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Couple establish ministry to heal young adults
who age-out of orphanages in Zambia

After seven years in Africa, Anita Held is working with her husband, Heiko, to develop Embrace the Grace Ministries to heal young-adults who “age-out” of orphanages in Zambia.

Anita and Heiko Held
Heiko and Anita Held travel around the United States with photographic exhibit on Africa.

She has been coming to Spokane since 2009 for some training with Elijah House School of Prayer Ministry in Spokane Valley, learning about the basics of praying with people who have experienced trauma.

During a four-month visit from mid June to mid-October, Anita and Heiko have studied with Healing Rooms Ministries, which was founded and has its international headquarters in Spokane.  They have also presented displays of her photographs of African children, scenes and life to raise money for their project.

Through photographs, Anita said she has sought to “capture the heart of God inside the eyes of every child” and to feel God’s “heartbeat in a glimpse of creation” through African landscapes.

Since 2006, she traveled in Botswana, Ghana, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia, assisting orphans and destitute people.

As she saw the poverty, hunger, sickness, devastation and hopelessness of the people, she also grew to love the beauty of Africa’s land, water, plants, wildlife and people.

photo exhibit, "Window into Africa"
"Window Into Africa" photo exhibit by Anita Held as fund-raiser for Embrace the Grace Ministries.

In addition to raising funds, Anita uses photographic exhibits to raise awareness about the life of African people.

On this visit to the United States, which includes time in Wisconsin, Arkansas, Alabama, Florida and Spokane, she and Heiko hope to raise enough money in photograph sales to purchase land for Embrace the Grace Ministries to build a counseling center with healing rooms in Livingstone, Zambia.

John G. Lakes, a businessman who became a faith healer, started the Healing Rooms Ministries in 1915 in Spokane.  The ministry seeks to provide spiritual and physical healing through anointing and praying for people who are sick.  It offers training in Spokane for people who want to start healing rooms.  It has outreach in 62 countries.  The Helds have been trained to be healing room directors.

Anita, who grew up in Milwaukee, Wisc., and lived in various locations in the United States, said she was saved when she was 28 at Christ Church of Orlando.  She had an incurable bladder and kidney disease.  “I had a vision and saw Jesus, and he healed my body,” she said.  “I began attending church regularly and became a radical believer.”

Anita had another vision.  She wanted to go to Africa and share the same hope Christ gave her with other sick people. 

She began studying for ministry.  After a year and a half studying in seminary at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Fla., she went on a summer mission trip in 2006 to Ghana, and then took off with a backpack, crossing Africa alone for two-and-a-half months.

She knew nothing about photography, but had been given a camera before leaving and took photos.  When she returned, she was astounded with the quality of her photos. 

Churches in Florida invited her to do a photo exhibit to raise money so she could return to Africa.  In 2007, she was ordained at Christ Church of Orlando.

Anita worked for several years with orphanages in Mozambique and Zambia. 

By taking courses online, she graduated from seminary in the mission field in May 2010. 

She first met her husband, Heiko, who grew up in Berlin, when he was teaching Bible in the bush.  Seeking freedom, he left Berlin 17 years ago and rode his motorcycle through Africa for two years.  After surviving a plane crash without a scratch, he went to a church in Pretoria, South Africa, and discovered freedom in Christ, a freedom, he said, that “comes day by day.”

When they first met, he was looking for photographs to use in a fund-raising calendar.  Two years later, they met again.  Three weeks later they were engaged and three months later, they were married on the edge of Victoria Falls.

Anita’s exhibit, “Window into Africa,” consists of photos printed on museum-grade canvas.  Each photo comes in small, medium and large sizes.  They seek to raise $100,000 for their project.   They set up their portable exhibit at churches and luxury apartments.

Embrace the Grace Ministries, which she and Heiko started in 2011, involves three efforts:  1) a prayer ministry and healing rooms for young adult orphans who have aged out of orphanages; 2) discipleship training through Bible study to help them understand their identity in Christ, and 3) life-skills training appropriate to the culture and to help them find work—be it in tourism in the area or in serving in ministry.

“By identity in Christ, I mean that God sees value in them and has a plan for them that can transform their understanding of themselves,” Heiko said.  “Then we want to empower them with life skills.

When orphans hit 18 to 19, they have to leave the orphanages,” Anita said.  “Many wind up on the streets and become messed up with drug abuse, prostitution, alcoholism, AIDS and crime, stealing to survive,” she said.  “They are traumatized by years of physical or sexual abuse, the loss of parents to AIDS.”

Anita believes the Healing Rooms Ministries approach and prayer ministry can help them deal with that trauma.

We will help them look at their spirit, soul and body so they are healed and whole to live their purpose,” Heiko said.  “We both experienced trauma in our lives, and God led us each to be healed and empowered to heal others—emotionally and then physically.”

He said that they share that vision with Healing Rooms Ministries.

Embrace the Grace Ministries will also offer basic survival and life skills, as well as job skills.

“We will recruit youth from orphanages the year before they age out,” she said.

The goal is that the young adults will become self-sufficient, learning life skills, the work ethic and money management, so they can find housing and have families.

Anita plans to continue to return to Spokane to recruit mission volunteers to help through Elijah House and Healing Rooms Ministries.

Embrace the Grace Ministries seeks to help Zambian people find their identity in Christ and embrace God’s purpose for their lives through coming to understand the Scriptures and through gaining empowerment by learning basic life skills.

For information, call 407-230-1154 or email