What happened in Tanzania?
Let us tell you what we experienced in Tanzania. We will follow up later about what we learned from our experience and how God is shaping us and our ministry-focus.
*For those who hate long post, scroll to the bottom for a TL;DR (Too long; Didn’t Read) explanation*
First off traveling overseas is way more taxing than in country travel. Not only did we have well over 18 hours of flying (not including the time of getting to the airport and going through airport formalities) but when we landed we had roughly 2 days of driving ahead of us. So what did all that mean for us? It means we couldn’t actually lay down to sleep for about 3 days. But it was all worth it.
We still had several incredible experiences over the extent of our travels but our true day 1 began when we arrived at UPM (Unreached Peoples Mission) in Itiig,Tanzania. Every moment, beginning with our very arrival, was action packed! Upon our arrival, we were unaware that everyone was going to be there waiting for us, hundreds of pastors, their families and school children, everywhere filled with joy and excitement for the days ahead we would have with them. My wife describes it better than i do:
“In awe I starred, probably with my mouth hanging wide open, at hundreds of people who stood in the street waving scarves and tree branches as they shouting “Hallelujah! Karibo (welcome)! Praise the Lord!” I sat desperately trying to suppress the tears welling up in my eyes. I felt so unworthy. The bus slowed to a crawling pace as the crowd of rejoicing people surround it. All the way down the street to the UPM compound entrance the escort of people, excited to hear the word of God and receive medical treatment, continued to dance and sing with jubilee. I was speechless in the face of such an unexpected greeting. God has been teaching me a lot recently about being unworthy and how he still chooses to use me. Today God showed me how much he loves and treasures me through this people’s excitement to see me, even before they knew if I could fix their medical problems or strengthen their spiritual knowledge. I wonder if this great sense of unworthiness is how Peter felt when Jesus knelt down to wash his feet? I can hardly imagine.”
We had arrived on a Thursday and had other events planned as the clinic wasn’t going to be open until Saturday. However we weren’t expecting all of the pastors and their families to have already arrived. Thankfully our team was able to adapt! We began the clinic the very next day and boy did we not realize what we were getting ourselves into. As well, our fearless team-leader, Martin Fassero, began his teaching much earlier than he thought he would. What we also didn’t know is that God had a reason for all of this happening (more on that later!!).
We head over to the clinic and begin setting up shop. Organizing our pharmacy, establishing flow of patients and where the nurses will assess patients. Once setup was done the patients started making their way in, well over 100 of them and all at once! I guess my only words for it are “organized chaos”. Everyone was desperate to get their needs met. After all getting decent healthcare around those parts of Tanzania could be rather difficult. Many of those stuck in poverty can’t afford healthcare. Meanwhile those who can afford healthcare are to scared to get it at times. Sadly there is a lot of shame in having something wrong with your body in their culture. Sadder still is that doctors know this shame and will often extort their patients by threatening to share their medical information. Ps there is no HIPPA in Tanzania.
There was no clinic on these days, Saturday and Sunday, however there was a lot of teaching and spending time building relationships with the team and other native pastors. We also spent time discussing ways to improve the flow at the clinic. Furthermore, a member of the team realized that while we were meeting physical needs we were missing out on some of the spiritual needs. So what did we change? We decided we were going to do our best to pray for every single patient regardless of how it would affect time. Sunday was an incredible day of worshiping in the Tanzanian church and cultivating relationships. I personally spent a decent amount of time with one specific pastor who truly helped me understand many of the problems the Tanzanian and “African church” were facing.
