt very welcome there and enjoy the services week by week. Anita has joined the women’s group which meets fortnightly and my daughter has just started helping out with Kids Church. We are open to see in what ways be can be of service in the months and years ahead.

It is good to be part of a fellowship again, having left St Mary’s in the UK, our spiritual home for 0ver 20 years ( in my case 26 years to be precise).

The church consists of about 40 people with many children, there are a good mix of expatriates from UK, US, Canada, Kenya and Ethiopia as well as local Tanzanians.

The worship is lively and the sermons are always thought provoking and challenging ( in a good way). For those who know, is is similar to

Initially there was just one weekly service, jointly in English and Kiswahili, but recently the church has split it’s morning services so that one service is in English (at 9:45am) and the other in Kiswahili (at 11:15am).  For us, although it was good to worship in both languages, it is certainly easier to follow a sermon in English solely without the obvious pause for the translation.

Between the services there is Chai (Tea) and a chance to meet the other congregation. In addition once a month there is a joint Baptismal service in which the swimming pool is utilised as a Baptismal pool. Each month there has always been someone who has wanted to be baptised.

We are very happy to be part of this church and look forward to being so for our time in Mwanza.

Life Lived In Phases

T Minus 5

As we leave Lincoln I reflect that as awesome as the change we are about to make is; it is after all just another move, something I have done several times before.

I was not born here, but moved to Lincoln just before my 7th Birthday. At the time it was probably the most traumatic change, uprooting and moving half way across the country, settling into a new school, half way through the year, with a South East accent ‘Up North’. Nonetheless Lincoln became my home and though I lived here for less than 12 years I feel it is my home from home; partly due to the fact mum still lives in the house.
When I left Lincoln, it was for University and I didn’t move far. Nottingham became my home for the next phase. Another major upheaval as I was suddenly confronted by hundreds of people I didn’t know in a Hall of Residence. You make friends quickly in such circumstances! Nottingham in various rooms and flats and houses was my home for 4 years.
Leaving Nottingham to get a job brought me unknowingly to Milton Keynes, my home for almost 26 years. In that time I have rented and owned property; been single, in a relationship, engaged, married and had kids; worked in four different schools; attended two churches (one of those for virtually all of the 26 years!). As we speak Milton Keynes is the place we call home more than anywhere (Anita lived here a year longer than I although she lived in Canada, Jamaica and Malaŵi for 27 months).
Although this is a phase it has probably been several phases in reality, demarked by changes of job and circumstance.
I think that the longer your in a phase the more dramatic the change is when
it comes. We lived in the same house for 17 years, I have been in one job for 11 years and so the last 11 years has been a phase in itself. Getting up at 6:15am, out by 7:15am and on the road for the 50 min journey for start of work by 8:30am. Returning back home from between 4:00pm and 6:00 pm (7:30pm on Parent’s Evenings). Badminton for me on a Monday; Woburn Sands Band for the others Tuesday to Friday; Saturday Park Run and the Weekly Shop; Sunday Church at 11am. Life has been routine!
Currently we are between homes and have been touring the country, but this short phase is coming to a close and the next phase is about to begin!
Change is happening, more do than ever before but change has preceded it and in the end the new will become the new routine, a house will become home and a new life will ensue.


T Minus 33

Today we will get ready as usual to go to church. We are members of St Mary’s Church Bletchley (SMB) a lively Anglican Church in South West Milton Keynes. It’s a routine which I have followed for almost 26 years. To quote from an earlier post

I came through the door of St Mary’s at about 11am in early November of 1988. I had chosen the wrong service!

I was looking for a lively and engaging service – but found something old fashioned and a little dull. I might never have returned but for a friendly man in a red sweater by the name of Tony. He suggested that I might prefer the 9:45am service as it was more modern than the 11:15 I’d just attended. He gave me a service book so I could see what it was like as long a I brought it back next week.

Of course I did and so started a relationship with the church that has spanned more than a quarter of a century.

St Mary’s is not stuffy, it is not old fashioned, it has a wide range of people of all ages, from a range of backgrounds and cultures. It is not a stereotypical Anglican Church. Having said that it doesn’t completely espouse tradition, thus throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water.

Anita and I were married there, we have brought up family there. We have shared in the ups and downs of church life (no church is perfect!), but we have been happy there. I have taken my share of responsibilities and roles; youth leader, drama team member/leader, sides person, deputy Churchwarden, webmaster, PC operator, volunteer present wrapper for Christmas Food Cupboard, member of the Christmas Choir and above all member of the PCC. Anita has played in the music group and served in the crèche and on the “Sunday School” rota. Matt has helped out with the same.

