By Ann Leland

At the end of our travels in February 2018 the team had an idea: next year we should host a staff dinner.

Fast forward to 2019… The idea was revisited at our final meeting before setting off on the journey to Tanzania. Why not serve burritos to keep in line with Zumbro’s work with Open Table? And of course, let’s wow them with s’mores, similar to the treats we enjoy after Wednesday night worship outside in the summer. The plan was set and preparations began. 

But how do we plan to feed about 100 people without the ability to bring all the needed supplies from our American grocery stores? We decided to bring the essentials and make the rest. Understanding what is available in Tanzania, combined with what is packable and legal to bring into the country, made the shopping easier. 

American supplies included taco seasoning (we could season all kinds of meat; mbuzi-goat, kuku-chicken, nyama ya ng’ombe-beef), a recipe to make tortillas (without lard or butter), seasoning for guacamole, a recipe for Spanish rice (obtained from my friend who owns a taco shop), and finally … marshmallows for s’mores!

Once in Arusha, Tanzania (large city we purchase many goods in prior to traveling to the village), we went shopping at the super store to purchase chocolate, graham crackers, and cheese. We reserved the rest of our purchases for Nkungi village to support the local economy. 

As the week went on, we began preparations by making small batches of tortillas in the kitchen on our 2 burner propane stove. We used chipate (local crepe type pancakes) pans. One night we even had a dance party with the cooks while we prepared the tortillas.

One evening we ran out of flour to continue, but our Swahili experts (Lisa and Gaspar) weren’t available. Sue, Tim, and I ventured into the village to find it. Thanks to google translate and Chaz (Nkungi friend we met on the way), we found it and successfully purchased 1 kilogram of flour for $0.61. 

We started to advertise at chapel on Wednesday that the Zumbro team was planning to serve dinner on Friday at 5pm and all were welcome to join us. We reminded the staff and let them know that we would be honored to serve them and hoped they would join. We really had no idea how many staff would join, but our hope and prayer was that we would be able to serve many and would have enough. 

We spoke to the ladies in the kitchen at the hospital to ask for their help with obtaining and preparing 6 kuku (chickens) and 17 lbs of rice. We also asked if they would allow us to come to their kitchen and prepare the food for serving. They graciously welcomed us and worked alongside us. Not only did they help, but they allowed us to tell them how we wanted to prepare the food, rather than the way they were familiar with. 

The party started at 5pm with a few leery guests arriving. We served shredded chicken burritos with the fixings and Spanish rice. The dinner started with a demonstration by Pastor Lisa with how to eat a burrito “American style.” Soon the line was growing and we quickly went thru over 100 burritos. 

After the burritos, we demonstrated how to make a s’more. Marshmallows are not available in Tanzania and the concept of everyone cooking a part of their desert with the “some assembly required” nature of a s’more brought some skepticism. This was short lived however when the first few brave staff were served and soon the excitement and the line began. We were making s’mores rapidly and enjoying the smiles and giggles as the first few bites were enjoyed. They were fast learners and great at cooking their own marshmallows on an open charcoal fire. 

The party concluded with dancing, teaching American traditions like “high fives,” hugs, and sharing kind words by both the Iambi hospital staff and the Zumbro team.

The staff at Iambi Hospital are our family and we were honored to serve them. They wished us safe travels, God’s blessings, and for us to bring their thanks and prayers back to our friends at Zumbro. They expressed their welcome for us to return and continue our partnership. 

At the beginning of the week we told Hospital Director Manase we had a crazy idea. “Tell me your idea and I will tell you if it is crazy,” he told us. We shared our party plans with him and he promptly responded, “It is a blessing idea.” After eating and laughing and dancing and praying together, we all agreed — it was a blessing idea … for all of us.

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