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My First 100 Days as an Individual Missionary Volunteer

by Holly Heyroth

Holly Heyroth hugs one Very Happy little girl.
Individual Volunteer Holly Heyroth sees God at work in the children at the orphanage in Tarime, Tanzania.
Image by: Courtesy Holly Heyroth
A volunteer at the orphanage in Tarime, Tanzania, snuggles with 2 playful children.
Instead of having to play "man of the house," these boys can now play.
Image by: Courtesy Holly Heyroth

As news organizations marked the first 100 days of a new president in the United States, Individual Volunteer Holly Heyroth of Kansas marked her first 100 days in Tanzania. Holly has been working at Methodist Angel House Orphanage, a children's home that opened five years ago to assist with the care of 40 "amazingly strong and beautiful children." She works alongside three other United Methodist Individual Volunteers caring for the orphans in Tarime, Tanzania.

During the last 100 days, our horizons have been expanded. Some days it is easy to get discouraged by what seems like all-too vivid images of what is wrong with the world. Poverty is everywhere. People are ill. Violence is evident. It is not uncommon for us to have at least one child admitted to the local dispensary with malaria or typhoid each week. There are times when I wonder how God is working through all of the tragedy and poverty.

And yet God is working in powerful ways. It is I who have had to learn to see how God moves. The first 100 days have probably changed the four of us volunteers more than we have changed anything around us. As we have slowed our minds and our agendas down to the relational pace of African life, our time here has been a training ground for identifying God's presence in the circumstances and the people. One of the most significant ways that we can see God drawing people to him is through the children and young people who daily surround us. The children's faith and joy, despite their challenges and pain, is humbling. Take two examples:

  • William is 17 years old and the eldest among his siblings. Because his father died early in William's life, playing the role of man of the house has come naturally. One evening about eight years ago, their mom fixed dinner and told the kids to sit and wait as she went to town to get kerosene. She never came back. It seems that the weight of single parenthood and poverty had combined to make life too unbearable for her, so she left.

William says they waited and waited and waited for her to come home--the youngest, just a baby, crying all night--the rest of the children unsure how to take care of each other. For the next three years, William sold firewood and make bricks to sell in order to sustain the family and send his brothers and sisters to school. It wasn't until the children were taken in by the orphanage several years ago that William himself went back to school.

This year, when William should be finishing secondary school, he is completing his examinations for the 7th grade. You would think that William and his siblings would harbor enough resentment and hurt towards their life situation to be evident in their demeanor. However, all four children--William, Richard, Lucy, and Sampson--are the most joyful and fun-loving children you will ever meet. God has been with them all along, and continues to be with them. God is their peace, joy, and comfort.

  • Salome is 10 years old. At five, she was found in an abandoned house where she is believed to have lived on her own since the age of three. I cannot imagine the feeling--to realize that you were abandoned and the courage and work that it must have taken to survive. To be honest, life is sometimes a struggle for her; there are days when she will have a scowl on her face that is not easily wiped off by a joke or a hug. But God continues to soothe her heart and reassure her that he has always and will always be with her. Just in our short time here, we have seen her changed from the inside out.

While at first standoffish and quiet, her all-time favorite activity now is to tickle others and laugh out loud. She loves to be held, and I love holding her and tickling her back and realizing how dearly God loves this little girl.

Each child at the orphanage has a story just as compelling as that of Salome and William. Their stories continue to grow my faith. It is difficult not to get discouraged and doubt God's presence when I think about these children's pasts, and the plight of so many people we see on a daily basis. But as soon as I begin to dwell on the past, God reminds me to look forward to the new things that he is accomplishing. God is urging me to look at the world through his perspective and not my own. As I learn to do this, I continue to see that each and every life, mine included, is a miracle of God creating beauty from ashes.

"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!" (Isaiah 43:18-19)

See Also...
Topic: Children Education Health Hunger Volunteers Welfare Youth Focus on Ministry with the Poor Focus on Global Health
Geographic Region: Tanzania
Source: GBGM Mission News

arrow icon. View Listing of Missionaries Currently Working in: Tanzania   

Date posted: May 11, 2009