From Canada 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. Kristi and Daytona Swarbrick share their story and the journey that has led them to serve in Africa.
The desire for Kristi to come and serve in Africa started long before Kristi and her husband Daytona actually came in 2012. In 2004, Kristi was teaching grade one at Abbotsford Christian School. As she was preparing to teach a unit on “Africa”, she felt really challenged by what she was learning. She had this sense that she wanted to come – not just to visit – but to come and live and be immersed in the culture. Kristi shares, “I wanted to have my worldview rocked and turned upside down. I wanted to have my eyes opened to see God’s world in a new and different way than how I was currently living.” When Kristi initially shared this desire to live in Africa, Daytona’s reply was, “send me a postcard”. Kristi decided not to push, knowing that she needed to be patient and allow God to work in Daytona’s life and in his own time. Over the course of the next seven years, Kristi gently reminded Daytona every year that she still had the desire to go to Africa and that that desire was growing.
In 2010, while working at a different school, Kristi helped coordinate service-learning trips to Guatemala with the Grade 11 students. During that time, Daytona had the opportunity to go on one of these trips as videographer, and in that same year, to travel to Jordan and Israel with their church. Having experienced more of the world and different cultures for the first time, Daytona returned with the willingness to go to Africa, but with the disclaimer that it would be for one year only. Full of excitement, Kristi began the search for a Christian organisation where they could volunteer. The couple went to a Missions Conference in Vancouver, Canada and strategically searched the hundreds of booths for any organisation that mentioned anything about Africa. Kristi shares, “Near the end of the day, we were feeling discouraged, but as we prepared to leave I noticed a few booths that were off to the side. There was a small chance that something down this hall would be the right organisation for us to partner with. Finding a booth named, Hands at Work in Africa, and hearing the vision, I had this overwhelming sense that this was it! I felt the Holy Spirit stirring in me and started to tear up.”
Over the course of the next year, the couple met with several people from Hands at Work and the more people they met, the more they fell in love with the vision and had peace that this was the right organisation for them. Kristi and Daytona arrived in South Africa in September 2012. About half-way through their first year, Daytona shared with Kristi that he had a feeling that their time in Africa wasn’t finished yet. Not long after that, they committed to coming back for two more years.
At the time that Kristi and Daytona were discussing the possibility of coming back long term, they were still paying the mortgage on the house that they were trying to sell in Canada. They were feeling quite financially strained and it was at that point that they started questioning if it was right for them to be in Africa because of this. Kristi shares, “Often people have the misconception that if we are called to something, that everything will work out smoothly. Our house and financial situations were not going smoothly. God doesn’t say that things are going to be easy, nor does He call us to an easy life. There are going to be sacrifices that need to be made and challenges that we have to face.” During that time, Kristi and Daytona saw the Hands at Work community truly come together for them – supporting and encouraging them. After 22 months of being on the market, their house finally sold! The decision to stay longer wasn’t based on whether the house sold or not. Kristi and Daytona felt like they had to come to the decision of being honest with themselves about what God was calling them to and not just basing it on their life circumstances at the time – which was difficult to do.
Although it was difficult and they had to make sacrifices, Kristi and Daytona wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Throughout the challenges and difficult decisions, they are able to see God bringing people around to support them. After their three-year visa came to an end, they decided to renew their visas and return to Africa to serve the most vulnerable. Kristi and Daytona continue to be challenged to go deeper and are committed to seeing God’s kingdom expanded within Africa.
Currently, Kristi serves with the Project Support Team as Project Accountant while Daytona serves on the Communications Team. Kristi and Daytona live at the Hands at Work HUB in South Africa with their cat, Moses.
Are YOU being called? Come!