By Jungjoo Pak
“MOOOOOMMY~.” My days often start with my almost three-year-old son hollering for me to come and get him out of his crib. Who needs an alarm clock when you’ve got young kids eager to start the day? Most of my days are spent running after my two very energetic boys (Owen who’s almost three and Oliver who just turned one), cooking meals after meals and wiping the floor countless times. Faces and names of the precious children I met in Africa on my last trip in 2007 often seem so distant and irrelevant to my hectic day-to-day life. I know this about myself—my tendency to be so self absorbed and caught up in my own world. That’s why I am so grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to volunteer with Hands U.S. office for the past several years. More than my small contribution to Hands, I really do receive so much more by staying connected through my involvement. Every story I read from the different communities adopted by Hands reminds me of the stark reality I saw, touched and felt back in 2007.
How can I ever forget a precious little girl named Thandazile who fell asleep to my “amazing grace” lullaby with tears rolling down her small cheeks as she drifted into sleep? She couldn’t have been more than two at the time. Yet when a bus came to pick her up from a Hands care center to take her back home at the end of the day, she just got in line and walked up to find herself a seat in the bus. Her independence at such a young age was a necessity for survival. The image of this little toddler walking up to that bus is still so vivid in my memory. Now with children of my own, these memories dig even deeper into my heart.
It does seem so overwhelming to think about all the orphaned children in Africa who are desperately in need, both physically and spiritually. But I am so encouraged by Hands’ focus on reaching one child at a time. One of the songs that spoke to me so deeply during my trip to Africa was a song called “He knows my name.” This song talks about how our heavenly father knows every child’s name. Though often lost in a seemingly insurmountable “number” of orphaned children in Africa, every child is known by God! This is the approach I’ve been trying to take—trying to be faithful with the opportunities God is giving us in reaching and supporting the most vulnerable children in Africa one child at a time.
When it came time to plan for my younger son’s first birthday, which tends to be a pretty big deal in my culture, I had a vague desire to somehow use the party to remember and support many precious little children in Africa as we celebrate my precious little son’s first year of life. At around the same time, I became aware of a small community in South Africa called Oshoek. This community had been in relationship with Hands for a few years and infrastructure has been put in place to bring in practical help (such as providing one nutritious meal a day for the most vulnerable orphans in the community). When I found out about Oshoek, I wanted to connect my son’s first birthday to the lives of children in Oshoek. We sent out invitations to our family, friends and co-workers along with a note that asked our guests to consider bringing a donation for Oshoek instead of a gift for Oliver.
The party was held at a local park on a beautiful Saturday morning with 80+ guests. Along with cupcakes and a popcorn bar, I put together and displayed a poster of Oshoek that included a brief community profile along with pictures of the community and its people. Through the party we were able to raise $855. I was overwhelmed by the generous response of our guests. I am reminded through this that there really is no village/people too remote or too small for God. I know that it is ultimately the Lord who caused us to come to know and remember Oshoek.