By Stephen Jo
Stephen was a part of a short term missions team that visited the Hands at Work Hub in South Africa back in 2007. He was greatly challenged by what he saw and the work that Hands is doing and has been a supporter ever since. Here he reflects on his recent trip to Nigeria where he was able to visit the children he and his friends and family have been supporting for years.
It all began in the living room of my house in Southern California back in 2009. I invited George Snyman, Founder and CEO of Hands at Work in Africa, to come and speak to a gathering of my friends. That evening, God stirred the hearts of all who were there, although many of them had never visited Africa before. As a result of that meeting, we decided as a group of eight families to support 100 orphans in the Badia and Ilaje villages of Nigeria. We started this support in January 2010 and have been doing so ever since. June 2013, after several years of supporting the orphans in Nigeria, four men from the group finally got a chance to visit the villages in Nigeria. It was a life changing trip that none of us will soon forget.
George met us in Nigeria to lead our team. On our first day, he led us on a walk through Badia, a large urban slum just outside the capitol city of Lagos. The four of us had seen numerous examples of poverty across several continents prior to this trip but the level of poverty in Badia was by far the worst. The community was composed of densely arranged plywood shacks with trash littered everywhere. There was a stench in the air from pools of stagnant water and a lack of sanitation. Thousands of people populated this slum with 80% of the women being prostitutes and 60%-70% of the children being orphans.
It was difficult walking through Badia because of the extreme poverty and the fact that there was a spiritual darkness hanging over this place. However, about a half hour into this uncomfortable walk, something unexpected happened. I saw a girl in a bright red shirt standing about 30 yards ahead of us. It was her bright shirt that caught my attention. She was looking at us and saw Peter, who is the local leader for Hands in Nigeria, standing next to me. Her face lit up with a smile when she saw him and she came running toward him. She jumped into his arms and gave him a warm hug then quickly ran off to play again. I asked Peter who she was and he said, “It’s one of your children.” That moment was like seeing a ray of light in the darkness. It taught me the impact that Hands was having on this community in just the short time we had been there.
The following day we visited the Care Point in Badia where I had a chance to meet the girl in the red shirt. She turned out to be an adorable 9-year-old girl named Rachel. She is an orphan who lives in Badia with her aunt and sister. Unfortunately, her aunt is a prostitute who works out of their one room shack. This means that Rachel and her sister are woken up and asked to wait outside when patrons visit their home at any hour during the night. It’s heartbreaking to know that there are children who have no choice but to live in this way, but Rachel’s story reflects the life of many Badia children who live in this same manner. Fortunately, there is real hope that Rachel’s story will change some day. She is enrolled in a school through our sponsorship and the Hands Care Workers are raising her in the gospel. For these reasons, I am very hopeful that the cycle of prostitution will someday end with her.
It was a blessed experience to witness how God was using our modest support to change the lives of the orphans in Nigeria. We saw how Hands was bringing hope to places like Badia where none would be expected and children without any choices had hope for a better future. Most remarkably, our partnership with Hands gave 4 Americans an opportunity to be in a gospel community with 100 African children an ocean away. None of this would be possible without the loving God who not only cares for the orphan and widow but also graciously allows us to partake in the work of caring for them too.