It was early September, 1999. Lynn and I had been in Tanzania less than three months. I had recovered from my first (and most serious) bout with malaria…that was the time all the veteran missionaries told me I couldn’t possibly have malaria because I hadn’t been in Tanzania long enough for it to incubate! So I didn’t receive any medicine until the malaria was well-established in my system (the last time I allowed that to happen!). In August we had driven our new Landcruiser home from Dar es Salaam (that’s the vehicle we still call, “The Truck that Built a School”…and it continues its service as one of the school workhorses! It has to have 500,000 miles on it by now…but the odometer stopped working at about 250,000…by that time what point was there to fix it?).
Anyway, back to September, 1999…we were sound asleep. It was the middle of the night. We were startled awake by, “Hodi! Hodi!” calling outside our bedroom window. (“Hodi” basically means…”I want to come into your house!”). At that hour? In was the middle of the night!
It was Mashiku, a fellow teacher at Nassa Theological College. The reason for the late night “Hodi!” immediately became clear. Someone from the dispensary had awakened him. A lady from the village had been in labor over 24 hours…she was struggling terribly…both she and her baby were in critical danger. I had the only vehicle in the area. Could I take her to the nearest hospital about an hour away?
That night the Landcruiser served, for the first of many, many times, as an ambulance. Mashiku traveled me because I had no idea where the hospital was…how to get there…what to do once we arrived…anything! We went to the dispensary to pick up the lady in labor and a few family members. A very tense hour later we arrived at the hospital. Initially I was surprised. It surely didn’t look like any hospital I had ever seen…a few, small dilapidated buildings scattered about. But the surprises were only beginning. There was no doctor there that late. Thankfully a nurse was on duty. However she had no medicine. No instruments or equipment to work with. There was not even a saline IV for the dying mother. I could not believe what I was seeing…hearing…experiencing.
Thirty minutes later the mother, and her baby, were both dead. It was the first health care tragedy of that kind I experienced in Tanzania. Very sadly, it would not be the last.
That was nearly twenty years ago. In the past few months I’ve been thinking more about that tragic night than I had in a long time. I’ve been thinking about how utterly helpless I felt because there was nothing I could do. I’ve been thinking about the anger I felt that because there were no better options. And I’ve been thinking about it because God is up to something…something amazing…something big. We can “feel it” in our hearts. We can see something emerging. Something that causes me to recall that lady and her unborn baby, as well as the many, many others like them I’ve known…people who’ve died unnecessarily in the years since then.
Last fall we – the Lion of Judah Academy in Tanzania – were given an opportunity we had never really expected: to run the dispensary in our village (see the most recent post, “Surprising New Direction,” for more information about this) This is the same dispensary where I had picked up that lady, only to witness her death. We’ve now taken it over. During the past several years we had watched it deteriorate as a health care facility and wondered if there was anything which could be done to save it. We never really expected God to say: “You do it!” NOW we run the place! (another reminder to be careful what you ask God to do! He just might make YOU the answer!)
The contracts were signed last November. We are amazed to see what God is doing already!
- New staff has been hired. A great new doctor…a wonderful new nurse.
- New foundations for new buildings have been laid
- It’s amazing to see the differences a new coat of paint can make…along with fresh doses of the love of Jesus.
- Already we’re hearing comments, “We’d rather come to the Bulima dispensary than to go to the government hospital!”
- New plans are being planned and new dreams are being dreamed. An eye clinic? A dental clinic? Currently people have to travel to Mwanza (a two hour drive each way) for a pair of glasses which may (or may not!) help…dental care virtually doesn’t exist!
- A health care workers’ training program? At Lion of Judah Academy!
Dreams? No, these aren’t just dreams!! Concrete plans are developing about each one of those! During our upcoming July trip we expect to move these plans along substantially.
The Lion of Judah Ministries Board of Directors here in the U.S. has agreed 100% to support this new work in whatever way God gives us the ability to do.
You’d think we’d be used to it by now…watching God do amazing and unexpected new things. But it’s still thrilling to see His love, mercy and power in action!
Our God truly is an Awesome God!
We’ve put together a little photo album on Flickr to show you just a sampling of what’s there…and what’s coming. Here’s the link.
More to come…and we will be offering ways you can participate in this new miracle, as well!