Project Rehema benefits 10 family units in Tanzania
By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
Continuing her ministry in Tanzania is a passion for Kelli Solsma, a Sioux City Sacred Heart parishioner who started Project Rehema Ministries.
Solsma has been involved in mission work in Africa for nearly 15 years. The project, named after a little girl who died of AIDS in Tanzania, was started to help children and families in Tanzania.
“I know it was something that was put in my heart,” she said. “God let me know, in no uncertain terms, ‘This is my plan for you.’”
Currently, there are 10 family units made up of 60 people who are benefiting from the program on a monthly basis. The children range in age from about 3 to 18.
“It has grown a lot in four years time,” said Solsma. “There are times when it is not easy dealing with issues halfway around the world. There have been many Holy Spirit moments. It is worth it.”
One of the older children in Tanzania, Samuel, frequently emails Solsma and said he was excited for her to visit. Since there were so many unknowns about the flooding, Solsma didn’t know if she would still be able to go.
“This is a week before I was supposed to go,” she said. “I told him I may have to postpone my trip. He said to me, ‘Mama Kelli, do you not have faith? Do you not know that the Lord your God will protect you, your family and your home because you are protecting his children in Tanzania?’ I almost cried and thought, ‘You are right.’”
She decided to go no matter what. During her week and a half visit, medical check-ups and HIV testing were done on some of the children in her family units.
Solsma told a story of a 9-year-old girl who is now a member of a family unit.
“We rescued her from being married at age nine. She said they were practicing witchcraft on her out in the village,” she said. “I don’t even know what else has happened to her. When the doctor first looked at her, he said, ‘I highly expect HIV.’”
The girl’s test came back negative, but she will go back at three and six months for other tests to make sure she is negative.
Solsma told other stories about children in the family units including the addition of a few new children.
“Their faith blows me away,” she said. “They are the most spirit-filled, faith-filled people I have ever met in my life. They have taught me so much.”
While Solsma was there they also did de-worming of all of the kids, delivery of blankets, checks on food supplies, etc.
“I make them send me pictures every month when they do food deliveries,” she said. “I want to make sure those families are there. I want to make sure I see the food in front of them so I can visualize if it is the right amount.”
Outpouring from community
Recently three Sioux City parishioners, Juliet Everist, Julie Keane and Kris McCarthy, held a birthday luncheon and had each attendee bring a donation for Project Rehema as their gift.
“This will help us meet our food budget,” said Solsma.
Lauren Sobaski, a Holy Cross student in Sioux City, also helped the project through her birthday party. She had her friends bring medical items – Band-Aids, Neosporin, Tylenol, etc.
“Those are things I need to take on every trip,” said Solsma. “It was neat to see that a child would bypass presents for herself in order to do something like that.”
Pat Bartholomew, a Blessed Sacrament parishioner and a retired teacher, has her sorority, Alpha Delta Kappa, make blankets for the Tanzanian children. Solsma distributes the blankets on each of her trips.
Sing for Africa
Project Rehema Ministries will present “Sing for Africa” at 7 p.m. on Oct. 29 at the West High School Auditorium in Sioux City. The concert will feature Jill Miller, Kevin Keane, Celebration Choir, Mt. Zion Choir, Ron Demers, Jordyn Younger and more.
The proceeds of the concert will benefit the families in Tanzania.
The tickets are $10. For ticket information, contact Solsma at (712) 251-4759 or jksols @aol.com.
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