As we bid farewell to so many friends and familiar faces it is going to be strange and sad. More than any other last we have so far this is the biggest.

We will share a lunch with some of our friends at St Mary’s at the end of the 11am service – it will be a great send off but a “bitter sweet” experience I am sure.

God will still be there wherever we go but we will miss our St Mary’s family very much. It is highly unlikely we will ever be part of another church for so long (as a couple for 20+ years).

Whenever we return (and we will when we come back to the UK) it will be as visitors. Nonetheless the wonders of modern technology will allow us to be visitors from afar throughout our time in Tanzania. In that sense we will always be part of SMB.

Update: It was great to chat to so many SMB folk today and say our goodbyes. It was lovely to share a meal with some of them and to read their comments in cards.
We were presented with a lovely photo of SMB which we will place in our new home – a reminder of the place I have called home for a quarter of a century.


Thick and Fast Lasts

T Minus 35

As we enter the last 5 weeks in the UK the lasts come thick and fast.

  • Today was Anita’s last day at work and Bekah’s last day at school.
  • Tonight is Anita’s last Band Practice for Woburn Sands Brass Band.
  • Tomorrow is Bekah’s last Band Concert
  • Matt and Bekah both did their last paper round today.
  • This is our last weekend in MK
  • Sunday is our last Church Service at St Mary’s.
  • Tuesday is my last day at work

After what has seemed ages – suddenly we are approaching the end. Life is unravelling before us – as it must before we leave but it is a little disconcerting! 20140718-221851-80331620.jpg

the garden outside Anita’s office at the Open University.

That tingly feeling!

T Minus 39

It’s the last complete week at work for me and the last week at work/ school for the others ( I unfortunately have 2 days next week too). As I approach the terminus of my time at Lord Williams’s I am beginning to get that tingly feeling; that nervous anticipation associated with a big event. I guess it’s the fact that from tomorrow I shall start seeing my classes and carrying out routines for the very last time. My office is now virtually clear, barring a few files pertinent for now and some things to be passed on. 20140714-201712-73032802.jpg


This time next week there will just be one morning to go and a leaving speech to give, after 11 years.
In other aspects of we will have said goodbye to St Mary’s, my church of 26 years and other friends locally at an Open House. Change is coming and it’s coming fast!

Last Rites

T Minus 47

Today was my last communion at St Mary’s a church In I have been part of for over a quarter of a century. We are leaving the church formerly in two weeks time as the summer holidays break.

The term rite is perhaps a somewhat old fashioned term for a religious ceremony like communion. St Mary’s is far from traditional. It has been part of my life for almost all of my time in Milton Keynes. It will be really sad to leave in two weeks time.

Communion occurs once a month in the mornings and is a celebratory event as we remember the death of Christ mirrored in the wine and bread consumed and recalling the Last Supper and the crucifixion on a Good Friday. To Christians this is an important event and an opportunity to share as a community. Together with special services (Easter / Christmas etc) and Evening services I must have taken communion almost 300 times at SMB over the years. I have also assisted in the distribution on occasions.

Month by month it has measured my own life. My first communion was as a single man, I have taken communion engaged to Anita, we took our first communion as a couple in SMB at our wedding. We took communion as new parents and as parents of teenagers.
It was sad today to watch and reflect as familiar faces went to and from the communion rail, realising that soon this community will be far away. 20140706-143507-52507121.jpg

Good News

T Minus 75

The following article appears in our Church Newsletter “Good News” today. It’s a summary of the past few months and our goodbye to SMB.


We’re moving to Tanzania!

In a whirlwind of a week in early February I applied for a teaching job, was interviewed and offered that job within 5 days. I had been mulling the job over for a couple of weeks but this job was no standard teaching job.

This job would entail a move…….. a move from Milton Keynes to the city of Mwanza in northern Tanzania.

It would mean moving from my current job in leafy Oxfordshire to a city in the mountains on the shores of Lake Victoria. Moving to Isamilo International School in Mwanza.

Above all it would mean leaving family and friends, a church I have been a member of since 1988 and the comforts of home.


I have long held a desire to teach in Africa – so now I am realising a dream. I never believed that pushing on the door would see it burst open before me. We believe that God has called us to this place and so on 22nd August we’ll be flying out. It’s going to be exciting but scary but we’re all looking forward to it. There has been lots to do to get ready and only 6 months to do it in.

