Visit to Masasi - May, 2018
A group of 7 travelled in May to Masasi, the remote town in south-east Tanzania (East Africa): Revd Steve and Linda Jarvis; Simon and Cheryl Ritter; Jo Smith; my brother, Mark Cornwall and me.
The reasons for the visit were varied: for starters, this was a holiday, returning to a very special location and rekindling friendships first established 13 years ago; it was also an opportunity to find out how charitable giving from Minchinhampton and the ’Friends of Masasi’ is being spent and how specific projects are progressing; for Jo, it was the start of a longer visit to the country as she travelled on in the third week to Vumilia, Nailsworth’s twin town in the north west of the country; for Mark and me, it was almost like a pilgrimage to the parishes where our father, John Cornwall (Minchinhampton Rector 1959-72), lived and worked from 1932-55 and to where our mother Benita taught. This was Mark’s first visit to Masasi and, indeed, to Africa.
The group was warmly welcomed and lovingly watched over by Bishop James Almasi—an inspirational, proactive, energetic and very “hands-on” bishop. We had left Minchinhampton on Sunday afternoon and arrived in Masasi at about midday on Tuesday, after a 28 hour journey (flights from Heathrow-Paris-Nairobi-Dar es Salaam-Mtwara and road to Masasi). Our accommodation was a simple guest house beside the cathedral; therefore, we were awoken at 6am each day by the Angelus; there followed the loud dawn chorus—for about 10-15 minutes, no more—and then it was fully light and time to get up!
We visited the industrious CMM nuns who live about 3 miles away (one of whom, Sister Magdalene, stayed with our parents in Rodborough many years ago). We were also taken to parishes where our father had been the parish priest—Liloya and Mpindimbi. The church on each occasion was full and, after wonderful singing by the church choirs and the congregations, we were introduced to individuals who had known our parents—4 men baptised by dad; a man taught Maths by mum; another who was taught English by her; a lady who remembered dad from her childhood.
At a village called Lulindi (well off the beaten track or tarmac road), we were shown the church dispensary (grim!) and the special school (even more grim), then went on to Newala where dad was priest for 9 years; Newala (pronounce Nay-wala) is now a separate diocese and we were shown the foundations of the rather grandiose cathedral that is being constructed.
We were glad to have a rest on Saturday from travelling on the rough dust tracks. Instead, we headed for the town (about a mile away) and shopped! Steve was very keen to bake cakes for Pentecost—the church’s birthday—so all the ingredients were purchased from a variety of vendors and, in the afternoon, we set to work mixing and baking (in an exceedingly inefficient oven). Despite all the difficulties, the cakes were very well received the following day by the 200 or so members of the congregation after the 3-hour service in the cathedral (see the front cover!).
Our next outing was the 2-hour journey to Rondo where the Anglican boys’ school, founded by Bishop Trevor Huddleston, is located. As well as talking with the head teacher and other staff, we visited the dispensary/clinic, where Cheryl and Jo were able to use their medical expertise to assess the provision there which has been funded by the ‘Friends of Masasi’. We discovered issues with the chapel there, where repairs have not been carried out very successfully.
Tuesday found us at Chidya where we visited another dispensary as well as the (now state-run) boys’ school where our parents worked (and met). The next morning, we set off soon after 7am to climb Mtandi Hill—a 2-hour trek up and up through thick undergrowth, culmi-nating in a bit of rock climbing!
At the top, we were rewarded with the spectacular view of Masasi, the distant Mkonde plateau and on into Mozambique. Pictured left: Jo with Fr Aiden of the cathedral and our guide, John.
Once recovered (after the 90 min. descent), we went to the school for the blind which is located only about 150m from the cathedral. There are many albino children at this residential school, along with those who are blind; the albinos often suffer sight problems because their eyes lack the much needed protection from the strong sunlight. Cheryl had acquired lots of hats and sunglasses for these children and we also took them some simple musical instruments and toys.
All in all, our visit to Masasi was hugely memorable and rewarding. Without doubt, any visitors from Minchinhampton would be warmly welcomed by these lovely, happy and, for the most part, very poor people. The situation there is very similar to that in Nkokoto (see Rod’s report about progress there) and it is wonderful that a place the size of Minchinhampton can offer support, love, friendship and prayers to two communities where life is so much more challenging than ours.
Baraka, a former Rondo pupil supported financially by the Friends of Masasi, who is now training to become a doctor.
At the Pentecost service in the Cathedral
After the Pentecost service in Masasi.
Ladies carrying stones for the new Parish Office.
Cheryl with children at Mpindimbi.
Shopping in Masasi.