‘What are we doing here?!’ This is the question my husband and I wondered as we arrived at the Hands village in South Africa, back in September 2011. God had made it clear we were to leave the UK and be part of the Hands family for a year or more but, we had no clue what that looked like in practice. As it turns out, there are a hundred reasons why God has us in Africa volunteering with Hands at Work, some we are still yet to discover.
Most importantly, we’ve had the chance to meet the unsung heroes of our world, the ones who really deserve to be acknowledged and their stories spread across the globe. We’ve been so blessed to spend time walking with care workers in South African communities and living for over nine months in Zambia, working with a local team serving ten communities. It has been incredible to learn about these places – to see their beauty, experience their struggles and watch how places are slowly being transforming through the work of community based organisations.
Being part of Hands has also given us the chance to learn about other cultures. We’ve spent time living together with people from many different nations and backgrounds. It’s been a real opportunity to shape our own characters and build into other people as well. While living with others we’ve witnessed what it means to truly share and give freely of what you have. In all this we’ve tried to encourage, be a listening ear and serve those around us.
It would be fair to say it’s been a roller coaster of a year which has tested our faith in God and our relationship as a couple. There have been frustrations and struggles – power cuts, seemingly pointless hours of waiting and difficulties with learning a new language to name a few. However, it’s been a joy to become part of the Hands family, knowing that all we do is for the body of Christ and to play a small role in caring for the most vulnerable children in Africa. We’ve certainly had a glimpse of what Paul meant when he said in the book of Philippians, “I have learned the secret of being happy at any time in everything that happens, when I have enough to eat and when I go hungry, when I have more than I need and when I do not have enough. I can do all things through Christ, because he gives me strength.” We have learnt life changing lessons which will make a difference to our future relationships, jobs and to the whole way we live.
I could give numerous ways how God uses volunteers in Hands at Work; to encourage a care worker to keep going, to pray for the sick, to teach people computer skills, to share stories of those whose lives have been changed, to sweep the floor of a grandmother’s home, to be a brother or sister to those around you, to cook for those who have less...the list goes on. Most importantly, you have to start every day being humble and open to do the simplest, smallest acts of kindness. By doing this, you play a valuable role in Hands at Work. As Mother Teresa said, “What I do you cannot do; but what you do, I can not do. The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.”
Going back to live in the UK again will take some adjustment but we now know we have a family all over the world; standing with us through anything, striving together to bring heaven a little closer to Earth.