By Brooke Hodnefield, Pastor of Missional Life at Atonement Lutheran in Overland Park, Kansas.
Miwani for Mwanza Mission. Translated from Swahili, this phrase means “Eyeglasses for Mwanza Mission.” In July 2009, a group from Atonement Lutheran Church in Overland Park traveled to Mwanza, Tanzania to begin building what would eventually be an eye clinic. Mwanza, located in the northwest part of Tanzania, is where our group joined medical missionaries Dr. Dennis and Paula Lofstrom, who work at Nyakato Health Clinic through the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania. An Ophthalmologist, an EMT, and several doctors and nurses were also among our group of 33 skilled individuals who were able to help at the clinic and provide a make-shift eye clinic. Our youngest participant had her 17th birthday in Tanzania and our oldest member, age 75, was the designated water dude—a key role!
One of the critical needs at the health clinic in Mwanza is an eye clinic to serve approximately 200,000 people in the area. Our group was charged not only with supplying the necessary building materials but also the actual construction and building of the eye clinic. Blueprints were mailed to me at the church. That was a frightening day for me!
We secured the sea container and necessary construction materials, then loaded it at the Home Depot in Overland Park. The sea container went ahead of us in April 2009, three months prior to our trip, but it barely made it there in time! We had seven solid days of work that allowed us to get a great start on building the clinic. Working side-by-side with local Tanzanians, we had the chance to break through the barrier of language. The people of Tanzania have an incredible warmth and spirit that is contagious!
The primary reason this was a “success” was the movement of the Spirit in every aspect of our planning and preparation, and throughout our time in Tanzania. Here are a few stats from our trip:
· 13 Tanzania Travel Team meetings
· two other church partners: First Lutheran, Iowa, and Christ Unity, Kansas City
· more than $85,000 of construction materials (including shipping) for an eye clinic
· two cataract surgeons in Mwanza for a population of 3 million
· two VBS projects that benefited the mission
· eight fundraisers took place and eight other ways we received funding
· more than 1680 pairs of glasses donated
Three years later, and 34 people are preparing to take an adventure back to Mwanza, Tanzania, in June 2012. For ahandful this will be their second trip, but for most, this is a new experience. We have a more skill-specific group, divided into medical, construction and administrative professionals. Our demographic is even more varied and we have several more young adults along for the ride. We will be completing the construction on the eye clinic (the exterior is completed but the interior needs finishing touches), and utilizing each person’s gifts to the fullest. “Spread Some Salt” is the foundational theme for this particular venture, relying on the passage below as our cornerstone:
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:13 & 14
This will be my second time leading this trip, and I have a new perspective. Obviously I will be doing some things differently this time. But the greatest lesson I took away from our first trip was that there is truly NOTHING that God can’t do. If you get out of the way and let the Spirit guide, you can expect amazing things to happen. It won’t be easy, but you will grow from the experience.
When I get overwhelmed and almost paralyzed by the vast need in the world, an important mentor gently reminds me of a Mother Theresa quote he loves: “We are not called to be successful, we are called to be faithful.”
Posted on Sat, October 8, 2011
by Eric Rochester