I was again reminded the other day how small the world has gotten, thanks to the Internet.

An e-mail arrived from the Rev. John Naumann, who is now living in Dodoma, the capital city of Tanzania in East Africa. If his name sounds familiar, it's because he served for 16 years as rector of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Billings.

I wrote about Naumann and his church a few times over the past several years, more often than not on some facet of Africa. During his tenure in Billings, the Australian native established a connection with a pastor and his wife from Tanzania.

Out of that grew a friendship and then an outreach, to support Tanzanian students who couldn't afford to fund their own educations. Naumann then spent a four-month sabbatical in Tanzania in 2000 and realized the people were in grave need of water.

One thing led to another, and Naumann and St. Stephens, with other supporters, founded what is now the nonprofit Amani for Africa USA Foundation to help fund the digging of deep-water wells, drip irrigation and other types of assistance to the people of that arid African region. Naumann then went one step further.

He decided that, when he retired, he would relocate to Tanzania to oversee the work of the trust. He made good on his promise, retiring last fall and moving to Africa to work with the people with whom he had established a close connection.

He is living at the main 250-acre Amani Center site in Makang'wa, south of Dodoma. The goal of his work and the Amani foundation is to help communities in Tanzania help themselves..

And that brings me to his recent e-mail. Naumann attached a two-page report that details conditions of the Makang'wa/Mvumi region of Tanzania. The picture he paints is pretty bleak.

"The certainty of famine is with us in many regions of Tanzania," he wrote. "There have been some recent scattered rains but these have mostly been very heavy with much of the water running off into the dry stream beds."

Young plants are withering, he wrote. And farmers are beginning to search for food for their families.

"Sadly, more will move to the cities searching for food and work but there is very little to be found," he wrote.

Naumann included a photograph of a starving cow, owned by a farmer who already has lost nearly a dozen of them. In the photo, it appears the cow is grazing on ground vegetation. But those plants are inedible, he said.

"The animals are really eating nothing," and no feed is available, Naumann wrote. "Their mouths seem to be working from habit."

The people aren't to that point, thankfully, he said, and the Amani foundation hopes to help keep that from happening.

One way the foundation intends to help people in that area is by employing local people to prepare the Amani land for planting, using drip irrigation; to build a road; and to construct a water line. The work could be done relatively quickly with machinery, Naumann wrote, "but that would deny many people the opportunity to earn some much-needed money."

"They are very keen and they WANT to work," he wrote. "The local village committee will arrange the workers, spreading the opportunity to earn some money through the village community."

Workers will receive a midday meal and earn about $1 (American) each day. "It seems so very little to us but it will make a great difference in the life of the community," he wrote.

He's hoping to find 6,000 people in Montana and elsewhere willing to donate $7 a week to pay workers, cover the cost of their food and help buy simple tools, such as hoes, rakes and shovels. Donations may be sent to Amani for Africa USA Foundation, 4311 Loma Vista, Billings, MT 59102. For more information, go online to http://amanitrust.homestead.com/amani.

Naumann's heart has been with the people Africa for almost as long as I have known him. Now he's there in body, as well, and hoping for a little assistance to help save the people who mean so much to him.

The Faith & Values column appears regularly in the Saturday Life section of The Billings Gazette. Pastors, ethicists, educators or other experts who would like to write a column about faith, ethics or values for the section, should contact: Susan Olp; Billings Gazette; 401 N. Broadway; Billings, MT 59101. Or call her at 657-1281; fax to her attention at 657-1208; or e-mail to solp@billingsgazette.com.

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