DAY 5 (Monday):
Back to the clinic! And we were soooo wrong when we thought day 1 was rough. Day one was nothing compared to what we were walking into. There were maybe 300 people waiting for us when we arrived at 9am. It was a crazy day of work. It was rather difficult but we managed to establish a good workflow and while some people were missed we prayed for numerous people! Biblical teaching continued at the conference. It is difficult at times. Person after person, it never ended. For most we were only providing short term treatment, some we couldn’t treat at all. But we knew that it mattered. We knew because the people let us know that it mattered to them. They were thankful for medication, they were thankful for a bar of soap, toothpaste and toothbrush and they were thankful for prayer above all else. As with all the other days once the clinic was closed we spent most of our time either playing with kids, sharing the gospel with kids or spending our time at the conference. Here is one of Rachel’s most treasured moment while running the clinic:
One of my most treasured moments from my missions trip to Tanzania…
Halfway through a long, hot day of working the medical clinic in Tanzania a young girl was brought to my nursing station. With her head hung low, glassy eyes, and a mumbling voice just above a whisper she began to answer my questions. When I finished assessing her I asked, “Would you like me to pray for you before to go to wait in line for the doctor?” She nodded yes. Placing my hand on her shoulder I closed my eyes and began to pray for this precious girl’s pain and suffering to be removed and also for her to know without a doubt just how precious and loved she was in God’s eyes. I opened my eyes to see a bright big smile on her beautiful little face. Standing to go she said, “Thank you for your kind words. I hope to be a doctor just like you someday.”
Well, I’m not a doctor, and I didn’t fix this girl’s problems, but through a simple heartfelt prayer the Lord turned this child’s mourning into joy. I pray that I will never underestimate the power of prayer.
Tuesday looked a lot like Monday. Another crazy day at the clinic and solid biblical teaching for the pastors. However come the end of the day there was a twist we weren’t expecting. Health officials came in and said that the clinic was not safe and that they would not allow us to continue to care for people. Their criteria was that we didn’t have a bathroom with running water. Funny considering most places out in the bush didn’t have any kind of running water. As to their true intentions of shutting us down, who knows! As well education officials came in and said that the church/conference was to close to a school where kids were testing out of form 7 and therefore would only have two more days of teaching. We were caught off guard but thankfully we were able to be flexible. As well on this day I, Michael, was able to teach at the conference. It was a blessing to be able to teach and truly a humbling experience. I thanked God for the opportunity. Furthermore, while I was teaching all of the men, Savannah Fassero was teaching all of the women over at the clinic. The women were packed wall to wall, front to back to listen to a women’s health class Savannah had prepared. I wasn’t there but I heard about how awesome the class was. The women were very blessed to learn so much about their bodies. Again just another thing God used to bless the people we were with!
With the clinic shut down, the conference was priority number 1! Along with the various other times of worship and teaching Stephanie Fassero was able to teach. This was a unique experience because usually a woman would not be able to teach. In fact that was part of the topic she undertook. She spoke about the role of women in the church. I won’t go to much deeper into her message, if it’s sparked your curiosity you should talk to her about it, I can assure you she would love to share it with you!
DAY 8 (Thursday):
Well we woke up to a surprise. All the pastors and their families were gone. All of them. Some time after we had left just the previous night government officials showed up with guns and told them all to leave. That might sound incredibly scary and I am sure it was for the pastors but in Tanzania it is not an uncommon experience. There wasn’t as much ill intention or desire to hurt anyone as much as it was really just the corrupt government flexing their muscles and getting their way. It’s not uncommon for guns to be present when it is concerning the education of the kids. The government takes the form 7 test very seriously. This test determines whether kids will continue on in their education or not. For the sake of it I will simply leave it at that. Thankfully our team was flexible. We changed our plans up and went and ran a VBS at a separate school about an hour away. We donated all of our remaining supplies that we had, most of which was brought with intention of giving away. The school was incredibly blessed because in the 11 years this school had been around no one had ever donated to them. So while the conference and clinic had ended early, God made a way for us to impact even more lives.
Day 9 and so forth:
Our time had come to an end. It was time for more traveling, time to make our way back home. We spent our time encouraging each other on the team since we had made such incredible friendships. And through our travels we still did all that we could to share the gospel with anyone who crossed our paths.
We fell in love with Tanzania and are thankful for the experience. Most of all we are thankful that God spoke clearly to Rachel and I, giving us direction for our future ministry.
Thank you for reading, thank you for partnering with us and hearing the testimonies of our great and mighty King! Continue to pray for the Tanzanians and continue to pray for us as we continue follow Jesus in our daily lives.
Michael and Rachel Pouchot
Clinic was crazy but awesome. Conference was great, I got to teach. Both ended early because government said so. God did amazing work!