Today I want to do something dangerous. I want to try to define short-term missions. Maybe I should just say what it does not mean. It's not a missional experience that we are trying to create, or a sort of short-term outreach that is good for a team to go on as an experience and say "I can tick the box of being in Africa"
Greetings to friends and family and to all the people that believe so much in what Hands at Work in Africa is doing. It’s such a privilege for me to speak to you shortly after our Easter celebrations, and I’m sure as you’ve spent quality time with thosethat you love, that you appreciated these moments as you saw people that you love dearly.
Excerpts from The Wall of Nehemiah and History of Hands audio
There is an amazing thing about the book of Nehemiah – we’ve been studying it in Hands for years, and still every time we talk about it and draw the comparisons, it becomes scary, it’s so close to what we do.
“Diamonds in the dust.” It’s a beautiful phrase that we have been using in Hands at Work right from the beginning of our history. It started off when I stood at the rubbish dump, just staring at children scrounging for food. God gave me a beautiful promise - “you will find diamonds in the dust”
Last week we saw an amazing video going viral within days across the globe. Of course I am referring to the “Kony2012” video. Though I don’t know Invisible Children and can’t comment on them as an organisation, I want to use the opportunity to communicate something that excited us about the video.
While touring Canada, Hands at Work founder George Snyman sat down and penned these thoughts reflecting on the challenges and successes of 2011 and looking forward to beginning the journey of 2012. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Hands, and we are grateful to be able to celebrate God's faithfulness and continue living in it as we launch into the next decade of serving His children.
In August 2011 George Snyman, Hands at Work founder, broke new ground in Goma, a war-torn area bordering Rwanda in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He planted the seeds of the first Hands at Work-supported community-based organisation in an area where there is no help and no hope.
Here is a sneak preview of the seven-minute sound byte:
2011 celebrates 400 years of the King James translation of the Bible. It took a man named King James I a great deal of courage to make the Word of God available to the man on the street and specifically to the most vulnerable: those who couldn’t read and write.
Carolyn and I had supper with one of the orphans from Masoyi last week. She is busy studying in university at the moment. I asked her about the youth in the communities. She told me, “More girls are getting pregnant than ever before.” Although I heard it from other people I found myself gobsmacked when I heard it from her.
At the start of the year, I said I believe that the miracles this year will be done by ordinary people like each one of us. God wants to do great things through each one of us. Here are four stories that not only encouraged me but humbled me so much.
Dear Hands family!
It is just after six in the morning and I cannot sleep anymore as I am so filled with God’s Word for us for 2010. For the first time in many years I not only received one verse as a watchword but two :}
What is more joyful and exciting than to return home to your loved ones after a long journey? I recently experienced this joy once again after being away from my family for more than a month. Jesus also understood this fully and used it in the parable of the prodigal son. This is a God-given gift to us – to have people we love and belong to. It is the cornerstone of community and called ‘family’. This becomes even more focused during the Christmas season when family members will travel thousands of kilometers to be together.
Jimmy is a friend of mine. We have been friends for most of his life. I met him as a young boy who lost his family. He became an orphan at a young age. Today at the age of sixteen he lives alone in a small house close to me
As the global recession continues on as part of our day-to-day living, we see that companies have grown more interested in using charity connections to promote their businesses. And it works!
Consumers want to do good while still consuming and living well. McDonalds, Avon and Reebok use social causes to encourage consumer purchasing. More companies are doing it all the time. According to some recent report about three-quarters of Americans are willing to switch to another brand or store associated with a good cause if the price and quality are comparable. Of course we also recently saw very wealthy individuals like Sir Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Bono make bold stands by giving away most of their wealth for certain causes mainly on the eradication of poverty.
Dear friends of Hands at Work communities worldwide,
As we continue to grow in reaching more vulnerable children and their caregivers like the volunteers and grannies, we face many challenges that we trust God for. Those of you who had the opportunity to walk with us in Africa will understand what I am talking about. Many of us just returned from countries like the DRC (Congo), Nigeria, Malawi and Mozambique. Although it is encouraging to see what is happening we also realize that unless God is going to do miracles it would be merely impossible to reach all the most vulnerable children we hope to.
