Tanzania (MNN) — Tanzania has one of the worst hospital bed density rates in the world. For every 1,000 people, there are 1.1 hospital beds, according to reports by the Central Intelligence Agency.
With such limited access to healthcare, it is little wonder that maternal mortality rates and infant mortality rates are sky high. HIV/AIDS infection is around 6%. Malnutrition reigns in regions that have limited variety in crops.
Grace Ministries International has been working in the Rukwa Valley of Tanzania for years. The ministry has focused on agricultural development, livelihood aspects, vocational training schools for carpentry, church planting, and more. But given the poor medical condition of the area, it is GMI's most recent project that has been most vital.
After three or four years of Mission Aviation Fellowship flying in a doctor to meet with villagers occasionally, GMI was finally able to open a medical facility in January 2012.
"This has been, to me, one of the great benefits for that whole area in which medical work is almost zero," says GMI executive director Dr. Sam Vinton.
Since the Mercy Medical Mission Dispensary opened three months ago, it has reached thousands of patients.
"People come in and out: probably anywhere up to 200 a day would be showing up there," says Vinton.
The facility is run mostly by Tanzanians. They are paid, as any other medical professionals would be, but Vinton says it is much more than a job. These individuals are believers, pouring into the lives of their patients with the power of the Great Physician.
"We feel it's just another outreach of helping people physically, while at the same time showing them the love of Christ. Of course, they're also hearing the Word of Christ through those who are working with the patients there in that part of the country," Vinton explains.
It took years to get the ball rolling on this hospital. Now that the Gospel-focused facility is up and running, there are new goals to look toward. For instance, the building was constructed using donations, but now that it's up, says Vinton, "We're trying to build it eventually to where it is pretty much self-supporting from the standpoint of medication [and] personnel."
There is still a lot of work ahead, but the focus remains firmly on the eternal purposes of the hospital.
"[Pray] that the people who are working there–the nurses, and the aides, and other people just working on the property–will really be there because they sense this is where God has placed them. Pray, too, hat the love of the Lord Jesus will shine through them," says Vinton. "To me that's number one; the rest of it follows after that."