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. Matteo shares his story and the journey that has led him to serve in his home country of Zambia.
When I was four years old my mother passed away and was followed by my father two years later. My grandma decided to take me in but I wasn’t treated kindly by the people in my village. When my grandma died in 1987, my uncle brought me to live with his family for two years before my auntie kicked me out.
My family has a history of being uneducated, so my auntie thought that it was a waste of time for me to attend school. After I left their home, I lived on the streets with my friends. I was homeless. In order to provide for myself, I resorted to going from house to house asking if they had jobs for me. When I got money, I would buy food and share it with my friends.
In 1998, I met a man who offered me a place to stay. Every Sunday, I saw a man walking along the street - I didn’t know where he was going but I suspected that he was going to church. One day, I decided to follow him and he ended up going to a church that was led by a pastor called Jacob. That same year, George Snyman, co-founder of Hands at Work, found me in this church and preached that Sunday. That day, I decided to give my life to Jesus and my journey with him as my Saviour began.
After moving around quite a bit, working at different jobs, I ended up in Luanshya, Zambia working as a security guard. My new church became connected with Hands at Work more deeply when a team from Westside Kings Church, Canada, came to Kachele Village. The team connected with Pastor Jacob to see if the youth from church were interested in helping out with a building project and general maintenance around Kachele Village. One Sunday, when I wasn’t working security I joined the youth that were helping the Westside team. It was my dream from when I was a young boy to find an organisation that was doing something good in the community. I enjoyed working with the team so much that I would work security in the evening and then go to Kachele Village to help the Westside team.
After the team left Zambia, I couldn’t help at Kachele Village because there were no teams. Eventually, Hands at Work invited me to become a part of their community full-time, leaving my job as a security guard. I praised God because it was my heart and prayer to join an organisation like Hands at Work. I had looked into other organisations but many said that I couldn’t join them because I came from a family of Jehovah Witnesses. In 2005, I found acceptance and joined Hands at Work. The place where I was staying was quite far to travel every day and in 2006, I was invited to live at Kachele Village. When I joined Hands at Work, I started off doing building projects alongside the teams that would come and gardening work when they weren’t here. In 2011, my role shifted from gardening to construction and maintaining the Kachele Village property.
Through the teams that came to visit Zambia, I began to learn a lot of new things. I started learning English and how to interact with people from different cultures. Growing up without a family was not easy and growing up in the streets was tough. When I was younger I didn’t go to school and I worried that I wouldn’t develop the skills that I needed to survive. However, I believe God is a God of miracles and He makes a way when there is no way.
My extended family doesn’t understand what I am doing and they do not accept the fact that I am a Christian because they are Jehovah Witnesses. I cannot follow them because I know God. I am here for the children who are struggling. I choose to follow my calling because I want to be a voice for the voiceless and I know whom I serve.
I love being in the community with children and building relationships with them. When I am in community for a building project, my focus is not only on the project. I designate days where my focus is on spending time with the children, because they are the reason I am here. With all of my heart, I do my best to serve them because I was once just like them. When I’m with the children I try to teach them what I’ve learned over my lifetime so far. I am now married with a beautiful wife and daughter, living at Kachele farm, doing the work I love. This is my testimony of God’s faithfulness in my life and I try to share it with the kids in community whenever I have the opportunity because I believe my story could have a huge impact on a child’s life.
Mateo lives at the Kachele Village, Zambia with his wife Belita and daughter Faith. He continues to serve as a member of the Zambian maintenance team.
Are YOU being called? Come!