John 15:5
vine of grace

tanzania mission


June 13 – June 30, 2011 Mission Trip

The Team:
Philip Franz, Lori Giovannini & Erin Blanchette

Dec 3, 2010Received an invitation from a pastor in Arusha, Tanzania to come and minister in his church. Began to pray to receive confirmation that this was God’s intention and plan for Vine of Grace. I asked God to bring people into our lives and for doors to open that confirm His plan and would lead the way for a Catholic mission’s trip to unfold!

January 3, 2011 – Received a phone call from a beautiful girl named Sophia. She received my name from a prayer group in Phoenix and wanted me to visit with and pray for her friend who was ill in Tucson. After some conversation she informed me that she and her husband lived in Phoenix and were from Tanzania, Africa. My answer to prayer!

Sophia, Zanita & Abdul Peter Estratus

Sophia introduced me to Peter and Estratus, Peter is active in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal of Dar Es Salaam and Estratus is the National Director of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal for the country of Tanzania! Our e-mail communication began and plans for teaching at a retreat, giving a workshop, and speaking at the Catholic Crusade began to unfold! When we arrived, we were still not quite sure of the unbelievable plan and work God had prepared in advance for us to do!

February – Letters went out to family and friends as we began our fund raising efforts!
Began to learn Kiswahili on line and quickly realized it is tough to learn a new language…I can say hi, welcome, thank you and Come Holy Spirit! I better start again if I have any hope to say more than 4 words next time I go!

April – Fundraiser - We had a great night of Laughter with Joann Contorno who is an author, entertainer, comedienne, runner, tri-athlete, wife and mother.  She has first-hand experience at making dreams come true and continues to share her insights to inspire others, addressing her audience with humor, warmth and wit! It was a great evening. Thank you to all who attended!

May – checked our passports, received our travel Visa, and ouch! lots of shots!
We also had a 2 week service project for the students at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School…they brought in their change…to change the life of a child in Africa and we raised $ 668.00. Thank you SEAS students! You are awesome!           

Sunday -June 12 – Pentecost Sunday Mass – St. Marks Catholic Church – Received a blessing from Fr. Liam Leahy prior to leaving the next morning.


Monday -June 13- Departed Phoenix, Arizona. Flew to Dallas, Tx. on to London and then to our final destination – Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. 31 hours and 9824 miles of travel!

Tuesday – June 14 – Travel day in the air

Wednesday -June 15 – checked into Mbagala Spiritual Centre. We stayed at the retreat centre and enjoyed very simple accomondations, nourishing meals, and the warm hospitality of the sisters. Mass was offered daily at 6:20 am. The electricity shut off quite often and occasionally they would use the generator if this happened during meals or during our retreat.  We retrieved hot water in our buckets down the hallway for our shower time and often times went to bed using our flashlights to read by. We had a nice toilet in our bathroom but quite often when we were in the city or county we only had holes in the ground. Believe me, you learn quickly the best way “to go”.   Bottled water was always available and necessary for drinking. I plan on staying here each time we return to Dar es Salaam.


This day we freshened up after our 30 hours of travel and then toured Dar es Salaam, saw the port on the Indian Ocean, the Cathedral downtown, went to the bank and ran various errands, prayed with a doctor who has stomach/colon cancer and then Erin spoke at the charismatic prayer meeting for professional workers in the evening.

Thursday - June 16 – We went to meet with the Archbishop of the Diocese of Dar es Salaam and to present a letter from our Bishop of the Tucson Diocese…Bishop Kicanas. The letter confirmed that Vine of Grace is a compliant ministry and in good standing with the Church! It was a short but blessed visit!

We met with the Director for the Catholic Relief Services for the country of Tanzania – Mr. Conor Walsh, to learn more about the Catholic Relief Service humanitarian projects in Tanzania. We visited the Renewal offices and other sites in Dar es Salaam.
This evening we visited Abduls fathers home. (Abdul is Sophia’s husband)

Lori prayed over me this evening. I came to Tanzania with a nagging, painful and persistent neck ache…something that had been growing increasingly worse over the past few months. When I awoke, it was gone…the Lord healed me and freed me from this physical burden …and it has not returned! PTL!

Friday to Sunday - June 17 – 19  Met  Friday morning with the leaders of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in preparation for the retreat beginning in the evening and continuing until Sunday afternoon. They informed us that a leader in the renewal from Kenya died and that they would all be leaving to go to Kenya to retrieve his body. I (We) would now lead the entire weekend in their absence.

   Leaders in the Renewal and a poster advertising VOG as a presenter for the retreat

Thinking I was to give one talk…I now needed to plan the weekends activities, talk topics and get ready to present 7 talks. Lori was an incredible help…we prayed, discussed and planned…she assisted in leading prayers, adding her wisdom to some talks, and praying with the participants for healing and holy spirit empowerment!

Speak Lord your servants are listening


Lori and Phil were my prayer warriors and encouragement. Phil was our photographer and videographer! He also had the chance to minister to the men and pray with others. God brought the 3 of us together as a team…He protected, blessed and anointed our work and friendships every step of the way!

