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Making a Difference

Dahle off on South Africa mission


SOUTH AFRICA MISSION — Emily Dahle of rural New Richland departed last week for a mission trip to South Africa. (Star Eagle photo by Kathy Paulsen)

Editor’s note: This is another in an ongoing series of stories in the Star Eagle focusing on people in the NRHEG area who make a positive impact in the lives of others. If you know of someone who should be recognized, call 463-8112.


Staff Writer

Little do we know how something said or suggested in conversation can grow into a major life event.

Even when she tried to put it aside as "only an impossibility," it just sat there and kept telling her, "You can do this." "Do it now." "Do it now while you are young and not faced with a job, a family, or something else important to do."

Such is the case of Emily Dahle, and her vision of a mission trip to South Africa is coming true.

For Emily, it’s been an exciting experience to anticipate.

Emily is no ordinary girl. She has always done things in a good way and it shows. This mission trip is only one of many successful ventures in her life.

Daughter of Ed and Darlyne Dahle of rural New Richland, Emily graduated from NRHEG in 2009 as co-Valedictorian of her class. She also served as President of the Student Council and was crowned Homecoming Queen her senior year. She went on to Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa and graduated in May this year with a Business Administration degree. Emily was recognized at her graduation as the "Most Outstanding Business Student."

The day after she came home to New Richland she was off to Good Earth Village, in Spring Valley, where she spent the summer working as a camp counselor. Emily returned back home on Saturday, August 10 and emptied her suitcases, only to immediately start repacking them again for another big trip. This next one will take her farther.

Emily was allowed to take two 50-pound suitcases, along with her trusty guitar. She can proudly say she took no lessons, learning to play guitar by self instruction.

Emily loaded her suitcases and guitar into the family vehicle on Wednesday, August 14, and headed off to the airport in Minneapolis where she boarded a plane for Chicago. Following a week in Chicago for instruction with the Young Adults in Global Mission team, Emily flew to South Africa. Excited and a bit apprehensive, she tried not to think about being so far away from home for a whole year.

Emily is a busy girl with a purpose. Currently serving as a part of Diakonia AIDS Ministry group, she has had this "little" project in the back of her mind for a long time. A friend and Lutheran church worker told her about this opportunity and she just could not let it go.

Emily's first thought was, “No, it is impossible,” but then she mind starting thinking, "'Well, maybe, it could be a cool experience." She approached her parents, friends and fellow church members at Pontoppidan Lutheran and their encouragement helped her believe that, yes, she could do it.

She felt this was the time, while she is still young and not under pressure of a job, family, etc.

Emily filled out the application early and got it mailed in just before Christmas, well before the February 15 deadline. She hoped and prayed she would be chosen.

The entire process was long. There were background checks to be completed, information to be gathered regarding ability and leadership, among other things.

When Emily applied she had no idea where she would be going. In fact, none of the over 120 applicants did. Time went by and Emily thought they had forgotten about her or thought she was not going to be chosen. But she finally got the "letter" she was waiting for. She was selected as one of the "Lucky 60", from many different areas. Emily is the only one from Southern Minnesota.

Once selections were being decided, she was interviewed for the United Kingdom and South Africa positions and thought both sounded great. But, she had always had her heart set on South Africa, and was ecstatic to think that was where she was picked to go.

Once Emily got the good news, she had to get busy and raise money to help pay for the trip. The cost would be $11,000 and each one chosen is responsible for paying $4,000 of that expense, while the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America pays the rest. Emily spoke at her church and sent letters, as well as approached family and friends, and all of their encouragement and donations helped her reach her goal.

Say Africa and everyone has visions of wilderness and wild animals and maybe they are partly true, but Emily will see another part of the country. She will be living with another volunteer who she will not know until she gets there. The two of them will be sharing a "flat" right in the gated community of the Lutheran Diocese.

Emily will be living and working at Soweto, just outside Johannesburg, the largest city in the South Africa with more than 1 million people, quite a difference from where she grew up. Johannesburg lies on the slope of the Witwaterrand (White Water Ridge), one of the world's greatest gold-producing ranges and the home of Nelson Mandela.

As part of the Young Adults in Global Mission Team she will be working for the Diakonia AIDS Ministry, a program that helps people infected or affected by AIDS, and is affiliated with the Lutheran Church in South Africa. She will receive guidance from an ELCA Missionary leader, who believe it or not, is from Moorhead, Minnesota.

What will she be doing? She is not sure yet. That remains a mystery until she arrives.

Soweto has many issues with the victims of AIDS, their families or anybody affected by AIDS, and much is needed to help those afflicted. She will also work to help orphans, jobs, education, and the income generated from the programs. It is a community generated program.

Traveling isn't new to Emily, nor is mission work. Emily, her father, Ed, as well as her brother, Matt, went to Cairo, Illinois on a mission trip two years ago. This past year, as a college project, Emily and 12 other students participated in a month-long study in Tanzania. This trip to South Africa will be a second "long" plane ride for Emily.

Emily anticipates this experience as something fantastic where she will not only be of help to others but hopes to enrich her own abilities with things learned while working in this outstanding atmosphere.  Soweto is the largest black community in South Africa and it is enterprising and affluent with possibilities and businesses.

There are 11 languages spoken there. Though Emily is qualified to speak some Spanish following years of study in high school and college, that is not one of the languages spoken there, however English is. She laughed when she said, "I am hoping to pick up a bit of the language of Zulu to add to my multi-language repertoire."

Emily, the oldest in the Dahle family, is 22, and only sister of two brothers. Matt, 19, attends college at South Dakota State, and Gabe, 13, is going into 8th grade at NRHEG.

Emily participated in volleyball, gymnastics and softball, as well as played in the high school band, and was a member of the Color Guard. She also worked at St. Olaf Lake during the summers, first in the concession stand, later as a lifeguard.

The Dahles live on an acreage south of Pontoppidan Lutheran Church, which they attend. Living near Owatonna, Ed worked at different jobs and currently enjoys working for a local farmer. Darlyne has been teaching in the NRHEG school system since 1993, particularly in the most important preschool classes. She loves her work and the opportunity to be a part of what she believes is the most attractive and inspiring school system.

Emily hopes to keep in touch with family and friends via computer and Facebook while she is off doing missionary work. This enterprising young lady hopes to be able to give the NRHEG Star Eagle some timely reports of "Life in South Africa."

Her parents are making plans to visit her during the Christmas holiday, when it will be summer there.  he is not sure how intense the heat can be during the summer, but when she arrives in that hemisphere, "winter" evening temperatures can reach as low as 40 degrees.

Our thoughts and prayers go with Emily on this journey of a lifetime. Another industrious young person who is indeed making a difference!

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