Sunday, January 08, 2012

Africa Update Part 3: Tanzania

Part 1: Going Back to Africa is here
Part 2: Working with Residents is here

This was definitely the hardest part to write, partly because we've been so busy the last couple months and partly because this is so much harder to describe in a succinct way.

I've been interested in Tanzania for a long time. When I was in Kenya in 2002, I went on a retreat with the other students in East Africa and we traveled around Tanzania for a week. I spent a summer in Tanzania studying Swahili and really grew to love so m any things about the people, places, culture and history of Tanzania.  

Once we knew that we needed to go back to Africa (see Part 1), we hoped that we would end up in Kenya or Tanzania. We have experience in East Africa. I have a lot of time and energy invested in learning Swahili. Most of our relationships in Africa are in Kenya. At the same time, though, we were trying very hard to be open to whatever God had for us.

Once we were sure we wanted to pursue residency training through the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons or PAACS (see Part 2), the options of where to go narrowed to the places that either have a PAACS program or that are waiting for surgical faculty to be able to open a program. We had several conversations with PAACS administrators about the different places they needed people and God worked with us to get to the point that we would be willing to go to any of them, even the one that was the-place-I'd-always-said-I'd-NEVER-go. Still, we were most seriously considering existing programs at two hospitals in Kenya and a program in Tanzania that is in the planning stages. Over the course of several months, we felt like the two programs in Kenya weren't the best fit for us long-term, for a number of reasons. At the same time, we felt increasingly drawn to the hospital in Tanzania.

ArushaLutheran Medical Center (ALMC) and Selian Lutheran Hospital are sister hospitals in northern Tanzania that are preparing to open a general surgery residency program. Selian is located on the outskirts of Arusha and serves as a referral center for the district while ALMC is a new hospital in the center of town. Together, the two hospitals would serve as the training site for residents.

Here are just a few highlights of the journey and a smattering of things that draw us to this hospital:

- In our first conversation with one of the PAACS leaders at the conference last year, he mentioned that they were considering a program at a hospital in Tanzania. I think he said that he wasn’t actually supposed to share about it yet, but knew we would be interested. Dave and I both felt our hearts stir as he mentioned that possibility and we were definitely interested.

- To make a long story short, we were fasting with our church during lent last year and asking God for direction about our future work. Two days before we finished, Dave got an email from the CEO of PAACS asking if he would be interested in talking further about the possibilities for working there. We thought that the timing was somewhat of a coincidence, but when Dave talked to him more about it all, he said that he felt like God was telling him to contact Dave about it just then.

- The hospital has several surgeons, three of whom are Tanzanian. This means that Dave would be working alongside Tanzanian surgeons to train residents and not just a team of westerners teaching Tanzanians. This is HUGE for us.

- Dave’s current residency program operates across two sister hospitals. There are unique opportunities and challenges to administering a program like this. As a chief resident this year, Dave is getting a lot of experience with the ins and outs of this type of program. This seems like good preparation for developing a residency program in Arusha.

- Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world. There are currently about 150 surgeons (of any kind) for 41 million people. That’s like 35 surgeons for the whole state of Michigan or just three surgeons for the City of Detroit. Our calling has always been to the poor and we feel a special burden for people and places that have been “left behind.”

- To work effectively in Tanzania you really must learn Swahili. Hmm, sounds great to us!

- We really like Tanzania and are very excited about the possibility of living there. 

Next up will be Part 4: Next Steps, the highlight of which is that we're heading to Tanzania in a week to visit the hospitals, meet the team, see the town, evaluate whether this would be a good fit for us and see whether this is really where God is leading us. 


JRae said...

I am beyond humbled by your family's choice to share your good gifts with the world, particularly where it is needed most. Being able to build capacity such that the absence of you does not mean the absence of care is truly the best kind of footprint to leave anywhere you go. My hope is that you all are challenged to grow in the ways you need to grow and that you also have the love and protection you need to always be of service. May I add, what a beautiful gift you're giving your son. All my best on your journey.

Annalisa said...

This is so exciting! How awesome to see so many things lining up behind one place. I'll be praying that you gain a certainty regarding Tanzania, whether for or against, as a result of your time there. Peace be with you on this journey.

Heidi said...

Awesome! How crazy is it that I see you at least once a week, but I never get to sit down and actually hear all the details? That's what blogs are for, right? :) SO EXCITED for you!