We taught on Gods love, surrender, staying connected to God, the power of the holy spirit, gifts of the holy spirit, healing, and temptation that comes after a spiritual high. The music, dancing, praise and faith of the participants was so incredible, so beautiful, so spirit led and inspiring! They also loved small group sharing time.

 Our translator was absolutely wonderful…(He made me sound like Joyce Meyers…LOL)



During our healing service it is evident that God is bringing emotional and spiritual healing. During our service He gave us the opportunity to pray over a woman with a very large protruding tumor in her stomach. As I laid hands on her stomach for several minutes, I felt her tumor shrink, and shrink, and shrink…until it almost disappeared completely! 10 days later she met me at the Crusade to show me that what the Lord began, he was completing…we prayed again for any healing that was still needed and we are claiming that she will be restored to perfect health!

The woman with the tumor is in the center

Susan and Sylvester

The retreat ended at 4:00 on Sunday afternoon.We were exhausted but exhilarated at Gods goodness and the Holy Spirits leading…WOW! After everyone left, we had a visit from Susan and Sylvester…Sylvester is a physician that was told to come see us for prayer. He came with his eyes glazed over, extreme body ache, a migraine that had lasted several days, and a fever…beads of sweat were on his brow and to the touch it felt like he had a temperature of 104+ degrees… Lori, Phil and I prayed and laid hands for several minutes. Suddenly his eyes were bright, pain was gone and he was cool to the touch. God healed him, completely! When we returned a week later we were told he was still well. Thank you Jesus, our great physician and healer of body, mind and spirit!

This evening we repacked as we anticipated flying to Mwanza in the morning!

Monday June 20 - We flew to Mwanza, Tanzania where we were met by a Maryknoll Missionary – Joanne Miya, the Director of the Uzima Centre (see website charities/donations for more info on the Uzima Center) Mwanza is a much smaller city and less progressive city than Dar es Salaam. Joanne took us to a retreat center where we stayed for 4 nights. It was comfortable. I had hot water in my shower but not everyone did. Mwanza is located on Lake Victoria – the 2nd largest fresh water lake in the world! It is also a city built on rocks – with many rock formations.

Joanne took us to lunch and then to the Uzima Center – a center that serves women and children affected by HIV/AIDS. We met some of the kids, a few of the volunteers and a nurse that works part time at the center. The children love their pictures to be taken. We gave them candy, rosaries and other gifts. Joanne gave us a great deal of information on the history of the center and the work being accomplished through the center! This evening we had dinner at her home. Joanne has been married to a Tanzanian man, Martin – for 25 years and she has lived as a missionary in Tanzania for 27 years. Seeing the homes, the homeless, the market places, the roads and villages is so interesting and quite eye opening. I do not think I could ever drive or go on a bus in Tanzania…not if I want to live…LOL. As in many foreign countries…there seems to be no rules of the road or speed limits to adhere to. EEK!



Tuesday – June 21 – Spent time at the Uzima Center. Participated in a women’s support group. The women travel to the center weekly, some walk miles…most have aids, have had many children who have died of aids, some of their children are healthy, some currently with HIV or AIDS and most have husbands who have left them. They are just surviving and compared to most of the people we met who were full of faith and hope, these women seemed to have little hope or joy. They come to get a meal and medication. We prayed over each of the women. We also visited a school for handicap children…It a successful project - making a big difference in the lives the children it serves! We rested this evening.

Women who greeted us from the village 
Children – so beautiful!


The red sweet potato vines 
Products made from the sweet potato

Wednesday – June 22 – We spent the entire day with Catholic Relief Services. We traveled to a village where we were greeted by women in the community…they were singing and dancing as they were coming down the road to meet us. A musical group sang for us in a welcoming ceremony. We proceeded to the farm area where 17 members of the community have been taught how to cultivate sweet potato vines. It was fascinating and so exciting to see and hear about the success of their project and the difference it is making in the nutrition and health of the children and the community! We then went back to the village area where the people showed us the various products they make from the sweet potato and we all (about 50 + people) enjoyed a sweet potato lunch made by the women. The leaders then gave us a progress report and expectations for the future. What an incredibly wonderful day! This evening we took Joanne and her family to dinner and then ended the evening dreaming about our trip to the Serengeti tomorrow!

Thursday – June 23 – We left our retreat centre at 6:30 am for a 2 hour drive to the Serengeti. We spent about 10 hours in the National Park where we saw zebras, impala, giraffe, elephants, lions, a lion cub, wildebeest, ostrich, baboons, hippos, crocodile, warthogs, monkeys, birds, antelope and other animals …so many to remember. What an experience and special treat to fit into our very busy schedule. Beautiful! God has created such an amazing and awesome world! Africa…(and a safari, even for just a day)…is above and beyond anything you can imagine!

Friday – June 24 Spent the morning at the Uzima Centre before flying back to Dar es Salaam. We went through the village and did home visits, checking on moms and their children.


