I retired in 2003 after a 30 year career as a teacher and school administrator. I still enjoy teaching and love leading the adult education class at my church. I serve as a volunteer administrator for a 4-year-old kindergarten program at church as well. But the real passion I found in my second act actually started as an inspiration I’d had as a young girl.
When I was a teenager, I remember that our home church would have missionaries come and speak to us and I was always fascinated by their stories. As a young person, I thought I wanted to be a missionary. That didn’t exactly pan out, because I married my husband right of high school, got a college degree (a couple of them), worked and raised our children. Little did I know that I would become a missionary, just in a different way.
A few years ago, our church began supporting a doctor from Stillwater, Minnesota named Mark Jacobson who, along with his wife, had worked in Tanzania for many years and was now asking for help to build a new, modern hospital in a city called Arusha. So in 2012 when an opportunity came through Wartburg College (my alma mater), to travel to Arusha and see this new medical center, I jumped at the chance.
That trip changed my life.
Besides being able to see first-hand the work Dr. Jacobsen was doing at the hospital, I was also introduced to a school called Maasai Girls Lutheran Secondary School. In the Maasai culture, girls usually receive the equivalent of a 7th grade education if they are fortunate enough to go to school at all. This school, started by a missionary named David Simonson, gives Maasai girls the opportunity to further their education. Tuition is $1,000 per year and provides room and board, clothing and books for one student. I fully support one girl on my own and am part of some groups that together support three other girls. So it has just been wonderful to have that experience of knowing that you are able to help a girl across the world that would never have this opportunity if you weren’t helping her. I would go anywhere and talk to anybody about this!
Funding for the Maasai Girls School is overseen by Operation Bootstrap Africa, an organization that is also involved in many other schools in Tanzania, including one for disabled children. My passion for the secondary school has led to some new opportunities and I was thrilled recently to be asked to be on the Operation Bootstrap Africa Board.
For anyone who is trying to decide whether or not to become involved in missions, I would recommend taking a trip! Learn about a different country, experience a different culture and talk to the people. The poverty is so real and the eagerness is so genuine, you just can’t help but say “I’ll do what I can.”