“I never would have dreamed that God would lead me to marry a dynamic ministry leader from a small village in Tanzania and that together we would establish an international ministry,” said Regina Horst ’81 Chacha in chapel on February 24, in presentation, “Lean Not on Your Own Understanding, or ‘How I Became Mama to Over 100 Children.'”
Chacha lived in the Maplewood high school dorm and attended EMHS from 1979 to ’81 from her home community in Winchester, Va. In addition to sharing in chapel with grades three to 12, she spoke with 12th grade Kingdom Living, eighth grade environmental science, Global Christianity, and 10th grade Bible classes.
“All the growth and changes are fun to see,” she said at the end of a full day. “I am impressed with the good things happening here!”
Chacha’s unexpected journey took her from EMHS to Eastern Mennonite College (now University) in the mid 1980s where she studied home economics education and met her husband John Chacha, an international student from Kenya who knew nothing about Mennonites and whose father had warned him not to come home with a “Muzunga” wife (Swahili for “white.”) “Little did anyone know!” she laughs, recalling her own parents’ support, but also cautions about the challenges of cross-cultural marriage.
The relationship flourished after college, despite visa challenges that took them to Canada for their marriage and early months as a married couple — Regina has dual citizenship — before they settled in the United States.
In chapel, Regina shared about their call to her husband’s family village, Ntagacha, in rural Tanzania. Together, they founded Teamwork Ministries’ City of Hope in in 2007. Today it includes two schools with some 500 students, a home for 100 orphans, and Amani – “peace” – Medical Center, located where rival clans once fought.
Together, Regina and her husband raised six children, three biological and three adopted. “I never would have dreamed I’d be a mother to six and mama to 100 in the orphanage,” she told students.
She also never would have dreamed, she told them, that she would be a widow at age 51. Tragically, John was killed in a 2015 vehicle accident. Another passenger — a girl from their orphanage — was also killed. The driver and her daughter survived. Since then, Regina has served as president of Teamwork Ministries.
“It’s been hard, of course,” reflected Regina. “I’m so grateful for my family and our shared ministries.” All six of the children are involved in some aspect of the programming.
In 2018, Eastern Mennonite University recognized Regina as Alumna of the Year. An article in the university’s Crossroads magazine article caught the eye of Miriam Rhodes ’22, at her home; Miriam’s mother, Laura, received the magazine as an alumnus of the university.
“She read it and said, ‘I want to go work there,'” Laura recalls. With financial support from Miriam’s grandfather, Paul Lehman, Miriam raised the funds needed and was able to travel with her mother to City of Hope for two weeks of service in the summer 2019.
Laura worked in the medical facility while Miriam taught music to children, using her ukulele. Additionally, Miriam took portraits of several hundred City of Hope children to send to their sponsors. Both Miriam and Laura painted desks and chairs for the school, helped the children write letters to their sponsors, and formed valuable relationships with the students. Miriam hopes to return to City of Hope in the near future for a longer stay.
“It’s all come full circle,” said Regina at the end of the visit. “It is fun to reconnect with this community that had such an impact on me long ago and set me on a path I never would have dreamed of.”