Christ Church Reflections from Africa 2018

In May 2018, a team of eight from Christ Church in San Francisco, California, traveled to Malawi to serve and walk alongside the Dedza Service Center team and Care Workers in the community of Mcheneke. Here are a few reflections from team members Janice Whang, Lauren Chun, and Craig & Dani Ebersole about their trip, which they shared during Mission Highlights presentations at their church:

“Before we went, although we financially support Hands at Work as a church, the folks at Hands asked us to please refrain from “trying to help,” but to give of ourselves, to be present, listening and learning. To understand what the Lord is already doing there and the work he gave his people to do. If we really wanted to give them anything, then give some encouragement in the Lord…

Youth-Led Lettering Camp at Wellspring Church

For as long as I can remember, my church has been partnered with Hands at Work in Africa. Founded by George Snyman, it is a wonderful organization that empowers the local African church to provide the most vulnerable orphans access to food, basic health care, and education. My church, Wellspring Church, is one of their many partners, and we mainly support the Mcheneke community in Malawi, Africa. I knew God was calling me to support them somehow, but other than going on a mission trip to Africa, I didn’t know exactly what I could do to help.  

All my life, I have loved being creative, but over this last year, I have specifically grown a passion for watercolor lettering and calligraphy. I was able to use this passion to help with the Hands at Work Youth Art Auction in 2017 by auctioning off some of my lettering and artwork. Inspired by the auction, I came up with the idea to run an art & lettering camp for those who wanted to learn, since many people had previously asked me to teach them.

Interview with long-term volunteer Michelle Tom

Q: What brought you to Hands at Work?
A: In 2012, Christ Church started partnering with Hands after Pastor Toby Kurth went on a Vision Trip to learn more about the ministry. When he shared about how he saw the love of Christ through our brothers and sisters in Malawi serving their vulnerable neighbors, I remember feeling encouraged to do the same in San Francisco. Though I never felt a calling to overseas missions, I wanted to go and see what God was doing in Malawi.

In 2013, I joined my church’s team to visit the community of Mcheneke in Malawi. It was an eye opening experience for me. I spent time with Care Workers (CWs; local volunteers caring for their vulnerable neighbors), played with children and did Holy Home Visits (HHVs; visits to the homes of children served by the Hands ministry and their caregivers). On an HHV, I visited a Gogo (grandmother) who was suffering from malaria, which prevented her from caring for her three grandchildren. They lived in a home with no door or windows. The children had a look of despair. I was struck by the vulnerability of the family and left Malawi with a heavy heart, hopeful that the the CWs would bring hope and healing to them through the love of Jesus. That was the beginning of my journey with Hands.

Stories of West Coast Advocates Coming Together: Part Two

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Southern California

A few days later, on Thursday, March 15, 2018, another Advocates Gathering took place in Kani & Rubin Kim’s home in the north side of Los Angeles. Similar to the event in San Francisco, Hands Advocates in the area enjoyed a meal together, reflected on a devotional, and listened to audio updates from U.K. long-term volunteer Dan Waspe about Ilaje in Nigeria, and Xolani Makwakwa from the Oshoek Service Center about Beeskop and Sthobela in South Africa, three communities supported by the partners who were represented. The group prayed for each other’s supported communities, the Care Workers who serve the most vulnerable there, and the Service Center staff who support them.

Afterwards, Kani Kim, whose family supports children in Oshoek in receiving the three Essential Services, commented that she was incredibly blessed by the gathering. She said, “Being here in the States, in the comforts of our luxuries and lost in the midst of the busyness of our daily routine of work and family, we often find ourselves fatigued and worn out by it all, sometimes running on fumes. We are tired and weary, but we find ways to press forward, to move forward, because that's what we're used to doing. But when we have our Advocates Gathering and hear all the beautiful stories of the amazing ways in which God moves, drawing the lost to Him, pouring out his grace to those who serve Him, strengthening those who are leading, it reminds us to take His yoke upon us - for it is easy and it is where we feel His peace covering our tired souls. It is when we take His yoke we are reminded of the greater work that is being done and needs to be done, and through that renewed strength and energy, we rise up joyously, for we have a purpose far greater than our eyes can see and our own hearts can anticipate." 

