Leaving early in the morning on May 17th, 2022, a group of 15 left Crosspoint Church of Bangor Maine for missionary work in Tanzania. The departure included all of the chaos any trip of this size entailed, including late luggage, missing Covid test results, and delays checking in at the Portland airport. Once on the airplane to New York’s JFK airport however, things smoothed out as everyone settled in for the next 10,000+ miles of travel. From JFK the group flew 7 hours and 15 minutes to Amsterdam, where coffee and snacks were enjoyed in the airport. Then an 8 hour and 25 minute flight to Kilimanjaro, arriving approximately 8 pm local time, 7 hours offset from Eastern Daylight time, on May 18th. 

Upon arrival at the airport travel Visas were filled out easily, as we whizzed past the crowd of people who had pre-registered online. Resistance instead came while collecting the group’s checked luggage. One bag was missing, and the local airport authorities wanted to charge our group a tax on all of the gifts we had brought with us from America for the mission trip. These included soccer balls, arts and crafts, toothbrushes, etc. Thankfully, Vernon Smith, a missionary of 32 years and our host, was able to dissuade the airport authorities from charging us an import tax for all of the supplies. After that a very tired but excited group was driven an hour to the city of Arusha, where cottages greeted the majority of the group and the missionary's house for the rest.

Starting early the next morning on the 19th, everyone got up early to eat breakfast at Vernon and his wife Mary’s house. After breakfast there was a short time for debriefing and discussion, which became the normal routine every morning. The day was then spent at Sorenyi Public School, refurbishing/painting 3 classrooms with the local church, Baptist Bible Church (BBC). During this process the ingenuity of the locals was shown, as they cut bamboo to make painters' poles when none were available. For lunch the Crosspoint group ate the food prepared by the school with its students. The lunch included rice, beef, salsa, watermelon, and sodas. Soda was a common drink during the trip, as it was seen as a good drink for occasions by the locals serving it. After finishing lunch and the classrooms, an hour long gospel presentation occurred which included Upstreet songs, an object lesson with a rat trap, discussion groups, and bracelets with the color gospel. 182 names of children who self-identified as receiving Christ were written down that day. After leaving Sorenyi Public School the group went to All-Mart to pick up snacks and toiletries before going to Picasso's restaurant for dinner. During the dinner Vernon received a text from Pastor Abraham of BBC, our host pastor, who reported the pleasure of the school's headmaster Dennis, strengthening the church’s ability to interact with the school again in the future. 

The next day the Crosspoint group split up into three predefined ministry teams for work. At the Hope Initiative clinic across the street from the host church, the medical team gave technical and medical assistance, and the construction team began tiling the upper floor of the clinic. Across the street at Bible Baptist Academy (BBA) the children's ministry team worked with students from nursery school through seventh grade sharing Bible story, doing sports, crafts, and Teton coloring pages. BBA and BBC are both in the same compound together and were started by Vernon and Mary. A chapel service was held for the students as well, where joyful singing could be heard from well outside of the chapel. After that lunch for the Crosspoint group was served, which consisted of rice and beans, the Tanzanian staple diet. This was eaten among excited school children, who loved to interact with the strangers in their midst. Additionally, Ugali was made for those willing to try it, a type of stiff maize flour porridge which was commonly eaten as well. After lunch was the amazing race, a mystery event Vernon had been planning that some of us would love, and others of us would hate he said. He then split the group up into teams of 4, giving us a grocery list in Swahili and 15,000 shillings ($7) to bring back everything on it. Then he dropped us in the marketplace to figure it out on our own. As he predicted, by the end of the event, some teams were excited about all the things they were able to buy, while other teams were grumpy having argued with locals who had tried to severely upcharge them from the normal market prices. The event was either a fun chance to experience the culture, or a valuable learning experience. After this Vernon brought the group to a different market which sold souvenirs, where most of the group got a second chance to try their hand at bargaining with the locals for the things they wanted. Once finished at the market, the group returned to BBA for volleyball with kids from the neighborhood, including lots of balloons for the smaller children and a devotional. The evening finished with dinner at George’s restaurant.

Waking up early the next morning, the group of Crosspoint members headed out after breakfast for a truly amazing day, requiring a drive out to a tribal Massai village, Ol Tukai, and a boarding school. From the drive alone it was apparent the group was in for a special day as wild wildebeest and zebra greeted the bus on its way out to the village. This was the first time this village was receiving a mobile clinic, which included a doctor, a pharmacy, a dentist, and an eye doctor all to serve those who could make it. Working throughout the day, the Crosspoint members volunteered to assist the clinic, be it escorting patients, counting prescriptions, or playing with kids from the local boarding school. The medical team worked in the clinic. 320 people were served at the clinic, countless kids were played with, and most importantly the gospel was received by 44 individuals during the clinic. Additionally, during the day, the group got to experience tea time with the locals. In Swahili, chai, is the word for tea. At the end of the day, the group got to visit a lived-in mud hut in the village, being allowed to go inside of one to see the living space. After that the group began the bus ride back towards Arusha where the famous Khan’s Barbeque awaited the group for dinner. The restaurant is an auto place during the day which rebuilt transmissions. The barbecue included chicken, beef and lamb, costing the group only $140 to feed the whole group who couldn’t eat another bite, the bus driver included.

