In September 2011, Stephen Jones, an Australian serving long-term with Hands at Work in South Africa, had the opportunity to speak with three visiting Australians. Melissa Warren, Tim and James McLaughlin all arrived in South Africa and participated in the new volunteers orientation. Stephen asked each of them what was their motivation for coming to Africa, and received three different responses:
Melissa: “Some time ago I had been at a meeting where someone from Cape Town was sharing about how things were back home and God just dropped Africa into my heart! This moment stayed with me. Later I discussed it with a work colleague, who was himself African and involved with a Christian aid organisation called Hands at Work. I checked out the website and loved what I saw! Coincidently, around that time George Snyman was in Sydney and I had the chance to hear him speak. I quickly came to the realisation that I had to come to Africa and “see for myself” what Hands was doing and whether or not God was calling me into service there.
Tim: I first came to Hands at Work (South Africa) with a team from Sydney in 2009, mainly because I felt a pastoral responsibility to support the team. Since then, I have remained extremely challenged by the things I saw and learnt and feel that the direction and purpose of my life has changed as a result. The aim of this visit was mainly to support my son James who is here for the first time. I also wanted to try and consolidate some ideas about how I might continue to be involved with Hands at Work.
James: I first heard about Hands at Work from my dad and sisters, who came in 2009. Recently, after struggling a bit at Uni, I decided a change of scenery and fresh approach to life might be the break I was looking for. I decided to apply to come and do something for someone else instead of sitting around feeling sorry for myself.
Although coming for very different reasons, the overall expectations of all three were very similar – to come and make themselves available to serve in whatever capacity they could. Each in their own way realised that the success of Hands at Work was always the result of a team effort and they were willing to be a player in that team.
When we talked about how things were going so far, everyone agreed that their expectations had been exceeded and each shared stories about the care workers in the communities and the effect they were having in the lives of the children. Tim shared about a very poor family he visited in Swaziland. While at their home, a very young boy came and stood near him and so Tim picked him up to give him a hug. The child remained in Tim’s arms for the duration of the visit, lapping up the love. When it came time to leave, the boy stood in his shorts and ripped t-shirt out in the freezing cold, waving madly goodbye with a big smile as they drove away.......
So what does the future hold for Tim, James and Melissa and their involvement with Hands at Work? Melissa is quite sure she will be back for a long stint; she is a huge fan of the Hands model and feels she can play a significant role. James is here for 3 months and admitted he hadn’t really thought that far ahead. It’s certain these are days he will never forget, whether he comes back or not! Tim also believes that the Hands model is brilliant and will continue to be heavily involved for some time yet whether it’s in Australia or Africa.