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Our Savior pair will travel to Africa

Neil and Tamara Ristow will leave later this week for a trip that will take them to Tanzania and Uganda.

In the Book of Acts, God commands that people witness his message to the ends of the earth. To fulfill that call, a few days after this paper comes out Neil and Tamara Ristow will board a plane headed to Africa.

Their mission will be to meet some very basic needs for some very poor people. And they will spread God's message of love and forgiveness.

The couple will represent Lutheran Church of Our Savior, where Neil is a pastor and Tamara runs education programming. For the first two weeks of their monthlong journey, they will fit people in Tanzania with eyeglasses. During the second half, the couple will visit missionary friends in Uganda to see their work with women and children there.

For the first part of their trip, the Ristows will travel with five other couples with MOST missions, an affiliate of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod World Missions. Each couple will bring 500 pairs of eyeglasses with them to distribute to people who need them. All have been trained by an optometrist on how to conduct basic eye exams to determine the prescription needed.

While glasses don't seem like a big item, when you don't have enough money to buy food, seeing clearly isn't a priority, Neil said. Tanzania is the fifth poorest country in the world.

"Imagine never having seen your kids' faces clearly," said Neil.

The congregation at Lutheran Church of Our Savior has been collecting eyeglasses for the last several months. Their goal is to collect 500 pairs that will be cleaned up and sent over with another group.

Also during their time in Tanzania the Ristows will share with the people and pastors there the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Because there are few Christian pastors in the country Neil said they have large gatherings almost like early Americana revivals.

Neil and Tamara will also hand out bracelets with multi-colored beads made at Our Savior that represent the basic teachings of the Bible. Tamara said jewelry is popular there and that the little bracelets will be cherished.

While butterflies have fluttered here and there, the Ristows are excited to share the gift of sight and the gift of Jesus Christ with the poor of Tanzania.

"We get to fill a basic need and talk about our faith. I'm pretty excited about that," said Neil.

Through the experience Neil said he anticipates him and Tamara will walk away from the journey with a much greater understanding of a different culture and of the world at large.

"Different culture excites us and we both love travel," said Tamara of their trip.

The second half of their trip is more personal. The couple will visit friends who are serving as missionaries in Uganda. Tamara said they work mostly with women and children. Some of their work includes helping women in Ugandan prisons and orphans caused by the widespread AIDS epidemic that has devastated the country.

They also will get to experience some less serious stuff like a safari in the Serengeti.

Despite a few last minute things to do the couple said they are ready for what the world has to throw at them.

Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
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