From the UK to Africa
At Hands at Work, our volunteers are called by God from all over the world to serve the most vulnerable in Africa. Each of us has a unique story of how we were transformed when we stepped out in faith and were obedient to His call. Jen shares her own story, and the journey that has led her to surrender and serve in Africa with her husband, Dan, and their three boys: Marley, Sonney and Micah.
I met my husband Dan when I was 10, at Christian camp. He was teasing me and stole my necklace – that’s how I always remembered him. As a teenager, my friends and I toured other church’s youth events. We started going to a Bible study – turns out it was Dan’s church. He didn’t go to the Bible study, but when we heard a group of girls had started coming, there he was! We started dating; I was 16 and he still had my stolen necklace.
When Dan and I finished school at 18, Dan was interested in missions, and I had admired a missionary couple in our church from Zambia since I was young. But I also wanted to go to university. We decided to go to India for one month on a mission trip together, to see if God spoke to us about our future. We spent the month visiting missionaries in different organisations, and at the end of the trip we both said we wanted to work with the desperately poor, anywhere. Our desire to serve others opened many doors. I started studying physiotherapy (physio), and at the end of my first year I was 19 and Dan and got married. When we went to Ethiopia for 6 weeks and served with a program for street kids, our desire to serve somewhere long term was cemented. I graduated and worked for five years in a local hospital in England where I really loved my job. In 2009, God brought us to Africa with Hands at Work. We have served as a family since, mostly in South Africa. We have faced challenges, and learned what it is like to raise our family in a multi-cultural community, but personally, I have learned about surrender.
My real passion and love has always been my work as a physio: spending quality time with patients at difficult points in their lives. I love the satisfaction of watching somebody sit for the first time, or stand, or take their first steps after a life changing event. I did not expect to be a physio when I came to Hands at Work. I knew I would have to serve in whatever capacity was asked of me, and I become the Volunteer Coordinator. But my passion for physio did not go away. I helped at the clinic next door to the Hands at Work Hub in South Africa, and looked for other ways to still practice physio. I remember around that time, George (Snyman, Hands at Work Co-Founder) talking about surrendering. I thought, “Is physio something I should be laying down? But God called me to be a physio! Surely He isn’t asking me to lay aside 3 years of study and 5 years of working experience and just let it go?”
Years later, at the beginning of 2014, I was in Ladies Prayer and we were talking about surrender. I still felt so challenged about letting physio go, I was still holding onto it! I had tried contacting agencies in South Africa to see about taking exams but no one got back to me. I was asking people all the time about opportunities, and even considered that maybe if our family moved to another African country then I could practice without having to register! It was always preoccupying my mind. But that day in Ladies Prayer, I realised I had to let go. I was holding myself back from whatever else God was trying to show me.
Since the point, I have slowly but surely been able to let go of that yearning, that desire. I don’t even know how. I would still love to be a physio, but it is no longer my focus. I have real peace because I am truly allowing God to show me what HE has for me. When Jesus called his disciples and said, “Follow me”, they didn’t pick up their fishing nets and their bait and their boats and carry them with them. They just got up and followed. Physio was the baggage I was carrying around with me for years, and many of us have that kind of baggage. Our desires, hopes, dreams, previous experiences, and emotions. When we truly surrender everything to Jesus, there is more room for Him.
The Amplified version of Hebrews 12:1-2 has really summed it up for me:
Dan and I have said we are willing to go anywhere for Hands at Work. We don’t know what that looks like, but we want to lay it all down and trust Jesus.
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