17 February 2007

The real news of the Church at work

As I just mentioned, I did not attend the press briefing tonight. Instead, I met with Henry and Priscilla Ziegler, two ECUSA missionaries who live and work in Dar es Salaam. They run the Buguruni Anglican Health Centre in the Diocese of Dar es Salaam. Henry is a doctor, and Priscilla is trained in public health. Together they are working to improve health conditions in one of the poor neighborhoods of this large city.

Not many people seem to know about the Episcopal Church's Appointed Missionary Program. In this program, missionaries are sent for three years to do the work of the Church. Sometimes they are sent to poor areas of the US, but most often they work in developing countries. The Episcopal Church pays a few benefits, the missionaries are expected to raise considerable funds, and the receiving diocese contributes lodging or other support.

Anyway, the Zieglers are running an amazing place. Photos will be posted shortly. They showed me around the clinic, and they we went out for dinner. In addition to the terrific work they're doing, they are delightful people to share an evening with. The atmosphere of the clinic is filled with their warmth, love, and generous spirit.

The Anglican Health Centre serves over 100 patients each day, offering a range of services. In addition to basic health care, they have a labor & delivery unit, a few overnight beds, a lab, and a dispensary. They are working with government officials to receive permission to open an AIDS treatment unit. There are three doctors on staff, and other medical professionals. The fee to see a doctor is 500 Tanzanian Shillings, which is about 40 US cents.

Beyond the clinic itself, the Anglican Health Centre works to make a difference in the lives of many people in their neighborhood. They run health education programs. One new initiative will show movies using a portable projector, speakers, an inverter, and vehicle batteries. Using this setup, they can project health education movies onto the walls of buildings around the city. Because television is novel, people will watch an hour-long program on health.

All this is being done in a way that will make the Zieglers dispensable. They want this clinic to keep getting better when they leave, so they are training management leaders who can take over when the Americans return home. These people have come across the world to serve others, and they are doing this not for their glory, but for the glory of God. Talk with the Zieglers, and you'll understand mission: a passionate commitment to make the love of Jesus Christ tangible in our world.

This is one of the reasons we need to keep a global communion. The experience of the Zieglers might not happen otherwise. The lives of people who hear from the Zieglers (whether in Dar or in the US) would not be transformed in the same way. The lives of people in Dar es Salaam might not be saved. Fewer people would know the love of Jesus Christ. When I talk with the Zieglers and then contemplate a group of fighting primates in the White Sands enclase, I grieve.

No one seems to care that the Zieglers are from ECUSA. No one seems to ask about their views on human sexuality. It didn't really come up in our conversation this evening. What we did talk about was serving God. And that's how the church is. Most people don't want to squabble over who can sleep with whom. They want to save lives and love God.

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You can help. Want to learn more about the Buguruni Anglican Health Centre? They have a foundation web site. They would be happy to receive other visitors, but they also need financial support. With USD 10,000, they could buy an ultrasound unit to help especially in their prenatal care. Another USD 10,000 would computerize their lab, which is desperately needed as they outpace their ability to serve patients. There are other ways they could use help. Read about the clinic and consider a donation. And definitely pray. Pray for them, for all whom they serve, and for the Anglican Communion. That's a no-brainer.

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