By Nanci Kim
“Please ask God to alleviate the suffering,” was the prayer request of an eleven year old boy I met today.
We hiked through an hour of bush in rural Zambia to get to his home, a make-shift shelter, made of tied up patches of tall grass around a frame of cut fallen tree trunks and a combination of chitengae (a long piece of fabric, about two yards, women wrap around themselves as a skirt) and plastic temporary door. The family had moved there three weeks prior and had been trying to build a home. To some, this is camping; to others, this is life.
During the journey there, I reflected on how God had brought me here two months ago. My name is Nanci Kim and I am a member of Wellspring Church. Wellspring has been partnering with Hands at Work since 2007, supporting its efforts here in Africa. In early 2012, God put on my heart to jump on the band wagon and come out to Africa to see what he was doing here. I arrived on May 18th, 2012 at Kruger Airport in White River, Mpumalanga, South Africa. For the first five weeks, I was oriented to the work in South Africa, visiting communities, walking with care workers and meeting the most vulnerable in the region. Since my arrival, I have seen much and tasted much. I have seen how God is working and why we are called to serve. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few (Matthew 9:37).
Since being here, there have been many lives that have tugged harder at my heart. One life that has left an imprint on mine is the story of the first family I met in South Africa. In a community not too far from White River, we made a home visit to a small studio home near one of Hands’ community based organizations (CBO). Here, the oldest was an 18 year old boy, who was finishing up his last year in high school while taking care of his seven younger siblings. Fatherless, the children lived alone for months at a time while their mother struggled to find domestic work in the area. Also, because the family members were refugees from Swaziland (a neighboring country to South Africa), the family was unable to receive national identification cards and unable to receive government assistance. It is like not having a green card in the United States. There is no road to citizenship, and often refugees are left to struggle on their own, uneducated and hungry. The youngest of the eight children was the cutest five year old I had ever met since being in South Africa. She was shy, but had the most beautiful eyes. Even her eyes tell of her story and the suffering that she had endured the last few years.
Thankfully, some time ago, the children were identified as being of the most vulnerable in the community by the CBO and its care workers. The children are visited each week by a care worker and are able to participate in the feeding program. Care workers, often vulnerable and struggling themselves, give their time to visit and care for the children. In this particular community, care workers walk anywhere from half a mile to several miles to get to visit the children in their care. In addition to the vulnerable children, care workers also visit the homes of patients who are suffering from various illnesses and diseases, including HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, among other conditions.
My time in South Africa flew by quickly, and at the end of June, I was headed to Zambia and have been here visiting communities and learning about the lives that have been impacted by the work that God has been doing through Hands at Work in Africa, Zambia. It is strange to think that I have one month left, but there are so many more communities to visit and people to meet. I almost feel as though three months is too short of a time to see all that God is doing here. It has been truly amazing to see this team of volunteers, both African and international, venturing throughout the continent, across borders and countries in Africa, being the beautiful hands and feet of Christ bringing good news and hope to the most vulnerable (Isaiah 52:7).
Read more about Nanci's 3 months in Africa on her blog http://nancikim.wordpress.com/.