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Manteca church sends 15 to Africa
Gary DaVolt putting chairs together for the school in Tanzania. - photo by Photo Contributed
I was part of a team of 15 people who were sent out by Sequoia Heights Baptist Church on a two week mission to Tanzania in July.  We flew on a 15 1/2 hour flight to Dubai, United Arab Emirates and had complimentary hotel rooms and meals since we had more than an eight-hour layover there.  Dubai is a very modern city with a beautiful airport.  Then we had a five and a half hour flight to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania in East Africa.  To get to our destination, Morogoro, we took a bus that was supposed to take two and a half hours but because of a truck accident on the two lane highway, the ride took five and a half hours.  We arrived at our hotel quite tired and ready to sleep so we could adjust to the ten hour time difference.  Our beds had mosquito nets to protect us from malaria.  We also took anti-malaria medication.

Only one paved two-way road
Morogoro is a poor community with one main paved two-way road.  All other roads are red dirt and have ruts.  Even though driving is on the left side of the road (from the English influence) people drive on the least rutted parts whatever side they are on.  The land is mostly flat with mountains rising up in the southwest.  There are lots of scrubby looking bushes, banana trees and a few gardens with very small plants.  There are no lawns.  Many homes are poorly made.  The nicer ones have a wall around them with a solid gate.  Stores outside the city can be anything from an open air spot with a chair and table or a small building.  Most people walk.  But there are small, medium and large buses that are packed with people (even sitting on laps).

People ride bicycles.  They also carry huge loads on hand carts, bicycles and even their heads!  

Missionary is former ember of Sequoia Heights Baptist congregation
Our main purpose for this trip was to encourage our missionary, Aly McDonald, who met us at the airport.  Aly was a member of Sequoia Heights Baptist Church and taught first grade in Tracy when she felt the Lord’s call on her life six years ago.  She sold her house and left for training. Then she left for the mission field, starting out in Kenya in language school and teaching missionary kids.  She moved to Shinyanga, Tanzania where she taught English to Pastors and teachers.  Three years later she became Headmistress of Morogoro Baptist Primary School.  This year she is teaching sixth grade there.
The day after we arrived we put on a carnival for the school and the neighborhood children.  About two hundred children and parents attended.  We set up booths with ring toss, horseshoes (plastic), tic tac toe, musical chairs, velcro ball toss, face painting, wiffle ball, red-light green-light (which was very hard to translate to the younger children) and Rocket Launching (these were launched by stomping your foot on the launch pad and only went twelve feet high.) We had packed all the games and prizes in our carry on luggage.  Many parents stayed to watch their children and everyone really seemed to enjoy all the activities.

African churches have different traditions
We went to church on Sunday.  African churches have different traditions than American churches.  The people dress in colorful outfits.  Their choirs sing and dance all the way from their seats to the front where they stay awhile.  When they are done, they sing and dance their way back to their seats..  They look like they are hip hopping.  They sing in a call and response fashion using beautiful harmony.  This church had drum background on CD and a man played a guitar with it.  In the other church I attended, they had keyboard and sometimes used a bass guitar along with drums, a tiny set of cymbals and a coin rubbed on a soda bottle.  For the offerings, everyone marched up to the front to place their money in a basket on the altar. Pastor Mark Mahaffie of Sequoia Heights Baptist Church preached a message that was translated.

On Monday, we began our week of Vacation Bible School.  The children had regular school in the morning until 2.  Then we arranged a half hour lunch of meat, rice and potatoes for them.  They sat along the wall outside their classrooms and waited while all were served.  After the blessing they ate together.  For VBS we had about 100 children and divided them into four groups.  Eight of us worked in pairs teaching the Bible story, singing songs, learning memory verses and doing crafts.  We did that for five days.  The children liked the activities.

After teaching, we went on visits to children’s homes where parents had responded they would like us to come.  To get to these homes we usually walked 20, 30 and even 45 minutes on the long dusty roads.  .This gave us a new appreciation for how far the children had to walk to get to school.  Some of the homes were small and some a bit bigger but all the people were gracious hosts and we got to know them and shared our faith.

