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OCMC News - 29 Months in Tanzania

by Felice Stewart (Posted 12/11/2012)

Glory to God for All Things!

I was invited by the nurse at the health centre to make a home visit with him to a family in his village. The children had chiggers and there was concern that the mother's drinking may be interfering in her child care. I was also aware that a family member who lives here in Bukoba would accompany us to the village. As it turned out, I had met the relative before in connection with another AA member. The driver of the car in which we traveled was an AA member as well. The other nurse was to care for the chiggers and translate for me as I talked about alcoholism. On the way, I asked the nurse what happens in Tanzania when there is concern about somebody's ability to parent, and he told me that it is to be reported to the village authorities.

As we went, I was noticing how thankful I was to have had a fair amount of experience in villages before this. I was also thankful that the nurse with me is someone I trust a lot. And I was glad that the driver and the relative are also people I am comfortable with. It was a beautiful day, and I was enjoying the ride and the scenery, some of which I hadn't seen before.

Eventually we drove up to a house and parked. It was a very nice house. The nurse said it was his house, and invited me inside. I was introduced to the neighbors who were present and taken to see the shamba (field, garden). I managed to pick and eat a bean---it was great. I was told the bean was immature and was redirected to another that was mature. Aha! Now I understand why I do not really like the beans here. They keep them growing until they are very hard. I was given a bag of the "immature" ones to take home. (We surely enjoyed them when Mama Christina cooked them for us a couple of days later.) I was also offered some freshly roasted ground nuts (peanuts).

Then, we set out on foot to meet the family we came to see. They were the next door neighbors, a short walk through the bush. When we went in the living, room there were about ten people present--the patient, her husband, his sister, the village headman, and a female elder, plus the five children. I was introduced to them all. This was not like previous home visits in the US, so I took a deep breath. The relative and the driver came in with us, and a variety of people from the village came and went throughout the time we were there. One of the people was the retired school teacher in the village who could read. The other nurse took care of explaining why we were there and what each of us would be doing after the usual Haya long welcome and greetings.

During this process, I learned that two of the children cannot walk and a third one has difficulty walking. It seemed likely that they had not been vaccinated for polio and that they had had polio. The other nurse and I agreed to try to refer them to Kagondo Hospital where they have a visiting orthopedic doctor and a physical therapist. He explained how he would treat the chiggers, and then invited me to talk to the lady about her alcohol issue. By this time, there were probably at least 19 or 20 of us in the room. I made some effort to check out if everyone was ok talking about this in the large group, and it seemed that they had come to support the family and that the lady was happy to have their help. The other nurse asked her to explain her absences from the home, and she said she thought she was addicted to alcohol. I heaved a sigh of relief that there was no need to try to help her understand this part.

The other nurse had attended part of the first AA meeting that we had at the hospital, but apart from that I do not think he had much information about this. The relative who came with us probably knew a little, and the driver knows a lot. Everyone was interested and responsive to the information that was presented. There was a lot of good discussion. The meeting went on for quite a while. The nurse checked his watch and wanted to cut it off and get back to the children, but it was like the discussion had a life of its own. He directed the aunt to help him with the children and then, after a while I went and joined the children's part, and still the discussion went on. Finally the other nurse said we had to go. In addition to the many gracious messages of thanks, we were offered coffee beans. So I knew that we were appreciated as guests. We left literature and a Big Book with the retired school teacher who said he would read it to the family.

Here, I had been invited to talk to one lady, and had ended up talking to the interested people in the village. It felt more like the times I had been invited to educate groups, than any home visit I had ever been on before. I knew that I had just had another important lesson in African communal life. The other nurse said he would check in on them in a couple of weeks, and some of them walked us back to the car. The nurse's neighbors, a bag of immature beans, and matoke (cooking bananas---similar to plantain) were waiting for us there. Matoke, like coffe beans, are a sign of approval. As usual, I left another village knowing that I had many new friends.

I was invited to see the nurse's home in Bukoba when we got back. It was another very nice house. Retired people here do not have pensions, but they usually have a home (or maybe two) and a shamba. I have been told before that they do not need money, because with a home and a shambe their needs are met.

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God of truth and love: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Hear our prayer for those who do not know You. That they may come to a saving knowledge of the truth, and that Your Name may be praised among all peoples of the world. Sustain, inspire, and enlighten Your servants who bring them the Gospel. Bring fresh vigor to wavering faith; sustain our faith when it is still fragile. Continually renew missionary zeal in ourselves and in the Church, and raise up new missionaries who will follow You to the ends of the world. Make us witnesses to Your goodness full of love, full of strength, and full of faith for Your glory and the salvation of the entire world. Through the prayers of all the missionary saints, Have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
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