A Piece of Our History

by George Snyman

Psalm 105: 4-15

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.

Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
you his servants, the descendants of Abraham, his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.
He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth.

He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations,
the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac.
He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant:
“To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit.”

When they were but few in number, few indeed, and strangers in it,
they wandered from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another.
He allowed no one to oppress them; for their sake he rebuked kings:
“Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.”

Throughout the Bible, history is important. Anthropologists tells us Israel should never have survived as a nation if we look at all the challenges they faced throughout history. Looking back, we know God was with them, but they also had a deep sense of who they were that kept them going in tough times. Today, Jewish people – both religious and non religious – know exactly where they came from. An incredible resilience exists that could only come from God.

God gave a reason for history: to build our faith. We read Psalm 105 and have faith that as He remembered his covenant then, He remembers it now. We have the Bible, the Word of God, to look back to and remember and be encouraged. Do you journal? When times are tough you should look back in old journal entries so that you can be reminded of what God has done, who prayed for you, and how you were encouraged. And you will know you are not alone; He has never left you.

 George, in the early years of Hands at Work with local volunteer Care Workers

George, in the early years of Hands at Work with local volunteer Care Workers

When you are a part of something, a history, a family, it gives you faith. And it also helps you to learn lessons. God has allowed Hands at Work to be a part of His story, and we have a family and a history. When we know exactly where we have come from, we become resilient. We remind ourselves how He protected us in hard times, and we take courage that He would do it again. We also learn from the mistakes we made and we grow wiser through them.

You are here because God is saying, “This is your family. You are a part of this.” We do not have to fear when we do not know what is ahead. We are just clay in His hands and He is busy shaping us. Like a tapestry, you look up close and cannot see where all the threads are going. You only see yourself, and the holes. But step back, and you see the whole beautiful artwork. Step back and remember our history…

In 1996 God revealed his heart for children to me in Zimba, Zambia. I was at my weakest, I had malaria and typhoid and no money. I went to a child headed household where the oldest child was 6 years old. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was my last stop before going home and I was so angry and disillusioned with God that I nearly missed Him that day. I stood with ladies from Zimba, Hilda and her friends, in a little catholic church in Zimba and they laid hands on me and prayed for me. They prayed, “Lord, we pray in Jesus’ name that you will use George and the people with him throughout Africa.” Out of their own poverty, the poverty of unknown women in one of the poorest rural villages in Zambia, the Holy Spirit of God gave birth to Hands at Work. These women saw something in a dirty, ugly, sick white guy who they only met that morning. The Spirit told them to pray for this guy and the people he would one day work with – they prayed for all of us. That is what God did. Before I left they said to me, “Please go tell our brothers and sisters we are dying.” I still struggle to say those words. They gave us our vision and message – created from a prophetic voice in 1996. I never told anyone about that day in Zimba, it was only written in my journal.

 More recently in Malawi, with Violet, a key local leader

More recently in Malawi, with Violet, a key local leader

In 1998 we started walking in South Africa, serving those who were dying from HIV/AIDS. The Lord gave us undeserved favour as we started serving the sick and dying in Masoyi village. Some of the students who studied with us at African School of Missions joined us in the work. We just bumped into them, but we all became the Hands Family. We were always just clay in His hands.

In 1999 a pastor in Zambia invited me to speak at a mission conference without even knowing what I was doing – he was just looking for anyone willing to speak! I went, having no idea what it was about, but knowing I was hungry for more in Africa. We were late, arriving to the conference at 10:45pm when the congregation had been waiting since 6:00pm. They all waited, staying up to greet me. I met a couple who cycled on bicycles 25km in thick sand and walked through chest deep rivers to reach Congolese refugees in the mountains dying of AIDS. They were finding scores of people dying, just like we were finding in Masoyi. I knew God had brought me from Masoyi that weekend, and I told them Carolyn and I would be back to start caring for people in Zambia through the local church.

That weekend was important for many reasons. There was revival in the church and so many people came they had to place two more rows of seats outside the church. I stood for hours afterwards talking to people. One young man waited hours to speak to me. He was so hungry for God. He said he wanted to know more about the Jesus I had spoken about. It was Levy, who became like a son to me and today leads Hands at Work in more ways than one. I baptised him in a dam in Luanshya soon after that. God was just carrying us, creating our history, building his tapestry and making it beautiful.

 Praying in a village with Care Workers, local leaders, and international visitors

Praying in a village with Care Workers, local leaders, and international visitors

I remember when me and my family were waiting for Sal and Robyn to get off an airplane form Australia in 2000. Our first long term international volunteers. Robyn carried 3 suitcases, and Sal his toolbox. They had given up their business and said they were in South Africa “to build toilets for the orphans”. They are still with us. We do not realise the price people have paid to be here. But we are all part of each other’s history.

In 2008 I was in Zambia and one of our local leaders said he needed to show me a community. Hands at Work had been an official organisation since 2002, and we were in Zambia seeking God, looking for new communities to serve. This leader took me to Zimba. I knew where I was, but still I did not say anything, I was waiting for confirmation from God. At 3:30 that afternoon we visited the local clinic, and just as we were leaving the nurse pointed to a woman with a baby on her back who had just come in and said to us, “That’s the women who helps the orphans”. I ran up to her and said “You’ve got to forgive me, but do you know me?” She said, “Of course. You are the one who came in 1996 and told us to care for orphans.” It was Hilda. She’d never stopped!

I was just clay for Our Father. He decided to use the most unexpected, white, Afrikaans male from the most despised culture of his generation. God said, “I’ll use him to make sure no one else takes credit.” Hands at Work is not run by leaders, we are run by God. And when we run off track, He will bring us back.