Churches help keep Tanzania hospital running

EDITOR'S NOTE: This year's Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention was Dec. 2-9 with the theme "Every Church. Every Nation." The theme undergirds the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. The offering, in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches, supports international workers in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at, where there are resources to promote the offering. This year's goal is $160 million.

KIGOMA, Tanzania (BP) -- At the end of a beaten-up road in Tanzania, a small hospital occasionally is filled to capacity with patients -- and then supplies begin to run thin.

"One time we didn't have any more Ketamine, a drug used for anesthesia, and we had been doing a lot of C-sections," said Larry Pepper, an International Mission Board doctor who serves at the Baptist Hospital in the town of Kigoma. See related story. "Another time we didn't have enough suture material."

And another time, sick children were sleeping two or three to a bed for lack of space. That's the scene Ben Hale, missions pastor at Dawson Memorial Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., walked into several years ago when he came to the hospital to see what his church could do to help.

"I was moved," Hale noted. And there in that crowded hospital, the two men began to dream. Hale saw the vast needs -- both medical and spiritual -- and Pepper shared how the hospital has been a vehicle for getting the Gospel into area villages, some of which had no believers yet.

"Long story short, we were able to help them build a pediatric wing," Hale said. "We're hoping it will be a platform for the Gospel not only for the patients but that it would open up doors for more church planting and gospel sharing in the area."

So far, it has.

Five construction workers came to Christ as the pediatric unit was being built. And with a quarter of the facility dedicated to maternal health, Larry's wife Sally has been able to start new ministries to mothers. The new wing also paved the way for the IMB to send a pediatrician to join the hospital's work.

"It has been a really great partnership with the Dawson congregation," Pepper noted. "We're grateful." But it's not the only time in the past 22 years that he and Sally have found themselves in humble gratitude to a church. Over and over, churches have stepped up to cover the hospital's needs -- needs like Ketamine for C-sections and suture materials for surgeries.

"Churches of all sizes have helped," Pepper said. Southern Baptist congregations help support the Peppers' work through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering -- both of which help fund missionary efforts on the field. Dawson Baptist and other churches also have helped provide equipment like wheelchairs and oxygen concentrators, a vital resource in a place where oxygen tanks are sparse. They have sent construction teams to make repairs on the facilities. They have led their children's ministries to raise funds to feed malnourished children at the hospital.

"We're just two people," Pepper said. "But we find that when other people get a passion to come alongside us, God uses it to further His Kingdom."

Pray for:

-- Churches to understand the importance of every dollar spent toward the spread of the Gospel. Pray for them to provide generous support through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

-- Church members to experience a personal burden for missions.

IMB staff released this story. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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