All her life, Renae Sparks has been acquainted with the Baptist theme of missions. Especially as the wife of a Southern Baptist preacher, she’s been well-versed in the support of a predominant feature of that denomination, especially in foreign countries.
Tanzania, in southeastern Africa, probably is best known as the home of Mount Kilimanjaro. It’s said that the 54 countries of the world’s second-largest continent has seen the largest growth in Christianity.
“I’m a member of Mount Gilead Baptist Church in Webster’s Chapel,” Sparks said. “I began attending some Wednesday night services at RPC and listened to Wade Hooper and others who talked about their upcoming mission trip and decided to go with them.”
Hooper described going to this country of nearly 45 million people as an incredible opportunity, life-changing both for those who go and those who are ministered to. Mission team members serve in such roles as medical, evangelism, prayer room, distribution of reading glasses and sunglasses, children’s ministry, pastor conference, ladies’ hygiene and food preparation.
The schedule from Hooper: “Hotel accommodations first and last nights, and two nights at mid- mission while on sightseeing safari. Target two villages in the bush where access to medical care and the Gospel are limited. The teams sleep in tents, cook their own food, dig pits for toilets and use bottled water only. There will be no electricity, no running water, no paved roads, no cars or trucks. Four days of set-up, medical clinic and all other mission activities in first village. Two days on sightseeing safari to a national park with hotel accommodations and exotic African animals in the wild. Three days in second village to repeat all work done in first village.”
The missioners went into the country’s mountains — 6,000 feet above sea level — to an area where the population had never seen white people before. “They mostly just stared at us at first, but were happy to see us,” Sparks said. “It didn’t take long for us to become friends and they were so happy to accept the medicines we brought.”
Sexually transmitted diseases are rampant in that part of the world. The mission team gave out $5,000 worth of antibiotics and other medicines, then had to order more from the city of Arusha, six hours away.
Sparks said other major health problems were sinus infections (because of the high altitude) and diabetes. “The team dispensed eyeglasses and gave out hundr of pairs of sunglasses that were eagerly sought after,” she said. Other items provided were mosquito nets, study Bibles and many knitted caps and children’s dresses.
“It was not unusual for as many as 790 patients to be served by our pharmacy after their visit through the clinic, which was staffed by medical doctors and other qualified members of our team,” Sparks said.
Many had never heard a clear presentation of salvation, Sparks said. “Pastors preached a mixture of different denominations they had heard about instead of God’s Word,” she said.
Hooper led the pastor’s conference, where participants were able to study the Bible for several hours each day.
“Yes,” she replied. “If it’s God’s Will, I will go back in June 2019.”
Sparks is willing to her adventure with others. Call 256-295-3689 for more information.