“A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of" (John 10:10)
This is such a well known and quoted verse today. I’ve heard it quoted hundreds of times by Christians all over the world. I have been thinking about this verse for some time now, though not in a way I have often heard it spoken about before. Try and imagine the following situation: two siblings, a girl called Nonsipho, ten years old, and her brother Lucky, four years old, lost both their parents and are living in what we call a child-headed household in a very poor community. There are no adults in their house. As one school principle described them to me recently, “They are dirty, hungry and confused. Confused and disorientated not knowing what the next step should be.” Now let’s imagine these kids go to church one Sunday. A visitor is preaching the service and uses the verse John 10:10, “A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”
I just returned [to South Africa] from Zambia and the DRC. It was a trip of mixed experiences. The joy and pain together as I held children with no hope. In Mulenga, I met a girl of four that was raped just before I got here. She held unto me for dear life. The same day I met volunteers indescribably committed and compassionate (see James' story here). The exciting part is God is busy raising couples all over Africa with the Hands at Work vision burning in their hearts. Some of these couples (please pray for them) are James and Sukai from Mulenga; Samuel and Juliet form Chipata; Levi and Pragcidens. Without these leaders we cannot go forward. These couples could "make it" wherever they live but chose to spend themselves to reach those without hope.
Democratic Republic of Congo, a nation raped into the ground. I met Church leaders in slums waiting for me on a Saturday afternoon ... The expectations in their eyes kept me awake. ... I bring hope to these Churches ... [by saying] to them I have friends who are together with me.
We are knitted together in our hearts. And I know I speak the truth. As Catherine Booth once said, “You are not here in the world for yourself. You have been sent here for others. The world is waiting for you!”
Recently speaking to a team of nurses visiting us from the US, I said, “Open your hearts, and allow the pain here to touch you”. Jesus said it like this: “Weep with those who weep.” Afterward, someone commented that as nurses they are trained not to become too close to patients. They are trained not to get too emotionally involved with the people they care for. My advice to them on their arrival in Africa was exactly the opposite – allow the pain to touch you!
In a way, each of us in Western culture has been trained to do the same. We are trained to be problem solvers. When we face a situation, we analyse it and find a solution. This is good, and tremendous advancements and progress come from this way of thinking. But there is a negative side to our automatic problem-solving. It keeps difficult situations from getting too close to our hearts. It becomes a mechanism to keep everything at arm’s length.
Recently I found myself in a village in Zimbabwe desperately trying to solve some challenges faced by families there.
Many Christians have a life changing experience only to fall back into the normal rut of life after it happens. Of course it will always stay a special time and all their friends and family will testify that it had a big impact in their lives, but the person to whom it happened will refer to it in the past sense. The truth is it did make a big impact in that person’s life, but the sad part is the effects are not permanent.
During my visit to Canada in May, I confronted this in mass when visiting many former volunteers of Hands. Canada is just an amazing country in many ways. It seems that the harsh weather produces people with perseverance and people who can go the biblical extra mile once they see a need. They come to Africa from Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and Saskatoon. And they serve in excellence! It seems that the tougher the challenge, the bigger the adventure for them. Hands at Work is eternally grateful to Canada for that great spirit.
They do, however, face a challenge when they return home.
Sitting with a candle trying to type at night is nothing new in Zimbabwe. The power is on and off and completely unpredictable. Tonight the only difference is I am alone in a house… alone with the thoughts of the people I met in the last two days. On Sunday I went to church with Stuart, a church leader in Sakubwa, one of the poorest areas in Mutare, and the coordinator of the ministry to care for Sakubwa’s vulnerable children.
The first time I went to Sakubwa last year I met Agnus, a grandmother with fifteen grandchildren. They all lived together in one room measuring about 3 meters by 5 meters. The youngest grandchild, Valecia, left a permanent mark in my life. I called her the girl with a yellow hat because she wore all the clothes she had, including her yellow hat, to ensure nobody stole her only possessions. Her grandmother told me that if Valecia had one meal a day, then she had a good day.
The day I met her she smiled from the moment we met until I left. Now on Sunday at Stuart’s church, as I walked into the room I saw both Agnus and Valencia again. Agnus was now nearly completely blind and Valecia had stopped smiling.