by Jodi Swanson

(Steve and Jodie Swanson, along with their children Hannah, Caedmon, and Indya, were sent out from COTC to serve missionaries in Arusha, Tanzania.  Steve is a doctor who serves and teaches at the Selian Lutheran Hospital there.  Jodi hopes to begin serving at the nursing school and district hospital soon.  Steve also wrote a blog about serving in Tanzania–it was posted last week.  Please click here to read his blog as well.)

Lord, in your mercy…

Since our arrival here in Tanzania 6 months ago, each day has been in His mercy. The Lord has been with us and we are so grateful. I apologize for the silence on our end as we made this transition.  It has not been easy and writing during the upheaval and change was difficult as we did not want to “complain” and yet it was honestly a rough and bumpy road… much like the roads we travel on here! Yet, through all the ups and downs, our Heavenly Father has cared for us. Thank you for your prayers and your love.

We are so grateful for the house that the Lord provided for us 2 months ago. It is very near the kid’s school though a bit further from our work. It has taken a while to get it set up and it is no small task, but it is becoming a place of rest and joy for the whole family. We have a large yard and a verandah facing the mountain. We now have 4 dogs and a cat!! Yes, you read that right. They were intentionally chosen to guard us from various dangers (rats, snakes) as well as give joy and comfort. I know you are thinking of the children when I say joy and comfort and that is certainly true, though after a difficult day at the hospital, Steve often comes home and says “bring me the puppies”.

Slowly, we are finding our way, the Lord is making our path straight, and we are grateful. Steve has been busy at work in two hospitals and we say, “Lord, have mercy… “ as he has worked to save lives.  Even with those who recover, there are still children who have died. Too many. And it is hard. Systems are broken, needed medicines are frequently out-of-stock, and the need is so great. This past week he rounded with one intern and a nurse, caring for 20 patients. In the midst of this need, he has met some wonderful Tanzanian doctors and nurses and has enjoyed working with the mothers and children. Some days are full of joyful encounters and other days have been grieved with undeserving death.  Lord, in your mercy…

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The children have been settling in well to their school and surroundings though there have been many challenges on the school/home front as well. We are grateful for great teachers and incredible opportunities to be outside in the warm air every day though we are also aware of losses our children have experienced. One of the greatest losses has been in the area of a Christian community of other children. We miss you!! We are planning to start our own youth group with a few other families and a house fellowship as well. There is a strong community of missionaries here though it has not been easy to gather regularly, as everything takes more effort, planning and travel time. Even in this, the Lord is making our path straight and it is coming together.

I have been busy on many fronts– mostly behind the scenes, with the basics of food, shelter, and water. ☺ Maybe it is more along the lines of meals, clean clothes and house, books and… pets.  When the kids go back to school after Easter, I will have the opportunity to begin work at the new Nursing School and at the district hospital. I will likely begin slowly as there is still more work and settling to do here on the home front.

I began this update with “Lord, in your mercy…” because those words have been spoken so often since our arrival. With each challenge we encounter, we find ourselves in need of the Lord’s mercy at a deep level. I began using that phrase when I had to drive… manual transmission, left side of the road, pot holes everywhere, motorcycles, big trucks, carts, cows, goats, children, and streets crowded with people. I would open the car door, say “Lord, in your mercy…” and start the engine.

As we enter Holy Week, we are grateful for a believing community to be a part of here and yet we miss Church of the Cross so much. We grew in our traditions while we worshipped with you over the years and now we work to take what we have learned to live and worship meaningfully here. Once again, we pray, “Lord, in your mercy…” and over the ocean, we can hear your response, “…hear our prayer.”