Our winter landscape is quite different from that in Dodoma. We are blanketed in snow and ice that crunches under our feet ~ an appealing sound and lovely to look at. We learned in a letter from Kate and Iri Mato, New Zealanders who have taught at Msalato Theological College for many years that it is beautiful there now with grass that needs cutting but of course, there are no lawn mowers. Flowers are blooming, tomatoes are ripening and beautiful birds have returned to the land. It reminds us of: “The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.” (Song of Solomon 2:12). We have only seen it in their dry season with little more than dusty paths and barren trees. It is hard to imagine. However, the news from Dodoma was not all happy. After only 4 days of rain in November it appeared the rains were over and another year of drought seemed inevitable, but heavy rains came suddenly this month with reports that in some villages 40% of the homes were damaged or destroyed. One of Iri’s hens was killed when a wall collapsed. Even to lose a hen is a bad loss in Africa. Students will soon return to the college for their next semester and then we will know what villages were damaged. And so we continue to pray for our friends in a difficult country where there seems to be little balance ~ it’s either not enough rain or too much.

Four students from the college came to Virginia where they were guests of the Seminary in Alexandria. We visited them and it was almost startling to see them on our home turf ~ really amazing and wonderful. And for them it was a very moving experience to see so many Americans without work and to hear their stories. We were told that one student cried when one of the ladies in a small spirituality group told her story. They also visited a hospital for the homeless, the Washington Cathedral, the Air and Space Museum and Children’s Hospital in D.C. Since they believed that America had streets paved with gold it is good that they saw our country, as wonderful as it is, still not without problems. Two of the students were flown to states where they have sponsoring churches, one to Wyoming and one to New York City. We have awesome pictures of Stephen Mnubi in Wyoming and of Daniel Fweda in New York ~ one with the Statue of Liberty in the background. It was enough to make us cry. Anna Franklin Smith is going to give us another lesson on putting pictures on the blog on Friday and we hope to send those to you so that you can share in their joy. All but Moses have returned to Tanzania, full of wonder, no doubt. Moses returns today, February 1 and Sandy McCann leaves on Wednesday. We will miss being able to pick up the phone and reach her in Georgia but we hold the hope of returning in July. Who could have imagined the path that lies ahead of all of us together. To quote Moses (not the one with the commandments) although he would have probably said the same thing: “God is great.”

Jessie and Tally