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Tanzania Medical Mission Follow-Up

Shara Osiro, a missionary in Eastern and Southern Africa who serves as the area volunteer coordinator for Eastern and Southern Africa, just sent out a newsletter focused on the work of the Tanzania Medical Mission Team in Uchira. She shared some great photos as well as an interview with several participants, including our own Kimberly Pepmiller.

Kimberly Pepmiller is from Colorado and has been a nurse for ten years. She has served on eight MMTs to Madagascar, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania and has been a team leader three times to include this recent trip.

I asked Kimberly why she keeps serving on MMTs? It makes her appreciate why she became a nurse. She finds it fulfilling to help those in need and who appreciate it. MMTs help her to tie together her faith and vocation.

Why would you encourage someone to participate on a MMT? “To open your world view, to tie the Christian and cultural worldview together. It gives one the opportunity to use the gifts that God has given you. A MMT is a profound way to discover your gifts.”

What are your three favorite things about serving on a MMT? “The relationships that you build with the team and the locals, serving with fellow Lutherans who share the same faith and getting to interact with the locals and providing good healthcare.”

You can Shara’s complete newsletter (and more photos) here.

“Hesed” is a Hebrew word that means “kindness,” “mercy,” “loyalty,” “loving-kindness” or “steadfastness.” It’s the way God intends us to live together—a “love your neighbor as yourself,” active, selfless, sacrificial, caring-for-one-another brand of living contradictory to our fallen natures. The “Heseders” are continually looking to work together to share some small measure of God’s extraordinary love. Won’t you join us?

Tanzania Medical Mission, Clinic Day 5

Today brought the conclusion of our medical clinic. We began the day in normal fashion with worship, prayer and praise with the local church partners, our Tanzanian health care workers, the patients waiting and our team. The patients seemed a bit more feisty waiting in line today. It seems they wanted to make sure they were seen on the last day.

Today Sarah was able to travel to a local hospital to follow up on care for a patient and make some connections for future treatment needs. The woman with the severe infection who was sent to the hospital for had a great night and was able to discharge in much better health and go home. Sarah was able to connect an ophthalmologist with one of the local pastors who can assist his ten-year-old daughter with cataract surgery and help connect their other children with resources for glasses. Another patient presented today with inability to eat or drink for close to one year. The probable diagnosis for the patient is esophageal cancer. The woman has been connected to the local pastors who will help her navigate the next steps of this healthcare journey, which may include further testing, treatment or hospice care. The woman's son is also very ill and needs to seek further care elsewhere. Sarah and the health care team were able to share stories of success and needs for continued prayer and guidance.

Our team saw 340 patients today. Overall for the week we were able to provide both spiritual and physical care to just over 1300 patients. Common diagnoses and healthcare concerns remained the same for the patients today. Bacterial and fungal infections remain the more prevalent of the issues.

Julian and Pastor Massawe

At the end of the day we gathered together as a full team to say our goodbyes. It is always challenging to develop relationships and then at the end of the week to say farewell. However, relationships are the lasting imprint of our trip and will serve as excellent memories for all. The local pastors are hopeful to have a few extra parishioners in church as a result of the efforts this week as people heard the Gospel and received health care. The patients were connected to their health care personnel and will hopefully seek future follow-up care from them. The week was a success in terms of accomplishing these two main goals.

Our full spiritual and health care team.
Our amazing missionary leaders: Sarah, Shara, Krista
Our American MMT team members

The final highlight at the end of the day was the appearance of Mount Kilimanjaro in its great majesty. We played tourists and pulled off to the side of the road to await the final clearing of the clouds as it appeared for the close of the day. Our evening was spent reflecting and enjoying some final times together as a team as we begin to prepare for final adventures and travel home. We have completed our service, impacted those here in our care, and created a lasting influence in each one of us.

“Hesed” is a Hebrew word that means “kindness,” “mercy,” “loyalty,” “loving-kindness” or “steadfastness.” It’s the way God intends us to live together—a “love your neighbor as yourself,” active, selfless, sacrificial, caring-for-one-another brand of living contradictory to our fallen natures. The “Heseders” are continually looking to work together to share some small measure of God’s extraordinary love. Won’t you join us?

Tanzania Medical Mission, Clinic Day 4

The fourth day of clinic brought another day of moments of joy and gifts. One of the Tanzanian nurses working alongside our team began the day by giving those working together to obtain health histories fresh avocados to enjoy. Her thoughtfulness and efforts are greatly appreciated. Later in the morning a woman seen at the clinic earlier in the week returned and gifted Krista with ears of corn as a symbol of thanksgiving. The woman walked far with the heavy load just to share her gratitude.

