Please look around and continue visiting my blog so that I can keep you up to date about everything having to do with my serving in Tanzania ! Feel free to email me with questions and please keep me in your prayers!
Matthew Sroka

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Everything You EVER Wanted To Know About Life In Tanzania

Everything you ever wanted to know about life in Tanzania!
WARNING: Do not attempt to read in one sitting.

Greetings from Bumilayinga!
We are doing well. Africa, especially Tanzania, is a suprisingly
delightful place to live. If all of you could pick up and move here,
I would highly reccomend it!
We live daily pretty much as normal Tanznanians would. Essential we
eat, sleep, and drink like Tanznians. Life of a teacher is sweet.
Each month a teacher recieves a salary and we make the same. For a
University educated teacher the salary is 205,000 schilings! So we
each make roughly 150.00 dollars a month. Yes, we live on 150.00
dollars a month and have a small fortune left over every month! So it
seems that all the teachers here should be rolling in the dough
because even with our excess spending (we eat rice as opposed to the
cheaper alternative of ugali; we are constantly buying lots of fruit a
luxury to the average person, we have hired four students to work for
us and we splurge and eat spaghetti once a week!) we are incapable of
spending our monthly salary in a month. However, most teachers are
either saving for college, or putting their siblings through school,
or sending the majority of their money to help support their family.
Money is interesting because you can live off so little here, and yet
a bag of pasta cost 2500 shillings, we have bought a bike (95,000
shillings) for half of a teacher's monthly salary. It seemed like a
fortune to us yet it has become somewhat of a necessity. Half a
month's salary for a mode of transportation isn't a bad deal. We hope
to buy another bike when we receive our next salary.
So, each morning, during the week, we either wake up at 5:45am
(inorder to make tea or coffee) or at 6:40am. (in order to run out the
door for school.) To start a fire, we either use already hot coals
and add new to it, or use kerosene and a match. Getting the fire
going and hot can be simple, if there is the perfect amount of wind.
Otherwise, you have to fan and fan and fan. (I'll admit Matt does most
of the fanning) It takes about a half hour to get it going if we're
lucky. Then boiling water takes time. Then we have tea! Typically,
people don't eat until 10:30am, tea time, but our home is too far to
leave school and start a fire.
We leave for school about 7:00am, it takes an entire 20 minutes to
walk there, longer if we don't push it. The students assemble at 7:30,
have announcements, and sing their school song and the Africa/Tanzania
National Anthem. Class begins between 7:45 and 8 depending on
assembly. Now, we are entirely responsible for two classes. Preform,
is an intensive English course for thes wanting to start Form 1 in
January. As you probably know, secondary school here is supposed to
be taught entirely in Englsih. We have a total of 60 kids in the two
sections of Preform. There is a great dispartiy in their English
knowledge, so that is a huge challenge. It depends on the Primary
school they attended. They are also supposed to learn basic English
there, but most don't. The curriculum designed by VST is fun and easy
to teach. It is based on the English syllabus from Tanzanian Primary
school. however, we teach many songs and games that the kids LOVE.
Simon Says, the Hokey Pokey, Mother May I, and all the Bible songs
you've ever learned.
The students are anywhere from 12-20 years old, but they all get in to
it. I should mention, in Tanzania, if you are not "chosen" to go to a
Government secondary school, based upon grades, you have no options
except to pay for a private school. They can be millions of shillings.
VST charges 40,000 schillings if you come from that village. (for a
boy) There are discounts for girls. It is less than half of what a
governent school charges. So, many of the students are older, due to
them starting late, because now they have a school they can afford.
So, we teach until 10:20 and then there is a 20 minute break. Women
from the village, and some students, come and sell mandazi, or fried
bread. Sometimes they have sambusa, samosas I think? They are both
delish and are 50-100 shillings. That usually holds us over until we
get home from school, although sometimes we bring peanuts or bananas.
Then we teach again until 2:30. The students assemble again and then
may go home. We walk as fast as possible home to eat! We are starved
in the afternoon. At home we normally have left over rice, with
vegetables, or Old Bay, bread, bananas, whatever.
At 4:30 the students have to go back to school. They do work, like
carry bricks, water, sweep and whatever else needs to be done. At our
home, we have three lovely girls that come around 4:30. They are
excused from school work to come helps us. Two of them, Beatrice and
Atu come to help with household things. Atu normally does dishes,
gets water, washes clothes, and anything else she can get her hands
on. She has a sweet personality, soft, not so good with English but
works without being asked. She just does whatever she sees that needs
Beatrice looks like a swimmer, I think. Skinny but solid. She is
energetic (slightly ADD) and can light up a room when she is
comfortable. She took some time to warm up, but now she is fun to
have around. She can cook almost anything. She makes bread about once
a week for us, and will cook rice and vegetables in the afternoon. We
keep them in "hot pots" and then we dont have to cook dinner. Her
