Thursday, March 21, 2013

We're Home!

We made it home safe and sound from Tanzania yesterday, March 20. It sure is cold here! Thanks all for following our journey, for your prayers and support. We look forward to sharing stories with you about the friends we made and the work we did at Iambi Lutheran Hospital on April 14 at 9:45 during Adult Forum. For now, we're going to bed. It's good to be home.

God's blessings as we prepare for the journey together toward the cross and Christ's resurrection in the coming week.


Monday, March 18, 2013

Lessons Learned

We’ve had a couple of days to process what we have seen, experienced and done at Iambi Lutheran Hospital since last Saturday. Much was accomplished. The nursing school is several steps closer to being ready to open, the medical lab has great new equipment that will help with diagnoses, the central supply room is fully stocked and ready to serve desperately impoverished patients from the surrounding villages, a website is well on its way to being completed to give the hospital some web presence, and the much of the staff has expressed its gratitude for our visit.
Yet, there is much work yet to be done. The team has identified some key next steps and possibilities for future trips. Training is needed in basic medical practices that will reduce infection and promote better practices. Medical specialists and nurse educators are needed to provide services and training to hospital staff that will increase their capacity to deliver medicine. More equipment and maintenance expertise would help them take care of some of the instruments that they have. The list goes on.
One of the chance visits the team had last week was with the retired bishop of the Central Diocese. He lives in Nkungi Village, where the hospital is. He was sitting in his yard one late afternoon when we walked by. The pastor of the local church, St. Wanzalea, was with us and introduced us. He spoke for about 30 minutes about the importance of our presence at the hospital and pleaded with us to make a significant difference in the village. We talked about what we were doing and our hope to be in partnership with the hospital for several years to come. He talked about the needs of the community at large there as well. It was difficult to hear about all the needs, knowing that we were only able to do a small part of it.
The needs are significant. As we spent more time there, the needs came out of the woodwork. One person wanted funds to help kids whose parents had HIV/AIDS, another person wanted support for their organization that helps the poorest of the poor, another family was looking for tuition help for their teenage son, and yet another person told us about another health care program that was desperate for funds to carry out their mission. The reality is the best thing we can do is focus on the hospital and concentrate our efforts and resources there.
As we leave Tanzania tomorrow, the team takes a little bit of Iambi home with us. We are grateful to those of you who have joined us on this adventure through the blog, and even more grateful for your prayers as we served in the name of Jesus, on Zumbro’s behalf. It has been an incredible journey and I give thanks to God for the team who has traveled here. We have said again and again that the right group of people was assembled and responded to God’s call for this particular trip. Gifts were used ina all kinds of ways, expected and unexpected.
We look forward to seeing many of you in person when we return and sharing more stories of our interactions and discoveries about our partners at Iambi Lutheran Hospital in Nkungi  Village, Tanzania.
Asante sana (Thank you very much),
The Zumbro Tanzania Team

Friday, March 15, 2013

Serving lepers

In addition to all the supplies for the hospital, there were a few items included on the container that came from others in Rochester.

 A couple of items were donated by one of the Rotary Club groups in Rochester. They sent two mobility devices for disabled people. In places like Tanzania, wheelchairs don't work because there aren't flat paved roads or sidewalks. Disabled people need something more sturdy to get around in. These devices are like heavy duty trikes that move by hand pedaling. Mike and Bob, both Rotary Club members, went with a couple other team mates to Cherdaleco, an organization that works with people affected by leprosy.
Mike and our driver, Bashiri do some assembly

One of the ways Cherdaleco supports their ministry is by training the clients to throw pottery

A woman who has lost a leg to leprosy tries her new device

Mike gives a little girl a ride

This mission's accomplished, but there's still work to do

It's safe to say that the team has a feeling of pure elation when we look back at the week at Iambi Lutheran Hospital. We have encountered God at every corner. We have seen Christ in the faces of our partners here. The Spirit has interceded when needed and given us far more than we could ask or imagine from this week. As the team reflected each night, we gathered at the "cabin" - one of the guest houses where we lodged. And every night we couldn't believe how the gifts assembled around the room met the needs of that day in mysterious, almost miraculous ways.

When Dr. Ngowi, the hospital director asked if there was anyone who could help them develop a website, Mike said, "I have a website that we can pull the code from and just insert the information for Iambi in. Ashley said, "I'd love to work on that." The two of them worked side by side with the hospital staff all week to develop a site they felt good about.

Julie is a nurse educator and worked with the yet-to-be-opened nursing school staff to catalog books, talk about the needs in the skills lab, and discuss training.

Bob worked in the lab all week learning what they do and how they do it. When the new equipment came off the container, he spent much of the day today making sure it worked and then sat back and watched the joy of the lab techs as they worked with their new instruments.

Gaspar was invaluable all week long. As a native Tanzanian, he helped the team thread the cultural needle when things got lost in translation. He served as a wise adviser when we were plotting the plans for where materials would go once they came off the container. Much of what we did this week would not have been accomplished without him.

We also could not have had nearly as successful a week without your prayers and the support that was provided by so many at Zumbro and in the Synod office leading up to this trip. What a blessing it is to see the Church being God's hands working together from across the world to serve our neighbor. 

