- Written by Kimberly Pepmiller Kimberly Pepmiller
- Created: June 20 2017 June 20 2017
Our Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) Mercy Medical Team (MMT) arrived in Tanzania late Saturday night. Travel was smooth for all team members and all eight of us arrived with all of our luggage as well.
The airport adventure began upon arrival in Tanzania, however. After making it through the maze of obtaining visas and clearing customs, we attempted to exit the airport to meet our local hosts and LCMS missionaries there to welcome us. The airport officials were very leery of the medical equipment and medications we were bringing into the country, which contained items such as stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, glucometers, otoscopes, toothbrushes and vitamins.
Ultimately one of the LCMS missionaries and two of the Lutheran Church in East Africa pastors came into the airport to meet with the officials and several of our team members to discuss the items included in the five luggage pieces. The discussion led to the luggage being locked up for the night at the airport and an appointment being set for the next day to return and discuss the matter further. Thankfully team members were allowed to remove personal clothing items from the bags before they were left at the airport for the night! We traveled approximately one hour by private bus to Moshi where our lodging is for the week.
Sunday morning we traveled to Mdawi to attend church at the Lutheran Church in East Africa (LCEA) parish that is located there. This church building and the two school rooms attached are the site for our clinics for the week. The church building is small, and approximately ten church members joined us for the Divine worship service. They willingly shared their hymnals with us as we learned to pronounce Swahili and sing along. The majority of our team did not understand much of the service, but it was a blessing to worship with fellow Lutherans in Tanzania.
Sunday afternoon the team split up. The majority stayed in Moshi and had lunch at a local restaurant where they experienced “African time” as they waited several hours to enjoy their meal. A walk though town led to the currency exchange. Three of us traveled back to the airport with the LCEA pastors to work to get the luggage back. We obtained special airport passes, paid a fee to accounting to enter the airport, met with officials in the health department office, learned preferred protocol and procedure for bringing items into Tanzania and were asked to pay a fee to receive the bags back. By the grace of God we made it out of the airport with the luggage and never paid the fee. It was quite the process, with hints of sketchy business practice intermingled. The evening was enjoyed back at the Keys Lodge where we were able to discuss plans for the week and have some culture orientation.
Today began our first day of clinic. The goals of the clinics this week are to share the Gospel message and provide treatment to those seeking the clinic services. We began the day by loading up all of the supplies, both those donated from the U.S. and the medications purchased in Tanzania with our trip fees. The first hours of the clinic were spent unpacking, setting up and making plans for the logistics of the day. The local LCEA pastors and seminary students are working with us this week and serving in various capacities. The health care workers from the local ministry of health arrived a bit later in the morning. Introductions and morning prayer occurred with the full group before clinic started around 11:00.
Those attending the clinic begin by registering with a local pastor near the church entrance. Patients are then brought into the school compound in groups of twenty, where they begin with Pastor Pase and a Tanzanian pastor for evangelism and prayer. The patients then move to the vitals station, where David and Gabi check patients' blood pressures, heart rates, temperatures and obtain their weights. Patients then wait to see a nurse in the triage room where Alice, Daena, Emma and Kimberly work with local nurses and pastors as translators to determine the patients' reason for visiting the clinic. Patients then move to the next school classroom where they see one of five medical providers. There are medical officers, who are doctors, and clinical officers, who are equivalent to physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Kim is working with the providers in this room to care for patients. There is a lab testing center where a Tanzanian is providing tests such as blood sugar checks, malaria testing and urinalysis testing. There is an HIV counselor on site who is performing HIV testing and counseling. A treatment room is set up where Stephanie and Sarah are providing medical treatments such as antibiotic injections, wound cleaning, ear cleaning, etc … . The patients then pray with Pastor Gary as they exit the school compound to walk to the church building to receive their prescriptions. The day flowed smoothly and everyone stepped right in to assist with great flexibility.
The first day of clinic tends to run a bit slower and have a later start as we figure out the flow and setup. Today our team was able to provide care to approximately 180 patients. We provided care to patients with a wide variety of diagnoses including high blood pressure, skin diseases, staph infection, respiratory illness, tonsillitis, seizures, elephantitis, fungal infections, ear wax build up and many more. One of our team members stated it well when she commented on how wonderful it is to see the patients be so grateful for and trusting of the care we provide.
Tomorrow we have patients registered to begin the day with us, and we have several patients slated to come back and see us throughout the week for continued treatment and follow-up. We plan to begin the clinic around 9:00 and implement suggestions for ways to enhance the clinic for tomorrow that arose during team debrief and devotion time this evening. The first day of clinic was successful, the teamwork demonstrated was phenomenal, and we are ready for day two tomorrow after a bit of rest.
“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?