rice is incredible! Much better than we make on our own.
The third girl is Upendo, which means love in Swahili. She helps me
study Swahili, for about an hour each day. She is soft spoken, but
likes to teach. She makes up exercises and quizzes.
All the girls love to play UNO with us. We play in either Swahili or
English. I taught Beatrice how to make banana bread and she thought
it was wonderful, "like cake." They are only used to traditional
white yeast bread. I am excited to celebrate their birthdays, one in
December and two in March. We will try to make cake. For baking, you
have to let the coals burn down very hot, then you take most out of
the bottom, put the bread on, and cover the bread with a lid. Then
you fill the lid with hot coals and keep adding coals to the top to
keep it hot. It is a long process, but there is nothing like fresh
baked bread.
We pay each student 10,000 shillings a month. 5000 for school fees,
and 5000 to them directly. Its hard to put into perspective, 5000 is
more than enough to live on for a monght and yet they probably send
money home to family.
The teachers here are interesting. Already, since we have been here,
we have lost four teachers and gained another 3. Many of them teach
while waiting to be accepted to a University. Two left to go to
different Universities.
School dicipline has been quite a challenge for us. When we arrived,
several of the teachers asked us what we thought of beating students.
We kindly explained that it is not permitted in America, but that
often, a punishment of work might be better. The first week we were
here, two girls were brought in front of assembly and beaten for
engaging in "prostitiution." Not sure exactly the extent of their
actions. They each had to write a letter that was read to the school
with their apologies. Then things quieted down a little. But more
recently, it seems that teachers have been hunting for infractions.
Tardiness, improper uniforms, and not completing assigned work. they
have lined students up several times and beat their hands. It is
difficult to exactly understand the reason that a particular student
is being punished. The language barrier makes it challenging. all of
the teachers I am sure, grew up in schools where they were hit. We
also have to remember that it was the same in America not so long ago.
It is something we are dealing with and thinking about.
After school, in the evening sometimes there is a football match.
Either our team will play another school or the Form 1 students will
play Preform. Recently, we've had two staff vs. student games. Matt
was goalkeeper for both. This is as much soccer I think they will
get him to play. The girls don't play soccer, but netball, similar to
basket ball without the running.
It's been getting dark around 7:30 pm. Pretty sunsets and lots of
stars. We brought a star map for this hemisphere, but havent used it
a whole lot. But we will. In the evening Matt and I usually play a
game or read. Our Kindle has been wonderful. I loaded a lot of books
before we came. We are trading it off between the two of us.
Two students, Merisia and Piusi live near us. Their family owns a
store that we go to often. We charge our phone, kindle and ipods at
their shop. They have solar power. It wasnt strong enough for the
computer, but no problem. Sometimes the students come over and
"study" English at our house in the evening. Piusi has been helpful in
maintaining our bike.
So, dinner. I cannot lie. Our food experience in Africa has been
incredible! Not only have we managed variety, but we really enjoy
cooking and eating all the food we've had. Typically we either make
rice, or Beatrice has already made it for us. Then we cook a
vegatable to go with it. Onions, tomatoes, and garlic are always
available. Alot of times we get greens, like collard greens I guess?
We'll cook them with tomatoes and onions. We both really like greens
and cabbage too. Recently we went to a nearby town, Nyololo, and
found green peppers, coconut, mangoes, carrots, potatoes, and lemons.
Last Friday we had a movie night. We watched Lois and Clark and had
soda and ate pasta! I almost forgot! A few weeks ago we had avacados.
We made quacamole and the best homemade burritos ever. These were like
Chipolte style burritos. They were delish.
Its really awesome to know exactly what is in everything you put in
your mouth. Its all natrual and everythings pretty healthy. Of
course, we have our stock of granola bars, candy bars, and peanut
butter. (Gigi, the root beer candy really hits the spot some days.)
(Dad, the spices you bought us are a lifesaver!)
The time is going very fast. It is hard to believe that its already
November. School goes until sometime in early December we think.
There is roughly a month long break. Part of the time we will go back
to Madisi and the other half we'd like to visit Zambia.
Anyway, we've written a book, and could write several more, but that
should give you a good idea of what life is like. I think that Matt
was made to live in Africa. Its a wonderful thing to see him love
this place. Here, he has the gift oof talking to people, not
necessarily his gift in America. I on the otherhand, am pleasantly
suprised how good it is to live here. I hadn't expected to really
like it. I was more under the impression that I could do anything for
a year. We are blessed to have this opportunity and blessed to fit so
well here.
We love you all and miss you so much. We both feel that we could live
here forever if we could only bring our friends and family with us.
It is a sacrifice to be away from your arms and words, but a sacrifice
necessary for the work here in Bumilayinga.
We love you,
Emily and Matt