We also got to present Chapel on Wednesday morning.  The children march in to a small band of two snare drums, a bass drum, a cymbal player and a drum major.  Interestingly enough, when the school got inspected by the government, they got docked for not having a band so they started with the percussion and plan to add to it.  They have acquired a saxophone.  Since I am a retired music teacher, I gave a lesson on the saxophone.

Another project was to put together 30 desks and chairs.  Before we left, we had two workshop days to cut, router, sand and label all the pieces.  Then we packed them into 30 suitcases for check-in luggage, all weighing 50 pounds or less.  This meant the team had to put all their clothes and personal items in their carry-on luggage.  Now that was a challenge!   All of our luggage arrived there safely.  Gary DaVolt glued them together with some modifications.  These desks and chairs will be used for the new seventh grade that will be added next year in December.

Nurse was part of the group
We also had a nurse with us, Beth Davis, from San Jose.  She gave talks in the schools on hygiene.  She also gave out free toothbrushes and toothpaste that had been donated.

Another activity that was done by our team was painting four rooms in the administration building. We painted the walls gray and then painted a foot high black baseboard and white ceilings.  We also used Lyme, cement and water to whitewash an outdoor bathroom building with six stalls. This is their primer so the paint won’t soak in.  Speaking of bathrooms, we got to experience their culturally low to the ground porcelain toilets.

One of our team members is an artist, Sherry Whitely.  She designed four murals to draw on the walls of the Chapel.  Then she and some of the Youth painted the murals.  They all illustrated stories from the Bible:  Daniel and the Lions Den, Creation, The 10 Commandments and The Rainbow after the Flood.  They really looked great!

We also had a small part of our team present a Pastor’s Conference.  About seventy-five African Pastors attended.  They received instruction and help to be better pastors.  It was well received.  Those team members also got to visit a Masai village that was two and a half hours away over badly rutted dirt roads.  They presented the gospel to a small village of twenty and everyone accepted it.  The following Sunday, the Chief and the Assistant Chief rode a motorcycle two and a half hours to attend church in Morogoro.  They would like to establish a church of their own.

In general, the daily food was not our favorite.  We had chicken a lot.  It seemed tough. We waited a long time for meals to be prepared.  (We even heard the chicken squawk like it was being killed for dinner.) We also had beef.  We had tomatoes, cucumber, potatoes, chips, (french fries), potato balls, beans and rice.  We did get to eat out and had garlic chicken, spring rolls, chicken fried rice garlic and salted chipatas (tortillas).  That was good!  Another time we had chicken on the street that was barbecued with a sauce.  That was our favorite!  We always drank bottled water and sometimes had bottled soda.

At the end of the week we went to Mikumi National Park for a Safari.  We went out in land rovers with a “pop top roof” so we could see the animals.  We saw impala, Cape buffalo, warthogs, elephants, wildebeests, giraffes, zebras, crocodiles, hippos, baboons and many kinds of birds.  There were two highlights for this trip.  We came upon a small impala stuck in the mud by a small body of water.  A conservationist and two other men got out of the vehicles and went to help the animal.  They pulled and pulled but couldn’t pull it out.  Then they found a small board and placed it near for leverage. They pulled again.  Finally they pulled him up out of the mud and freed him.  He got up and ran off with a tiny limp.  All of us cheered!

The other major sighting was seeing two lions eating a dead cape buffalo.  The guide said he had only seen this twice in the five years that he’d worked there.  We took pictures and watched awhile.  Then the guide decided to drive by the dead animal since it was on the dirt road.  As we drove between the lions and their “dinner” a lioness took a couple of steps toward our vehicle and growled loudly.  Boy, were we scared!  There were actually four female lions and cubs in the dry grass on the side of the road.  They were camouflaged well.  We stopped a few hundred feet away and there on the side of the road, twenty feet from us, lay a male lion.  The guide told us that the females do the hunting and then the male eats first.  So he was satisfied and uninterested in us.

On our last night there, we met Rusuf Rajab Makamba who is Secretary General of the Ruling Party of Tanzania.  He used to own the hotel we were staying in.  We were all introduced to him. He bought all of us gifts from a man who had set up souvenirs to sell in the hotel. We received wood carvings and he really seemed to like Eric Medina so he bought him two kongas (skirts) too.  Then he asked us to pray with him.

Overall our mission trip was very successful.  We accomplished all we set out to do and more.  Our church has plans to try to send a team every year to encourage our missionary.