She continued, “Each time we meet we are able to reset, and take His yoke upon us. Each time we meet, we are reminded of the wonders of His love - how expansive it is, how glorious it is. Each time we meet we are reminded that we have brothers and sisters on the front-lines, fighting ferociously for God's glory and it reminds us to gather alongside them in prayer and in community.... Hearing George speak, the leaders of the communities speak, it keeps us in touch with what is happening and what still needs to happen. While the organization is growing, there is still a great need for leaders and for prayer. Having the prayer requests directly from the leaders working there helps us see the blessings as well as the needs that are still there.” 

Stories of West Coast Advocates Coming Together: Part One

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Northern California

On Sunday, March 11, 2018, Hands at Work Advocates in the San Francisco Bay Area met to volunteer with a local ministry that serves vulnerable and isolated residents, and spend time over a meal together in a home. It was a blessed time for this group to build relationships based on their shared experience of walking alongside Care Workers and the vulnerable children they serve in Africa.

The afternoon began at City Impact (CI) in the impoverished Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco, where Advocates from Wellspring Church, Christ Church, Sunset Church and Menlo Church Life Group volunteered with CI’s Adopt A Building (AaB) ministry, which seeks to “intervene through building relationships that will lead people to life transformation.” Similar to the experience of teams hosted by Hands at Work, AaB volunteers conduct regular home visits to vulnerable and isolated residents in San Francisco to build relationships with them, encourage them and show them the love of Christ. 

Lauren Lee, who advocates for Hands at her Menlo Church Life Group, noted that “walking through the Tenderloin and visiting friends in the neighborhood is at the heart of what Hands calls Holy Home Visits. I am so thankful that we can participate in this together as Advocates in our home town. It was definitely an adventure for me taking the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train, getting off at Civic Center station and walking over to City Impact as I witnessed several groups of people sitting or lying in the streets. One group I passed was sniffing drugs out in the open, and while walking over to the building where we were going to deliver the food, there were several cop cars going in the wrong direction and then other cops running after someone... This is definitely something I don't see regularly, and it sure brought perspective to my every day!” 

Amanda Baumann, Hands co-Advocate at Christ Church, commented that “Christian service should not be transactional but rather relational”, which she noted as being the foundation of both the Adopt-A-Building and Hands at Work ministries. Her husband Andrew added that he was struck by how Mary Choy from Sunset Church, who helped lead the home visit teams, was obviously a consistent visitor who had earned the trust of the residents over time. Amanda also appreciated how City Impact began with a time of worship before the home visit teams dispersed to their respective buildings because “it got us in the right headspace to prepare our hearts to build relationships.” She recognized the need for her to similarly prepare herself for her trip with the Christ Church team to Mcheneke, Malawi, this year. 

After the home visits, the Advocates adjourned to Abe & Suzette Lee’s home for a “Bring and Share” potluck dinner, lifted our voices in praise and worship, reflected on a devotional on our Servant God, and listened to audio updates from George Snyman, Blessings Sambo and Busie Sitaya Jones from Hands Africa about several communities that our Bay Area partners support -- namely, Mcheneke in Malawi, and Chibote and Zimba in Zambia. We also prayed together for the International Church (Day 23 prayer point in Hands’ 40 Days of Prayer series), each other’s supported communities, our Bay Area ministries that also serve the vulnerable, as well as for George and our African leaders. 

Lauren Lee reflected that, “It was definitely encouraging to hear about the local church efforts in Chibote, which her Menlo Life Group helps support through Hands, as well as the increase in children being supported. The time together made me even more excited about our time in Zambia… This has been on my heart for a number of years and to see it happening and being part of it… was a huge blessing!”

Reflections from the Hands at Work Youth Art & Music Fundraiser

On Saturday, November 18th, about 100 people gathered at the Bedford Gallery in the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek, California, for an evening of music, art and food to raise money for the orphans that Hands at Work supports in Africa. Both friends and family attended to hear from Hands at Work co-founder George Snyman and to participate in this significant mission of caring for the millions of orphans and widows on a continent 10,000 miles away.

Partnering with Nurses for Africa

Nurses for Africa, a non-profit organization sponsored by Ten Talents, has sent up to four teams to Africa each year since its partnership with Hands at Work began in 2009. These medical teams consist of nurses and other medical and non-medical volunteers who run mobile clinics, teach prenatal and wellness classes, and conduct home visits in the poorest of the poor communities where Hands at Work serves. 