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September 19 Update

Hello Friends and Family,

Good news! We have survived (though barely) training! Today, Sunday we had a church service with the other missionaries here at Madisi Secondary School. We also found out where each of us will be moving. We have been placed at Bukimau Secondary School, which is in the same region we are currently, Iringa. It doesn’t seem too far from here, but here, everything is far. So, Wednesday, we will leave with two other girls who have also been placed in the Iringa Region, to be dropped at our village. Matt and I will temporarily be placed in a house in the village, which is apparently directly next to the school, until our house is finished being built. We don’t know a whole lot more about the school other than there is currently no electricity. They are in the beginning phase of building the “administrative building” and once that is completed, VST will provide the school with a generator.

(from an e-mail by Matt & Emily)

Living in the village has been difficult, mostly due to lack of sleep for Emily. We have lived, breathed, and eaten as if we actually live the life of our student. We have practiced teaching an English intensive course that we will be responsible for at our school. It is a course designed to equip students to learn basic English skills in order to continue their education, which is supposed to be taught completely in English.

We are thankful to know of all of you praying for us. Pray that God would be opening the hearts of our students we will meet at Bukimau. Pray that our house will be finished quickly, so that we can “settle” in. Pray that if God allows to have access to electricity, that that would also happen quickly. Pray for travel as all of our team spreads out across Tanzania. Most of them have much farther to travel than us.

Much love, Matt and Emily

Monday, September 13, 2010

Greetings From Tanzania

(taken from an e-mail from Matt & Emily)

Hey Everyone! Sorry we have not been able to e-mail sooner; it has been a crazy few days here. We arrived in Dar at 7:30 and made it through the airport with no difficulties (praise God). From there we drove and drove and drove about 16 hours until we reached Mafinga at 2AM! A very long day! Then we drove the next morning to Madisi, in the Iringa region. We arrived in the afternoon and met our student. We went directly that night to begin living with them. So now we have been living in the village for a few days, and life is very difficult (Emily got bit by rat in the middle of the night. Ah!). We are experiencing the food, language, living, and relationships of Tanzania. So we cherish your prayers, and we are already looking forward to the end of training and being sent to our school. Sunday we will meet with the leaders and be told where we are going. Hopefully at that time we can write again. When we are on the way to our school next Wednesday, we may be able to write and give you a better address to send to and what to expect about email. We have not got our phone working yet but if we do we will try and call. It is much colder than we thought as it is the end of “winter” and will get keep getting warmer. We miss and love you all. We will hope to write you again soon, but as you have already seen emailing is going to be very unreliable.

