My Calling: Simon Mgwenya

Serving in His Homeland

At Hands at Work, our volunteers are called by God from all over the world to serve the most vulnerable in Africa. Each of us has a unique story of how we were transformed when we stepped out in faith and were obedient to His call. Simon shares his story and the journey that has led him to fully trust and serve locally in Africa.

When my father passed away when I was four, my eldest brother took me to live with him in the community of Masoyi, in South Africa, where he raised me. I didn’t grow up with a relationship with Jesus but I did grow up in a family where I had been forced to attend church. Unfortunately it had the opposite effect and pushed me further away from Jesus and led me to rebel. It wasn’t until I met a man who was attending a Methodist church that my life took a turn. This man explained to me what a faith in Jesus was actually about and I ended up giving my life to the Lord. I joined a different church than my family and I was baptised in the year 2000.

In 2000, through a local lady from my church who volunteered at the local Community Based Organisation in my area, I came to know George and Carolyn Snyman, co-founders of Hands at Work. This lady I had met was strongly spirited and was good friends with George and Carolyn. She approached me asking if I wanted to join her and several other ladies in caring for the vulnerable in our community. I decided to join and received the training which enabled me to start visiting children and patients in my community. My journey started off as serving as one of the Care Workers. We would visit the children and patients, giving them bed baths, medication, referrals to clinics where necessary, and acting as an encouragement to people. The children would receive food parcels, school uniforms and donations and we would visit the children in their own homes. The greatest challenge for me when I first came to volunteer was working with the older generation. I was one of two men amongst a group of women and I was only 18 years old. I found it challenging to visit families, meeting people who were the age of my own mother and encourage them to open up and share their lives with me.

In 2001, George Snyman approached me and asked if I could build a house for a family who was in desperate need. I slowly became more involved with building projects and when Sal and Robyn, two International volunteers from Australia, brought a team in 2002 and then volunteered long term, a building team officially started. As a team, we built everything from coffins in which the community buried their loved ones in, to the Hands at Work housing areas many volunteers live in today. When a Service Centre – a local Hands at Work office - was started in Bushbuck Ridge in 2008, I became a field coordinator and eventually the Service Centre Coordinator. I served in that role for 2 years, then joining the Regional Support Team in 2010. At the same time, I studied Public Management part-time, which I graduated in 2015.

Throughout my time with Hands at Work, I have come to learn that I am a more patient person than I ever could have imagined! I have seen the way that God has a plan for everyone. As a child, I was extremely naughty. I would get into fights and I would steal. Nobody ever thought that I would transform into a better person and yet God had this plan all along; to call me to serve the most vulnerable. This call to serve didn’t come automatically but it has been built into my life over the years that I have served with Hands at Work in Africa.

Simon continues to serve full time on the Regional Support Team in South Africa. Simon was married to his wife Cindy in 2010 and they welcomed their first-born daughter, Tando into the world in 2013. 

Are YOU being called? Come!