Brathay Exploration Group visit to the Bethany Project, August 2005
The Bethany Land Rover and Landcruiser rolled into the car park of the campsite. It was a welcome sight! After a pretty nightmarish end to our safari through the Serengeti National Park, there was something comforting about dealing with English people again! Graham and Elaine Earnshaw had driven (from Bethany) with Paul to pick up our team of eighteen from the Ndabaka Gate. We had been in Tanzania for about two weeks, climbing both Mount Meru and Mount Kilimanjaro, before going on safari. In order to give something back to the local community and to get to know some of the Tanzanian people, we spent a few days helping at Bethany.
When we arrived at Bethany, we were greeted by some of the children. Most of the older children were still at school but the younger ones took us by our hands and showed us around. I was amazed at how friendly, loving and welcoming the children were. After supper, we went along to the pumzika for worship and prayers. It was a real treat to see and hear the children dance and sing. We introduced ourselves to the children and they asked us questions. The star question came from Emmakulatha, who asked, “What’s your favourite thing in Tanzania?” We had an early night and were privileged to be the first group to sleep in the newly-built girls’ dormitory block. It was a real luxury to be able to drink water straight from the tap, as we had been drinking iodinated water for the previous two weeks!
We had some lovely fresh rolls for breakfast. Most of the children were at school but there were a few children off school and five or six children who had not yet started school. We spent the morning with them, making animal masks out of paper plates and playing games. This was a great opportunity to teach them some English words and we soon learnt the Swahili for most of the animals we had seen on safari!
The children came back for lunch. The younger ones did not have afternoon school so we played games with them and made more masks. At about 4pm, we organised a game of Kwik Cricket on the field, using a big stick as a bat and some large water bottles as stumps! Playing cricket in a kanga proved to be quite difficult! I can’t imagine how women used to play tennis in long skirts!
In the evening, we put on a drama of Noah’s Ark for the children, which they really enjoyed! I taught them some action songs, including “Great, Great, Brill, Brill” and “Our God is a Great Big God”. It turned out that some of the children already knew the songs and I was quite taken aback when they carried on singing once I’d stopped!
We put on a sports day for the children. We divided the children into four teams and drew up a score-board. The guys had organised some crazy races, including a sack race, stone and spoon race, three-legged race and “carry the leader race”! It was a real joy to see Nyangeta (who was on my team) doing her best to take part in each of the races. We had to cut short our plans, as the weather became extremely hot and sunny and people were starting to feel ill. Our team spent some time planning a drama for the Sunday morning service (Peter and Jesus walking on water).
During the afternoon, we went to watch and support the Bethany children playing football against a local team. Hamish and Alex made guest appearances on the pitch and did well to survive the heat for so long! In the evening, Graham and Elaine showed the children all of the photos that had been taken during their stay, using their laptop and data projector. I was beginning to doze off and ready to go to bed when they put the Disney cartoon of Tarzan on for the children. It was a very fitting film, given that we had just come back from safari ourselves! The children really enjoyed it and seemed to be able to understand what was going on!
Sunday was our last day at Bethany and I was sad to leave. We went along to the Sunday morning service. We sang songs, said some prayers and the choir sang for us again. We then did our drama for the children. Some of the older children played the parts of the disciples in the boat.
I had been asked by one of the Tanzanians to give a talk at the service. Elaine and Graham said that I was under no pressure to do so and that if I was meant to do it, God would give me the words to say. Sure enough, God provided me with a message for the children and for each member of our team. Julie followed on with a personal testimony and Angelina said a prayer in English. This was a real answer to prayer, as Julie and I had been praying for opportunities to tell the others in the team about Jesus and share our faith with them. It was also a real blessing to have Graham and Elaine there to support us and pray with us.
After many photos around the Landcruiser, it was time to go. Graham and Elaine drove us to Mwanza and from here we flew back to Dar es Salaam, where we spent a few days on the beach and sight-seeing before flying home.
We had great fun looking after the children, organising activities for them, helping them with their English and making friends with them. However, as much as we could give, we probably gained more. It was a real privilege to spend a few days at Bethany. It really is a unique place, filled with God’s love and surrounded by a very special atmosphere, in which tears of sorrow are replaced with tears of joy.
Report written by Ms Sarah Maidment (member of the Brathay Group)