Isamilo is a British Curriculum School catering for children from 3 to 18. the children get free places at what otherwise would be a fee paying school. Having said that the fees for all are much reduced as the school
aims to reach parts of Tanzanian society that could not otherwise afford such education. Furthermore each week, in the words of their website, they run a

“Saturday School, which was born out of a desire to actively help disadvantaged youngsters from the wider community and to share the privileges enjoyed by students at Isamilo. It is run by teachers and pupils who volunteer their time for about two hours on a Saturday morning. They teach English and then run football, basketball, music and swimming sessions for about 150 disadvantaged children and young people. It takes place on the school site.”

This is one if the things that attracted me to the school. My contract is initially for two years but I would hope to extend to at least 3 (allowing my daughter to complete her IGCSE’s and possibly two more to complete  A levels. So this is hopefully a long term commitment.

Anita, as many of you will know has lived in Africa before, having spent two years in Malaŵi in the ’90s. My own African experience is limited to a week in The Gambia. However, last year I spent almost a month travelling in the developing world, through Cambodia and Vietnam as part of a school trip. IMG_2097It is this that rekindled my desire to travel and teach abroad and led me to pushing some doors.

Anita and I are convinced that God is in this and has smoothed the path for us even when it seemed impossible. The children have found it harder and we would value prayers for them as we make this transition. To their credit they are embracing the changes but it’s tough.

We were initially looking to rent our house out although the practicalities of this soon dawned on us – unfortunately rental would not cover our existing mortgage and the lower wage in Tanzania made remortgaging a no go. So we put our house on the market. Due to issues with our solar panels, selling was not straightforward. But God has worked in this and the loan of funds to buy us out of our contract was very quickly followed by a sale. More miraculously, our buyers are looking to rent out our property and have agreed that we can be tenants until August.

The last few months have been spent clearing, sorting, selling and storing so much accumulated goods. In the end we leave in August with everything squeezed into 8 x 23kg bags and any hand luggage we can take on the plane. Everything else has to go.

The next few months are going to be scary and exciting, stressful and exhilarating. We’re leaving behind a house we have lived in for 17 of our 19 years married and a town where between the 4 of us we have lived for 83 years!

We are really going to miss St Mary’s. I came through the door of church at about 11am in early November of 1988.
I was looking for a lively and engaging service – but found something old fashioned and a little dull. I might never have returned but for a friendly man in a red sweater by the name of Tony. He suggested that I might prefer the 9:45am service as it was more modern than the 11:15 I’d just attended. He gave me a service book so I could see what it was like as long a I brought it back next week.

Of course I did and so started a relationship with the church that has spanned more than a quarter of a century.


Members of One Way Drama Team – circa 1990

Morning Star (25a)

Morning Star Trip as Youth Leader in 1992

In that time I have been a Youth Leader, ran the Drama Team, been a steward, was Deputy Churchwarden for 5 years and a member of the PCC for most of the last 22 years. I have worked on the PC at the back of church and sung in Christmas choirs. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with each and every one of you with whom I have served and will miss you all.

Anita served in the Children’s team and in various Worship groups as well as the Drama group and Christmas choir – I know she feels the same as I do.
Being part of church Sunday by Sunday does require time and effort but brings rewards and we would encourage anyone to get involved wherever you can.

The children have benefited from the strong and committed work of the Children’s and Youth teams. We want to thank all of you who have been part of this valuable ministry over the years.

Leaving St Mary’s is going to be hard. We will be having an Open House on Saturday 19th July and we would love to see you any time from 10am until 4pm for a cup of tea/coffee, to say goodbye. Our last service at SMB be on 20th July.

We would love to remain a part of SMB even from a distance. We hope that whether by social networking, email or letter we can keep in contact with you from afar. You can follow our progress by reading our blog https://tanzalongs.wordpress.com

Into Limbo?

T Minus 80

It’s strange to sit in a meeting where things are being discussed which will not be my concern. Such was the case at this evening’s staff meeting. Both agenda items concerned the future of the school, one from September the other for much further ahead in relation to buildings.
I have a view, obviously, but these will have nothing to do with me. It’s a bit surreal as until now these items have been of interest and or impact upon my life. Tonight I sat there only vaguely interested – this was weird. As yet the issues of my new school are still distant, I still have commitments here but I am moving into a limbo period – it’s happening gradually but it’s pace is increasing.
As stated in an earlier post – the same has happened with church.
The sun is setting on my time in the UK.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Split Second Story

A submission to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Split Second Story
Each week of the year my church ( St Mary’s Bletchley) donates, packs and delivers a Food Parcel to many needy families from across the city.
At Christmas we add a gift parcel donated by church members and local community.
This photo is from Christmas 2011 (over 50 families supported), each year there are more and more families referred to us by Social Services across Milton Keynes.


