"Fifteen years ago, a couple of doctors went to Tanzania without a plan. Do you have any idea how unusual that was... how unusual that is?" Continuing on, Dr. Randy Hurley described how colleagues would ask if he would be performing c-sections, delivering babies, performing surgery, or providing some kind of direct care. They didn't understand how doctors could travel to Africa, of all places, without a plan to do something...
Speaking this past Sunday in front of those gathered for the 2017 Ilula Benefit
, Hurley described how he first landed in Tanzania with a delegation of ten people from Shepherd of the Valley
in Apple Valley that included his wife, Kari, and their two children. "We simply went to 'be' with our companion congregation," he said. "No agenda... Just to be and to learn." Onboard the same flight were a handful of travelers from Our Saviour's
in Hastings that included Dr. Gary Moody, his wife, and their daughter who were there to go and do the same as well.
All of them went and they saw what God was up to there, in Iringa, among their friends and in their own lives too. The result is an unexpected journey that has expanded to include church leaders, medical specialists, students, residents, teachers, and a whole community of people from many walks of life who simply have an interest in supporting health care in the Iringa region of Southern Tanzania.
Over the past decade and a half, the seeds planted on that 'unplanned' trip have grown into the Shoulder to Shoulder - Ilula Health group, an organization that, in turn, has brought forth many improvements to the medical services of the Iringa Diocese. Working side-by-side with colleagues in Iringa, the group has assisted with a whole host of initiatives
including the construction of a surgical theater and nursing school, staff training and education, as well as annual visits, conferences, and educational experiences for students from the United States. Along the way, Hurley says, "We have learned a lot from our companions in Iringa, NGOs in Tanzania, and other BKB affiliates
in Saint Paul."
Speaking as one who was also on that same trip with Doctors Hurley and Moody in 2002 and who has watched all of this unfold, the journey that they and the Ilula Health group have been on over the past fifteen years has been truly remarkable. I'm also aware that it isn't over. The next shared-priority the group is working on is the purchase and installation of X-Ray equipment at the hospital - a vital need given its location along a dangerous stretch of road. Proceeds from last year's and this year's benefits all move them toward that goal. To learn more about the group and to join in, visit www.ilulahealth.org
In ways often unseen and unplanned for, God is at work and there is indeed much to celebrate.
With joy and gratitude,
The Rev. Peter Harrits
Director of Bega Kwa Bega and Assistant to the Bishop