Dr. Steven Meyer and Siouxland Tanzania Educational Medical Ministries
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Eighteen years ago, Steve Myer, MD, now an orthopedic surgeon with the CNOS clinic in
Dakota Dunes, was at one of the lowest points in his life. After many years of “living the dream” as a successful surgeon, his marriage was failing and he found himself questioning his purpose, his values, and his future.
That’s when a chance encounter altered the course of his life. A woman whose broken leg he was asked to attend to late one night at Mercy Hospital would eventually connect him with a Christian mission team from Arkansas and a life-changing trip to China.
“While we were going to church one day in Hong Kong, I felt a hand on my head and I heard the voice of God tell me ‘It’s time. I’m calling you to work for me’,” says Dr. Meyer.
Less than a year later, Meyer was leading his own mission trip to Africa, a country he had visited briefly in medical school, and the idea for STEMM – Siouxland Tanzania Educational Medical Ministries – was born.
“I believe that God changes us not by what he does for us but by what he allows us to do for others,” says Meyer, who helped to found STEMM with his new wife and several others in 1997. He has since made 32 trips to the impoverished country, several with some of his six children. ”We try to be the hands and feet and heart of God for the people of Tanzania.”
Since its founding, STEMM volunteers have performed nearly 1000 orthopedic, general and ENT surgeries in a country with only one physician for every 100,000 people and fewer than two dozen orthopedic surgeons to serve a population of 45 million. Meyer himself performed the country’s first hip and knee replacement.
Although fewer than ten percent of Tanzanian children ever go to high school, STEMM has also helped send nearly 10 thousand of them to high school and university. “We have produced doctors, teachers, engineers and multiple nurses,” says Meyer.
STEMM’s latest endeavor, launched in 2005, is STEMM Children’s Village, a village-style orphanage in a remote part of Tanzania. When filled to capacity, the homes on site – each complete with a “Mama” to care for the children – will accommodate up to 180 of Tanzania’s 2 million orphans. According to the group’s website, “The SCV will not merely save children from starvation, exploitation and death, but will also provide a Christian environment for them to thrive.”
The next phase of construction at the SVC will add four more children’s home to the “village”, an on-site guest house for visiting volunteers, and, eventually, a school. STEMM also provides support to several other orphanages in the poor Arusha region.
Always looking for new ways to innovate, STEMM has plans to help fund the orphanage and other ministries through a new agricultural endeavor. The group now owns 100 acres of land and a dozen dairy cows.
“God just keeps bringing all these amazing blessings. But it requires tons of talent and treasure and time,” says Dr. Meyer. “We need people who want to give something back who can go to Tanzania.” Meyer says the group welcomes new ideas that could help them better care for the physical, educational and spiritual needs of Tanzanians. “If someone says ‘Have you thought about this?’, we listen.”
For more information about STEMM and its ministries, visit their website at stemm.org.