St. Peter Lutheran Church (1001 S James St., Grimes, IA)
Roberta Yoder and her husband Reg went on their first mission trip to Tanzania in 2009 as members of a Des Moines church. Two other members of that team were St. Peter Lutheran Church members—Dave Eilers and Pastor Mark Holmes. During that first trip, the Yoders encountered two 14-year-old girls on the side of a road who belonged to the parish partnered with their church in Des Moines. The two girls had been sent home from their first year of secondary school because they could not afford the school’s annual fee. The couple paid for the two girls’ fees, and a scholarship program was born that continues to grow to this day.
“Income is hard to come by in Tanzania, and many families only practice subsistence farming,” Roberta said. “If they send children to school, they send the boys and keep the girls at home for chores. We’re focused on helping send girls to school. It gives them a much better chance in the long term.”
Roberta and Reg joined St. Peter Lutheran Church later in 2009, and brought their passion for helping Tanzanian schoolchildren with them. The congregation established its own program, and provided 12 scholarships to the Myamba Lutheran Parish in 2011 when the Yoders returned to Tanzania, increasing to 16 in 2012, 28 in 2013, 29 in 2014 and at least 33 in 2015. Donors can sponsor one year of secondary school for $115, and they often form relationships with the students they help. Contributions of lesser amounts can be added together to form additional scholarships.
“We encourage students and sponsors to write to each other, and we make sure to take a lot of pictures to show people back at St. Peter,” Roberta said. “It becomes tangible and personal if you can put a face to the name.”
The Sunday school students at St. Peter have done their part, too, raising enough money to send a seven-year-old girl in the Myamba parish who is deaf and does not speak to a specialized boarding school. The children also wanted to provide their Tanzanian counterparts with some fun, too, and are sending soccer balls, volleyballs and a volleyball net. The church also provides Swahili Bibles to each sponsored first-year student, and every sponsored student in the parish gets a notebook and pen.
Roberta says that her and her husband’s experiences supporting students and education in the east African country have changed their worldview forever. “Once you go to Africa, you’re never the same,” Roberta said. “It’s great to help out from afar, but you get a unique perspective from firsthand experience. And we want to share that joy with others.”
If you are interested in donating to the scholarship fund for the 2015 school year beginning this January, you can contact the church office at 515-986-3077.