Joan Conley Brown

Class of '84

Place of service: Thembelihle Home School, Mthatha, South Africa

Why I Serve

The answer for why I serve goes back to 2006. I was the elder of missions at Colbert Presbyterian Church when the opportunity to look into a partnership with a church in Mthatha was presented to the church. All along these conversations by others included me as one of the obvious persons to travel there to research what a partnership between two churches 10,000 miles apart would entail. Inside I kept thinking, “I am not going there. I don’t do this. I don’t take time off of work, leave my family and spend money to travel to Africa.” However, even while I stubbornly dug my heels in, I was simultaneously experiencing a “tug” as though a rope were tied around my belly and was gently being pulled forward into the “yes you are going” realm. I remember telling my husband, Kevin, that I was going to go ahead and go to “get God off my back.” Little did I know then that the 10-day experience in January of 2007 would then turn to a mysterious severe longing to continue to be a part of that community.

How I Serve

One of the NGOs I had visited a few times was Thembelihle Home, a place where children from ages 6 to 16 lived after being taken away from their homes due to neglect or abuse. I was aware that there was a school there that the children attended and knew that volunteers from the UK were helping in the classroom. As my relationship continued to deepen with the community of Mthatha, Kevin and I began listening to promptings of me taking a semester off from teaching in the Mead School District to volunteer in that classroom.