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. Bethuel shares his story and the journey that has led him to serve in his home country of South Africa.
“I grew up in Masoyi Community, South Africa with my father, mother and two younger brothers. In 1999, when I was 9 years old, my mother left us; she disappeared. My father was very angry at her for leaving. My brothers and I would ask him where our mother was but he couldn't answer; he looked after us by himself. In 2002, my father passed away. After his funeral, my uncle brought us to live with his family. Often we weren’t allowed to go to school because our aunt made us do chores around the house. We were not treated well; she would physically abuse us and not give us meals. We lived with them for five months until my brothers and I decided that we would be better off to move back to our father’s house.
At the beginning of 2003, my brothers and I were identified as some of the most vulnerable children in our community by volunteer Care Workers in Masoyi. We began attending the Masoyi Care Point where we received a meal each day and support from our Care Workers. During that year, we began to build a strong relationship with Robyn and Sal Hunziker, International Volunteers from Australia. Alongside our Care Workers, Robyn and Sal began to visit us frequently. Our connection with them grew deeper and they committed to caring for my brothers and I in a physical, emotional and spiritual way. They became parents to us.
When I finished high school in 2008, an opportunity came up for me to join Hands at Work. At the beginning of 2009, I joined the maintenance team. I thought I was going to work for Hands at Work for only a couple of years and then move on to other things. However, I enjoyed the maintenance and carpentry skills that I learned. People invested into me and took time to teach me skills.
We didn’t know it at the time but in 2012, my biological mother, who we hadn’t seen since she left us, was diagnosed with cancer. After her recovery, she reached out to my brothers and I, wanting to make peace. We were angry and unwilling at first but through prayer, encouragement, and lots of discussion around forgiveness with Robyn, Sal and the Hands at Work family, we agreed to meet with our mother. For the first time since 1999, she returned to our home. That day we reconciled our relationships and were able to forgive her. She has not returned since but we are at peace with her.
As time went on, I had more opportunities to spend time in the communities that we serve and every time I saw the children, it reminded me of myself when I was young. I felt a connection between me and the children. I felt convicted when I went out into the communities, asking myself ‘who is going to care for these kids?’ In my own life, if there were no Care Workers, I don’t know where I would be today.
In 2015, I was invited to join the Hazyview Service Centre team where I serve alongside a group of local men and women who daily support our Care Workers and children in South Africa.
One of my greatest challenges is maintaining my personal relationship with God in the environment that I live in. When I try to do what I think is right, people often question me. I feel like I am living in these two different worlds and it is difficult. As a Christian, I try my best to do what is good but I am surrounded by people who think and live differently.
When I came to Hands at Work, I was introduced to Jesus which helped to change my mindset. During my time with Hands at Work, my life has been transformed in many ways. I have learned what it means to control my temper; responding to people in a positive way whether I’m angry or happy. I see the difference between the way that my family and friends react to certain situations and the way that I react.
I grew up going to church and knowing that it’s important. I did everything I was told to do when I went to church but it ended there. When I joined Hands at Work I learned that a person can go to church whilst still doing bad things. For me, I learned that going to church doesn’t mean that you’re a Christian; it simply means that you’re a church goer. Over the years, it has become clear to me the difference between going to church and having an ongoing relationship with God. My biblical understanding has been transformed.
It is a highlight to see where I once was and where I am now. I can encourage the children in the community and say ‘I was once like you and there was a stage where I made very bad choices but I managed to turn my life around.’ It’s amazing to be able to go out and visit people and encourage them with my story. One thing that God has taught me is that His plans are different to my plans. His plans are for the good. I planned on joining Hands at Work for a short time and yet it is 8 years later and I am still here.”
Bethuel lives in Masoyi, South Africa with his two brothers and continues to serve as a member of the Hazyview Local Office. He maintains a strong relationship with Robyn and Sal.
Are YOU being called? Come!