Now a 22-year veteran of African missions, Larry Pepper said the needs at his hospital never stop. He's grateful for churches who step up to fill in the gaps, both great and small.
At the end of a beaten-up road in Tanzania, a small hospital occasionally gets as full as it can get, and then runs on empty.
"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 IMB doctor who serves at the Baptist Hospital in the town of Kigoma. "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," Ben noted. And there in that crowded hospital, the two men began to dream. Ben saw the vast needs—both medical and spiritual—and Larry 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," Ben 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," Larry announced. "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," Larry said. They have supported the Peppers' work through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, the funding source that keeps them on the field. They have provided 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," Larry said. "But we find that when other people get a passion to come alongside us, God uses it to further His kingdom." (IMB)