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Dr. Steve Meyer, STEMM founder, looks back at 50 trips to Tanzania

(KTIV) – Dr. Steve Meyer, an Orthopedic Surgeon at CNOS, reached a milestone this summer.

He completed his 50th mission trip to serve the people of Tanzania by way of STEMM Ministries.

STEMM, which stands for Siouxland Tanzania Educational Medical Ministries, was founded in 1996.

A group of 10 Siouxland residents embarked on the first trip to Tanzania in 1997.

From that experience, Meyer and his wife, Dana, were inspired to find a means to provide ongoing assistance to the children of Tanzania.

They also felt compelled to facilitate a means for others to experience this life-changing journey.

STEMM was created to develop a bridge between Siouxland and Tanzania.

Its goal is to address the priorities of spiritual growth, medical care, and educational opportunities.

“It’s overwhelming to think how many thousands of lives have been directly impacted in a country 10,000 miles away, that’s as culturally as different as you can possibly get,” said Dr. Meyer.

Dr. Meyer first traveled to Tanzania with STEMM in 1997.

Although he was just getting started with his mission, he immediately knew how special the African nation was.

“Every day is a blessing,” says Dr. Meyer in 1998. “It illustrates that the most unique thing about our project- when we get to Tanzania, we’re in the Lord’s hands.”

Fifty trips later, his goal of transforming the country is becoming a reality.

“We are now in the midst, right now as we speak, of building a beautiful 300-seat chapel in the midst of the STEMM orphanage,” said Dr. Meyer. “The local Muslim village is volunteering people to come and work to build our church. So Muslim people are building a Christian church because of our partnership and our relationships.”

For the first decade of his ministry, Dr. Meyer was focused on healing the physical aspects of the people of Tanzania.

“I would spend 90% of my time doing surgery on crippled kids,” said Dr. Meyer. “Which is my passion and my vocation.”

Now, it has gone beyond that.

“Our mission has gone from a hand-out to a hand-up,” said Dr. Meyer. “Where we are working with the local people.”

In 2017, a bus crash killed 36 people near the village of Karuta.

Three children survived, but not without injury

They sustained 17 fractures among them, and required operations to deal with injuries suffered in the horrific crash.

Through Meyer’s work, the work of other health professionals, and the faith of Siouxlanders, the children grew healthy and were dubbed the “Miracle Kids.”

“They were on the verge of death and they walked off to hero’s celebration in a country that has been transformed by this story, the entire country watched this story every minute, day by day,” said Dr. Meyer in 2017.

STEMM, and the people of Tanzania have become a large part of Meyer’s world–

“We go from being a group of individuals to a team, a STEMM team, and that bond is never broken,” says Dr. Meyer in 1998.

And he wants others to be able to say the same.

“We are only limited by God’s providence in touching people’s lives to get involved,” said Dr. Meyer. “If people would get more involved, we can change that country.”

A country, that has become a second home to Dr. Meyer, who was born and bred in Iowa.

“There is something about the simplicity, and the beauty, and the realness of life there,” said Dr. Meyer. “It’s not about your status, it’s not about your wealth, it’s about who you are inside. It’s changed my perspective on life, it’s changed my priorities in life. I don’t think you can go to Tanzania and not be changed– and that’s what I love about it.”

After more than 20 years, and 50 trips, what’s next?

“One of my big visions for the next 10 years is to build a center of agricultural technology excellence on our campus,” said Dr. Meyer. “Where we can teach local farmers to grow alternative crops and to grow the current crops in a better way.”

“Now people ask, ‘well what’s your next goal?’ And I’m like, you know… my next goal is another 50,” adds Dr. Meyer. “When I get to 100 then I’m done!”

50/50/50 Campaign: 

To celebrate this milestone in ministry, STEMM has announced a 50/50/50 campaign.

An anonymous donor has offered to match up to $50,000 given by 1,000 individuals each giving $50.

This is an effort to provide even more support for families in Tanzania.

“We always need tons and tons of resources to feed 6,000 kids a day,” said Dr.  Meyer. “We now have 25, but soon to be 50 orphans, because we just built 2 more orphan houses. We’re building this beautiful chapel with a partnership of Morningside Lutheran Church. But all those things cost money.”

Sergeant Bluff and Sioux City Dairy Queen locations have gotten involved in the fundraiser.

They have agreed to give you a free blizzard if you donate $50 to the campaign at their store.

Jennifer Lenzini

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