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Saturday, July 9, 2016

A note to our Tanzanian friends

We will use this blog to publish the dates for 2017. Once the dates are firm and we know the doctors that God will send in 2017,we will post that information here. So keep checking back!

Pictures of Mikumi

Work is done, we are now tourists

With our work at Mazimbu completed, we are now tourists for two days. Today we woke before dawn for the 2 hour ride to Mikumi National Park for our safari. As we approached the park, the sun was just rising over the splendor that is Africa.

Everyone that tours Mikumi must do so with a guide, who is an employee of the park and is well trained about the animals, birds and plants that might be encountered. Ibraham hopped aboard our bus and announced that our first stop would be outside the park. Lions had brought down a zebra earlier and were near the road, still feasting on their meal.

We pulled to the side of the road and were amazed to see a pride with two male lions, two very young cubs and 4 females (or juvenile males) about 150 feet from our dala dala. The cameras clicked away as we watched the lions mingle with each other, readjusting their position for their breakfast. Meanwhile, the cubs did what any youngster does—with their bellies full their attention strayed and they began playing and pouncing among the pride.

Ibraham explained that in Africa it is considered good luck to see one lion, even better luck to see a pair, and the best luck of all to see a whole pride with cubs. Later, when we told others what we had seen, they agreed that the sighting really blessed our final day together. We stayed parked by the lions for more than a half an hour, fascinated with the sight.

Entering the park, we slowly bumped over the uneven dirt roads, moving from one area of the park to another. The guides communicate with each other using their cell phones so if animals are spotted in one area, other tours will be able to move for a good view of the animals.

After the lions, we saw giraffe, zebras, cape buffaloes, elands, impalas, wart hogs, hippopotami, crocodiles, baboons, monkeys, mirabou storks, saddle billed stork and so many others. Although we can say we saw elephants, in truth it was just one family group, and from such a far distance we could only see vague humps over the grasses.

Our safari ended with breakfast at the lodge. We sat at an enormous tree-slab planked table overlooking the vast grasslands of Mikumi. As with all of our meals out, it was a very leisurely affair so it was after one pm before our bus began the return back to LJS. Before too long heavy heads began bobbing to make up for our early morning wake-up calls.\

We are sitting now at a lovely restaurant, waiting for our dinner. It is our last time to be together. The Houcks—Pastor Sally, Dr. John and David—head north tomorrow morning to meet family for a safari in Ngorongoro. The rest of the team is off to Dar es Salaam to begin our long trip back to our families and friends. These two weeks have been meaningful beyond words for us as we have worked with, served, and loved our Tanzanian brothers and sisters. We all want to thank our families, our friends, our churches and our prayer partners for your support.

Until next year, we bid this enchanting land kwa heri.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Sights of Tanzania

Final Week at Mazimbu

Our final week at Mazimbu is normally busier than the first week, a pattern which is repeating this year. The first week is busy with the initial consult with patients. By the second week, lab and other diagnostic tests have been completed on those earlier patients and the available slots for surgery are booked.

Surgeries this year have seemed to swing back and forth between Dr. John and Dr. Swai. Monday’s surgeries were predominantly gynecological procedures, so we were not able to register any new gynecological cases. But Dr. John was in his office all day so many new, non-gynecological patients were registered. The reverse was true for Tuesday and Wednesday. This makes things a bit tricky for Courtney and Pati, who have been manning our registration desk. The team must manage the line of hopeful patients so that we are able to register patients for the doctor that is holding clinic on that day. The others are given numbers and asked to return another day. The number will give them priority to the front of the line.

Tuesday’s schedule was so full, we knew we would be at the hospital late in the day. Dinner at LJS is served promptly at 6 so we opted to eat at a restaurant, the Arc Hotel, where we arrived at 7:30. A table for 19 was set up on the patio, where we enjoyed a wonderful view of the sunset over Mt. Uluguru.