On the 22nd the group enjoyed a day of rest, as it was Sunday, and everyone was tired from the travels and long days serving in a new culture. After getting to sleep in, the group got to experience a 3 hour church service at BBC, with guest speaker Jerry Mick, translated with energy by Vernon Smith. The service included multiple choir groups from the church, high energy worship, a tennis demonstration from Jerry, and three testimonies, two from other visiting missionaries and from one of our own, Joe Stellato. After agreeing the 3 hour service didn’t feel too long, the group went to the Arusha coffee lodge for lunch, a coffee plantation which also had a glass shop. After checking out the plantation and relaxing for an hour, the group received a special invitation to eat in a local church members home, mama Pendo and Jeremiah’s house for dinner. Their house was deep into the heart of the city, the surprise on many local’s faces seeing white people in this part of the city was evident as they thought we were lost. Pendo and Jeremiah’s house consisted of 3 tiny rooms hardly big enough to fit the length of a twin bed inside of, and required a coordinated effort to fit the whole group in the living room and their daughter’s bedroom to eat. The normal Tanzanian foods were served, a beef and banana stew, where the banana had a near identical taste and texture to that of a russet potato. The meal cost the family $40, or about one week’s wages for a worker in Tanzania, making the experience all the more special. After eating, the family’s little daughter sang a classic Christian song, Jesus Loves Me, and Pastor’s Gary and Jerry were honored with traditional Massai blankets to be worn as wraps.

Following the day of rest, each of Crosspoint’s ministry teams got back to work. While the construction team continued tiling away, and the medical team assisted the clinic, the children's team visited two more public schools. The first school, Suyel, had 1,562 students in attendance that day, of which 416 self-identified as receiving Christ after the gospel presentation. Aura secondary school was the second school visited, which had 1,000 students and 146 names were recorded as receiving Christ. That night the group visited a food court for dinner.  

The 24th started out as an early day, marking the start of the group’s two day Safari adventure! Many had been anticipating this day, and the excitement in the group was evident. After getting picked up by 3 land cruisers which had been converted to safari vehicles, the group drove out to their first destination, only getting stopped by the police once along the way. The group spent that day in Tarangire Park, greeted by huge trees, termite hills, and an elephant skull at the entrance. While inside the park a total of 21 different animals were spotted, including lions, elephants, water buffalo, wildebeests, zebras, cheetahs, and giraffes, each stunning in their own way. Lunch was eaten in a scenic overlook at the park, where the safari drivers kept scaring monkeys off, one of which had already stolen a banana from the group and gloated about it. That evening the group then began the ascent to Ngorongoro National Park, which means cowbell for those curious. Ngorongoro Park is a crater formed by an imploded volcano, which created a national barrier to keep animals inside its 12 mile diameter rim, creating a natural place to view some of Africa’s most iconic animals. Upon arriving at the rim of the park, a breathtaking overlook greeted the group, the kind which justified the time spent on the planes to go and see for yourself. That evening the group stayed at the Serena hotel and enjoyed a small acrobatics show before dinner. After dinner the group met to debrief for the day, rereading the creation story of Genesis with new eyes, before crashing into their beds for the night.

The next morning felt surreal, as the sun rose over a pleasantly cloudy ski illuminating the lake in the crater below. After breakfast the convoy of land cruisers began its slow descent down the inner edge of the rim, on a bricked narrow road with switchbacks and a long drop on one side of the road. Meanwhile sun rays poked through the clouds in brilliant rays over the fields in the crater. During the day in the crater, 16 new animals were seen, resulting in a total of 37 species between the two days. An unbelievable 23 of the 25 available animals were seen in the crater that day, the only animals missed were a bushbuck and leopard. Lunch was eaten at a popular pond, where 8 hippos could be seen relaxing. After that the group began the long slow departure from the crater, and headed back towards Vernon and Mary’s house. 

After the previous two days of the safaris, and the early trip to the Maasai tribal village Ol Tukai, the group split once more in its ministry teams for the last day of serving. The tiling team placed down its last tile after a long battle with an uneven floor and unsquared room, and the medical team finished their last day of serving the staff at the clinic. Meanwhile the children’s team battled losing power and a faulty mixing board at their first stop for the day, Baraa Public School. Despite these issues however, of the 500 students attending that day 112 names were written down for those accepting Christ there that day. The second school visited, Mlangarini Public School, had approximately 1,200 students of which 236 names were recorded for Christ. That final evening the group went back to eat at George’s again, this time meeting up with the other missionaries who happened to be in town that week. 

The 27th was the final day in Tanzania and began by the group going over to Vernon’s for breakfast. After the morning debrief, a final souvenir shopping trip was conducted. Shopping started at a shirt store in the city which notably gave fair prices without the need to haggle. Then, after fending off the street vendors, the group went to the Cultural Heritage store to see the art exhibits and purchase rare Tanzanite jewels from the store owning whose owner owns 80% of the Tanzanite mines. After that was the final trip to Massai market place before returning to Picaso’s for a late lunch. Then, with lunch concluded, the group began the journey back home. The return trip went much less smoothly then the trip into Tanzania, primarily due to staffing shortage at Amsterdam leading to a 3 hour line through security where many anxious individuals missed their flights. Fortunately, the Crosspoint group was able to make their flight. However, once back in America at the JFK international airport, the final return flight was delayed from Saturday night until noon Sunday. It was a great trip!