By Pastor Lisa
I’m on my way home from our annual visit to Tanzania. I often get questions from people who wonder why I continue to return year after year. After an important visit with our partners at Iambi Hospital that was packed full of hard conversations and challenging circumstances, in addition to lots of joy and laughter, here are my best answers to that question.
Our Faith Compels Us to Go
In Acts 1:8 we’re told to go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth to share God’s love. While we absolutely must serve those in our own community, we must not become consumed only by the needs of our neighborhood that we don’t see how we fit together in this great big world that God created. Going to the ends of the earth demonstrates again and again how diverse and marvelous God’s kingdom truly is. Several years ago Zumbro’s Mission & Outreach Team made the decision to focus all of our international mission support toward Iambi Hospital. Rather than supporting full-time missionaries as many congregations do, as a larger congregation we chose to send one of our pastors and a mission team yearly to build and strengthen our relationship. I’m continually amazed at the difference we’ve been able to make in the seven years since our partnership began.
We All are One in Mission
“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). We cannot be one with our brothers and sisters around the world if we do not know them. To know them we must know their joys and struggles, their hopes and dreams, their fears, and their faith. Ministry is always relational. Perhaps the second verse of “We All Are One in Mission” says it best:
We all are called for service
to witness in God’s name.
Our ministries are different;
our purpose is the same;
to touch the lives of others
by God’s surprising grace,
so every folk and nation
may feel God’s warm embrace.
We sang this song at Zumbro as our team was commissioned and at Iambi’s chapel as a part of my sermon one morning. Together the people of Zumbro and the staff of Iambi share God’s call to care for the people in the villages surrounding the hospital. It’s one of the important ways we build bridges of understanding and peace, reach out with compassion, and share the hope of Jesus.
We are Called to Teach …
Part of our covenant with Iambi is that we will provide medical expertise. This year I watched this happen in many ways…
…as Tim Daly worked side-by-side with William Mbewe, the hospital’s radiologist, to maximize the benefit of Iambi’s new x-Ray machine
…as Sue Jenkins sat with the administration staff learning about their practices and teaching some new accountability practices
…as Ann Leland taught the operating theater staff how to use many of the supplies they have
In addition, since my sabbatical experience teaching at Kiomboi (the Central Diocese’s seminary) I feel a strong calling to teach pastors in TZ about mental health. This past week I spent an afternoon with Rev. Elitegemeo Mpumpa, principal at Kiomboi, discussing a future class and/or book we would like to work on together. My drive to do this project intensified when I learned that pastors in Tanzania are instructed to counsel a woman in an abusive relationship to “be patient and pray harder.” While cultural differences will always be present, I’m grateful that church leaders are willing to dive into these important conversations with me.
… and We Have So Much to Learn
I’m constantly reminded by our African partners that what we need in life can’t be found in things. We need water, food, companions, shelter, a place to belong. And we need Jesus. The people of Iambi remind me of this Every. Single. Day.
This Partnership Matters
We have 5 primary mission partners as a congregation, but I am convinced that none need us in quite the same way as our partners at Iambi. The money we are able to raise and share in faith makes a tremendous difference for our partners in Tanzania. The pharmaceuticals we purchase save lives. The equipment we provide allows patients to receive treatments that otherwise would be miles and miles of walking away. The newborn kits we provide help families have what they need to care for their infants. The teaching we provide helps our partners to serve their patients better. And the hope that we provide when we visit reminds our partners that they are not alone in their struggles.
People of Zumbro, thank you. Your generosity and your prayers are changing lives and providing hope.
See you in worship this Sunday,
p.s. I love to tell stories about our Iambi partnership through video. Ever wondered how the videos get made for worship on Sunday morning? Almost every year the creation happens while on the roads taking us away from Iambi. Check out my office in the front of our safari vehicle — 90+ degree heat with the windows down and using a basket top as a desk. If you missed our video story from last Sunday, click here.