Little Martin's death will always be heavy on our hearts, but the week before we were visited by an uplifting group of nine from the Diocese of Atlanta. Eight of this group were from the Cathedral of St. Phillips. They were led by Rev. Beth Knowlton, Canon for Mission and Prayer, and Deacon Ed Fuller. The group included two cathedral staff mentioned, 5 lay persons (3 who worked on the container committee), 2 medical persons (1 doctor and 1 nurse) and 2 with extensive experience with Cathedral links to mission in Equador. One other priest, Eddie Ard from St. Anne’s parish came with them, and he is remaining to teach at Msalato Theological College until graduation on June 22. The container committee is made up of those working to fill a forty-foot container to be sent to this diocese in cooperation with MedShare in Atlanta.
The group’s two main foci were to establish Cathedral-to-Cathedral links and to explore the medical needs of the Diocese of Central Tanganyika (DCT.) Lesser but not minor concerns were education in general and theological education in particular. This said, another underlying theme of the trip was to uphold and to make tangible the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in which all of them had been involved with in forums and discussions at St. Philip’s. This might seem like an impossible task for a five day trip, but we predict that never will so many owe so much to so few. This group was well prepared, asked pertinent questions, and gathered mountains of data (and pictures!) They have a huge amount to digest and to process when they get back. Despite the information load they were spiritual as well. Of the whole trip the most moving event was the day with Bishop and Irene doing confirmations in two remote villages.
Wednesday May 28th, Martin met them at the Dar airport. Thursday was a bus ride to Dodoma. Friday morning they had presentations from the staffs of Mackay House (diocesan headquarters) and a tour of the premises. This included the Health Center, Dentist’s office, Laboratory and Martin’s Histology Laboratory. They began to get the feel of the range of services under the umbrella of the Diocese of Central Tanganyika (DCT). After a brief rest they returned to the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit (across the street from Mackay House) for a meeting with the Dean, the Rev. Bethuel Mlula, and his staff to share ideas and establish links. Bishop Mhogolo had a daylong commitment at Mvumi Secondary School but returned in the evening to host a welcoming dinner for the staffs of the Cathedral, Mackay House, and the Atlanta group. This was carried out most graciously with introductions all around and summaries of the intentions of all involved. The 40-foot container that Atlanta is filling was discussed. This includes 4 dental suites from Dr. Blake Lane of Columbus, GA; equipment donated from Northside Hospital; and supplies to be selected from the inventory at MedShare. Also included are various Braille papers for Buigiri School for the Blind as well as theology books for Msalato Theological College. The filling should be complete in a couple of weeks.
Next morning, Saturday, the group toured Amani Hospital. (Amani means peace in Kiswahili.) This is a 34-bed hospital, owned by the DCT, which went out of business as a general hospital in 1999. It is on small piece of property in an upscale area of Dodoma. It lacks the size and capacity to be a general hospital. The diocese had cleaned it outside and in and condition of the buildings was remarkably good. Amani has a well-laid out Outpatient Department for seeing patients. It has a building for Maternal Child Health. The hospital has three wards tightly associated with an operating theater, X-ray, and laboratory. A large kitchen, storage building with doctor’s lounge, and laundry are outbuildings. The idea was presented to the Atlanta team to pursue discussions and planning for the hospital to be a Women’s Hospital. This would in Martin’s eyes work as the campus could accommodate a specialty hospital and outreach programs for women’s health could branch out from there. With a specialty focus, Women’s Health, the opportunity for excellence in care would be improved. Staffing would be somewhat easier. In the end analysis, this would be a massive project for both DCT and the Atlanta Diocese and other interested parties to take on. It will be carried forward with more study, deliberation, and prayer.
Sunday, we went with Bishop Mhogolo and wife Irene to two remote villages where at least a total of 70, both old and young, were confirmed. The hospitality was amazing. Ed Fuller was given the gifts to outfit him as a Wagogo chief. The ladies were adorned with necklaces and bright kangas. We returned after dark exhausted but uplifted by the services and outpouring of spirit.
Monday was a trip to Lucy’s Well, a project of Lucy Perry’s from the Cathedral of St. Philip. The well, pump, and windmill provide clean water for a large village 10 km from Dodoma. The brown water from the nearby dry river bed (shallow hand dug wells which will soon dry completely) was a stark contrast to the clean water from the tap. From the well we went on to tour Mvumi Hospital and have lunch. The group was given a tour of the hospital with Dr. Dickie McMullen, an ophthalmologist from Atlanta, being especially interested in the ophthalmology facilities, which are outstanding for this part of the world. Dickie spent some one on one time with Dr. Mary Ndolezi. The group especially enjoyed seeing the children being weighed in the Maternal Child Healthcare facility bungee style.
On the way back from Mvumi Hospital we stopped to visit the Bishop Matinda Christian Formation Centre (BMCFC) in the village of Matumbulu. Traditionally, this institution has been the feeder school to Msalato but from now on only lay people and catechists will be trained at this center. All wanting to be ordained will need to finish Form IV of secondary school (equivalent to grade 10 in US) to qualify for Msalato. For this reason, DCT has recently added a secondary school to this centre. Part of the impetus for this move came from the government’s decision to hire only people who have finished Form IV. The plea came from the current principal, Canon Philemon Sudayi, for help in funding this transition to which St Anne’s, via Rev. Eddie Ard, immediately responded. Their generous gift allowed back salaries to be paid and certificates and food to be purchased for the graduation ceremony held this past Sunday in which Eddie took part.
On Tuesday the Atlanta group finished the whirlwind stay with a visit to Buigiri School for the Blind a tour of Msalato Theological College (MTC) and meeting with students, and a Round Table discussion at the library of MTC. Magi Griffin, newly arrived missioner from Diocese of Atlanta, whose coordination of the trip was phenomenal, accompanied them daily and on the trip to Dar the next day. All in all their goals were met. They go with ours, and we are sure, your prayers as they process the experience. The Holy Spirit was with them and will comfort them as they present their reflections and ideas to the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta.
When this group left their conversation had honed in on foundational issues…water, women, and education. Their touring of the villages revealed just how much of every day women and girls spend searching for and securing water. If there is no well, the water is deep gold in color. In rainy season it is Georgia clay red color. Dirty water is related to health. The trip revealed just how much of the MDGs revolve around the womanachieving universal primary education (#2), gender equality and empowerment of women (#3), reducing child mortality (#4), improving maternal health (#5), combating HIV/AIDS/malaria and other diseases (#6). The women are the workers and backbones of the families. They secure the firewood, the water, and do the cooking and all the childcare. The other revelation was just how important a pastor is to a village. They are often the only link to the outside world. The villagers depend on them for not only baptisms and burials, but also for information and inspiration, for pastoral care and counseling, for a link to the outside world. It is only through the church that people get AIDS education, malaria prevention courses, nets, and links to where to get help for medical care and glasses and education. As both of our bishops are fond of saying: The state of the church is no stronger than the quality of its theological institutions. How this group from Atlanta prioritizes and divides its resources will require discernment and wisdom that only God can give. Pray for them.
With much joy and love,
Sandy and Martin