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Nov4FriShort-term mission trip leaves lasting impression in the hearts and minds of participants November 4, 2011 by Kerri Cryderman, Saskatoon Temple
Short-term missions have a unique way of putting a place and people in one's heart and mind forever. That is exactly what the twelve team members who took the trip to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, now believe. The team from the Prairie Division, led by Captain Justin Bradbury, corps officer at Southlands Community Church in Winnipeg, was poised to use their gifts and talents in practical ways. We left Winnipeg Airport armed with totes of supplies and equipment to renovate some of the buildings at The Salvation Army's Matumaini School. We would learn that the greatest gift we could ever give was nothing compared to the tremendous impact that place and those people would bring to our lives. The memory of the faces of the students at Matumaini School will forever remain in our hearts and cause us to want to tell the story over and over.
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Matumaini, which means “a place of hope,” is an elementary school for disabled children in the heart of Tanzania. The children who come to this school are recommended by a physician and must be able to personally care for themselves due to the small number of support staff at the facility. The Matumaini School takes care of all their medical, educational, physical and spiritual needs while they are at the school. Once enrolled, they are eligible to remain until their elementary education is completed.
Most of the team's days at Matumaini were spent renovating the buildings. Once the children were out of school, we had a chance to spend time with them. A few of the activities included football (soccer) and making beaded necklaces and bracelets. Watching football was an interesting experience as everyone had the opportunity to play. Children left their wheelchairs to be a part of the game by scurrying along in the sand. Children on crutches fell after taking the opportunity to kick the ball with the only leg they have. Crutches even seemed to be an advantage as they were used to trip opponents! Disabilities do not stop these children from doing anything. Bracelet making was another exciting experience. The children loved the opportunity to make something for themselves. It was a miracle to watch some children string the beads, given their physical limitations. The fact that some children had no hands or fingers did not stop them from building their precious projects. These children taught us a new meaning of being thankful for our physical bodies and all that God has blessed us with.
Short-term missions also have a way of teaching valuable lessons about faith, hope and love. The team had the opportunity to visit Mbagala Corps and worship with them on one of the Sundays. Right beside Mbagala Church is a Girls' Hostel and the corps is mostly attended by the young girls who live there. These girls have been rescued from slavery, including sex slavery, or they were abandoned and living on the street. The girls who come to this hostel are given a chance to heal. Most of the girls have never slept on a bed prior to their arrival. The programs at the hostel are designed to address their psychological needs as well as to prepare them for re-entry to the community with the skills and abilities required to move forward in freedom and to escape a life of slavery. The funding for the operation of this home is a lesson in faith. For many years, Denmark had funded this project in conjunction with The Salvation Army in Tanzania. However, Denmark dictated that in order to keep funding this project, the hostel could not proclaim the saving power of Jesus Christ. The leadership in Tanzania graciously declined Denmark's offer of funding under that premise and has been living on faith to keep the hostel open ever since. And God has been faithful.
The team was also privileged to spend time with cadets who, while training as Salvation Army officers, live on the compound where Matumaini School is located. The cadets have such a vibrant hope and excitement about the possibilities they have for reaching the world for the lost. The cadets are so sure of their hope in Jesus Christ and are ready to proclaim it. A foreign concept for us was that the future officers had to leave their children behind to attend their training, unlike in Canada where the children are with their parents during the training period. On completion of their training, the cadets will leave the college with a set of pots and pans, a mattress, their uniforms and a bicycle. After re-joining their children, most will arrive at their outpost with no living accommodations and will either have to rent or build a place to live or sleep in the church. And still they have faith and hope to believe that what they are doing will make a difference for eternity.
The children at Matumaini School definitely taught us about love. Our understanding of love is so small. The children willingly accepted us into their “home” and invited us to everything and anything they were involved in. We had the opportunity to attend their Youth Service held by the Pendo (“Love” in Swahili) club. These children host a service every night except Wednesdays and there is no adult leadership. The youth lead songs, prayers, testimonies, read Scripture and even preach. What is so amazing is that there is a different person leading each evening. In order to be a part of the Pendo club, you must profess to believe in Jesus Christ and want to live your faith out in love. The children flood into the building every night and it just starts. They sing at the top of their lungs and the testimonies are as simple as thanking God that they got to go swimming. They openly welcomed us to come and take part in this and even prayed for us. Now that's love!
In the midst of very little physical possessions, these people live out 1 Corinthians 13:13: “And, now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Tanzania will always and forever be in our hearts and prayers as we wait for another opportunity to serve.