Volunteers from around the world of various backgrounds and ages comprise the Hands at Work team. They mobilise, equip and support the local church across Africa to transform the lives of the most vulnerable. Hands at Work invites volunteers to come and invest a year of their life on behalf of the most vulnerable by becoming a part of our team, family and community of faith. We ask our volunteers to come with an open heart; willing to learn and serve in whatever way is needed. Like scaffolding, they are an essential yet temporary tool in building a structure and leaving it stronger than when they arrived.
Twice a year, Hands at Work welcomes a new intake of volunteers. In September 2013, Alice, Amy, Brooke, Katelyn and Devon came to serve. They were called by God to serve in Africa for the same amount of time, but the work He did in their own lives was unique. After returning home, their reflections tell the story of transformation not only in the lives of those they met here, but in their own hearts and lives.
Alice Fenning, UK
In June 2012 I came to Hands at Work on my short term church team. When it ended I knew that my time in Africa wasn’t over, and I returned for a year as a volunteer. I met a girl named Hope, she’s about two. We were playing and I put her on a ledge and told her to jump - she didn’t hesitate to leap into my arms! I thought, “She hardly knows me, yet she trusts me so much. Am I that willing to jump? Have I been fearlessly trusting God? Or am I losing that incredible childlike faith that God calls us to live with?” I think back to 2012 when I returned from my team trip and my whole future changed. When I arrived in Africa again knowing I wasn’t going to see any of my friends or family for a year. When I went to Swaziland and came back in pieces from everything I saw. All the time I could hear Him whispering, “Do you trust me?” One thing I know for certain is that God has revealed Himself to me and helped me understand how trust worthy He is.
Amy Simpson, Canada
I started my journey in Africa not having any clue about the transformations that would take place in my heart. I was able to step out of my comfort zone, get my hands dirty and jump into a culture so completely different than the one I’ve always known. In the African communities I looked into the eyes of some of the poorest people, and wrestled with the life of prosperity and abundance I know too well. Each day I walked with people who continually make sacrifices to serve these vulnerable children and from the time I landed I was part of something much bigger then myself.
Now being home, I know God didn’t call me all the way to Africa for me to come back and stay quiet. So in August I challenged my close friends and family to care for a community in Africa. My goal is to, as a group, support 50 children each month. This year I am starting a four year degree in Journalism and Communications because I want to learn how to better communicate what I saw. While in Africa my heart was broken for the poor and vulnerable and I want to learn how to be a unique and influential voice for them.
Brooke Wilson, Australia
Over the past year I was hugely impacted by building relationships with Care Workers both in the communities we serve and in the Hands at Work community us volunteers live in. The way the Hands Family embraced me as a family member straight away really inspired me to care on a much deeper level for the people around me. Having the support of this family who would put aside their own problems to listen, pray, and encourage me in my faith was such a blessing.
As I reflect on my time in Africa, I become more aware of how it changed me on a personal level in a challenging way. Being in Africa showed me how we are called to love everyone around us even when it’s hard. For me, the Care Workers demonstrated that love when I saw them in the communities sharing their love with the children and putting the needs of others before their own, even before their own families. A question I ask myself being back home is how am I demonstrating that love here in Australia? How am I being a Care Worker in my own community?
Katelyn Martinetti, Canada
My favourite part of being in Africa was being in another culture and building relationships with the local Africans. I enjoyed breaking away from my cultural values and learning how other people live life. Another highlight was being able to go to Malawi for one month and being a part of four Maranatha Workshops. In Malawi I met very vulnerable children and saw how they desperately need the hope of Jesus. During the workshops I saw God transform the lives of the Care Workers, so they can in return impact the lives of the children. I would say that going to Africa has changed my life forever. My perspectives and values are not the same anymore. Since coming back to Canada I am more aware of making decisions based on serving God and others, rather than fulfilling the self-centered needs I had before. I also have a great desire in heart to serve the most vulnerable in my own community in Canada. I am so thankful for my time in Africa. I will cherish the faces of the children I met and experiences I had inside my heart. And hope that one day I will be back.
Devon Van Hoffen, Canada – returning to serve long term with Hands at Work in January 2015
I went to visit a family of eight in Zambia. The oldest daughter really cared for her younger siblings and had so much joy playing with them; I thought she was so amazing. Nine months later I saw her again, except she was lying under a tree, really thin and incredibly sick. I found out later she has HIV. Seeing her change in such a short time absolutely broke my heart. I prayed for her every single day the next week.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 says, “Do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
I realised Jesus came to earth for people like this girl. He gives hope to people in hopeless situations. What’s amazing to me is the Care Workers take the time to visit this family and walk alongside them in whatever they are going through. The Care Workers are bringing Jesus’ love and hope to this family. If in any way I can support the people who bring hope to the hopeless, I can think of nothing I would rather do.
Do you feel called to spend a year of your life serving with Hands at Work? http://www.handsatwork.org/volunteer