Mary and John Long with children

Conwayites John and Mary Long are pictured here with the nine children that are in their Maisha Matters program. Maisha Matters means life matters.

“Dorothy was right” is the discovery Conwayite John Long has made after spending 11 months in Tanzania.

“There’s no place like home. I don’t want to downplay it. I hope I appreciate every single thing America has to offer. I never want to take it for granted,” he said.

On his list of things he missed most during the extended stay that he and his wife Mary made in 2018 was Southern fried chicken, toilet paper, sleeping without mosquito netting and solid American organization and efficiency.

Despite the discomforts of living in the African country, the Longs will head back there Dec. 28 to pick up their ministry of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ and meeting the many needs of the people.

One of the couple’s biggest accomplishments during its recent stay, one that wasn’t expected when they headed to Tanzania, is opening a children’s home.

Ten children are getting medical care, food and attention at the renovated house now, but there is room for 40, according to Long, if their budget continues to cover the costs. They also help the children develop good hygiene and life skills.

There are nine children now in what they call Maisha Matters, which means Life Matters, but the feeding program has the capacity to handle 100, also dependent on funding.

Long says these children are abandoned, mentally or physically challenged or extremely malnourished, which likely would end in death if the children didn’t have this program.

Long said the children’s mothers are unable to nurse their children, but try to keep them alive with porridge and tea. It just isn’t enough. They can’t buy formula for the children because it’s so expensive. One can is the equivalent of one month’s salary in Tanzania.

The Longs have been providing formula for the children and saving lives.

During their hiatus at home, the Longs have been stirring up whirlwinds dashing from one event to another working to get their story out and build more support for their ministry.

During his recent hiatus in Conway, Long spoke at Kingston Presbyterian Church, at a Savannah, Ga., church, at Ringel Height Baptist Church in Georgetown and then he headed off to Alabama.

At a lecture at The Rock Church in Conway, Long talked about three children who the children’s program has taken in. There are nine caregivers at the children’s home, referred to as Mamas.

Musa’s grandmother was trying to raise him and 13 other grandchildren. He described her as a sweet, loving woman, who was just overwhelmed.

At 17-months-old, Musa had never walked. After being at the home for two or three months, “he was not only walking, he was dancing,” Long said.

His grandmother was awestricken when she saw his amazing improvement. She walked miles to her home and came back with three fish to feed the children.

“These fish were the ultimate sacrifice for this woman,” Long said.

David was a child that particularly touched Long. He said David was found abandoned in a mud puddle. At 9-months-old, he weighed 5.5 pounds. His mother was 14-years-old and she preferred drinking to taking care of David, according to Long.

David was dying from malnourishment when he was rescued and he also had two holes in his heart.

A social worker found David when he was going through his village.

Mary’s response to her husband when he was introduced to the child was, “Do what you have to do to bring him to us. That’s why we’re here.”

A dietician heard about David, came bringing medicine, supplies and help.

However, only weeks ago the child caught a virus and died.

Long said God didn’t want David to be left out in a mud puddle, and he said, “He cares about the least of these until the last of their days.”

The third child, Sabato, is filled now with love, kindness and generosity, but his story started with starvation.

“God didn’t give up on him and neither did Mary,” Long said.

Sabato’s healing started the day Mary began patiently feeding him one grain of rice at a time, grain after grain, until his desire to eat returned.

“So he was one grain of rice away from death,” Long said.

Now he is not only eating, he’s walking, running, playing and working in the Longs’ garden with John.

Although the children’s hospital and feeding program are favorite topics for Long, the couple has worked tirelessly to help students in the Geita seminary where they are training Tanzanians to spread the gospel themselves. They provide eight scholarships a year to students there.

The Beautiful Feet Ministry recently had its first graduate, Long said

Long said help from a Myrtle Beach resident, Doug Dorman with your Next Step Ministries, has made a difference in this program. After hearing Dorman’s presentation on his training and mission he knew he needed his help.

One of Dorman’s homework assignments for the seminarians was to pick a couple of people and share the gospel. Long said 25 nervous pastors took the challenge. Nine salvations were reported out of that one assignment.

Long said as they passed through day after day he, at times, didn’t think they were doing much, but after they got home and looked back, they realized that they had exceeded their expectations.

“It’s surprising, but we just have this sense of urgency in what we’re doing, so we just keep saying, ‘We can do more. We can do more,’” he said. “I think it’s just God putting on our hearts that He’s got work for us to do.”

Trying to live up to their potential, he said, is probably the best way to put it.

“We’re not trying to earn God’s love or anything like that, but it’s just we want to do everything that we were created to do, and we know that we’re living in Tanzania for a specific reason, so we don’t want to waste an opportunity or waste our time or other people’s money.”


I'm the editor of the Horry Independent, a weekly newspaper in Conway, South Carolina. I cover city hall and courts, among many other subjects. Know of a good story? Call me at 843-488-7241.

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