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Tanzania: faith of a Christian village in action

Kindness, hospitality and community spirit are flourishing in Tanzania, discovers MAF Logistics Manager Stewart Ayling on a recent visit to Katahe where the South Maasai people live …

Kindness, hospitality and community spirit are flourishing in Tanzania, discovers MAF Logistics Manager Stewart Ayling on a recent visit to Katahe where the South Maasai people live …

“Jarkko, our pilot, finds a hole in the cloud and puts the aircraft into a stomach-churning series of steep turns to bring us back down below the grey blanket of cloud,” begins Stewart.

“Even at relatively low altitude, the airstrip was not immediately obvious amongst the surrounding bush, but after a few minutes of searching, Jarkko spotted the narrow airstrip and could begin his landing.

“Although this is a monthly MAF flight, the arrival of our aircraft still drew a considerable crowd, despite our distance from the nearest town.”

Warm welcome

“The villagers in Katahe welcomed us with fresh chapatti bread and Maasai chai. It’s a fairly unique tasting sweet, milky tea, strongly flavoured by the charcoal fire that it had been prepared over. We were served this feast in the pilots’ hut, a small brick-built structure with a corrugated iron roof. This had four rooms, one serving as a fuel store, one a classroom and then bedrooms for the pilot and accompanying evangelists.

“The hut was built by the local villagers using materials bought by MAF’s supporters. It has proved a blessing to the visiting MAF pilots who have found their quality of sleep greatly improved, which is particularly important during a busy week of flying clinics. The hut has also been widely used as a classroom and as a treatment centre for the region during a recent cholera outbreak.

“Together with the help of the local evangelist, I walked the length of the airstrip to remove the sharper stones and thorn bushes. In the past, MAF’s aircraft suffered a series of punctures at Katahe so it has been important to encourage local people to check the runway regularly to reduce this risk.

“Once that was done it was time for a short trip on the back of the evangelist’s motorbike to visit a Boma village. It was a day of celebration for the coming-of-age of some of the young men, so there were several families gathered together when we reached the Boma [people]. The main ceremony would be later that evening after I had left but I received an enthusiastic welcome, particularly as I had a camera!

“I was taken into the house of one of the elders of the village to meet their family. We sat in the semi-darkness drinking more chai and then the food arrived. Since it was a celebration day, there was lamb, deliciously roasted over an open fire and then once this was finished a plate of rice was brought in.

“As a complete stranger walking into their home unexpectedly, I am always amazed and humbled at the hospitality of the people I meet in East Africa, especially on a day of great significance for them.”

Kindness back in Katahe

“Katahe is very much a Christian village and the faith of the families was highly evident as they spoke. The community built the pilots’ hut (right) and actively supports MAF’s work in the surrounding region by maintaining the airstrip, welcoming and providing for visiting evangelists and medical staff. All of this results in virtually no material gain for the village but they are willing partners nonetheless.

“This year the region was heavily affected by the cholera outbreak. The residents of Katahe escaped the disease but actively supported the use of the pilots’ hut as a treatment and vaccination centre for neighbouring villages.

“After five years of playing a supporting role in Dar es Salaam, it was a great experience to see MAF’s frontline work up close and to see how lives are being changed in the remote Maasai communities. The villagers of Katahe have very little material wealth but the way in which they share the love of Jesus with those around them, through their actions, was truly inspiring.”

As MAF continues to serve alongside villagers in places like Katahe, Stewart witnessed what many missionaries across East Africa see often – that despite simple means by Western standards, hospitality, neighbourliness and selflessness can be found in glorious abundance.

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