The relationships developing between the Tanzanian and American teams are another reason for joy. We are sharing our cultures with each other, learning Swahili and laughing together. The children really enjoy interacting with members of the American team at the vital sign area. Play is a universal language that allows relationships to build without being able to directly speak. It is great to watch the enjoyment from the children and team members and to hear about the creativity in the play.

Many people came to the clinic again today. The tent of waiting people seemed to always be full. Amazingly, the people created a line system to stay in order for registration and treatment. Historically, lines are difficult to create and maintain in Africa. Crowding is often the normal. Therefore, the line that formed, seemingly without instruction, is very impressive.

Today we provided care and treatment for 370 people. The day flowed a bit smoother as we had the full team working all day. The day prior, one of the doctors had to leave for a large portion of the day to attend to a family emergency. The clinic set up was the same, and each team member maintained their same role in clinic. We saw similar diagnoses as the beginning of the week with infections, fungal infections, high blood pressure, diabetes and joint pain (presumably some arthritis). Each patient does receive an oral medication to treat for any worms they may have.

The Muslim population is prevalent in Tanzania, and currently they are celebrating Ramadan, which means fasting during the day. This is contributing to the worsening of some medical conditions as the patients are more prone to being dehydrated, light headed and dizzy. One boy came through today who was quite sick with a gastrointestinal illness. He stayed with us for the afternoon to receive rehydration and medications. The woman who has been coming all week for IV antibiotics for a severe infection was taken to the hospital today for further treatment and ongoing support.

Lisa and Miriam obtaining weights
Maddie and Valeria with a patient
Rose and Tess working together
Tanzanian doctors treating patients
Megan and the pharmacy crew working together

Krista shared a positive story from evangelism and individual prayer with patients today. A young family came through that has come upon terrible economic conditions for their family. This has led to them making very tough choices for how to earn funds for their family. Through the clinic, the family is now in contact with the local church. The family plans to attend church this coming Sunday, where there will be a special offering to support the family. Hopefully the family will stay connected with the church for support and continued growth of their faith.

Tomorrow is already the final day of the clinic. We look forward to another opportunity to work together to help and serve this Tanzanian community.

“Hesed” is a Hebrew word that means “kindness,” “mercy,” “loyalty,” “loving-kindness” or “steadfastness.” It’s the way God intends us to live together—a “love your neighbor as yourself,” active, selfless, sacrificial, caring-for-one-another brand of living contradictory to our fallen natures. The “Heseders” are continually looking to work together to share some small measure of God’s extraordinary love. Won’t you join us?

Tanzania Medical Mission, Clinic Day 3

Today the people came! We had larger crowds today at our Mercy Medical Team clinic in Uchira, which provided the opportunity for more interactions and care to be provided. The clinic opened about 9:45 AM after the morning prayer, devotion and singing with the waiting patients and our team. Around 10:00 AM many of the Tanzanian workers take a tea break. This demonstrates the British cultural influence. The morning tea breaks are challenging for us Americans, who generally place patients and work ahead of our own well-being. The opposite is often observed here in Tanzania, where health care workers place the needs of the patient second to personal needs. If we could find a happy medium between the two extremes, a proper balance might be achieved for all.

Today offered a unique opportunity to cuddle with and assist children with special needs. A local organization called Share Tanzania, located in Uchira, brought many of their residents to the clinic to be seen. This is a home that takes in children with developmental disabilities. Many children have cerebral palsy, spinal bifida, autism and other diseases that leave them with significant care needs. Many families do not have the resources to provide the care in the primary homes. In addition, there is a stigma attached to people with special needs in this culture. They are often shunned by society. A man from the UK started this organization four years ago that is funded through donations. There are currently 48 children living at the facility and receiving care. Residents are eighteen years of age and younger. When a resident ages out of the facility, the team works to transition him/her into society or to make other arrangements.

Pastors praying over the children

Share Tanzania brought seventeen children to be treated today. They arrived with mats to lay on the ground where the children could wait to be seen. Due to their inability to walk, we brought the clinic to the patients. Pastor Armstrong and several pastors from the Lutheran Church of East Africa prayed over the children. The team then obtained weights, vital signs and health histories up in the registration area. Then a Tanzanian doctor came out to assess and treat all of the patients. Several team members spent time this afternoon preparing and organizing medications for the children. The plan is for another group of the Share Tanzania children to come to be treated tomorrow.

