Monday, September 23, 2013

you can do this, too

When I started this blog last year, after my first trip to Tanzania, I titled it  "Cherished Illusions" for a couple of reasons. I was already well aware of the negative commentary regarding efforts by disconnected though well-intentioned churches like CLA to extend aid to the people of Africa. In her book, Dead Aid, Dambisa Moyo states, "Aid has been, and continues to be, an unmitigated political, economic, and humanitarian disaster for most parts of the developing world." 

Some analysts believe that foreign aid instills a culture of dependency and fuels corruption. It defeats its own purpose. For the most part it hasn't succeeded.

Still, much of the western world believes we have a moral imperative to reach out to those who are less the hungry, the sick, and the poor. Christian churches feel this mandate intensely, none more so than the members of our team from CLA.

It is this passion that fuels the work of medical missions like the one I agreed to oversee.

In Loborsoit we witnessed the disabling effects of poverty, hunger, chronic pain, and untreated illness among strangers who welcomed us with trusting and hopeful hearts.

We treated over 700 patients while we were there. But even if all we had accomplished was to rehydrate one sick baby, or to relieve one person's pain, or to convince one mother to fetch clean water for her family, a lofty goal would nevertheless have been served. Despite the broader problem of political and economic fallout, friendships were forged and cultural differences were celebrated. A commitment was fulfilled. What we accomplished may have been little more than a dew drop in a desert, but if just one seed took root because of it...imagine what might eventually blossom there!

I owe many thanks to the team for their support, and to the people who invited me to be a part of this effort. This is how it all began:

One day, back in October 2011, I received a call, out of nowhere, from a total stranger from a church I didn't belong to, asking me if there was the slightest possibility that I might consider joining a team of nurses, aides, and therapists traveling to a remote village in Tanzania to run a medical clinic. Liz Fite's call that day was the answer to a prayer of mine. I'd been to Africa before and I ached to go back. She'd gotten my name from a patient of mine who was kind enough to think of me when their team found itself without a doctor. Meet Liz Fite and friend:

And this is my patient, Dianne Wilt (on the right). If she hadn't given my name to Liz, none of this would have happened for me.

This is multitasker and genuinely all-around nice guy, Curt Harris, who organizes everything for every mission the church sends off--passports, visas, flights, meals, and transportation. I swear, seeing 700 patients in a tent without running water or electricity takes less energy than what this man does every day!

Curt Harris
Meet John Bongiorno, president of WorldServe International. He has a talent for seeking out the neediest people and for working tirelessly on their behalf. His passion is providing clean water to villages like Lobosoit, and for supporting efforts to establish schools and clinics where there are none. He's also a pretty darn good big game hunter, and an honorary Maasai elder.

John Bongiorno
This our liason in Loborsoit, Alais Ndooki, the one-armed wonder. He not only coordinates all the projects in the village, but personally arranged for the transfer and treatment of the most seriously injured and ill patients to the hospital in Arusha while we were there.

Alais Ndooki
Thanks go out to the village elders who shared their stories with us, to the women of the village who welcomed us, to Dr. Boniface and the national nurses who supported us in the clinic, and to Roy Safari for maintaining the camp, preparing our meals, and leading us along the back roads to paradise. Also, thanks to family and friends who prayed for us and patiently awaited our safe return.

I would be remiss to forget Talek who kept us safe despite the hyenas that prowled the camp in the dark!

And finally, a prayer of gratitude goes out to the Lord (if you believe in Him) or to the power of the universe (if you're not convinced yet) or to fate, chance, or luck (if you must) for the opportunity to do this work, for the invitation to witness Mother Nature in all her glory, and for our safe return.

If you are interested in learning more about our trip or more about the work of Christian Life Assembly, go to . If you are called to do this kind of work, don't hesitate to get involved.

"You haven't really lived 
until you've done something for someone
who can never repay you."
(God bless you!)

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