The following article was written by Amy Simpson who was a volunteer with Hands at Work in Africa from 2013 - 2014 from Westside King's Church. She continues to be involved with the Hands at Work Canada Office.
As I weaved my way through children and walked into the main hall at Westside King's Church, I entered a room adorned with bright coloured fabric and big straw tents. It may not have been the exact Africa I visited two years ago, but I was definitely impressed.
Westside was hosting a night called ‘This is Africa,’ in hopes to draw more attention and support for their recent commitment to partner with the rural community, Chinku, in Malawi. Although Hands at Work has had a rich relationship with Westside for over a decade, their partnership with Chinku is new to this year - and from the energy in the room, very exciting. Westside's children's ministry is taking the lead in the Chinku partnership--children connecting to children--and this event was a chance for many of Westside's kids and their families to encounter some of Africa's culture themselves and to celebrate its richness and diversity.
Upon entering, guests were encouraged to pick up a passport at the visitor centre. They then carried it around to all the booths – from creepy critters to delicious Malawian treats – filling the pages up with stamps and getting a feel for the partnership. There was energy, excitement, and most of all, a whole lot of Africa.
Many of the event's volunteers had been part of the Westside team that just got back from Chinku, and they were excited to share their experience. Their hope was that the night would inspire other Westside families to support the children they had met on their trip.
One of these team members was Bree Bone who went with her husband Ian. After helping children in Malawi make plastic bag soccer balls at the workshop booth, she was eager to talk to me about her time with Hands at Work in Africa.
“We wanted to go because we recognize we have so much, and I just wanted to be rocked and to be shaken up,” she told me. Bree had gone to Africa in 2008 to help in an orphanage. At the time she wasn’t a Christian so, when the opportunity to go with Westside came up it was exactly what she wanted.
As she spoke about her time I could tell something had shifted in her heart.
“To meet people that have such a heart for God, such a heart for each other, heart for this community, so dedicated and tender… The joy people have when they have barely anything is just stunning to me. We have so many things and this tiny bit of joy, and they have few possessions but this incredible relational ability to have this full spirit. And it is infectious. It’s what I think life is actually about,” she told me.
As we talked about the moments that touched her heart the night wrapped up and the church slowly emptied. People left with full bellies and a new understanding of what Hands at Work is doing in Africa.
Reflecting on the night Bree said, “It’s not fully sharing my experience, but it’s special to bring a little bit of a taste of what we saw over there and hopefully spark that conversation.”
And I know it did.
Just that night 30 children were sponsored. Adding to that, Adam Bedford, the mission’s director at Westside said that throughout the year they will continue to mobilize more support for Hands at Work in Africa.
Westside King's Church have been a long-term partner with Hands at Work. Recently they began to develop a new relationship with Malawi and investing specifically into a community called Chinku, which is being coordinated through their children's ministry. This event was aimed specifically at kids and families so that they could hear more about Hands at Work and get a taste of why support for Chinku is so significant. Through team visits, events at Westside church and raising of funds, they hope to engage many more people in supporting Malawi and getting to know more about Hands at Work.