Lisa and Miriam taking patient weights
Tristan obtaining patient vital signs
Julian assisting with patient vital signs
Jamielynn and Mary in nursing triage
Kimberly and Gembe taking health histories
Krista and Pastor Jacobo praying with patients

Overall we provided care for 295 patients today. All of the team members continued to work in the same areas of the clinic alongside our Tanzanian counterparts. Today brought patients with very similar ailments. Allergies and upper respiratory tract infections remain common. Fungal infections are very common. Many elderly patients came through today, and there were a few exhibiting signs of dementia. Joint pain is common, which may be a reflection of lifestyle here. Several patients continue to return daily to the clinic for antibiotics and wound care.

Our team is beginning to ponder the bigger picture concepts, ideas and questions and to discuss and digest the opportunities that remain. We are hopeful we are making a lasting impact and creating a positive influence for the future.

“Hesed” is a Hebrew word that means “kindness,” “mercy,” “loyalty,” “loving-kindness” or “steadfastness.” It’s the way God intends us to live together—a “love your neighbor as yourself,” active, selfless, sacrificial, caring-for-one-another brand of living contradictory to our fallen natures. The “Heseders” are continually looking to work together to share some small measure of God’s extraordinary love. Won’t you join us?

Tanzania Medical Mission, Clinic Day 2

The second clinic day began a bit later since it was not necessary to complete the initial clinic set up. This allowed for a more leisurely breakfast at the hotel. For breakfasts, we have been enjoying eggs, toast, fruit, potatoes and sometimes beans. We took our thirty-minute ride to Uchira and arrived to a small group of patients waiting for our arrival and care. The morning began with one of the local pastors greeting the crowd and leading them in song and prayer. Clinic began running around 10:30 AM.

Morning devotion and prayer prior to clinic

Pastor Armstrong again began each group of patients with evangelism. Today's message focused on the concept that we are providing the patients with medical healing. However, God is the ultimate healer. The goal is to continue to share the Gospel message with those in attendance. Team members continued to work in familiar areas of the clinic today. Tristan and Julian obtained vital signs for each patient while Lisa weighed each one. Jamielynn, Maddie, Tess, and Kimberly continued to work with Tanzanian nurses to obtain chief complaints from and health histories with the patients. Megan worked alongside Shara and Tanzanian technicians in the pharmacy. Krista partnered with one of the local pastors and offered prayer to every patient as they left clinic. Sarah served as the rover and assisted wherever needed. The seminary students from the Lutheran Church of East Africa were unable to serve alongside us today as they are back in class.

Pastor Armstrong teaching about Jesus as the healer
Tess and Rose with a joyful child
Tanzanian physicians providing care
Megan and Suzy in the pharmacy

Overall we were able to see 185 patients. The quantity of people arriving for care is much lower than what we normally expect and see for MMT clinics. However, the quantity is not as important as the quality of the physical and spiritual care provided. The national ID registration continues for all Tanzanians, so we are thinking this government requirement is impacting the ability of people to attend. Common ailments seen today were similar to yesterday. Many patients are being treated for skin infections, fungal infections, upper respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, diabetes and hypertension. Today there were several significant wounds that came through clinic. A couple patients had surgery prior and were left with some very obvious scars, which is a result of different education and surgery techniques used here in Tanzania. The positive is that these surgeries are now available treatments in these developing countries. Several other patients presented with lumps in various locations that could be suspicious for cancer. Many of the infections presenting are related to lack of proper hygiene. Health education will always remain an opportunity.

Krista and Pastor Jacobo in prayer

The evening was spent at the hotel for dinner, debrief and devotions. The hotel staff have been doing an excellent job keeping us fed with soup, rice, potatoes and a meat or two to choose from. During the clinic day, there are several women who spend many hours preparing lunch for our whole team and the pastors in attendance. We are enjoying items such as rice, matoke (green bananas), potatoes, a meat of some sort in sauce, cabbage and watermelon. Our team is getting a chance to try the local food selections.

Tomorrow brings a new day to use our talents to fulfill the calling and plans God has for us. We were sent to help, and we are hopeful to be able to continue His work tomorrow.

“Hesed” is a Hebrew word that means “kindness,” “mercy,” “loyalty,” “loving-kindness” or “steadfastness.” It’s the way God intends us to live together—a “love your neighbor as yourself,” active, selfless, sacrificial, caring-for-one-another brand of living contradictory to our fallen natures. The “Heseders” are continually looking to work together to share some small measure of God’s extraordinary love. Won’t you join us?

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