Update from Joel and Stephanie Midthun and Courage House Tanzania

Update from Joel and Stephanie Midthun and Courage House Tanzania
May 7, 2018 pearls

Since moving to Tanzania in July 2017, we continue to add Swahili terms and phrases to limited vocabulary. Nimeshiba was one we recently learned doing the hard work of eating. Here in Tanzania, food is at the center of all relationships and meetings. You best learn this phrase before you explode! ‘Nimeshiba’ — translated in English to “I am full!”. That term is also true of our lives and ministry during the first quarter of 2018! Thanks to you, your support and prayers — we are full!

Courage House is FULL and bursting at the seams! We have 14 girls, 2 toddlers and a baby on the way. Our recent graduates from our C2BU School are doing very well, one is in college getting her early childhood education, the other is furthering her education, wanting to pursue a law degree and the other is studying hotel management. We continue to support them while they are in school and like college students in the U.S., they visit on weekends and spend holidays at “home” with all their sisters and staff they call family. We are truly a family in every sense of the word and the original dream God gave our CEO over ten years ago “build them homes and call them family” is alive and well as we are serving more young women, girls and children that we ever have had in our 10 years of serving victims of sex trafficking – in the U.S. and Tanzania. It is an honor to participate in this God driven dream. We had the opportunity to see it first hand in the U.S. and now in Tanzania.

The days are full at Courage House! Each girl has her own Unique Life Plan (ULP) that defines her strengths, documents her dreams and defines her course for achieving them. Many of the residents, and even staff, shared their big dreams with our Founder & CEO, Jenny Williamson, when she came for a visit last month. We were all overwhelmed by this intimate time of sharing. It reinforced our mission to equip, encourage and empower each and every one of them to have the courage to be and do all God created them to! We are already seeing the fruit of this as our older girls pursue their dreams through education or jobs.

In our role as family we also help these young ones navigate challenges, stress and disappointment. That was very evident when two of our girls learned they failed their national academic exams, which prevented them from graduating high school. They were devastated. After many tears, conversations and encouragement to pray, they both decided to stay at Courage House to repeat the school year in spite of their age. It was a very difficult decision for them, but one we are thrilled with. Education isn’t encouraged for girls in Tanzania. School fees are required for what we in the west call junior high and high school – fees many families do not have – for their daughters. If a girl gets pregnant as a teen, she cannot attend a public school. Therefore, culturally, education has not been a priority or even a possibility for many females in Tanzania – especially those who have been victims of sex trafficking. That is why we opened our Courage 2 Be You (C2BU) School for our residents – it doesn’t cost their families anything and they can attend even if they have children – which caused us to open a preschool for their children as well as the children of our staff. Like all cultures and countries, education is their best chance for independence and success.

All of our girls have incredibly traumatized childhoods and symptoms of that trauma that require more than just encouragement. All our residents receive numerous hours and modality of counseling during their stay at Courage House. We are thrilled that our executive staff are currently receiving excellent training in trauma therapy via SKYPE by our former Courage House Director, Melissa Herrmann. Melissa has her Master’s Degree in Counseling and has started a consulting business specializing in trauma and therapy models. Melissa is such an asset to us in Tanzania since she lived and worked in Africa for 10 years. She not only understands trauma but also the unique cultural differences here in Tanzania. In addition, she also provides face to face, one on one and group therapy directly to our girls in the U.S. We continue to bring in various experts to enhance our program whether in the U.S. or Tanzania.

Our girls are growing so much emotionally, mentally and spiritually. They courageously deal with their past trauma, attend school, learn and utilize practical tools to work out conflict with each other, play soccer, sing in a choir, dance any chance they get, hike, cook, celebrate birthdays and holidays and go to church. Our girls love church and their spiritual growth seems accelerated! Eight of our girls chose to be baptized and two of them dedicated their little boys to God’s ways. It’s our first ever baptism hosted at Courage House. I (Joel) as well as the girl’s pastor and Courage Worldwide Board Member Rev. Mahene presided over the emotional ceremony. Not only are we seeing lives and generations change with our work here, but we incredibly blessed to see the eternal ones also.

Our preschool is full! We launched C2BU Preschool in January and it is already full with 6 three-year-olds. Two of the budding scholars are our girls’ sons and the other four are staff children. Tanzania law requires 3 year olds to be in school, thus the preschool benefits both our residents and our incredibly dedicated staff who have little ones. Since coming to Courage House, we have seen tremendous life change in the little boys of our residents. School has played a big part in that but also being surrounded by people who love you and call you family. Once lifeless, quiet toddlers, they are now normal, rowdy, boisterous little boys. What a joy it is also to see our girls being big sisters to these precious little ones and watch our staff add loving these little ones to their list of job responsibilities.

