In June 2015, Eliza Henderson travelled with a group from Sydney to Hands at Work in Africa (South Africa). This is her story…
In June of last year I was blessed in the extreme to visit Hands at Work in South Africa with a church-based team from Sydney, Australia. Africa was a surprise, in every way. In only March of 2015 I was told there was a spot on a Sydney team that was mine if I wanted it. Being a uni student I had little financial ability to do anything, let alone go overseas, but feeling that this was something God wanted me to do, I took a crazy step forward and said yes. Through both friends and strangers incredible –and I mean incredible- generosity, oh and selling muffins every week at my church, I was able to raise just enough for my trip.
The things I was able to see and do in South Africa, and the people I met have changed my life, I walked among extreme poverty to see both heavy suffering and vibrant joy. I listened to the stories of people’s lives as my heart broke in my chest. I sung to six chattering children as they braided my hair, their lives completely restored by Jesus’ work in both their spirits and circumstances. I am still in awe of the humble kindness and perseverance of every Hands worker, of their devotion to these children and families and their Christ-centred way of handling every situation, good and bad. I want to go back for a long time, and if you’ve never been then maybe this is something important you need to do.
I want to tell you briefly one story that I was honoured enough to hear.
In the border town of Oshoek (Swaziland border) I met a family who had immigrated to South Africa eleven years previously. There was a grandmother, her two grown children, and at least eleven grandchildren, most of which were under the age of fifteen. This family was barely surviving with a small monthly pension the grandmother received, and by selling the only things they could, cut grass and snacks at the side of the road. As Systems of governance in South Africa are incredibly slow, the family had been living in a crowded concrete house for the past eleven years, waiting on identification papers which are necessary to get education, employment and financial government support. Eleven years! This situation was awful, but to add to their sorrows one of the grandchildren, a young girl named Bheka* had been abandoned by her mother after a diagnosis of mental disability. She was taken in by her aunt, and was happy, but at age ten was hit by a car and left with a severe painful limp and facial injuries, affecting her ability to eat and speak significantly. The girl’s aunt, an incredibly strong woman, told us her family’s story and asked us desperately for prayer. I have never felt more helpless, but I know that my Jesus is their Jesus, that He holds them in the palm of His hand and that His eyes see more than mine, so I hand this family over to Him who has an eternal plan.
In this small trip to another land I learned that the Lord provides, in His time and with His methods, which are far better than ours. The people of Africa are continually on my heart and in my mind, and I encourage you to go, seek, and hear stories of your own.