“We are together!” This phrase rang constantly through the weeks of March 18th-29th, when Hands at Work in Africa hosted its 2009 Africa and International Conferences. Representatives journeyed from seven of the African countries that Hands currently works in to gather together for their only annual meeting as a family. Representatives from the international offices partnered with Hands and many other donors, church partners, friends and volunteers were also present.
Because the entire Hands family can only gather together once a year, the conferences are an important time for the organization—to bring everyone up to speed on the inner and outer workings of Hands, to remind everyone of the standards and goals we are working for, but mostly to remind those who have devoted their lives to serving others in their African communities that they are not alone in their efforts.
The Africa Conference, spanning from March 18th to 25th, focused on strategizing and planning with the African representatives, those who oversee the implementation of the Hands model in the field, providing orphaned and vulnerable children with access to food security, healthcare and education.
It was also an exciting opportunity to define what it means to say “We Are Together” and live accordingly. If we are truly together, part of that meaning is that we celebrate together and mourn together, that if one member of the family is in need, the rest of the family must sacrifice and work together to find a solution.
The commitment of Hands to keep reaching into new communities to touch the lives of more children who aren’t being reached requires radical living from the many family members on the ground in the African countries. Like James, who feeds twenty orphans in Kitwe, Zambia from his own small income, and at the same time forges ahead in new communities to reach more children without guaranteed resources. Like Rex, who recently took a pay decrease to work full-time with Hands, foregoing the security of his government job to devote more time to his ministry to the orphans of Lagos, Nigeria. “We are together” means that just as radically as these men live out the call from God to go to the hungry and abandoned, so should the rest of the family. This was a great challenge to the international volunteers and those stationed in the various country offices. A challenge to live radically, walking in faith.
The International Conference, March 26th to 29th, was a chance for the African and international representatives to share the work they have been pouring into with one another. Interviews with those present from each African country and the international country offices offered just a glimpse of their efforts. The International Conference was also a time to remind the Hands family of the vision under which they began and strive to operate: to see the church in Africa effectively caring for the orphaned and vulnerable, and united in this cause with the church outside of Africa. To keep the heart of this vision, the vulnerable child was constantly featured as an honorary guest through images and video clips.
Altogether there were family members from the African countries of Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and also from Australia, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. To see so many representatives from across the globe working tirelessly, unified under the banner to care for the dying, orphaned and widowed, was an encouragement to all in attendance.
United under one vision, laboring for the same cause, serving the same God, it seems we truly are together.
To receive a DVD of the country interview and vision-casting segments of the International Conference, please contact your closest country office or email firstname.lastname@example.org.