Last month, I had the privilege of accompanying the Lighthouse Medical Missions Team to Mwanza, Tanzania. The vision of Lighthouse Medical Missions is to bring the love of God to the sick and dying in the poorer nations of the world. The team consists of volunteers who freely give their time and finances to reach the forgotten and neglected with the truth of the Gospel through medicine.
I have no medical credentials, or formal medical experience for that matter. From the start, it was apparent that my role on the team would be that of an errand boy- er girl, that is until our team captain, Dr. Bob Hamilton, asked if I would be the organization’s photographer during the trip. I gladly agreed.
We arrived in the East African tropic after traveling for 48 hours. All of which included 4 flights and 22 hours of purely flying. The airline “misplaced” many of our boxes containing medical supplies and pharmaceuticals, and several team members’ luggage. Before we received said luggage, supplies, and pharmaceuticals, the team had to ration what supplies we did have.
After arriving each morning at the clinic and seeing the hundreds of sick and needy lining the streets, the waning supplies became more terrifying. During previous trips, the lack of supplies typically erupted a riot outside the clinic. Luckily we received our luggage and supplies on the afternoon of the third day.
“Overwhelming” was the titled theme of our trip. Our leader, Dr. Bob Hamilton, encouraged the team, even before our departure, to be content with the state of being overwhelmed. During our travels, this theme was a place of reference for all our experiences.
I was most overwhelmed by the patients that we were unable to help. We saw several children with severe mental disorders, and because of their lack of control, they had caused serious harm upon themselves. In a developed country, these patients would be given assistance and proper precautions would be taken to protect the individual. Many of these children had shattered teeth, inflammation, developing tumors, wounds, and other progressing ailments brought upon by their disability.
The beauty in Mwanza overwhelmed me. The majority of the enormous Lake Victoria is within Tanzania, and Mwanza sits on its edge. One afternoon, we were lucky enough to close the clinic early and visit an island on the lake. Many animals have been introduced to the island for tourists including impalas, zebras, monkeys, and many exotic reptiles.
While leading our group around the island, our guide mentioned that anacondas and black mambas also inhabit the island. There were a few requests to return to our boat after hearing that bit of information.
The greeting “welcome” translates to “karibou” in Swahili. The people of Tanzania were overwhelmingly welcoming. Language, race, and culture can influence any person into insecurity, hate, or envy, but our team was greeted with sincere joy and gratitude. I assumed that I might get some trouble for carrying around my obnoxiously large and expensive camera, but the people were delighted. Many would stop me and ask that I take a photo as they strike a pose. In the very true words of William Arthur Ward, “a warm smile is the universal language of kindness.” The people had a way of making the most uncomfortable and lowly places feel comfortable and welcoming. We came to serve them, and they were gracious teachers of what it truly means to serve.
I learned to smile. I learned the potential of a warm welcome. I was truly overwhelmed in Tanzania, and would encourage anyone who is interested to go!
If you’re interested in the Lighthouse Medical Missions Teams and you’d like to learn more, click here
To learn more about the annual Walk to Africa fundraiser coming up soon, click here