Tuesday December 10, 2013
Looking back at 2013 for Hands at Work on the very day of Nelson Mandela’s funeral is very emotional and yet a rewarding experience for me as an African and a South African. Today I am so proud to belong to the global Hands at Work family fighting injustice by reaching out to the most vulnerable children in Africa.
I see some characteristics in Mandela’s life that we hold dear to in the Hands family. He had an amazing ability to cross cultural barriers. His whole life reflected sacrificial giving. Not only did he spend most of his adult life in prison, but once he was released he continued to live a sacrificial lifestyle. During his time as President of South Africa he gave his full salary every month towards those in poverty. After he completed his career as a politician he started the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. He never stopped living a life of giving! He believed in and encouraged others all the time that an individual can make a difference in this world. Each one should just do what he or she can do.
In the beginning of 2013, Hands at Work leaders across Africa came together in Zambia. After a time of prayer and deep introspection, a renewed commitment was made to accept full responsibility for Hands and the vision we believe God gave us to live out. Part of our time together was living in one of the poorest communities with the children and grandmothers we care for. It was a time of deep impact and out of it we developed Maranatha Workshops. Maranatha means, “Come Lord”. These workshops are an invitation for Jesus to come and reveal His Father's heart to the Care Worker. In this time, Care Workers begin to recognise the wounds that are deep within themselves. That due to the wounds they carry, they have often wounded others out of that pain. Now the realisation is being awakened to the One true healer. The One who came to pour His life into their hearts and bring restoration to their lives. The workshops have clarified the different role players in the Hands model and how we can support and encourage each other to reach the children and their Care Workers in the best possible way. Our commitment is to do this workshop in every one of our communities before the end of June 2014. As we end 2013 we have already reached many communities in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. The stories from the workshops are encouraging and we have discovered just how much pain and brokenness exists within the communities.
A highlight this year was to see how individuals and families not only visited us in Africa, but how they went home and mobilised their international communities to adopt the African communities they visited on the ground. We also saw short-term volunteers return home and then bring teams to Africa. They refused to just carry on living their lives as they had before coming to Africa. They became advocates among their circles of influence. I stayed in the homes of families all over the world where they would show me photos of our children in Africa and tell me those children’s names. They were praying for them every day!
In 2013 we had our first advocacy day in Chicago and friends of Hands came from all over the US to join us. A number of people with professional careers have cut back their working hours so they can volunteer their time to support Hands. Their skill and time will make such a difference in the countries where they live, and for us in Africa this is such an encouragement to see people accepting our vision with us and committing themselves to it.
As I mentioned, this is the day of Mandela’s funeral. But this is also the day when Carolyn and I celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. Early this morning, as we prayed together we had such a sense of overwhelming gratefulness. God is so good to us! He kept us together, He provided for our daily needs, He blessed us with children, grandchildren, and many amazing friends. He gave us a heart and dream to serve others. He showed us His heart! We raise an Ebenezer today declaring loud and clear that we serve a great and faithful God. Right from the start of our marriage, Carolyn and I agreed what our core values would be and we never negotiated away from them. We held to Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
We want to give that verse to everyone who is part of the Hands family and who believes in the dream of a better life for those we are serving. Hold to a dream bigger than yourself, commit to core values, and be held accountable. Today we stand as living testimonies that once you start to live for others and not yourself, you will always look back and say, “I received undeserving favor!”