Katherine Callaghan is a nurse from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She volunteered in the DRC for one month in April 2009
Stepping onto African soil is something that I’ve always wanted to do at some point in my life. In April this dream was fulfilled, serving with Hands at Work in the dusty soil of Congo. My time there in Africa had been challenging and inspiring, a time of restoration and discovering beauty.
Hands at Work sent me and another volunteer, Dayla, out to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and we had the honor of seeing and sharing in the work that is being done day in and day out. One day during our time in the Congo exemplified this service, so let me share it with you. We were given the opportunity to go to a school run by volunteers of the community based organisation in the city of Likasi called Toyota School. It had been arranged that we would spend a morning with the children and volunteers, playing games and teaching Bible stories. The school teaches grades one, two, and three and has over two hundred children from the Toyota community, all of whom are orphans or children in a vulnerable situation. The school is run by volunteers from the community who invest in, build up, and serve these children simply because it is what the Bible says and it is what God has called them to do.
The day arranged for us was a school holiday for the children, but they all arrived even though they were under no obligation or duty to come, with twenty or thirty others from the community that had heard of our visit.
Stepping out of a vehicle and being swarmed by hundreds of African children is a surreal experience! We were humbled by the welcome, seeing first-hand the heart-felt service of the volunteers, who loved these children as if they were their ownflesh and blood. The volunteers of Toyota were the hands and feet of Jesus to these children, living out the biblical mandate to care for the helpless and afflicted. It was so encouraging and stirring to our souls to see such a powerful demonstration of love in action at the school.
We shared with the two hundred plus children the bible story of Jesus calming the storm, acting out the parts in a drama for the children with the assistance of the teachers. We taught the children some simple handshakes and played games outside that children play in Canada. One of the volunteers explained afterwards how important the simple act of playing games is for these children. Many of them have experienced tremendous amounts of pain and suffering; many of them have been robbed of their childhood, having the responsibilities of an adult thrust onto their young shoulders much too soon. Caring for siblings, fetching large amounts of water, cooking, and selling coal at the markets. The volunteer explained that some of the children have forgotten how to play.
After all the games and fun, the children were each given a cup of hot porridge to eat. Though it doesn’t seem like much, this portion for many is all that they will eat for that day. As foreigners from western culture, this is a most difficult thing to process. We, who eat three or more meals each day, coming from a culture of excess and enormous waste, were standing in a room of hundreds of children being physically kept alive by a cup of porridge, cooked and served by volunteers who are often themselves in need. Our hearts were both humbled and stirred to do something to fix the problem.
The work being done seems like a drop in the bucket of crisis that Africa is facing. I asked myself, “How is this little bit helping? In the big picture what can feeding two hundred children today really accomplish?” I stood in that tiny schoolhouse seeing tummies being filled, seeing satisfiedsmiles on faces more familiar with suffering as and above all, seeing love in action that I understood what can be accomplished.
It wasn’t about numbers and statistics, or about fixing the whole nation all at once—that can’t be. It was caring for one child at a time. Africa is being saved one by one, this isn’t a battle for the masses, it’s a battle for one. It is saving one person and feeding one person at a time. And God is calling individuals to this work. God’s called people are reaching out to be his hands at work in the battle for one child at a time.