Our new property is full of buildings but sadly not girls! When we first opened Courage House Tanzania in 2011, we were given a building far out in the bush – for free. Due to lack of roads, supplies and staff, we transitioned the home and leased a house in the town of Moshi, where we continue to lease our current home. However, in late 2017, we were given new property by Trinity San Pedro, a church in Southern California but the buildings were not ready for occupancy. Currently, there are three buildings constructed on the property- a cottage that will be home to 20 girls plus 4 of their children, a kitchen and staff offices as well as a building that will act as our school, preschool, library and home to more offices. However, there were was no electricity or water hook-ups; no showers, toilets or sinks, thus more funds were needed to make these and more renovations prior to moving in. Again, Trinity San Pedro blessed us and raised the funds for the next phase of renovations! Bayside Church also contributed directly to our work here! Because of that, workers are at the property now wiring the buildings, installing toilets, sinks and showers, as well as hooking up the plumbing and solar with the funds that have been sent. Seeing this progress is so motivating in light of the fact that we had to say no to 5 girls needing a home last week because we are full at our current leased location.

We would love to transition our under 18 girls to this new property by June of this year, however we will need to raise approximately $ 20,250 for the second phase of renovations and needed supplies to move in. Below is a rough breakdown:

  • Grading work to level the property for eating and recreation area.
  • Install tile in 10 showers. Pour concrete on the floors.
  • Purchase Stove, refrigerator and freezer.
  • Purchase Beds & Dressers.

When we are able to move our under 18 residents to the new property, we will then be able to use the current leased home for our over 18 and college or job bound graduates. We are realizing that after our residents graduate high school, turn 18 and plan to leave Courage House, they have no place to go; no healthy or safe families to support and encourage them – much like we experienced in the United States – thus a need for an over 18, transitional home for our previous residents. When we raise the funds for the renovations, we will be able to go from serving 14 full time residents with 4 children, to 20 full time residents with 6 children PLUS 6 over 18 young women and their children with the same $15,000 monthly budget in Tanzania! This is true multiplication!

Our calendar is full! In the first quarter of 2018 we hosted our first teams from the U.S. as well as Courage Worldwide’s CEO! Each team generously shared their unique gifts and talents with Courage Worldwide furthering and again multiplying our ministry and efforts in Tanzania. We are preparing our late 2018 – 2019 calendar to host teams. If you are interested in coming with a team to Tanzania, email us at info@courageworldwide.org for details and projects.

We have been blown away by the numerous invitations to speak at various events; the United Nations partner, IOM (International Office of Migration), had me (Stephanie) speak on human trafficking, we spoke to a large group of pastors, bishops and business men and women. Stephanie and one of our volunteer teams from the US spoke at a women’s conference, Courage Worldwide co-sponsored. I (Joel) spoke at a large youth conference where over 400 students attended. There is a hunger in this nation to make a difference, to fight trafficking and declare Not in My Country, a Courage Worldwide awareness campaign.

Our hearts are full! This journey, as our CEO, Jenny Williamson calls, water walking, giant slaying and history making, has taken us to places we have never dreamed. We have seen God intervene in lives and situations that can only be called miraculous. We have experienced battles that can only be described as coming straight from hell. We left our home and family in the US to move to Tanzania just because God asked us to. In the midst of it all, we have felt compelled to get it all down on paper. We just finished our first book that we anticipate being released this fall! Our intent is to also have it translated to Swahili. It’s called Battles and Breakthroughs in Setting Captives Free. It will be available when we begin speaking in the U.S. this fall.

Our plan is to return to the U.S. to share the vision of Courage Worldwide Tanzania. We will be in the states traveling from mid-October through late December 2018. Our book will be available when we come back to the US. We will be speaking at various churches and venues. If you would like to book us please email us at s.midthun@courageworldwide.org

Our life is full! At least once a week one of us turns to the other and says: “is this really our life”? This question sums up the deep fulfillment and occasional bewilderment at challenges we experience daily living in Africa full time. God has been so good and done so much in a few short months. We are incredibly grateful for all the prayers and support! They matter. You matter. We would not be here without you. Through you and because of you, we are changing the world one individual at a time! Your gifts are being multiplied to help so many here in Tanzania and in the U.S. We ask that you prayerfully consider continued, monthly giving to further our efforts with these vulnerable children, young adults and their children.

Thank you!

Many blessings,
Joel and Stephanie Midthun

One last update! In our last newsletter/update, we communicated the need for surgery for one of our 13 year old girls because of the terrible abuse she experienced. We are thrilled that you responded and funds came in to cover the medical costs. She has been with expert doctors here in Tanzania who decided to first try intensive physical therapy for a few months before they did an invasive rare surgery. We just received the report today that her body is healing well and it looks like she won’t need the surgery. With the extra medical funds we also have 2 pregnant girls we are caring for and another girl who needs surgery this spring. So thank you – again – for giving.

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Executive Staff of Courage House Tanzania with CEO, Jenny Williamson.

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Arise! team ministered to our girls, staff and a women’s leader conference.

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Corporate staff Denise Bellacera and her family came to Courage House to love our girls & staff.

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Youth training: 600 Youth.

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One of the buildings on the new property.

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Men of Courage! Staff playing soccer with our girls.

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Denise’s sister, Donna reading to some of our girls.

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Pastor Joel Midthun with Pastors in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania, with whom we are partnering.