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MMT - Tanzania Day 1: Sunday, April 10, 2016

The LCMS Mercy Medical Team from the United States arrived safe and sound in Tanzania last night. We arrived tired, worn and with much anticipation after over 24 hours of travel. Only one bag did not arrive, and it will hopefully be delivered in the next couple days. The welcoming party of Shara (LCMS missionary to East Africa), Bishop Jesse Angowi (from the LCEA—the Lutheran Church of East Africa) and Davis (our driver) greeted us at the airport. Our luggage became questionable when the contents of the missing bag had to be declared. One team member, Lana, and Shara spent extra time with airport officials counting and listing what was in one of the other bags in our possession. Thankfully the rest of us escaped the airport before customs officials figured out we had medications and supplies in all of our bags. Imagine how much time would have been spent listing and counting the contents of each of our fifteen plus bags! After escaping the airport, we took a short drive to the town of Moshi where we will be staying for the week. The accommodations are luxurious! Each team member has a hut with beds, warm water and even air conditioning! A restful night was had by all.

Keys Hotel in Moshi.
The huts are our homes for the week.
Hut interior.

Sunday morning brought breakfast on the veranda and then a car trip to Uchira to worship with our fellow Lutheran brothers and sisters in Christ. The church building is open-air with a tin roof, metal framework in the windows and blue plastic chairs as pews. Our team split up and took seats on both sides of the church. We drew some looks of disapproval from those in attendance. In this congregation, and many others in Africa, the women sit on one side of the church while the men sit on the other. The elderly of the congregation sit in the front pews while the youngest sit in the back. We quickly moved to the female side of the church!

Church bell for call to worship
Women of the Mercy Medical Team.
Advertisements posted all over for our clinic this week.

The service was led by LCEA pastors from Taveta, Uchira, and Himo. Pastor Dave from the United States also participated in the service. Two ushers and the five pastors processed in to begin the service. The order of service followed the liturgical order common in our home LCMS churches and even some of our familiar hymns were sung, such as “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.” Scripture verses were read in both Swahili and English for our benefit. Pastor Dave from our Mercy Medical Team provided the sermon and was able to tie the message into our trip. The comparison was that our team continues to hear that Mt. Kilimanjaro is here in Tanzania, and we believe them even though we have not seen the mountain. This is similar to our belief in God. We cannot see Him and yet we continue to believe and trust in Him. The sermon was very applicable to the African people as well as to our American team. (Two-thirds of the United States team was so inspired by the sermon that referenced Jesus meeting Peter on the beach and the great catch that they ordered fish fingers for lunch!) One of the local pastors translated the sermon into Swahili so all could receive the message. Offering consisted of the main offering, where the congregation walked to the front of the church and placed the offering in baskets while walking around the table. Personalized offering envelopes were waiting and ready to be filled for this main offering. The second special offering was collected to rebuild a tin roof on the LCEA church in neighboring Kahe that was destroyed by a wind storm. As the members came forward in the African style to place their offerings, several brought forward long, tin sheets to be used for the roof. Church concluded with warm greetings and welcomes by the congregation.

LCEA church in Uchira.
Local pastors with Pastor Dave from the Mercy Medical Team.
Donation of aluminum sheets for the church tin roof in Kahe.
Young worshippers in church.

The afternoon brought a trip to the LCEA St. Peter Seminary in Himo, which will be the location of our medical clinic for the week. We discussed clinic set up and made a game plan for tomorrow. We stopped by the foreign exchange to obtain Tanzanian shillings and then did a bit of local shopping. The evening involved relaxation, team orientation and dinner at the hotel. We are anticipating the start of clinic tomorrow. The clouds in the sky have kept Mt. Kilimanjaro hiding so far. It is the rainy season here in Tanzania, so several rain showers have passed through during the day. The landscape is tropical and warm with temperatures in the 80s. It's been a wonderful introduction to Tanzania, and we look forward to the work ahead.

Mungu awa bariki (God bless you)!

The site of our clinic for the week.

“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?