A Heart for Africa

By: Lauren Kleyer (Dordt College Student and STEMM Tripster)

The hand-washed hospital bed sheets, which are normally supposed to be sanitary, are set to dry on the line in the sun. Exposure to wind, dust, and bugs is not something that the staff is concerned with. This is how things are run at MachameHospital in Machame, Tanzania. This is also where Dr. Steve Meyer, an orthopedic surgeon and founder of STEMM, chooses to do his work.

Back in June of 1996, Dr. Meyer and his wife, Dana, felt God calling them to Tanzania. They followed that call, not knowing how things would shape up or what exactly they would end up doing, but knowing that Tanzania was where God wanted them. What they ended up with was STEMM.

Siouxland Tanzania Educational Medical Ministries (STEMM) is doing amazing things for the people of Tanzania. Today, they run an orphanage that houses 11 children, they have full-time Tanzanian employees that get paid well, and they are able to minister to countless people. Dr. Meyer flies himself and his family out to the STEMM orphanage, also referred to as the STEMM Children’s Village (SCV) for about one month of every year. During this time, Dr. Meyer is able to perform many orthopedic surgeries for free for local people. His wife, Dana, and their three children are able to help out with the orphan children as well as completing any projects that need to be done at the SCV.

I had the opportunity to go to Tanzania with STEMM over Christmas break, along with 8 other students from DordtCollege in Sioux Center, IA, Vern Eekhoff, and Professor Volkers, also known as my dad. Dave Heilman, Director of STEMM, was our guide through the whole experience. We were able to spend about a week at the SCV. While there, we had the chance to visit MachameHospital and see where Dr. Meyer does his free surgeries for the people of Tanzania. The conditions that they work under would seem atrocious to us here in the States, but the sad truth is that most hospitals in East Africa are in worse condition than the ones that we were able to visit while we were there. One hospital we visited, Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center (KCMC), was full beyond capacity, so rooms were rows of beds piled nearly on top of each other without a curtain in between for privacy. The hallways were lined with hospital beds, visiting families, and soiled bed pans. Even under these conditions, it is apparent that the staff has a heart of gold and does what it can for so many who need so much. The Director of Orthopedic Surgery works long hours, nearly every day, and does not get paid near what he should.

We also had the opportunity to visit Little Africa, an orphanage for Maasai girls run by a German woman named Angelica. Angelica has lived among the Maasai tribes of East Africa for over 30 years. Little Africa rescues girls who have been abandoned, abused, and left behind. We were able to meet and play with the little girls, and the smiles they hold now are what I think of when I think of true happiness.

There are people like Dr. Meyer and his staff, the staff at MachameHospital, the Director of Orthopedic Surgery at KCMC, and Angelica at Little Africa all over Tanzania. It gave me a renewed hope that there are still people who care for the needs of those in Africa and are working to make a difference in the lives of those who cannot make a difference for themselves.  Sometimes we get too comfortable here at DordtCollege in Northwest Iowa, and we forget that there is a whole other world out there that needs people like us to help. While things may not be done like we as Americans think they should be, like the hand-washed bed sheets, they are being done the best that they can, and the people who are doing these things are doing so with a heart for Jesus and a love for the people of East Africa.  The efforts of these hard-working, unrecognized people are making a huge difference in the lives of many individuals, while also creating a renewed hope for the future of Africa as a whole.