Dinner for a crew of our size takes quite a while so it was after 10 when we arrived back at LJS—way too late for a team meeting. Today, Wednesday, we have five surgeries scheduled so, in anticipation of another long day we are going back to the Arc but this time we have pre-ordered, hoping to shorten the time needed for our evening meal.

Our lunches at the hospital have improved this week. Dora is a woman we met on Friday that brings home-made goodies to Mazimbu for the staff to purchase. She agreed to cook our lunches and bring the food in for our convenience. And she takes requests! Today we asked for the Tanzanian version of fast food—sambosas (fried, meat filled or egg and meat filled pastries), kababu (minced meat balls rolled in bread crumbs and fried), kaukau (vegetable filled pastries), rice, peas, pumpkin greens and bananas. This was so well received the team has asked for the same dishes to be prepared for us for tomorrow’s lunch!

Thursday and Friday are fully booked with four surgeries each day. Our clinic visits will end at noon on Friday to give the team the afternoon to wrap up. We must give an accounting to the hospital of the patients we treated and the medical supplies and medicines we leave as a gift.

We hope to post again after our safari to Mikumi national park on Saturday.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Movie of processional with Bishop Mameo and Pastor Sally

Pictures from Kambala

Worship in Kambala

Bishop Mameo’s home is in Kambala, a two hour ride from Morogoro. He has built a lovely house here which will be his home when he retires.

All fourteen of us were invited to the village to worship. And Pastor Sally was invited to preach at Sunday service.

We arrived early enough to have a quick tea at Bishops house, hosted by his wife, Rose. Three of his four children were also there. Sayoni, an older teenager, helped with some translating. And thirteen-year-old Evelyn was kept busy chasing after her lively two-year-old brother, Edwardi.

From his home, we were driven to the church where we were introduced to the women of the village and the pastor. A troop of young girls carried narrow benches into the pastor’s house in preparation of a second tea, this time including delicious mandizi (donuts,) to sustain us for the two-hour service.
After our tea, the girls swarmed back in to retrieve the benches, which double as church pews. 
Shortly after we heard the summons to service, which was a church elder using a metal rod to strike a metal pot hanging from a tree branch.

Our bench seats at the front of the church gave us the perfect view of the church processional—two deacons, followed by the pastor of the church with Pastor Sally, and finally Bishop Mameo, in all his bishop finery, brought up the rear.

One of the highlights for us in Masai worship is the choir and today was no exception. The group of young girls gave us several songs, accompanied with traditional Masai dance moves, as our toes tapped in time to the music.

The worship was in Swahili and Bishop Mameo translated the important parts for us. We had just a couple of Swahili hymnals so were able to sing along with a few of the hymns. One of the hymnal tunes was familiar—after a few strains we recognized the familiar tune of Blessed Assurance.
Pastor Sally preached today on the Prodigal Son. Her sermon was in English, translated to Masai by Bishop Mameo. Sally was able to draw parallels between America, Russia and Tanzania that made the sermon very personal for the village, Bishop Mameo said that the villagers would be talking about her sermon for months to come!

After church was finished, the team was happily surprised by several village women bringing out hand crafted jewelry. To say their wares were very well received is an understatement. Today their inventory was severely depleted!

Finally, our day ended with lunch, once again on the “church” benches inside the village pastor’s house. Rice topped with stewed beef chunks and beans and a side of fried beef were the order of the day. Afterwards, realizing we needed toothpicks (the typical end to a Tanzanian meal,) the pastor rushed out of the house. After a few minutes he came back in with a twig from a local bush. This is the same bush that is used to create a pen to keep in their animals and the long thorns, when plucked off, did a great job as a toothpick!

Pictures from Masai Cattle Market

Pictures from our week at Mazimbu

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Masai Cattle Market

After our first week in Tanzania, we enjoyed our first day of free time. Many of us slept in, since our driver was not due to arrive until 8:30.

