Sunrise on Mount Kilamanjaro was a stunning way to kick off September 2015. Three of us travelled to Tanzania on a follow-up visit to evaluate and improve our shipping ministry there. Everywhere we went people yelled, “Scott,” and ran to hug Scott Lien, GHM Director Of Operations. Scott and life-saving equipment and supplies have become synonymous! Gary Gronert, GHM Board President Elect, dutifully recorded every detail of our trip – and he got some hugs too. We made a whirlwind visit to 16 health facilities, the Lutheran Church (ELCT) Headquarters, 5 dioceses and much more.
One facility, Kirurumo Health Center, provides a great example of the changing role GHM has played over the years. In the late 1990s, Dr. Steve Friberg (ELCA missionary) was leading this center in its status as a rural dispensary with very little equipment. Appeals for assistance came to GHM and by 1999 Kirurumo depended on GHM for approximately 30% of its support. Over the years since, GHM has continued equipping Kirurumo with laboratory equipment, a dental suite, sterilizing equipment, laundry machines, furniture, an ongoing flow of consumable medical supplies and educational grants to build capacity by adding several doctors and other medical staff. With this help a once failing government dispensary given to the ELCT has expanded and upgraded into a thriving Lutheran Health Center. Today, Kirurumo depends on GHM for only a small fraction of their support. Nonetheless, a recent x-ray machine, rolled bandages and hospice and newborn kits still rank among the ways GHM continues support for this thriving center.
After our survey of a wide variety of facilities, a pattern emerged. GHM has made the biggest impact supplying equipment at the early stages or by empowering upgrades in a facility. This simple insight may be helpful as we think strategically about our future.
GHM has been vital, but the monetary value of our gifts (about $13 million to TZ over the years) is relatively small compared to government programs and much larger NGOs. What has made our contributions vital has been the strategic way GHM has been able to partner.
I credit the hand of God in crafting the strategy. I’m sure many leaders have put their minds and efforts into discerning (and now I’m joining in too), but it is still a miracle. Such miracles happen in relationships that God calls us to make. “Scott,” people blurted out before tackling him with joy…why? Because for many people he’s the face (or voice) of GHM… someone who called to listen, discern, and try to respond. Every “jolt of joy” and hug that Scott received was for also for you…who support GHM with prayer, volunteer hours, and financial gifts. God is still working miracles!
As we analyze the past and plan for the future I believe we need to think strategically and pray for miracles. GHM is a small, but strategic partner. I’m privileged to join you. Together, let’s keep listening and focusing on how we can offer strategic support that builds capacity for our partners.
This trip was invaluable not only because of the things we learned, but even more significantly because of the relationships built and the encouragement that went in all directions to continue the ministry of healing in Christ name.
Together in ministry,