About eleven years ago, I decided it would be cool to have thatch covering all of our metal roofs so that we would look more like an African village for the American mission teams that were coming every year. Sadly, the American economy took a nose dive and no American mission groups have been here in the last seven years. We’ve had a few Chinese, Australian, German, and even a Swiss group came, so our guest cottages still get used occasionally. We also use them for the sanitation/hygiene, pastor training, and teaching seminars for Tanzanians we have every year. The man who kept our thatch in good repair left us years ago, and it has suffered greatly as there are few who know that trade anymore. Every rainy season, more and more thatch is destroyed and soon there will only be one or two buildings that will still have any thatch at all. It did act as insulation and kept the heat down not to mention the sound dampening during the rainy season. It’s hard to hear inside some of the buildings during a heavy rain, but the rains don’t usually last long, so we can make do. We are discovering almost every day that shoddy workmanship by our original builders and by our thatch man have left holes in every roof and we have found termite-ridden wood holding up the ceiling tiles. Our latest project is to replace the entire ceiling and seal all the nail holes in the school building. Once we took down all the wet and falling down ceiling tiles, we discovered that none of the wooden structure underneath had been treated for termites and was just rotten through and through. Of course, I had paid for termite treatment, but that builder stole several thousand dollars of our construction money and fled to another part of Tanzania. His betrayal was a hard one because he had done several other building projects very competently and was trusted and liked. Still, it’s not like this only happens here, there are crooked contractors and builders everywhere—and good ones, too, I must add. Still, right now we have sealed all the holes in the metal roof of the school with silicone and replaced all the termite-riddled wood with pre-treated wood. The new ceiling tiles are back up (covering the entire ceiling) and the school will be good to go before the kids get back from their break on January 9th. As of today, the job is finished and the school looks great (see picture at the right). The amazing thing is that the whole job cost about $750 and the One Book Foundation (they support our work here exclusively) back in Arkansas paid for the whole thing (God bless ‘em). Over the past ten years, we have had to replace almost every single door in every building (a cheap door that only lasts a few months costs about $10 and a good one that will last a lifetime costs about $50). We have had to rewire our entire house and almost the whole compound to put the right size (and safe) wire in place. When my mother passed away, she left us enough money to put sliding-glass, tinted windows with mosquito screens in every window of our house as well as rewiring our home and several other buildings. This is just part of the experience of this culture and it happens to Tanzanians, too. We’ve not only replaced and repaired almost every defective or sub-standard construction here at Maisha Na Maji, we have also paid to have steel security doors put on the homes of all of our workers. Just last week, robbers waving guns broke into a store just in front of where Rachel lives and they hurt two people in the store, but thanks to the steel door on Rachel’s house, she and her family were all safe. These robbers work in teams and move from town to town, so this doesn’t happen but once or twice a year. They are almost always caught, and if the local people catch them, they tend to kill them. Life can be harsh here. Still, we are beginning a new year, and we have a lot of excitement ahead of us. We also look back on many blessings. 2016 wasn’t the best year for me, but I survived and actually am in better shape than when it started. A whole lot of famous people died this year which reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from Yogi Berra, who said, “Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't come to yours.” Also, since so many really important people died in 2016, the fact that I’m still here just proves how unimportant I really am—at least as the world’s media sees it. The world is full of millions of wonderful, significant, and very important people that are mostly unknown. You know many, though, and you should tell them today or tomorrow that you think they are great people and that you are proud to know them. Wouldn’t you like to get a message like that? So, send one. Start the new year right by acknowledging those people in your life that inspire, encourage, guide, and brighten your day. Do be kind as a way of life. Christ finds that rather pleasing.