This year, a record number of teams left Canada to spend time with some of the most vulnerable communities across Africa. One of those Canadians, Jeff Giesbrecht, shares how going on a team had a huge impact on his life.
While in the community Kitabataba in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Jeff witnessed amazing acts of love. Jeff saw grandmothers that lived in dirt-floor homes voluntarily hauling heavy bags of food to and from the Care Point in order to feed the children. He saw Care Workers making treks up and across busy highways that had no shoulders in order to visit families in their homes. And through it all, he saw a group of people who leaned on God for everything and praised him continuously. “It puts your whole world into perspective, and it’s amazing to see people with so little doing such great things,” he said.
One family, and more specifically, one grandpa, stood out to him in particular. On their first day they walked an hour to the home of Papa Hubert and his four grandchildren. The hut was small and contained very little. “I can’t imagine my grandpa being able to survive in a house with only dirt floors and no furniture. There were no blankets in the house. So it was overwhelming to think of my grandpa even surviving in that let alone taking care of four young children,” Jeff said.
But according to Jeff the family was doing very well. “The kids were just flourishing and the grandpa was just flourishing. He had the most incredible smile,” he said. And maybe that’s because the family had come so far.
When Erick Rukang, the Coordinator of the DRC’s service centre, first came across the family they were in a desperate situation. He was on his way to visit another child when he was met by a boy shouting, “You are here! You have finally come! Come with me! Come with me!” So he followed the boy into the home of Papa Hubert, and found him and his grandchildren sick and so hungry they didn’t even have the energy to get up.
Thankfully, they were able to get the family food and take them to the local clinic. The local Care Workers added all four children to their program. And even though the walk is too long and dangerous for the youngest two children to make, everyday Papa Hubert walks there and back in order to make sure they receive their daily meal. “It’s just wild. It doesn’t even make sense to me,” Jeff said as he recounted the story. Papa Hubert became an inspiration to Jeff, and he still prays for him every night with his children.
Jeff knew prior to this trip to the Congo that God was preparing him for something big. When he walked in the communities with the Care Workers and heard the families stories, his heart was changed. He saw a Christ of compassion and was deeply challenged by the sacrificial way the local church was being Jesus to those who were suffering. He knew even prior to returning home that he would never be the same again, life couldn’t go back to “normal”. God had given him a heart for the poor and a desire to serve and care for others that he never had prior. As Jeff continues to process what this means for him and his family he is planning on taking the next step of faith and returning to Africa next April with his wife.
Stories similar to Jeff’s are why we believe it is so important for teams to come and experience Africa. Now that he has spent time with the community of Kitabataba, he is able to speak on their behalf, join with them in prayer, and strengthen the relationship between his church in Canada and their community in the DRC.
Canada also sent teams to South Africa, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe in 2016, and each one came back with stories similar to Jeff. Now, as we look into 2017, we anticipate the stories that will come, and the hearts God will move.