We flew back to Dar es Salaam and attended the opening session of the Charismatic Catholic Crusade. It is held for 3 weeks in an open field and thousands of people come from all over the country and other African countries for the 3 weeks to hear the word of God! Everyday there is close to 2 hours of praise and worship, singing and dancing, 1 or 2 keynote speakers, an altar call and prayer for salvation and then a time of more praise, prayer, healing and holy spirit soaking and anointing! WOW!

Musicians and singers on platform
Keynote speaker from Uganda - Anna

Saturday – June 25
Today some young college age girls came to the retreat centre to pray and talk and learn about ministry. Lori was feeling under the weather and went to the hospital with Phil and our driver to get some antibiotics… I stayed behind at the centre and decided not to attend the Crusade today. A day of rest was need for all of us and so we remained at the centre.

Our visitors…Elizabeth & Esther

Sunday – June 26
Went to church at the Cathedral this morning for the English speaking mass! It was beautiful and nice to celebrate mass in our native tongue! This afternoon we went to Abdul’s father’s home and met his entire family and Sophia’s entire family. They were wonderful. They prepared a beautiful meal and shared their family videos with us! It was nice to be with family! Abdul’s brother, Shaffi, was our driver while we were at the Crusade. It was so comforting to know we were being taken care of so well!



Sunday evening Peter came to the centre to confirm our time to teach a workshop on the holy spirit for the crusade in the morning. He then informed me that I would speak from the platform as the first keynote speaker at the crusade tomorrow. I was asked to speak for 40 minutes on “Jesus is Lord”….We began to pray and ask for direction from the Holy Spirit. Lori helped me to get my thoughts together…if there was ever a time I needed to trust the Lord it was this evening. I had brought several talks with me…the Lord spoke to my heart before coming that I was to bring them along because I did not know what might be asked of me…God is so good! He knew exactly what I needed to complete His work and after a few hours of piecing several talks and scripture verses together…I was ready to preach from the pulpit for God’s glory! Thank you Lord for the privilege and opportunity!

Monday June 27

I knew I was to teach workshops but never had a direct word that I would preach at the crusade. I also was under the assumption that different people would choose to come to my workshop each morning and I was to teach on the same topic each day. No, that was not the case. Tuesday’s workshop had the same people as Monday. I suddenly had to create a new talk and 2 ½ hour session ….Somehow, under the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, I did just that. With God all things are possible!  When he appoints you …he anoints you! When he asks you to do something He will give you all that you need to accomplish it! He proved that to all of us, over and over throughout this unbelievable missions trip! Lori and I both shared, taught the people how to pray for healing, and prayed for a deeper infilling of the Holy Spirit!  Many people testified to healing and deliverance from attending the workshop for the 2 days. Praise God!


The Dancers and music were fantastic!

Erin speaking from the platform at the Crusade

Tuesday – June 28
Monday evening after I spoke at the crusade I was informed (not asked J) that I would speak from the platform again as the first keynote speaker for 40 minutes on repentance. This was one talk I did not print prior to coming to Tanzania…back to the centre I went, and really prayed…I went to the library at the spiritual centre to print out a talk from my computer …Lori and I worked together discussing ideas and teaching points on repentance and then I prepared the best I could until around midnight, by the light of a flashlight. The nice thing about having a translator is that they are so animated and in the time it takes for them to interpret, I had the chance to glance at my notes to recall the next point I wanted to say. My
Translator, John Paul, was terrific! After I spoke, Anna from Uganda spoke. When it came time for the altar call she suddenly called upon me to pray the sinners prayer….oh my gosh, this is not a prayer, we as Catholics, typically pray….but under the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit I did! Each day many people surrender and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior at the crusade. It is a beautiful thing to witness! Thank you Jesus! This was our last evening on our mission trip and the leaders of the renewal took us out for a delicious farewell dinner!

Wednesday June 29
We leave today… heart is overflowing with gratitude and awe of all that the Lord allowed for us to do and experience! It took us several attempts to pack our 7 suitcases (of course we brought too much & bought too much to bring home)…making them all weigh 50 lbs or less was a challenge! We did last minute shopping and left for the airport around 5 pm. We flew from Dar es Salaam to Nairobi, Kenya…on to London and back to Phoenix. 32 hours of travel. It took me about 2 weeks to recover….I was so tired!
Now I am praying for God’s direction for another trip in July 2012! We are invited to return to give retreats and to speak. We are also wanting to do a service project(s) while we are there and are beginning our efforts to raise money to return and to support the Uzima Centre and a Catholic Relief Service project. We gave some financial support to the Charismatic Renewal, the Uzima Center and a Street Project for children while we were there. As the Lord placed it on our heart to give to and bless individuals we met, we did. We gave out about $1500 to various people and causes along the way! Thank you Lord for providing the financial resources to do so!


You Can Be a Part of Mission Africa 2012!!

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PLEASE HELP Vine of Grace Retreat Ministry continue in our missions efforts. You can make a difference in the lives of so many people.
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