“Diamonds in the dust.” It’s a beautiful phrase that we have been using in Hands at Work right from the beginning of our history. It started off when I stood at the rubbish dump, just staring at children scrounging for food. God gave me a beautiful promise - “you will find diamonds in the dust.” Now after a decade of Hands at Work history, we look back and we see just how that word got fulfilled.
We see so many beautiful diamonds in the dust in the Hands family. In this newsletter I want to speak about three diamonds; three very different people from very different places and all of them are diamonds working together to reach the most vulnerable children in Africa.
A month ago, I had the privilege to walk in Zimba village in the northern part of Zambia with Carolyn. As we walked in Zimba village, I saw a young boy who, with great distress, watched a group of adult men who were under the influence of alcohol. I could see the pain in his face and I could see how he was wondering if these men would be the only role models he would have in his life, if that was the way that he had to go as he developed as a young man. It really struck me deeply, and I was very disturbed by that. Well, a half an hour later there was a beautiful song of joy in my heart when I met a ‘diamond’ called Justin. He was a beautiful young man in his mid-twenties, a teacher who had a job in Zambia, in a very poor place - something to be treasured. But when Justin heard about the Christians in the Zimba village, caring for the most vulnerable children, when he heard how they were reaching out to the young boys who had no role models, he resigned from his work and he fulltime started looking after these boys with the community volunteers. When I met him, I watched him at the feeding point, how he knew each boy by name and how they looked up at this young man with his great lifestyle and his deep faith in Christ and I could see how there was a new role model in the history of Zimba village. After the meal, he played soccer with them - it was incredible to see these young boys who were holding on to this new role model called Justin. I thought back at that young boy who, with such distress, watched these drunken men merely an hour ago and wondered if there would be another role model for him. Suddenly, he had another role model and there was hope in Zimba village; hope, because a diamond came through the dust.
As many of you know, Hands at Work has short term volunteers who come to us all over the world. They come to us from outside Africa, and they have heard about the vision of Hands mobilizing and serving the churches in the poorest communities. They would say to us, “We are here to come and help; to come and serve.” We would do orientation with these volunteers and we would send them out into the field and they go and serve, and support people those in the communities that are doing this incredible work of reaching the children with no hope. My second story of ‘diamonds in the dust’ is about a couple from England, Beth and Ali. Beth and Ali came to serve at Hands at Work for a year, and right from the beginning when they arrived here, they just displayed an absolute heart of servant-hood. They came to come and serve - it didn’t matter what they thought was important, it didn’t matter what they would’ve liked to do. They came here and they served. After the orientation, they were sent to Zambia because they had fantastic attitudes. They went to Zambia to work in Kabwe, in the central province, supporting the Hands at Work office there; to support the people who were working so hard to reach out into many communities - some of them deep into the forests, in the bushes. Both Ali and Beth displayed wonderful attitudes - Ali would go anywhere in the communities and he would do anything that was needed. He would drive the vehicles, he would fix the vehicles, he would help with building projects, and he would do many things that he had never been qualified to do. While Beth was an absolute support in the offices - she helped Hands workers as they were working with budgets, doing proposals, writing stories, and, very quickly, they became great friends of our communities in Africa and in Kabwe. They had a huge impact. As I look at Beth and Ali, coming towards the end of the year of serving in Hands, I see diamonds. I see diamonds in the dust. I see a couple who could have spent a year making money, developing careers, saving to buy their first house - but instead, they chose to come to Africa, and chose to come and serve. That makes them a great, unique, part of the Hands family. They are ‘diamonds in the dust.’
I spent a lot of time travelling to countries outside Africa to go to speak at churches, to speak to communities, to go and speak to families to encourage them to get involved in Africa. I encourage them to mobilize people in their circles of influence, and to help us to reach the children that need our support. In these times, I stay in homes. I stay in homes of ordinary families in Canada, United States, Australia and England and I meet fantastic people - seemingly ordinary people - people who live next to neighbours in an ordinary neighbourhood. Yet, when you stay in their homes, you discover that they are extraordinary people - people with great hearts and great vision. I stayed in Chicago very recently. I stayed in Bridgette’s house, with her husband John and their family. Just an amazing family, how Bridgette, when she heard about Hands at Work, when she heard about the children, spoke to her family. They made a choice and a decision that they, as a family, were going to mobilize people, people that they know to see what, personally, they could do to reach 50 children in a village called Baraka, in Zambia. Bridgette and her family did it. The children, on school holidays, took neighbour dogs for a walk to raise money. Bridgette invited many people to come to her house - everybody got involved. They spoke with their friends, they Skyped with us in Africa, and she became so excited. She made it so personal - the photos of the children from Baraka were in the bedrooms of her children. They knew the children by name, even though they had never been there. They managed to raise enough money for us to reach the first 50 children in Baraka. When I stayed in Bridgette’s house, I understood that they are doing this at a great price. They spend their weekends; they spend a lot of their time to reach out. Bridgette and her family must budget very carefully every month in a world where it’s tough economically. It’s also tough for Bridgette and her family. They live on a budget where they cannot afford to make many mistakes. Where everybody would have encouraged them to rather think for themselves, and to save more money for themselves, but instead, Bridgette and her family have counted the blessing to live in a country like the United States. Even though things are tough at the moment, they look at Zambia and say “we can make a difference, we can bring hope.” Bridgette understands the secret that it’s not just good for the children in Zambia, it’s good for her children to be a part of justice and to grow up in a household where there’s always space, there’s always time, and there’s always means to reach out to people that are in need. As I stayed in their home, I realized they don’t just reach out to children in Africa, but they are very aware of the needs in their own neighbourhood. They are constantly aware of people that need help - elderly people, sick people, refugees that are stranded in the United States, children without parents. They are always on the outlook, always speaking on behalf of people.
Yes, when I stayed in their homes, I realized that they were diamonds in the dust, with Justin, with Beth and Ali; all in very different places, all from different backgrounds, but together, making a beautiful display of diamonds used in this circle of influence, and doing what is good for others.