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At first glance, it might be difficult to connect the dots between the 125,000 residents of Linn County with the 4,000 people who live in the village of Sakila, Tanzania.
But on any given day, medical staff at the Sakila medical clinic may be wearing scrubs donated by Samaritan Health Services, or reading by lights fed by wiring installed by someone from Lebanon, some 10,000 miles away.
It is just one way the world is shrinking, thanks to Bishop Eliudi Issangya of Sakila and local volunteers associated with the River Center church in Lebanon.
“I was amazed and proud when I saw the medical scrubs from Samaritan,” County Commissioner Will Tucker said of his mission work in Sakila last year.
Tucker called his visit to Sakila “eye opening.”
Tucker said Sakila is so small and rural, it doesn’t show up during a Google Maps search. But thanks to volunteers and financial support from churches in Oregon, Washington and Montana, great things are happening there.
Issangya visited Linn County last week, thanking local sponsors and making connections for further projects in Tanzania. He will spend several weeks visiting his supporting churches in America.
Issangya has spent more than 30 years planting seeds of Christianity in Tanzania, leading to the growth of more than 1,600 churches in five African countries.
He earned a pastoral degree from the San Diego School of Ministry in 1979. In 1983, Issangya said, God told him to start a Bible school in Sakila, where most families earn less than $300 per year.
Families subsist with a cow or two, chickens and by planting corn and beans.
His work has grown to include more than 7,000 pastors, 1,600 churches, a radio station, an orphanage and medical clinics.
There are about 1,000 students in schools from grades kindergarten through 12th.
“To encourage our students to do well, we ask them to pray and to depend on God in everything they do,
” Issangya said.
The result is that students in the schools’ precollege classes have the highest ranking of all schools in the region.
Tucker said that during his visit, the students were “extremely grateful for everything we brought them. They loved the notebooks and welcomed us with open arms.”
A sponsoring church in Wyoming sent an entire well drilling truck and well casing pipes to the village because water is vital in arid Tanzania.
“Without a city well, children would have to spend hours every day hauling water to their homes from the river. They would not have time to attend school,” Tucker said.
Volunteers from the River Center have installed electrical wiring and provided medical teams at the clinic.
Lynn Koehn, pastor at The River Center, said Issangya purchased a portable sawmill in Portland and shipped it to Sakila so locals could create their own lumber for building projects.
The church also teaches young men and women how to weld and do mechanical work. The bishop’s wife teaches them to cook.
Issangya said life in Tanzania is relatively stable compared to other African countries.
“But, we have had four years of drought and we don’t have much water storage or hydropower,” Issangya said.
Like much of Africa, Sakila is not immune to the effect of AIDS.
“The men leave the villages, go to the city for work and are unfaithful,” Issangya said. “They return to their wives and the disease spreads.”
Bishop Issangya’s visit to Oregon was in part to solicit sponsorships for his orphanage. He said it costs $31 per month to sponsor an orphan’s food, clothing, health care and educational needs.
There are currently 53 orphans being take care of and Issangya would like to expand that to 80.
Issangya also has a “wish list” of needs for his village: $450 will help freshen up gravel walkways; $2,000 will upgrade the administration building; solar lights for homes, $12 each; new shoes, $20.
The high school could use a 100,000 gallon water storage tank, $15,000; expansion of the girls’ dormitory, two wings at $27,000 each; a small pickup truck; underground wiring for outside lighting; and 25 16 foot pressure treated 4 by 4s.