Many things were accomplished this week, but so much more work was discovered as we visited with people. So many more requests were made for our ongoing partnership as the hospital staff got to know us. And our hearts were broken so many times when we again were reminded of the things we take for granted at home - like running water and sterile environments in every area of our hospitals, proper education for all medical staff, and people to fix equipment readily available when it breaks.

There's a lot more to do. But for now, we can celebrate that this mission was accomplished and celebrated by everyone here.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Container Safari

 Before you think the container got lost among the lions and elephants, safari means "journey" in Swahili, the language of Tanzania.

The Bishop's Assistant and Pastor Jason cut the ribbon and offer a prayer before the container is opened.
The first boxes come off the container
Ashley and one of the hospital staff get fancy
A box brigade forms to make quick work of the unpacking
One of the birthing beds is unloaded

The container arrived last night. After chapel this morning, we had tea and then together with the hospital staff, we got to work. It was really incredible to see the collaboration between our team and and all the hospital staff. Even our drivers got into the action and started hauling boxes of food to palliative care and books to the nursing school. It really feels like we were in partnership with our friends at Iambi. Though I think they still think we work way too hard and way too fast. There is a sense among our group and the hospital administration of satisfaction and accomplishment.

At lunch, we were reflecting on all the things that came off the container and all the people who made it's contents and arrival possible.

Sue told the story of a woman at Zumbro who lives on a fixed income and came to her with bags of cotton balls as her offering for the container. When they came off this morning Sue posed for a picture with the hospital administrators and the cotton balls.

We thought about the 80 people from Zumbro and the hundreds of other volunteers who packed the meals for Food for Kids in October. Thirty-two boxes of that food will help nourish home bound patients dying of cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other diseases.

The nursing school staff lit up when they saw the card catalog material sent by our church librarian to index all the books that came from Zumbro and Global Health Ministries.

All in all, it was a day filled with joy. God has been so faithful to this process and we stand in awe of what God is able to do through a vision and some willing people from Minnesota and our willing partners at Iambi Lutheran Hospital in Nkungi Village, Tanzania.

Thanks be to God.

Technology is the same in Africa as in America

So there seems to be one constant between these two continents. Technology is just as frustrating here as it is at home. We're having some trouble with loading pictures on the blog. I'll be working on it and try to have some pics up soon. It's been an incredible day as the container has come and is unloaded. Bonds are being formed and we are truly experiencing the the Spirit of the Living God working in, with and under us.
Bwana Asifiwe! Praise the Lord!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Two A's

Accommodation -- a slippery slope.
But not enough to lose our hope.
For the plans we share.
We adjust some plans.
Listening, revising, and...
We meet with others again to refine.
The plans are coming along just fine.

We Accommodate and Accompany with our Iambi partners.  A growing partnership with many possibilities.  Praise God.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dear Mom: Thanks for the Band-Aids.

My wonderful wise mother gave me some valuable advice before leaving Tanzania.  “Take Band-Aids with you.  LOTS of Band-Aids.”  See, she knew I had just purchased new sandals and wanted to save my feet from the inevitable blisters from all the walking we would get to do.  Sure enough, my love for walks has been satiated daily—walking to chapel, walking around the campus, going to the town and nearby market, and walking just to see the wonder and beauty of Tanzania.  Most of the times I know where the paths I am walking are leading, but there are a few times I am not quite sure.  Thankfully, I know Someone above is leading my steps.

Today is a great example of this.  I woke up with the tentative plan of observing a surgery.  This transitioned to helping the Hospital Secretary with computer problems, which then morphed into organizing and cleaning the Central Supply Room.  From there, I walked all over campus with Rich Vetter to find rope and a ladder to hang medical supplies from rafters in the supply room.  After that, I was asked to help look at the master layout for all the new supplies we are bringing to the Iambi Lutheran Hospital on the container which is slated to arrive tomorrow at noon.  Once completed, Mike Neumann and I met with the Hospital Secretary and Grace, the Hospital Administrator.  We began talks on the website and they had many great ideas for what they wanted the world to know about their hospital.

Now that afternoon has hit, I am working on the blog, about to transition back to coding for the website.  I have learned today that while my feet may be thinking they are going one place, God may need me somewhere else.  And I am more than happy to follow the One who knows the whole trail—no Band-Aids required!

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Snapshot of the Village

We’re on an adventure that some can visualize and many cannot.     We are walking the same paths the villagers are using as they go about their daily lives.   The village where the hospital is located is off a main road (rough, narrow and bumpy road) onto a dirt path.  The village is a series of paths connecting the houses and huts together.   These paths are only used by villagers walking, children on bicycles, and an occasional herd of cows and goats grazing. Children start tending the herd at the age of five or six.  The huts are home to the villagers.  Homes are surrounded by grass, crops of corn, and an occasional sunflower growing wildly.  Water tanks are constructed from raised plastic collecting tanks.   The common gathering place for the community is limited to the church and hospital.   There aren’t many stores in this village - not a Kwik Trips or Starbucks anywhere in sight. We are demonstrating Gods Work Our Hands on the other side of the world thanks to the support of those back home at Zumbro. 
           Mike Neumann

Faces of Tanzania

One of our new friends who stops outside the guesthouse everyday to sell baskets.
A boy shepherd tending the flock outside the hospital

Women waiting with their children to be seen in the Pediatric Clinic

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Bwana Asifiwe! (Praise the Lord!)

