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Paramedic learns life lesson on missionary trip

Josh Richhart's experiencesi in Africa made him question what he really needs to be happy


By Landa Bagley
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — South Bend firefighter/paramedic Josh Richhart hoped to make a difference in the lives of others when he traveled to Africa to deliver free medical care.

But Richhart’s life was also changed in the process, given what he witnessed and the people he met there. It was more than feeling good about helping people in need, he said. It was a personal change that made Richhart and his wife, Mandy, rethink their lifestyles and how to truly live out their values, the 35-year-old firefighter said.

“We saw people, two or three families — as many as 15 people — living together in grass-roofed mud huts that were no more than a few hundred square feet," Josh Richhart said. "And they were happy. They were appreciative for what they had. They seemed genuinely happy to be alive and to have food in their bellies.

“It made me ask myself the questions ‘Do we need all of this? Do we need all of this to be happy?’” he added, about the 2,000-square-foot home with a two-car garage and well-landscaped lawn where the Richharts and their children had lived. His wife had the same questions, he said.

After returning to South Bend from volunteering at a clinic in southern Sudan in September 2012, the couple put their home on the market in spring 2013. By that fall the Richharts and their four children — all under the age of 13 — were settling in to their 1,000-square-foot home with a basement.

“We don’t mean to condemn people who strive for the very things we gave up,” Richhart added. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting nice things, working hard and getting them. But for us, we found that we are happy and content with less — and it freed up more wiggle room in our finances so we can do more for others.”

The Richharts give money to support two full-time missionaries working at the Dreamland orphanage in Sudan. The orphanage was established by the Richharts’ church, The Vineyard in Mishawaka, along with another well-known, nonprofit, charitable organization.

Also, for nearly three years now, the Richharts have been financially sponsoring a 10-year-old girl from an outlying area in Kenya. It was through the Richharts’ connection to one of the full-time missionaries at Dreamland that they got the chance for the sponsorship. Richhart says he and his wife have established communications with the 10-year-old girl, who frequently writes the Richharts letters and sends them pictures she drew.

“My family values giving, and caring for people that don’t have the advantages that we do in life,” Richhart added. “Basically, we try to live outward-focused lives.”

Josh and Mandy Richhart began missionary work abroad in January 2012 in Haiti, two years after a devastating earthquake hit the small island nation.

The Richharts were among numerous members of their church who spent seven days in Haiti building seven modest homes. The firefighter said he was touched by the sincere gratitude expressed by the families over the basic, three-room homes: “My passion for mission work was sparked in Haiti.”

The work in Haiti was followed by a 10-day medical outreach mission trip, in September 2012, in Africa: Three days in Uganda and seven days in Sudan. His wife Mandy was one of the volunteers who spent quality time visiting with the local children. The Richharts’ missionary trips were done through their church.

While they have no plans yet for other similar trips, Josh Richhart said the couple hopes to do more missionary work … and hopes to inspire their children to help others locally and abroad.

Copyright 2017 South Bend Tribune

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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