Suzanne Bilyeu and her daughter Ansley recently returned home from a medical mission trip to Landanai, Tanzania. This region is one predominantly occupied by the Maasai tribe, a traditional, semi-nomadic ethnic group residing in northern Tanzania. Here, Suzanne, Ansley and their team partnered with local Young Life staff and Tanzanian clinicians to provide medical care and connect with the Maasai people. The first time she traveled to Tanzania in 2016, Suzanne agreed to provide medical care led by Alexis Kwamy, Chris and Irene Ayo (Young Life Tanzania staff). That experience launched the following three years of dreaming and planning that led up to this medical mission trip in July 2019 – the first of its kind.
Suzanne is a pediatrician and member of the Tanzania/Zanzibar Regional Team, and Ansley – who just graduated from high school – will be entering her first year at Florida State University this fall. She also serves as an intern on the Tanzania/Zanzibar Regional Team.
Young Life Africa/Middle East’s first ever combined medical/service mission team is now safely back on U.S. soil and I am in awe of God’s provisions and blessings. There is nothing more humbling or rewarding than to watch God’s plans play out through the hands and feet of yourself and your team. During our years of dreaming and preparation, as well as time in Tanzania, we were able to witness a modern day feeding of the 5,000. God provided! It was incredible to see our team of 27 Americans and 14 Tanzanian Young Life staff, along with all of our medications, wound care supplies and medical equipment, make it to our mission field – the Maasai village of Landanai, Tanzania – completely safe and sound. Over our four days of clinic the medical team cared for over 625 patients. It was during this time that we saw God provide and strengthen our relationships with each other, the Maasai we cared for, and most importantly, with Him. We witnessed healing through our hands and supplies that although were limited, never ran out. Each patient was able to receive the medications they needed and by partnering with the local Tanzanian physicians, we were able to make timely diagnoses and referrals that will undoubtedly improve the long-term health of those patients. The relationships that we formed were fruitful and resulted in our medical team having an open invitation to return to the village again. The service team started construction on a kitchen for the local school. They worked tirelessly digging trenches, carrying rocks, mixing cement and laying bricks. What a gift to give! That team, and especially the teenagers that were with us, wowed us all. Between the visit to the Arusha Young Life house, the clinic, and the school where the kitchen was being built, they met over a hundred kids of all ages who just wanted to hang out with them. These teens embraced each of the African kids by holding their hands, playing games with them, singing songs, hugging them and taking hundreds of selfies with Snapchat filters. It was incredibly impactful as Jesus was literally living through them and they were loving these kids unconditionally. It was a beautiful reminder of how Jesus desires a sweet and intimate relationship with each of us. But the most important blessing of the trip was that we were able to form and strengthen partnerships with local officials and most importantly, we were able to see Young Life lifted up in Landanai and in the region. We know that those relationships will allow the gospel to be shared with more teens than ever before. In fact, before we left, Young Life was even offered land in the village! What a huge sentiment of their appreciation and respect for what Young Life has been doing there and will continue to do in Landanai. God is so good, and I am grateful to be part of the body of Christ and to have served Him. This project has been a labor of love for me and I feel blessed beyond measure. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us next.
There are moments in life that catch you by surprise. This story describes one of those moments.
Days spent in the village of Landanai, Tanzania with the Maasai are full of playing with and befriending kids. They all long to be held, to be acknowledged, to be loved, and to just be in each other’s presence.
One day I sat down and started playing cards with some of the older girls that tended to hang in the background (behind their rambunctious younger siblings). This was a task that ended up being harder than it looks. Explaining a game to someone in your own language is one thing, but across a language barrier is another. It was after about 15 minutes of “discussing” and practicing that we found ourselves playing UNO, Maasai style. While it may sound simple, how cool is it that we had flown across the world, driven to a place so isolated, and found ourselves playing the same card game we all play back home?! It was an immediate realization for each of us: we are all the same people, playing all the same games, wanting all the same things – to be acknowledged, to be loved, and to enjoy each other’s presence.
I think it is this fact that makes the master plan of Young Life so beautiful anywhere you go. Young Life has realized that we are all the same people, wanting all the same things. Young Life knows the one solution to all of our desires and has found an incredible way to show it.
Young Life’s master plan is simple: show unconditional love to all teens, and in the process show who that love comes from. It’s this plan that led to over 1,370,000 teens across the continent of Africa coming to know who Jesus is. Jesus, God, our Lord, our Heavenly Father, He who is our one solution.
It’s the simplicity of this plan, and the simplicity, yet power, of our Lord that wowed me in Tanzania and continues to wow me with Young Life Africa and Young Life everywhere, every day.
So, thank you God for using us, simplistic people, to show your love to others all around the world. Thank you, God, for using simplistic moments, like a card game, to share such a powerful message. Thank you, God, for holding us, for acknowledging us, for loving us, and for being our one solution.