Love and miss you all,

Matt and Emily

Monday, September 6, 2010

And we're off!

Hello again boys and girls,
Emily and I are now just a few hours from embarkation! And as we get ready to board our flight we cannot help but think about all those who have helped make our serving in Tanzania possible. From the many family members and friends who helped us with events like the car washes, yard sale, and us moving from our house, to all those who have given financially, to all those who have and will continue to pray for us. Let me reiterate that our ability to serve would not be made possible without you all. That is why Emily and I both feel strongly that we are not alone in this journey, but we our walking alongside all of you that have and will continue to support us. We will update our blog as often as possible, and as you read it we would ask that you do not read it detached as one reads a novel of some far off place in some far off land. No, we would like you to read our updates as if you were like Bastian reading The Never Ending Story, not just a bystander but playing an intricate part in the story. Follow our blog, pray for us, write us, and together a year from now we will look back at all the things God has accomplished through our (this our includes you!) willingness to serve.

A couple reminders:

Mailing Address:
Village Schools Tanzania
Attention: Matt Sroka
Box 183
Mafinga, Tanzania

Emails: or

Monday, August 23, 2010

TwO wEeKs

The two week countdown has offically started! Matt and I fly out from BWI at 9:05 pm on Monday, September 6th! We have a layover in London where we meet up with several others joining the VSI team. We then continue on to Dar es Saalam, the capital of Tanzania. From there we load on to a bus for a LONG ride to the village of Mafinga, where we will be training for two weeks. During our training period, Matt and I will each live with a different student and begin to learn and love the African culture! After our two weeks of culture immersion, we will be assigned to the village we will be living and teaching in for the next year!

Matt and I are getting excited as the whole experience becomes more and more real! We have two requests from you all!

1) Pray for the next two weeks-packing, moving, packing, organzing, packing, visiting friends and family, and more packing.

2) Please please please let us know if you have or know someone that might have school supplies or anything on our "schools supplies" page.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Yard SALE!

Hello boys and girls! It seemed like just yesterday we were 2 months away and now we are three weeks away! Ah! No, not 'ah'. More like YAY! We are both very excited to leave, but we are also in the heart of the chaos that is packing up your entire house and preparing to leave the country for a year. Speaking of packing up the house, we will be having a yard sale on Saturday, August 21st. If anyone is need of slightly used furniture, desks, bookshelves, art work, clothes, kitchen items, and a variety of other cool stuff, please swing by our house (268 Waycross Way, Arnold, 21012) on Saturday, August 21st from around 7am to 1pm for our yard sale. Did I mention it's on Saturday, August 21st?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

2 Months to Departure!

We are only TWO months away from our departure date, September 6th, 2010! We will be flying out of BWI (thank you!) and going first to London. We will have a 12-hour lay-over in London where we will be meeting up with 13 other people coming from various parts of Europe and the U.S. We will all then board a plane to Dar es Salaam, where we will be met by a contact of VSI's.
These next two months are going to be filled with vacation, packing, unpacking, packing again, and making last minute plans for our departure!
Some things to keep in mind:
We will be collecting school supplies to take with us! Look at the list to get some ideas!
Friday, August 13th, we will be having a "Outdoor Movie Night" at BEP, mark your calendar!