Hello Zumbro, and praise the Lord!  As you are getting ready for church, we are well into our afternoon here.  Much of our afternoon discussion has revolved around the passionate church service we attended this morning at St. Wanzalea in Nkungi.  There are two services, all in Swahili—one at 7:30 a.m. and another at 11:00 a.m.  Sometimes the early service runs into the late service, and then that service does not start until noon or later.  Today our service lasted two hours.  For those who zone out at one hour, you would have missed some amazing worship.  Rich Tanzanian voices filled the block and concrete building.  The pastor preached energetiallly in front of the altar, which was draped with purple for Lent, green, and even the Zumbro red!  Jason introduced us to the congregation with great enthusiasm, with Gaspar interpreting.  We received many smiles and welcomes.  We gave to the offering, which entailed the entire congregation walking up to three baskets placed on the altar.  You could choose which fund you wanted to contribute to.   We ended the service with a processional out to the courtyard while singing the last hymn.  Once gathered outside, we witnessed the “auction,” a time when the congregation bids on items provided and the money goes back to the church.  Today, one egg was the prize win.  After shaking hands and exchanging welcomes, we headed back to our homes, filled with joy and amazement for the Tanzanian people and the God we all love so much.

The Masai Journey to Manhood

One of the joys of being a "veteran" traveler to Tanzania is to watch friends experience Africa for the first time.  Two experiences from the drive to Iambi were special.   They both occurred as we were driving through an area settled by the Masai Tribe.  The first involved the pastoralism of the Masai.  The men and children watch large and small herds of cattle and goats, respectively. Our group took many pictures of children herding the animals.  The second involved the Masai male right of passage.  In their late teens male Masai paint their faces, don a special set of robes, and leave their homes.  In groups they embark on a trek outside their traditional area ranging from several weeks to three months.  We saw several separate groups on our drive.  It was neat being able to watch my friend's reactions as they experienced watching Mesai traditions for the first time.

Bob Jenkin's Inaugural Blog Post

We're in Iambi!

We made it to Iambi hospital! On Saturday morning, March 8th we gathered together for a lovely breakfast at the Arusha resort.  We crammed all of our luggage and supplies into one vehicle and then took two other land rovers to fit all 12 of us.  We experienced Saturday traffic in Arusha.  I don’t think we can ever complain of our street lights or 3 car “traffic jams” at the stop signs any more.  We take our own road rules for granted, here there are no rules at all and you take your life into your own hands! I was very grateful for our drivers! We traveled  6 hours over some very nice paved 2-3 lane roads and some very bumpy, coarse gravel one lane roads.  We traveled across the Rift valley and up the valley wall.  We saw cows and goats being herded by the side of the road by children no older than my 6 year old daughter, Ella.  We did see a lot of corn fields along the way.  We also saw the rice fields while we were in the valley and bought some rice to bring with us.  Sorry, but we don’t have any chicken on the roof stories!   

While at home Bishop Alex informed us that the village should be able to provide for us while we are here.  On the last leg of our journey, we traveled across a makeshift bridge that had been washed out the last time that ZLC came to Nkungi Village.  We are arriving at the beginning of their long rain season.  So, when we got to the other side they had already gotten some significant rains! We have some awesome videos with our vehicles going through and around a huge mud puddle!   

We were greeted warmly by the hospital secretary and the pharmacist and were shown to our accommodations.  We are split into two different groups and are within walking distance to the hospital.  The hospital staff cooked us a wonderful meal of chicken, rice, noodles, and spinach.  We made some repairs to the screens and covered some windows without screens with netting.

This morning we are headed over to the 7:30 church service and will have some breakfast, then tour the hospital and village to get our bearings.  The shipping container is going to be leaving port on Monday, but we will not likely see it here in Iambi until Wednesday.  We are all grateful for the hospitality that we have and will be receiving this week in Iambi. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Walking on Broken Glass

First of all, banana milkshakes—highly recommended if you ever come to Arusha.  After lunch, we were driven through Arusha.  And we are VERY thankful for our driver.  Not only is traffic on the “wrong” side of the road, there are no rules.  This is one of those, “Let go and let God” and “enjoy the ride” moments! 

We reached our destination safely—Shanga.  This for profit organization was founded to create a community in Tanzania for those marginalized because of their disabilities.  This beautiful and safe environment allows disabled Tanzanians to form relationships, discover and hone skills, and fulfill their potential.  We walked among people making glass sculptures, jewelry, and beautiful fabric.  A powerful quote painted on the side of a wall read, “Kindness is a language which blind people see and deaf people hear.”  As we walked around on roads of broken glass, the remnants of master projects re-purposed into beauty, smiles were the universal language of appreciation for their skills and talents.  We left Shanga with purchased crafts made by the Tanzanians, and a great respect for all that this community accomplishes and teaches.