Ben and Katy Ray link letter no.20 December 2018

Dear friends,

Season’s greetings to our dear and faithful readers! While we write, the Neema design elves have been busy making last minute tweaks to fresh products for the Christmas markets. Together with Katy, Dominique (our French designer) has developed a whole new range of prints and colour-ways for our home accessories range, designed new leather bags and developed some truly beautiful wooden decorations. At our markets this year, we’ll also be displaying the first of our furniture range alongside some exciting lighting options.

With Liz, our new volunteer for the office, and Dom, our designer

Our furniture construction, which happens mostly outside, has been a little impeded by the blessing of the first torrential rain storms of the season. While the arc welder has flashed and popped, we’ve been surrounded by flashes and rumbles of the gathering storms. We have tentatively continued and hoped a stray bolt won’t supercharge our efforts.

Grace with some new wash bags

Falling in love

The other day I (Ben) was retrieving something from the car and as I stepped out backwards, I felt I was about to roll my ankle. I instinctively fell backwards, not realising there was a sharp step directly behind me. What followed was all caught on our CCTV camera and would make a hilarious “You’ve Been Framed” video. Having smashed my coccyx against the step, I jumped around for about a minute from the pain. I then felt myself going into shock and lay down in the dirt. I was found by a couple of our deaf staff who came and tried to get me back on my feet. I walked with them for a bit before totally passing out.

Fortunately, the guys either side of me were strong enough to carry me to Mim’s therapy room where I came around. As word spread, most of our staff came piling into the small room to check I was okay. A couple of Tanzanian visitors doing a tour of Neema also rushed in and started taking various items of my clothing off! Mim promptly put a stop to this and sent the crowds back to their chai break. After a coffee and cinnamon roll, I was back to my normal self again, praise God.

It was so touching to see so much concern for me through this experience. Everyone kept asking me if I was okay and told me that they had prayed for me. In staff prayers that evening, two of our older female tailors told me how they had cried out to God “Why Lord?! Why have you done this to Benja? You can’t take him away, he needs to carry on his work with us!” And then when they saw me walking around fine again, they said it was like the story of Dorcas in Acts 9 who was raised to life again. Thanks to their prayers, I was playing touch rugby again the next day. God can use even a painful fall to bless and encourage us!

Julius outside his new home

The gift of helps

In our local church, Iringa Christian Fellowship, we have been reading and learning about the spiritual gifts God gives to his children. We have been so blessed to have two very gifted people come to our aid this week. Bibi, Ben’s mum, has come out to help us with the children while we get ready for the busy Christmas season and Liz Hansford, our new volunteer, has also arrived from the UK. You may remember we sent out an appeal for a volunteer to help me (Katy) in the office with the orders process and administration. We were greatly encouraged to hear back from our friends at St James’ Woodley, to tell us that Liz might be able to come out. She has been with us for a week so far and already we can see she has the spiritual gift of helps. Praise God for servant-hearted people like Bibi and Liz and pray they get back from their experience just as much as they give.

Netusta, our office manager

Holy water

Every Monday morning from 7.30am, our staff gather to start the week with songs, a short homily and prayers for the week, led by our chaplain Yared. This week when we were deciding on what to pray for, I felt inspired to encourage our staff to pray in faith that their new homes would be connected to the mains water supply, so important for our physically disabled staff in particular.

The local water authority have been given a grant by a large NGO to connect new homes to the water supply for free. We were delighted when we heard about this back in June, but having said the connection would begin shortly, by November we had started to lose hope. However, less than two hours after we had all prayed, Haruna our project manager arrived to tell me that the water authority wanted to start work that day and would connect all eight homes on one site by tomorrow evening!

Retreat to advance

Having gone through some tough times back in September, when four of our staff had to move on from their work at Neema, we decided it was time for the Neema team to get away for a weekend retreat. So back in mid-October, we were able to take 75 staff members away to a beautiful campsite/retreat centre called Masumbo. Here we learnt from Pastor Joshua what it meant to be children of God and had some wonderful times of fellowship and relaxation. Some of the highlights for us were the team building games we played and seeing everyone letting their hair down, swimming in the river, learning to dance with Athuman and playing games until dark.

On retreat with Fortunata and her daughter

Zacha-monkey writes…

“I’m going to be five just two days before Christmas did you know? That’s the same age as my friend Mario and it means that in January I’m going to start at the International School, where he goes. Talking of Marios, my favourite thing to do right now is playing Mario Kart.

“Our friends gave daddy a computer game and I now usually beat him at it, even on 200cc and I’m still only four! Mummy and Daddy make sure I only play four races a day; the rest of the time I love painting, making my Lego models and racing around on my cousin’s bike which she left for me when they came in the summer. It’s a bit big for me because she’s eight, but it’s fine once I get going.”

Lessie-boots writes…

“If it was up to me I would only wear my yellow wellies to school, nothing else! Clothes and sun-cream are so impractical. Wellies, on the other hand, mean you can romp about in puddles after you have sat for a fascinating half hour watching the rain fall and the lightning flash across the clouds. Yes, I like wellies, and rabbits.

“Whenever I’m asked what I want to thank God for, it’s usually rabbits. It might be because sometimes I am actually a rabbit. I tell my Mummy and Daddy not to call me Alessia anymore, but “little rabbit” or sometimes “doggy”. I can imagine I’m anything, especially when there’s music on and then I’m away, dancing and spinning into whatever I want to be.”

To end this letter, thank you all for your support over the past year and we pray that you will all have a lovely Christmas and New Year, and know the love of Christ at this time.

With lots of love

Ben, Katy, Zachary and Alessia x



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