July 15, 2008

Everyone Has Been Touched By It’

By Kern, Joan

Cecilia Nsombo and Rozaria Mwakalukwa work on behalf of 40 children orphaned by AIDS in the small village of Busoka, Tanzania. But there are 145 AIDS orphans in the village, population 1,090.

It's a national crisis, Nsombo said. Everyone has been touched by it.

The women asked for help for the other orphans and for other HIV/ AIDS-related needs when they spoke in services and informal meetings on Sunday at St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Nsombo, 28, and Mwakalukwa, 42, both of Mbeya, Tanzania, work for the Konde Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania.

Nsombo administers Konde's Itete Hospital, which serves Busoka and two other villages in the Tukuyu District of Mbeya.

Mwakalukwa runs diocesan counseling and educational programs in the villages on HIV/AIDS, alcoholism, and drug abuse, among other topics.

The women work hand in hand.

About 60 churches in the diocese are companions with 60 churches in the Lower Susquehanna Synod of the ELC in America. Manheim Township's St. Peter's partners with Busoka Lutheran Church.

The synod brought the women here to speak about their work at its assembly at Messiah College in Grantham June 12-14.

They reported on the challenges the region faces and the progress that has been made.

Their trip, from June 10-30, includes visits throughout the synod, with 266 congregations in Adams, Dauphin, Cumberland, Fulton, Franklin, Lebanon, Lancaster, Perry and York counties.

They said everyone in their homeland is concerned about HIV/ AIDS.

People are open and aware, said Mwakalukwa. They are willing to talk about it at the family level, in the working place. The stigma has been very much reduced.

They spent June 20-22 in Lancaster as guests of Laretta Stutzman of St. Peter's, who visited Busoka on a church-sponsored mission trip in 2006.

Last Friday, Deborah Willwerth, chief nursing officer of Heart of Lancaster Regional Medical Center, gave the women a tour of the facility. This week they planned to visit Family First Health, an HIV/AIDS agency and attend a women's convention, both in York.

The trip has been so good, Nsombo said. It will be very helpful when we go back.

But their trip wasn't all work. They also took time out for sight- seeing. In Lancaster, they visited Central Market and toured the Amish Country Homestead, with a stop at Kitchen Kettle in Intercourse.

Also, Stutzman took them shopping at Park City, where they bought gifts for their children.

You are blessed with so many things here, Nsombo said.

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