Ashley Humphreys, is a volunteer from Canada and has been serving with Hands at Work in South Africa and Zambia since May 2012. She reflects on her time in Africa and a recent encounter with a special Care Worker, Jean.
When I came to volunteer in Africa, I said I was coming to give. Give my time, my passion, my resources. Soon after arriving, I realized I wasn’t very good at giving at all. I came into living in a community of people from all over the world and learned that at Hands at Work, we live as a family. We live by the core values of servanthood and giving freely. Freely. Not conditionally. It didn’t take me long to realize I lived by giving conditionally. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a first world country. Maybe it’s because deep in my heart there is a selfish girl who doesn’t want to share, who wants things to be about her sometimes, who wants people to recognize when she does something well. I saw this ugly side of myself in little things. Someone would ask to borrow my milk and I’d say yes but I’d think, “Now I’m going to run out and I can’t get to the grocery store for a week! They should really be more organized.” I hated myself for thinking that way. Why couldn’t I just let it go? Why couldn’t I give and be happy my family member knew I was someone they could ask? Why didn’t it feel like a privilege to give to my brothers and sisters? I started praying God would help me give freely – give without condition, give to glorify Him, give because His word says “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor 9: 7)
In Zambia I met Jean, a Care Worker at Chibuli Community Based Organization. I was honoured to walk with her through the community and go on home visits with her. The children we visited would cuddle up to her as we sat outside. She would wrap her arms around them, all of them children who have been orphaned and are living with aging grandparents. We walked so far through the tall grass and huts of Chibuli to get to four homes, something Jean is used to doing every week. On the long walk back to the Care Centre after our visits, Jean started talking to me about how to be a Care Worker, it was like she was training me for my future as one. She said, “It was hard at first, giving to the children. When I started it was really hard. But, it gets easier! I’ve been a Care Worker for 3 years. I just kept doing it and it got easier. Now there are children in my home all the time. I have my 3 children, but I have many more. I tell all the children to come to my house and I will bathe them. And feed them. I say ‘bring your clothes!’ So they come, they bring their clothes, I wash their clothes and I wash their bodies and I give them food.” She said it with joy and with love.
God spoke right through Jean to me: Giving gets easier. I can give with my heart like Jean does. Not today, but maybe one day. It’s a strange thing, to think of practising giving. But it’s exactly what we can do as we seek out God and grow in our understanding of who Jesus truly is. As I have tried to answer God’s call to care for and love others, He has shown me how to give without condition. After a year of volunteering in Africa and praying about giving, it is a little bit easier. I still have lots of moments where I see my hard heart, but I have more where I feel the love of God come through me. We all have walls around our hearts, and ideas in our heads that make us second guess giving freely. We have to keep fighting through. Keep praying and asking God to radically transform us so we build His Kingdom in everything we do.