Bishop Mameo journeyed with us to the Masai Cattle Auction today. On the way we stopped at Sokoine Ranch, a Masai village where the team has worshiped several times over the past 9 years. The village chairman and his family welcomed us warmly and chairs were gathered in a circle under the shade of the local meeting trees. In Masai culture, guests must always be given something to eat and today was no exception. The team of fourteen, plus our driver and his helper, the Bishop and several of his family, and our translator, were given a delicious breakfast of chai, chapatti, Masai donuts (no sugar), beef soup and soda. As Bishop visited with the men, the team faded away from the circle and mingled with the village women and girls. The young women were full of curiosity about us and our families—how many children do we have? What are their names?—and we were able to communicate because many of them have been educated and learned English in school. We were shown around the village, to the church, to the pond where clothes are washed and the animals drink, and lively conversation flowed both ways.

When the time came to continue on to the cattle auction, five or six of the women, all about 18-20 years old, loaded into the dala dala with us. That meant that our party of 14 would have many translators available. And having a Masai translator is very important because the majority of Masai speak Masai, not Swahili.

The Cattle Auction is just what it says—a chance for buyers and sellers of cattle, goats and sheep to come together and barter their livestock. But it is also a very social gathering for the Masai. People from many different villages enjoy this chance to socialize and trade other goods. The warriors dress their hair in elaborate styles with masses of braids cascading down their back. It is a time for everyone to display their most elaborate finery. There are also Masai vendors that set up with various wares you can buy—Masai machetes and clubs, fabric used for Masai mens robes, ropes, gadgets and so much more. The team had fun drifting from one vendor to another, using our translators to help us bargain for the best price. It is still unusual to see white skin at the auction—we were the only Caucasian group—and many different people came up to greet us and wish us welcome to Tanzania.

Once our shopping was done, we joined Bishop Mameo, who was sitting under an open air thatched roof canopy with many Masai gathered around him. Again a circle was made with chairs and we were treated to fresh roasted beef, sliced in front of us by two very skilled Masai using a machete. We dipped the chunks of meat in salt and ate them with our fingers.

After the cattle market, a little fabric shopping was on our agenda and the team had about an hour to spend in downtown Morogoro. We were all happy with our purchases and arrived back at LJS with about a half an hour to relax before dinner. Sunday will see the team back in a Masai village for worship so we hope to post more pictures tomorrow, time and internet willing!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Click this link to see a few pictures from Saturday and Sunday.

Food, Fundis and Fellowship

Today was the first day for surgery. Dr. John worked with Dr. Swai on three OB/Gyn procedures. Normally, Mazimbu will do a couple of surgeries a week, so when the team is here their schedule changes dramatically, with three or four surgeries each day. This seems very normal to us but it impacts everyone’s job at Mazimbu--from Dr. Swai, to the anestheologist, to the tech that sterilizes instruments,  to the orderly who washes the linens. This marks our seventh year working with the Mazimbu staff and, despite the change in their work load, they are very happy to have us here. Several times each day we are approached and thanked for our work and the help we are giving to the people of Tanzania.

Dr. Kivuma is the doctor who asked our help last year with Ben and his severe pressure sores. Although Ben had improved enough by Christmas to be discharged home, his wounds still require treatment and Dr. Kivuma, acting solely as an unpaid volunteer, has been traveling twice daily to Ben’s home to redress his wounds. Nancy, who was very closely involved in his care last year, joined Dr. Kivuma in the morning to visit Ben. He is doing very well, has gained weight, and his wounds are continuing to heal. Dr. Kivuma has been working with him on exercises to strengthen his muscles, with the goal to have him someday able to transfer himself to a wheelchair without help and propel the chair under his own strength.

