Molly Weldon Lengeman relies on her faith every day as she serves as teacher and mentor to neglected and sick children in Kokstad, South Africa.
When she graduated from Mount Mercy in 2009 with degrees in psychology and fine arts, she never imagined that she would be called to serve nearly 9,100 miles away from Iowa. Molly and her husband, David, uprooted their lives in the Midwest in July 2010 in order to help indigent children — many of whom suffer from HIV — in a small village nearly three hours from Durban, South Africa.
Lengeman teaches first grade at Rivermeade Christian School and spends afternoons, evenings and weekends serving with The Home of Comfort orphanage. Her work at the orphanage has been an eye-opening experience. “Some days it can be overwhelming at how dirty, sick, or uncared for the children are,” says Lengeman, who spends time tending to their physical and emotional needs. “I have been amazed to see how human beings can be stripped of their worth by simply lacking the tender touch of another, having clean clothes and bodies, or even a simple smile that says someone cares.”
She has noticed positive changes in the orphaned children — most noticeably in adolescent boys — once they are shown attention and love. She and David have begun to open their home to one child each weekend, allowing one orphan at a time to escape the harsh realities of life in the orphanage and experience home life. “It was amazing to see some of the children with anger issues we brought home change overnight,” she says.
Lengeman encourages current students to take advantage of study abroad opportunities and to envision for themselves a life of service. “Going abroad shapes and stretches you in so many ways that will wonderfully change you,” she says. “I always wanted to travel and do mission-type work, but never knew exactly where or how. I always thought it would just be a dream that was out there and maybe never really do it, but then we realized that if God places something on your heart, you should go.”
The Lengemans realize that while they are helping the children in Kokstad, their personal worldviews are changing in unimaginable ways.
“There are many things we love about working with the children, but one of the greatest things they have taught us is the simplicity of life,” says Molly. “We have learned that you don’t have to have the American ‘biggest and best,’ but that a simple life has so much beauty. We would say our biggest lesson of all is that depending and leaning on God is your greatest strength and that a little love goes a long way.”
“Mount Mercy taught me to persevere and now is a time in my life when that is coming in very useful. Life in South Africa is not easy, but it’s worth it.”