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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.