Reunited

Miguel Chinn first stepped on Zambian soil in 2015 when he traveled there with his parents and older brother and sister as part of a team of 10 from Sunset Church in San Francisco. He returned to the region this year with his mother and was blessed to be reunited with a friend he had made two years earlier.

Read Miguel's story about their reunion here...

Are You Willing?

Cat Levine never thought she would end up in Africa. To be honest, it wasn’t even on her radar. That changed one day when George Snyman, co-founder of Hands at Work in Africa, spoke at The Bridge Church in Venice, Florida. Cat wasn’t at church that Sunday, but over the next week, people from church asked her if she was going to go to Africa and see what Hands at Work is doing. When she finally saw the church bulletin and heard the recording of George’s message, she was challenged by three words: “Are you willing?” Cat says that was the first time in her life she truly felt called to do something.

Medically Caring for the Vulnerable

In February 2017, representatives from Ten Talents Foundation, Nurses for Africa and Hands at Work in Africa gathered for a weekend retreat in St. Louis, Missouri. The retreat agenda included opportunities for members of the three partner groups to build relationships; reach a clearer understanding of each other's missions; agree on their respective roles in preparing, hosting, debriefing and welcoming back NFA teams; and review practical steps and best practices to advance their individual and collective goals.

Hands at Work Youth

Hands at Work Youth started with the three eldest daughters of families all involved in Hands at Work.  As all three of us have been to Africa before, we have seen the way that youth can be impacted by Africa. We created Hands at Work Youth in hopes to encourage youth to focus their lives and actions on God's work in Africa.  We hope to share about the stories and needs in Africa to the youth and their families in our own communities.  Not only would Hands at Work Youth help send the teams there, but also become a support for when teams come back and face the sometimes difficult adjustments to their homes.

The Giving Jar

In June 2016, my family and I were able to visit my sister-in-law, Michelle, who is serving as a long-term volunteer in Zambia. We got the opportunity to see first hand what Hands at Work is doing in several communities in Zambia and in South Africa. After coming back, we shared our experience with our church family, Christ Church in San Francisco. The Lord laid it upon my heart to find a way to continue to connect our church to Hands at Work and for us to be engaged in giving with thanksgiving. 

A Journey to Find God

My story is actually a big cliche in many ways. My family moved to southern California from Korea when I was 8 years old, with typical immigrant aspirations of working hard to fulfill an American dream. We didn't have much, and we hit a big speed bump a year into our move when my younger brother got hit by a car on our way to school. I witnessed the accident, which now is a distant blur, but for many years caused me much anxiety .

Throughout these early and difficult years, my mother served as the rock. Her unwavering faith, and insistence on the rest of us actively being involved with church, in hindsight held us together. During my high school years, I served on the praise team at our church, and continued on in early college years through involvement with campus ministry.

But as I entered my 20's, difficult questions arose in my mind. Do I really believe in God, and if so, why? Was it merely an emotional byproduct of the naivete of my youth and difficult circumstances? And the most troublesome question: was I using the notion of a higher power as a crutch to compensate for my weaknesses (and by extension, does religion draw from the weak and the failed, which I certainly did not want to be associated with)?

And Then He Smiled

We drove to the care point to meet over 70 children for camp. It was a cool morning, but you wouldn't know with so much energy and life in one place. The children sat according to their assigned color teams, eager to start the day, giggling together. I was greeting my team, the green team, when I found Charles*. He was a small, shy boy. "How are you?" I asked. I could barely hear him say “good”. I touched his face as I spoke to him. "Smile" I asked, but he would not.

Walking Together

In May, five of us had the opportunity to travel from the US to South Africa, joining other volunteers from Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom for International Office Celebrations. It was a chance for us to be together in person, with each other and with the volunteers in South Africa. We met new faces, sat through several sessions and learned a lot from each other.

Holy Home Visits

Roger experienced his first Holy Home Visits in Zimba, Zambia in July 2014. As part of a short-term team with Sunset Church from San Francisco, he walked side-by-side with Care Workers visiting the poorest children in their village. Roger learned that the Care Workers visit the children to bring love and hope where there is much suffering and struggle. He learned that they visit the children because God first visited us.