Localyouths heading off to Tanzania

Published on Thu, Oct 27, 2005 by ack Kintner

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Local youths heading off to Tanzania

By Jack Kintner

Dr. Steve Friberg, a missionary doctor among the Masai tribes in northern Tanzania, has invited five Blaine high school students to help him with a building project over Christmas break. For the three seniors in the group, this experience will form the core of their senior project, a major undertaking required for graduation in the spring.

Those signed up include Blaine high school seniors Emily Hendricks-Hockey, Jessica Corcorran and Ben Gibson, junior Ashley Peck and home-school student Mark Sanborn. Trip leaders are Lynn Roberson, Sharmin Williams and class of ’97 Blaine high school graduate Catherine Gibson, a university-level teacher in mainland China for the past three years who also has experience teaching in east Africa.

Friberg’s connection with Blaine is through Margaret Friberg Gibson, wife of Charles Gibson, pastor of Northwood Alliance Church. She, her brother and four siblings grew up as missionary children in Tanzania.

Tanzania, which is twice the size of California, is “hot and dusty much of the time in the north where the students will be working,” Margaret Gibson said, “but there is a lot to see.” The region has some of the most abundant wildlife areas on the continent outside of a jungle environment, including Serengeti National Park and Africa’s highest peak, Kilimanjaro, which Tanzania shares with neighboring Kenya.
Friberg’s base is near Ngorongoro Crater, a collapsed volcano much like Oregon’s Crater Lake without the water. A ring of 7,500-foot mountains that are remnants of the volcano protect a 100-square mile sanctuary inside, renowned for its rich population of wildlife, lakes, forests and hills.

Northern Tanzania is also home to a native population of cattle herders known as the Masai people, with whom Dr. Friberg has been working for the past 15 years. Tanzania is officially 40 percent Christian, and “about half of the Masai are Christians, too,” Gibson said, so the project the students will be working on is a foundation for a small church building 4,000 feet up the flank of Ketumbeine Mountain, not far from Kilimanjaro.

“To get to my brother’s base of operations, you follow the tourists toward Ngorongoro Crater, but just before you get there you turn off toward Mto wa Mbo, Swahili for River of Mosquitoes,” Gibson laughed. Over the years Friberg has started 13 separate medical clinics in an area about one-third the size of the state of Washington and where western-style medical care was largely unknown. He trained as a pediatrician but in Tanzania treats everything from esoteric tropical diseases to injuries from wildlife encounters. Gibson said Friberg reported that he recently treated a man who had been gored by an elephant.

“There are about 4,000 Masai living within a five-mile radius of Ketumbeine,” Gibson said, “and this project came about because of a request by tribal elders who want a church on the mountainside to serve the people in that area. The students will be painting and repairing a public nursery for tribal children as well as working on the church foundation over the three and a half weeks they’ll be there.”

To help defray expenses, estimated at $2,250 per participant plus about the same amount for materials they’ll take with them, there will be a benefit garage sale this Saturday, October 29, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the parking lot of Northwood Alliance Church at 6th and C streets. Donations of saleable items are encouraged. For further information contact Jessica or Dawn Corcorran at 332-8091.