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Harsch pursuing missionary way of life

Matthew Harsch is pictured enjoying time with baby Dan during his service at New Hope Orphanage.

Matthew Harsch is on a mission - literally - as he sets his sights on a ministry related career, all the while looking for more opportunities to open up his heart and share his talents in an unselfish effort to help provide for orphans, widows, and those who have lost their way in life.

A 2008 graduate of West Fargo High School graduate, Harsch is currently majoring in history at the University of Sioux Falls, Sioux Falls, S.D., with plans to graduate in 2012 with a teaching degree.

He is savoring every moment of 'mission' activity so far, with his efforts going a long way in positively impacting inhabitants of two African communities - four years ago as a youth leader in Cameroon and late last summer as a missionary in a Ugandan orphanage.

"Our friend and leader of the team, Hannah Kusler, went to Uganda once before and wanted to bring a team back," Harsch said. "We were that team. I had a bunch of friends that decided to go, and I just felt that I needed to go with them. Not everyone knew everyone but we got close in the two weeks we were there."

Harsch said the people within the "New Hope Uganda" organization that promoted their trip were extremely receptive. "They loved having us there and we were glad to be there. They took every effort to welcome us and get to know us and were extremely hospitable and caring."

The 13-member mission team spent their time basically at a Ugandan orphanage, where they taught bible school daily and also made their home during the two-week say. On a set schedule to get as much accomplished as possible during their brief stay, the group did specialty work during the morning houses based on their skills. Harsch worked mainly with landscaping, while others were involved in construction, hospital work, and teaching.

Afternoons the activity focused on Vacation Bible School with the children, and in the evening time was spent interacting with the small families that each was assigned to.

"I really enjoyed getting to spend time with our family and just becoming a part of the children's lives through our nightly devotions and just taking interest in them and how they returned the love," Harsch stated. On that note, most of his free time was spent playing soccer with the kids, a sport he also enjoyed while at West Fargo High.

Harsch was quick to acknowledge that at the top of his favorite moments was getting to know one of the kids named Brian - a 9-year-old who took care of his little 6-month-old brother almost all day. "He was one of the nicest kids that I could form a relationship with," Harsch said. "I really enjoyed getting to know him and playing hand drums with him. It was during this time I had a deep breaking point and feeling that I could definitely do this for the rest of my life. God was definitely telling me that this is something that I need to hold dearly to and have a heart for."

In the two weeks they were there, Harsch said all was not goodness and light, they did face some challenges involving leadership in making sure the VBS went as planned with a little bit of difficulty caused by some of the language barriers, as well as running out of energy due to the long intense days.

Thankfully, they were able to work through the issues always keeping their situation in perspective. "Through it all, it was important to remember that although we were tired and worn out, that we only had two weeks to do as much work and interaction as possible with the kids," Harsch said.

Prior to his introduction to the orphanage, Harsch already had a connection to Uganda as a sponsor of one of their children. One day he set out by taxi "not the kind we are used to," he said, "more like a diesel 11 passenger van/bus with 16 people crammed in," to the capital city of Kampala in search of finding his child. "It was incredibly different mainly because I was the minority for once and everyone was looking at me. It was a humbling experience. After half a day of searching, they would not allow me to see him due to legal issues and that I didn't give them a heads up that I was coming. It's a more difficult situation than I can describe so I'll leave it at that."

All in all, Harsch said that the trip was awe inspiring, and the memories will remain with him always. "There are so many humbling experiences that I came away with. Like a good friend of mine said, "After going there and being back, I know that I have never had a bad day in my life." He said this in context of comparing his life to the life in Africa. We are blessed in a way that we almost always take for granted. The Bible calls us to take care of orphans and widows because they have lost their father figure or husband. In both cases there needs to be a man who is a leader and can be the head of the household to guide and provide. Although they have lost their father figure in their lives, there is a key emphasis that God is our Father and that no one is an orphan. He has adopted us for Himself and if we believe in Him as our Savior and engage in a personal relationship with Him, we will be saved."

Harsch said his career path is leaning toward some sort of ministry related occupation. "My heart is open to just about anything at the moment. I just need to see where God in his everlasting sovereignty leads me."

"I love going on missions and will continue to look for more opportunities," Harsch said, with plans in the works for a trip this summer to Bolivia, South America, accompanied by Mike Brown, his best friend from high school.

In anticipation of all that is yet to come, Harsch is kept busy with his schooling, where he is involved in music, student senate, as a resident assistant at Burgess Hall, as well as serving as the cougar mascot. In addition, he has been working all year at the church he attends as a music worship and youth leader, elements he deems will be very valuable in the realization of future plans.

Harsch also likes to return to West Fargo every chance he gets to visit with family and friends. Family includes his parents, Dennis and Diane, a brother Derek, attending college at Minnesota State University Moorhead, and a sister, Marcy, a junior at West Fargo High School.