The First of Many Lasts

T Minus 136

Last night was the first of many lasts here in the UK.

I sat at my last PCC meeting. This, for those who don’t know, is the Parochial Church Council, a sort of elected parliament in the church, which helps to make decisions.

I have sat on the PCC for most of the past 24 years (with a 4 year gap in the mid ‘nauties’). I was first elected in 1990 – proposed at the AGM by a certain curate by the name of David McDougall, who is soon return to SMB, after many years away, as the new Rector (small world!) I have enjoyed PCC for the most part – generally good humoured but with robust debate on occasions, people genuinely seeking to do the right thing for God. I will miss it.

As we disentangle ourselves from the
UK, there will be many lasts. In truth some things may have happened for the last time, of which we have been unaware. Others happened before we knew we were leaving. This is the first thing which I can definitely say is my last.

The first of many lasts!

Mothering Sunday

T Minus 145
This morning we are up in Lincoln having travelled up with Mum last night.20140330-100736.jpg

In the UK today is Mothering Sunday (aka Mother’s Day) but apparently they are not the same.

Continue reading


Come and Dwell

T minus 174

Last summer we went to see Watoto Children’s Choir* in concert locally. We purchased their new album at the end of the concert. This song is one of my favorites and listening to it again after securing the job at Isamilo in Mwanza, Tanzania – it seemed very apt. I have listened to it several times since – it has confirmed in me the decisions taken.

The lyrics of the chorus (as best as I can make them out) are as follows

Come and dwell in this place, you’re welcome, people of all the earth, you’re welcome, you’re welcome

Come and dwell in this place, you’re welcome, people of all the earth, people of all the earth 

*Watoto Children’s Choir is an African children’s choir based in Kampala, Uganda, at Watoto Church. It is composed of about twenty-two children from Uganda. Watoto means “Children” in Swahili language (source Wikepedia).

Below is the official video for the title song on their album “Beautiful Africa” (Link to UK  iTunes) another favorite of mine.


T minus 183

There are so many preparations it’s sometimes difficult to decide what to do. It’s a bit of a juggle.

Yesterday we had valuations on the house which are encouraging, however we play things in the future. The market is moving apparently which means it’s to the advantage of sellers. Even so the rental market is holding its own – so there are plenty of tenants wanting properties.

The car is a bit of an issue as (in a different world) we bought new in the Autumn. We’ve probably lost money. We could have done with keeping the old one which was on a three-year lease expiring in May. It can’t be helped, but it’s annoying.


Once in Mwanza we would ideally like a car as with a family of 4 it might be a challenge otherwise. Cars tend to be much older, a little pricier than UK equivalent, but hold or gain in value apparently. We need to be able to fund this and many other things in the coming months.

Also yesterday, I spent some time filling in Forms – though some of this was impossible to do (needing clarification) and a need for new passports (see below)

The kids need new passports and we need to get those sorted today. A bit of a chore as we can’t find Bekah’s. The replacement needs us to get her identity certified which was luckily accomplished due to seeing friends yesterday one of whom is a teacher (funny that!). Also Matt has changed so much since he was 7, that he needs to have an authorised photo too! We are seeing the same friend this afternoon (thanks Rowena!).


On other fronts we are looking to see what injections we will need and have therefore booked appointments at the local health centre and with a MASDA clinic. Luckily for me (Graham) I had a number of injections for Cambodia / Vietnam which should cover much of what’s needed.

Angkor Wat

The Head at Isamilo has helpfully sent a couple of links to international Churches in Mwanza ( Newcastle
Christian Life Centre and Mwanza International Community Church) and I have looked at their websites and Facebook pages. They both look fine and we will be wanting something which has a western flavour and with a good youth program with a good mix of expats and nationals. On first glance these both look fine – surreal that one is a branch of a Newcastle church. We will need to do some more research.

On the clear out front Anita is working on the Lounge and Bedroom cupboards (a bigger job than it sounds) and compiling a list of ‘must haves’ for Mwanza.

The kids both have paper rounds and the weather is sunny and dry (a rarity in recent months).


Even so I have a pile of marking to do (it’s electronic,  it’s actually a virtual pile! ;-D ). Nonetheless I must stop tinkering and get on with it.

For now life in UK has to continue too!