Prayer creates ripples. Our words create ripples as do our choices. I don’t think we realize the impact of those – prayer, words, choices. We are often completely unaware of the individuals that are standing on the other side of our “yes.” Our “yes” to God, our “yes” to the nudging in our spirit that, when answered, will change the trajectory of our own life as well as others we don’t even know. It’s the ripple effect that God sets in motion to transform as many lives as possible. I sit in awe as remember this particular ripple. Meet Melissa Herrmann, former Executive Director of Courage House Northern California and hear her ripple story with Courage Worldwide.
My passion for others started back in 1988. I remember sitting in my room at 7-years-old turning the pages of my picture Bible when I heard the words,“Melissa, when you get big you are going to go to other countries to help kids that don’t have moms and dads.”
It was clear. It was simple. That day changed my little girl world forever.
As I grew older, I spent years researching children’s home models and lived in various countries to help prepare me for the time God would release me to start my own home. I had dreamed of the details of this place, where I would mother countless children.
In 2006 as a 23-year-old, I moved to Tanzania, Africa to begin establishing my first children’s home. I had spent years coming to Tanzania for short trips and building partnerships in the United States for this vision. One such partner was my friend Marvette. When I set out on this adventure, Marvette was pastoring a church in the Bay Area and committed to covering my team and I in prayer.
One of the first “additions” I made to the children’s home was an outside hut where we met each day, covered in the African sun, and poured our hearts out to God. The land was being saturated in prayer before any children ever entered the home. One such day, our local staff was praying for a Western farmer to come help teach them some new techniques. I personally didn’t know any farmers, but we presented the need in prayer, believing God would send the right person.
Literally, a week later my friend Marvette contacted me and asked if I have any need for a retired farmer. She explained there was a woman at her church that had been praying for me. Her name was Jenny Williamson. Her dad, Charlie Thornton, grew up farming and had just retired. Jenny believed he should come to Africa to plant a garden, along with his wife Janey who loves the word of God like no one else I have encountered (besides myself). I knew this was a direct answer to our prayers! Charlie and Janey soon became a part of our African family.
Over the years Jenny and I dreamed together of creating something that would change the world and impact the lives of vulnerable children. She came to Tanzania, I went to the US – both knowing at some time in the future God would have us establish something together.
Charlie’s daughter, Jenny, and I emailed and spoke often regarding the logistics of the trip and their time in Africa. Through those quick phone calls a friendship formed, and from there Jenny Williamson became a significant part of my life and story. She began to tell me how God was asking her to build a home for children rescued from sex trafficking. Later, Jenny also came to Africa where a local tribe gave her a building for a home in Tanzania.
Fast forward to 2010. I had come back from Africa for a medical procedure and could feel the Lord shifting my direction. I knew God was asking me to stay put in the United States, and yet my heart was longing to be back in Africa. I wasn’t getting clarity so I began looking for a job in the meantime. I was approaching my 30th birthday and told the Lord, “Ok Lord, whomever first offers me a job, I will accept.”
The very next day Jenny Williamson calls me.
The dreams we dreamed were fast becoming a reality. I knew Jenny was starting a home in California for minor victims of sex trafficking and had plans for one in Tanzania on the land she was given. She asked me to become a part of her team. Her crazy faith magnetized with mine. My spirit knew. This was where I was meant to be.
Another home. More children to love. More hearts that needed healing. I was in.
In September 2011, we opened Courage House in Northern California and Courage House Tanzania on the very same day. My heart was overjoyed. Not only did I become the Executive Director of Courage House Northern California but I had the privilege of returning to Tanzania to oversee the new program there.
Over the years we celebrated, we fought, we battled, we overcame and we loved kids we had not birthed but called family! We journeyed a lot of deep waters together.
And we still do.
Ten years later Courage House Tanzania has flourished under the direction of Joel and Stephanie Midthun. They have expanded that very small first Courage House serving 6 girls to one that serves over 60 individuals on 3 campuses. Their newest campus? The place where I started my first home!
15 years later I stand in complete awe of the ripple effect.
The very place I established the children’s home, the very land we saturated in prayer, has now been transferred into the hands of Courage Worldwide where over 18-year old’s and their children call home. Courage House Too.
Sadly, I don’t personally know all the girls that will now live at Courage House Too, but I know that when I stood on that land 17 years ago God told me that I was to prepare a place for children to live and to call home. He saw the faces of the first set of sisters at the children’s home and He sees the girls that are now safely entering adulthood without victimization or fear of being hurt.
God knew that Marvette’s commitment to pray for me would ripple out to meeting Jenny as well as her mom and dad, Stephanie and Joel. God knew our stories were destined to be woven together. He called us to create a home for children that didn’t have one and call them family.
And we did!
When my own adopted daughter is a little older, I look forward to taking her there, to meet the girls in Tanzania, to stand on that land again, and to tell her she too, was an answer to prayer from that very place. And the ripples go on…
Today Melissa is the Founder/CEO of Emerge Counseling & Consulting. She continues to provide counseling to girls who once called Courage House home and also trauma training to our staff in Tanzania. As Melissa said… the ripples continue!
When you financially give to Courage Worldwide you cause a ripple in the lives of children who have been sold for sex. You not only give them a safe home and an education but you help restore their childhood and offer them a limitless future!
Would you consider a financial donation today?