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Greetings to friends and family and to all the people that believe so much in what Hands at Work in Africa is doing. It’s such a privilege for me to speak to you shortly after our Easter celebrations, and I’m sure as you’ve spent quality time with those that you love, that you appreciated these moments as you saw people that you love dearly. There’s nothing like that. It’s just one of those deep things in life that we can’t buy and we can’t hold on to them because it doesn’t belong to us. Coming out of Easter celebrations, we’ve been with loved ones and also we’ve been reminded of what love did for us. Maybe to summarize it in the shortest possible verse, when we look at Easter we say “Love bled to death”. What an incredible story that is for us all.
Recently, I was in Zambia with amazing leaders of Hands at Work in Africa and we were preparing to go and spend a few days in a community living with children which is always a highlight for us. There was one of our leaders, a lady who could not go with us, and she very kindly offered to go and buy the food we’d take with us. Afterwards she shared something with me that struck me so deeply and it is something I want to encourage you with. This lady herself has a large number of children with her, children that don’t belong to her but she took them in, and I know that she lives on a very shoestring budget every month. She said to me, “George, as I pushed the trolley in the shop with all the food inside, I spoke to God as I did this, sharing with him how I would’ve loved to be on the community stay myself. And the thought came into my mind, “You can’t go there this time. I need you to be at home, but you can do something. Why don’t you also contribute?” So she stood there knowing how tough it is for her to make ends meet at her house, but then she realized the immense privilege she had at that moment. That she could actually take some food off the racks at that shop, and she could put it in the trolley, and she could say, “Lord, I want to pay for this. Nobody will even know, I don’t even know if it will make a significant difference, but for me it will make a difference. Because my heart is totally in this. I believe in the people going out into community. I believe in these leaders who are going to sleep in the huts with the children and encourage them and the grandmothers and the widows. And no matter how small it is, I want to be part of this. I want to add to this”.
It’s beautiful isn’t it? But you know its not done because someone asked her to. It was done because she understands that we are not bystanders anymore. We are not watching a play in front of us. We are not clapping hands and throwing a few coins into a collection box afterwards. We are actually part and parcel of the play, and we can choose what role we want to play and the level of participating in that. It doesn’t matter where we live, what matters and what we understand in our hearts is that we can make these decisions. Sometimes we plan them, and sometimes it’s just by compulsion at the spur of the moment. We realize, right now, I can choose to do something. Just like that lady, who made a decision to do something.
When I was in Zambia, we stumbled across this verse, John 4:19. It says simply this, “We love him, because he first loved us”. Friends, do we really understand that if we really get that, we’ve got a new heart? Brand new. With new values and new message. With a new lifestyle. And that we live in a new kingdom, a kingdom of righteousness and justice. A kingdom where the goals of our lives completely change. A kingdom where when we pray for our children, we don’t pray anymore that they would be very successful in everything that they do. Rather we pray, “Lord one thing I ask of you for our children is that they will dwell in the house of the Lord for all the days of their lives. That they will have deep compassion not to walk past anybody that is going through a tough time, but that they will realize that you have placed them in a unique place where they can make decisions day by day. That they’ll realize how some of the things that will bring them the biggest satisfaction in their lives are those unplanned moments of doing something that is significant for someone else and maybe costly for them”.
What are the goals that we try to teach our children? First of all we need to know that all of us need to receive healing. All of us. None of us are healed completely. That’s why 800 years before the birth of Christ it was prophesied that he would come to heal the brokenhearted. Out of that healing, we bring healing to those around us. Andrew Murray describes how we do that when he said, “Really we are just one begger showing another beggar where to find bread”. When we understand that, we understand someone came down to bring life and healing to us, and then we will do the same. We will leave our comfort zones. We will choose to say, “I don’t need that comfortable life when there are others that have got nothing. I choose not to have that, I choose to become just a little bit more vulnerable”. We choose to become part of a community globally, where we create a platform for a new generation of people that can choose life according to these values we talk about.
By setting goals that demand more from us than what we might have, we choose to identify with the wonderful care workers that so many of you have met and known by name. When we make that choice, something in us breaks. It’s a brokenness that people can sense in us. It’s a brokenness that identifies us when we meet with these care workers and these children. They can sense that we have made choices in our lives voluntarily to identify with them. All of this is what I invite you to be a part of. All of this was reemphasized to us through the wonderful Easter season. We want to identify with them, because somebody wanted to identify with us. I love the message from Eugene Peterson. I love in John 1 where he described Jesus, “the word became flesh, and the flesh moved into our neighborhood”. Isn’t that amazing and beautiful? So many of you come to us every year to visit us, so many of you write to us, so many of you pray for us, so many of you are giving sacrificially. Every time you do that, you choose to identify with us.
Is this just our dream? Or is it an ancient dream that was prophesied for centuries? I would like to tell you it’s the latter. Isaiah 65:20. It’s a dream; it’s a prophecy that was spoken. “A day will come, never again will there be a child who lives but a few days”. This is a dream worth living. This is a dream that our Father has dreamt about. This is something that we dream and we want our children to dream about. This something that you’ve got a choice to be involved in. I want to suggest to you, that this is the right choice. Not just for that child that we want to live a long life, but for you. For your children. There is another kingdom, and its better. If you and I make the right choices now, our children can stand on our shoulders. They can get out of this hole that we dig ourselves into. This hole that puts us in a place where it's all about you and me and we’ve got to hold on as tight as we can. We know it doesn’t bring happiness, we know that now.
I encourage you and ask you, stand next to me and let's make some brave decisions. Let's live lives that Paul described in Corinthians when he said, “God loves a cheerful giver”. Translated more literally it actually means “He loves an outrageous giver”. It could be your time, it could be your prayers, and it could be your finances. It could be you coming to Africa. It could be you speaking on behalf of Hands at Work. Hands at Work here, we are praying and encouraging ourselves to go further and faster. There are so many more communities that we want to go into. I’ve been involved with many teams on a professional and a voluntary level all my life. I’ve never been in the trenches with a team like I currently am here at Hands at Work. People from many different nations. Young and old, educated and uneducated. But friends I want to tell you, they are putting everything they have on the line. They are doing everything possible to keep this hope and this dream alive. I’m asking you, don’t throw crumbs at that. I thank you. I thank you that you do that and I thank you that you support this amazing team, who support amazing care workers, who bring an amazing dream to amazing children. The dream that there’s someone caring.