Our fundis were working at the hospital today, repairing doors, a baby scale, emergency lighting, ultrasound table and a nebulizer. A trip into town was required to gather needed parts and this was conveniently done to overlap the lunch hour. The four fundis felt it necessary to have their meal at our favorite spot, Ricky’s restaurant, where they enjoyed fettucini alfredo and thai food. Meanwhile, the rest of the team walked across the street to a neighborhood restaurant. These small eateries do not have menus and the daily options are a bit limited—usually one or two items. They spoke no English and we spoke no Swahili. One common dish—chipsimayai—was chosen by half the team. This dish of French fries cooked with scrambled eggs is a Tanzanian staple and one known to us. The rest of
the team asked the waiter to bring the other option, not knowing what it was. We were presented with a plate of rice, a few beans and a small bowl of a stew made with animal parts that Americans don’t normally include in our four food groups.

Meanwhile, Sally’s tour today took her to Sokoine Masai village where she was treated to a royal Masai welcome. She was welcomed by the women, dressed in Masai robes and beads from head to toe and then invited to join in worship with them. She says it is an experience not to be missed.

Tomorrow, Friday, will be another day of surgery and screening new patients. Afterwards we are looking forward to going to the local pizza restaurant for dinner. So our next post will be late Saturday, after we have had our first day playing tourist. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Work Begins

We have had so much happen in the past two days it is hard to know where to start with this post.
When we stopped at Mazimbu Monday to greet everyone and unpack our gear, we were surprised to see that there were almost 20 hopeful patients lined up waiting for us. We asked them to arrive early on Tuesday, our first day to work, and they would be seen first. Because of that, our first day was not a slow start! We were busy with patients from the moment we arrived until the moment we stopped work.

Our team doctor is Dr. John Houck, an ENT specialist, is with the team. We are fortunate, however, that we have a good working relationship with a Tanzania OB/Gyn, Dr. Swai, who works as a team doctor while we are here. So we are seeing gynecological patients for Dr. Swai and Dr. John is working to help those who have other needs.

The team ended our first full day of work with a meal at one of our favorite restaurants. Although dining out with a group of 14 can take several hours, it gives us a chance to laugh and talk together as we share our life stories.

While we are here, Pastor Sally Houck is being treated to a personalized view with the Bishop or his assistant of various parishes and churches. Her day as an ambassador of the ELCA ends around 4 pm and she joins us at Mazimbu for the last hour or two of our work.

And our 4 Fundis (Swahili for fixer), Bill, Lance, David and Jesse, have been recruited to hang doors at a diocese school under construction. It has been a challenge because all of the door frames are not square. And the doors they are hanging are hard wood, hand crafted doors that are made to be “cut to fit.” So the fundis must make incredibly accurate measurements and then transport the doors in to the center of town to have a carpenter cut them to the specifications.

Even more patients have come today, some from very far away. We have tried to organize and give our best guess as to how many patients each doctor can see each day. Using those estimates, we are completely full until next Tuesday.

Our first surgeries are scheduled for tomorrow, Thursday. All three are gynecological surgeries. So our doctors will be in surgery for the majority of the day while working to see some patients between surgery. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Reestablishing Relationships

Our Sunday afternoon arrival at LJS gave us just enough time to drop bags in our rooms before our 6 pm dinner. The food at LJS is simple and ample, served family style. Conversation flows as we review our day and visit with other occupants at LJS. There is one other group here from North Carolina, led by a former team member, Emily Norris, who are working on repairs and facelifts here at LJS. There are also a group of students here in their initial week of their Swahili Language study.

After dinner the team can usually be found in the common room for our daily meeting, where we organize and plan for the next day. This year, we are fortunate to have Pastor Sally Houck with us and she ended our meeting with the Lutheran liturgy, Night Prayer. With our personal organizing and unpacking not yet done, we knocked off early.

Morning dawned on our first full day in Morogoro. In the US, our day might be viewed as one where we did not accomplish anything. We might have a tendency to count the number of days available for the team to work and wonder how we could be in Morogoro and not have seen any patients yet. But in Tanzania, the most important consideration is the relationship, and our Monday was spent re-establishing relationships.

