By Abe & Suzette Lee
In March of 2013, we traveled to Zambia and South Africa on a 10-day adventure that changed our lives. We had the privilege of spending time with the volunteer staff and care workers of Hands at Work on visits to four villages – Maranatha and Zimba in Zambia and Welverdiend and Senzokuhle in South Africa – and found ourselves so blessed and humbled by the experience.
First, let me take you back to 2009, when we had the opportunity to support our friends Sam and Sarah on a missions trip to Mozambique and Zimbabwe with an organization called Hands at Work. We learned then that Hands’ mission is to serve the dying, the widows, and the orphans among the poorest of the poor and survivors of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa. We were inspired by our friends traveling all the way to Africa to be part of God’s work there. In 2012, Abe reconnected with his childhood friend Lauren who turned out to be the CEO of Hands US. She invited us to a silent auction fundraiser for Hands at Christ Church, where we met George and Carolyn Snyman. Our hearts were greatly moved by the testimonies from Lauren, her family, George, Carolyn, and others who had gone on missions trips with Hands and their motivation to serve the most vulnerable in Africa. Early this year we spoke with various leaders at our home church, Sunset Church of San Francisco, and coordinated with contacts we had with Hands. After much prayer, plans were set for us to go to Africa on an exploratory trip on behalf of our church.
We met so many gracious and amazing people during our visit to various villages. In particular, we want to share our experience in the village of Zimba, where over half the population are children under the age of 15, most of whom are orphans who lost their parents to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It was in Zimba that we met Hilda, who runs the community-based organization (CBO) called Kachema Musuma – or The Good Shepherd in the Bemba language. Before Hands entered the scene, Hilda had voluntarily provided help to the orphans and widows in her community for many years, not as a “job” but as a neighbor simply caring for her neighbors. Now as the point person of the Kachema Musuma CBO for Hands, she oversees 23 Care Workers who represent the dozen or so churches in Zimba. Hands has identified Zimba as the community with which Sunset Church will be partnering in the years to come.
At the time of our visit, the Kachema Musuma care point was providing 50 children with one meal and basic schooling (under a tree) six days per week. Their next short-term goal is to provide for 100 children, with the help of support from Sunset Church. We introduced our church to Hands’ model of galvanizing local and international churches to jointly “build a wall” of protection around vulnerable children, similar to how Nehemiah led his people to rise up and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. We are thankful to God for the positive response from our fellow brothers and sisters at Sunset Church. Almost 50 families pledged monthly financial support for Zimba, and plans are underway for the children’s ministry to correspond with the children of Zimba. In addition, an Africa-centered discipleship group was recently formed to consider a missions trip to Zimba next year. Praise God for His mighty work at our church and through Hands.