Thanks for keeping us in your prayers!
Emily and Matt

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

We're having another Car WASH!
Thanks to the amazing success of our first, we've decided to go for round two!
When: Saturday, June 26th, 10am-2pm
Where: Broadneck EP Church, Arnold

Please let us know if your able to come help out, even if its just for an hour!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Thanks to all for making the car wash a HUGE success! We can't thank everyone enough for giving up their Saturday morning to come out and help! Not only were we blessed to bring in a decent chunk of our needed support, we had tons of fun. If anyone would like to help us with another car wash in the next month or so, let us know! Several people in the community were really interested in us having another wash. We can only do it with help.
A special thanks to:
Mom and Dad Thornton
Mom and Dad Sroka
Aunt Gail
Aunt Teri
Aunt Lena
Emily D.
Josh P.
and everyone else who scrubbed, rinsed, or came to get their car sparkling!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Online donation option

Village Schools International has now made it possible for support to be donated online. This is done securely through Paypal.
1) Click "Donate to a Missionary"
2) enter the amount you would like to donate
3) enter your credit card information, or sign into your Paypal account
4) Click "Enter the missionary you wish to support," and enter Matt and Emily, or the

If you would prefer to send support via mail, print the donation form found here, and mail to:
Village Schools International
Box 1929
Tomball, TX 77377

Thanks alot!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Workin at the car wash....

Mark your calendars. We want to wash YOUR car!

Car wash to benefit the Sroka's Mission to Tanzania Fund
@ Broadneck EP Church, Bay Dale Drive, Arnold
Saturday, May 22nd, 9am-1pm
Want to help? email me!

(rain date TBA)

Friday, May 7, 2010

so what about HIV

We all know HIV is a growing, global issue. Worldwide, the number of people living with HIV has risen from around 8 million in 1990 to 33 million today, and is still growing. Around 67% of people living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa. This tragic virus, yes a VIRUS. Normally, when you and I contract a virus, our immune system will fight it off. However, the HIV virus attacks the human immune system itself, the very thing that would normally get rid of a virus.
This epidemic has created a unique situation in regards to orphans and education. Africa has over 14 million AIDS orphans. AIDS is creating a tragedy of momentuous proportions all across Tanzania. There are today more than 1,100,000 orphans, in Tanzania, the vast majority of whom have no hope of ever going to school.
I am a nurse, alot of you know. I see patients with HIV/AIDS more OFTEN than you would think. Sometimes its shocking. In Tanzania, I imagine it will become less shocking, and more the norm. Village Schools has joined with Tanzania providing HIV testing and anti-retrovirals. See what they've been doing....

Monday, April 26, 2010

Beautiful Feet

"How then will they call on him in
whom they have not believed?
And how are they to believe in him
of whom they have never heard?
And how are they to hear without
someone preaching? And how are
they to preach unless they
are sent? As it is written,
"How beautiful are the feet of those
who preach the good news!"
Romans 10:14-15

Well, Matt and I would like to have beautiful feet, and we would like for YOU to make our beautiful feet possible. We have decided that the Lord wants us to be "goers." We want to give you the opportunity to be "senders."
We have thought alot about ways to get others excited about our impending trip. We really desire to share with as many people as possible what we are getting ready to do.
So, if you live in the area and would like either host or come to dinnner/dessert and let us share with you our excitement for our journey, please email us! We would like to open our home to our friends and family in order to share with you our prayer and support needs. (and who doesn't want a free meal!) If you would like to host us, and invite some of your own friends that would be wonderful as well.
If you don't live in the area, but would like to know what we are up to, visit the other pages of our blog, or email us! We would love to send you our support letter!
Emily Sroka

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Beginning...

So, we've started a blog. We want to share all the things we are doing to get ready to make the move to Africa come September. We've come to a unique time in our lives where, with no mortgage, kids, or anything else really tying us down, it is completely feasible and makes sense to take this step. Just the two of us, picking up, so we can serve in Tanzania. So you might ask..."what is it that one must do to prepare when moving to Africa?" Well, I really have no idea. It a learning process. It is a huge blessing that Matt has been before! Although, when asked what he would pack differently, he says, "less." Not exactly what I want to hear, or maybe, it means more room for me?
So, please come back and visit, you will not only know what you can help with, but know what to pray for as we continue preparing for this new chapter in our lives.