At 5:30 every morning on a visit to Tanzania this spring, Regina Horst ’85 Chacha led children’s devotions, which included first singing and then teaching from her late husband’s book Prayer Power.
“It is wonderful,” she said, “to see the children praying, learning to take their needs and the needs of others before the throne of God.”
For her dedication and life’s work, Chacha will be honored as Eastern Mennonite University’s Alumna/us of the Year during the 2018 Homecoming and Family Weekend. Two other alumni award honorees will also be recognized: Claudette Monroy ’10 as Young Alumna/us of the Year and Gilberto Perez ’94, GC ’99, with the Distinguished Service Award.
Teamwork Ministries’ City of Hope is a ministry in Ntagacha that the Chachas founded in 2007 and which Regina has led as its international executive director since John Chacha ’84 was killed in a truck accident in 2015. It includes two schools with some 500 students, a home for 100 orphans, and Amani – “peace” – Medical Center, located where rival clans once fought, in part over cattle theft.
City of Hope has been honored with the Mwenge wa Uhuru (Freedom Torch) three times: for bringing peace to the area, for its agriculture work and water collection cisterns, and for its secondary education offerings. The Dr. John Chacha Secondary School has chemistry and biology labs in a country with “a great shortage of science teachers,” and this year opened a technology lab with 50 laptop computers that Chacha said is “unlike anything else in the region.”
Last year Vanity Fair nominated Chacha to its Hall of Fame. The surprise of it all – that this daughter of a now-retired Virginia Mennonite pastor has graced the pages of the glossy magazine, but also that her lifework means she routinely travels between the eastern coasts of the U.S. and Africa – doesn’t negate what Vanity Fair acknowledged: “the challenges remain immense.”
For example: acquiring increased funding for dormitories and teacher housing are “essential,” she said, for the school to attract more boarding students and additional quality teachers.
“I am thankful that I can trust God to direct me concerning my travels and my activities,” Chacha said. “The needs at City of Hope are so great that it is easy to feel overwhelmed, but God helps me to stay focused and to take one step at a time.”
Chacha’s concerns also extend to the broader community. At the City of Hope’s annual conference in December – themed “Leadership Challenges in the 21st Century: Is There Hope?” – an 11K run on community roadways brought attention to a subsequent outdoor evangelistic event, and athletic tournaments hosting village teams culminated in an awards ceremony that included sharing against substance abuse and female genital mutilation.
Chacha is joined in her work by her six children: Two sons have had extended stays at City of Hope and handle photography and videography for its marketing and publicity; the older son and daughter-in-law serve on the board; her oldest daughter served as hostess for the guest house; another daughter now runs a sewing program to train older girls and village women; and her younger daughters will spend this summer there.
When stateside, the family maintains intimate connections with Tanzania. At Christmas they – and 33 Tanzanian children who were attending the Mountain Mission School in Grundy, Va. – had a “lively African Christmas celebration,” and at Easter, prepared a traditional Tanzanian meal together.
Read about the other 2018 alumni award recipients:
- Outstanding Young Alumna/us: Claudette Monroy
- Distinguished Service Award: Gilberto Perez Jr.
- Previous recipients
This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2018 Crossroads. Read more articles here.