We were formally welcomed by Bishop Mameo at the diocese office and the team members who are here for the first time were introduced to the diocese staff. We were given the grand tour of the huge, multi-storied concrete church that has been under construction for more than five years. The team has enjoyed seeing the progress from year to year. Mjympia is the largest congregation in Morogoro and welcomes more than a thousand worshipers each Sunday.

Bishop Mameo was proud to show us another construction project, which is sponsored by a congregation in Finland. The women’s center is a short drive from the diocese office and the first of a planned 8 houses is near completion. Each house will have 8 rooms and the center is designed as a shelter for victims of domestic violence.

Our last stop was at Mazimbu hospital, the site of our work for the rest of our stay. It was so good to see our colleagues with whom we have worked side by side in past years. A very routine chore was accomplished—unpacking our gear and organizing your gifts of medical supplies, including those donated by the women of the Ar-Ok synod. But we want to close this post with news we received of two of our past patients—

Last year God gave us the opportunity to help a man who was suffering from extreme pressure sores. The team worked with Ben and the hospital staff and his caregivers daily on treatment of his wounds and longer term solutions to help with his comfort. We heard today that Ben is home with his family and doing well. One of the Mazimbu doctors to this day visits Ben twice daily to dress his wounds, and has invited one of our team members to join him on his daily visit.

Another remarkable event last year was our “chance” occurrence when the staff was struggling to start a life-saving transfusion on a very sick baby, Raina. Our surgeon, Doug Treptow, and other team members, worked for hours to insert the IV while the rest of the team prayed. Close to despair, the final attempt was successful. Dr. Swai, a Mazimbu surgeon that works closely with the team, has recently seen her and reports that Baby Raina is a lively, thriving toddler,

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Sunday Morning in Dar es Salaam

All fourteen of the team joined together for the first time last night when we arrived in Dar es Salaam—the flight from Zurich with 11 of us arrived at 9 pm and the last three of us—the Houcks—arrived from Amsterdam an hour later. Tanzania has refined their procedures over the years and the process to get our visas and clear customs was very straightforward and efficient.

The first few of us who cleared passport control were scouting the carousel for any bags marked with hot pink tape. A quick count came up short. A recount—same result. For the first time in our 9 year history, 2 bags were missing. Both of Pati’s bags, checked through from her home airport in Northwest Arkansas, did not make the flight. Airport officials were able to use the computer to find out both bags were still sitting in Chicago. They will come over on the same flight, one day later.
Our first view of Dar through jet-lagged eyes showed some welcome changes in infrastructure. These changes, though, made the topography look a bit different so some backtracking was in order to find our beds for the night. Cindy gave the team a quick cultural orientation while Pati checked the team in to our hostel. We were finally showered and in bed a little after midnight.

Worship this morning was with a local Lutheran congregation. The 9 am service each Sunday is an English Language service. It is always a blessing to travel halfway around the world and meet fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Today’s worship was particularly poignant. We were able to share communion. And the lack of our daily routine and constant electronics sharpens our focus, giving the Word of our Lord fertile ground.

As the team collaborates on this posting, we are finishing up a luxurious English-style breakfast. The next several hours, during the 3 hour drive to Morogoro, can be the most challenging part of our trip so, until we arrive safely at Lutheran Junior Seminary (LJS) keep those prayers coming!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Coffee break in Zurich

Pati and Courtney met in Chicago and flew together to Zurich. Ritsuko was supposed to join them in Chicago but so far they have been unable to identify her. Lance and Eileen ended a 5 week European vacation at the Zurich airport and met up with Pati and Courtney. The foursome enjoyed strong swiss coffee with their breakfast. The rest of the team is still enjoy route from DC and should be in Zurich within the hour. We will have a short time to catch up before boarding our final flight to Dar es Salaam.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Tanzania 2016

Last minute packing is all that remains for the team as we prep for our journey this year--just a little more than 24 hours to go. Stay tuned for pics and updates throughout our trip. Please remember us in your prayers. We pray for safe travel for all of us (and our luggage!) and that Christ will put us where He wants us to do His work.