Journals from Africa

When Peter, a business man from Canada, came to visit Hands at Work he wrote multiple journal entries, reflecting on what he was seeing, hearing and feeling as he walked in the poorest villages with the most vulnerable children and volunteer Care Workers. The following are excerpts from his journal, written over several weeks, and now shared to let others know the transformation and understanding that can come from following God to where His heart lies: with those in greatest need.

The first thing that strikes me is how beautiful and precious these children are. Their clothes may be ragged and almost all are dirty, but there’s a luminous beauty to them. The second thing was that George’s (Hands at Work Co-Founder) figure of ten million orphaned by AIDS (UNICEF 2013) kept running through my mind. Ten million is a statistic that’s hard to comprehend, but a hundred children are real people, children whom you can start to get to know. Children like Mercy, who insists that I carry her at every available opportunity, or Ian and Goodchild, to whom I today taught the Rock, Paper, Scissors game…

There are local men and women who are Christians living in these communities who have risen to Hands’ challenge: a reminder of the Biblical mandate to care for widows and orphans. Often widowed themselves and trying to look after their own grandchildren, these Care Workers spend hours each day engaged in visiting the orphaned children in their homes to keep tabs on them, making the daily lunch, teaching the children and also working in an income-generating project for the benefit of the children. Their selfless, sacrificial but cheerful - indeed joyful - service to other people is a remarkable and humbling thing to behold…

 Peter with a Care Worker

Peter with a Care Worker

We were invited into a meeting with the local Care Workers and Hands staff. Gathering under a tin roof with rough sidings, we were told they would begin with praise and worship, after which they would like to receive some words of encouragement from us. Most, but not all, of the Care Workers are women and the memory of their joyful, harmonious, rhythmic, enthusiastic singing of praises to their Redeemer still moves me to tears…

Indeed, it’s struck me several times this week as we have made our way through the communities with these Care Workers that it’s like walking with the saints. These are truly exceptional people…

And yet, in the midst of their poverty, the people in this village have a happiness and rich, mutually-supportive relationships which we simply do not have in the developed world. As I look at the selfless service of the Care Workers and compare it with my own busy-ness, obsession with to-do lists, often superficial relationships and general time poverty, I know that they possess something important which I do not have.

We live in two separate worlds, co-existing on the same planet. We come to Africa thinking we can help - and we can - but Africa also has much to teach and give us. In conversations, I have discovered that many of those who come back here time and again do so not out of guilt or condescending paternalism, but because they have found that, as the Bible tells us, it is in giving that we receive and Africa gives generously to those who are prepared to care.