Volunteers from all over the world come to Hands at Work to serve the most vulnerable in Africa. Each of us has a unique story of how we were transformed when we were obedient to God’s call. Lisa shares her and her husband’s story, and the journey that has led them to fully trust and serve in Zambia.
We knew our hearts were in Africa as far back as 2005, which is when Brian took his first trip with our church, Westside Kings, to Africa. With Brian returning many times and me going and taking teams and our kids for many years, it was clear to us that God had a plan. Each time we left Africa to go home our hearts longed for Africa: the people, the smiles, the tears and the joy. We felt such emptiness for days and weeks when back in Canada.
As we grew to know more about Hands at Work, and as a need came up in Canada to have an International Office, we jumped at the opportunity to be connected to Africa while still raising our family and being in Canada. It wasn’t long before the work became my focus and my job had to go! Brian continued to work full-time hours and more in the corporate world and many further hours with Hands at Work in Africa Canada Society. The work had captured our hearts and kept us close to where our hearts longed to be.
As the years quickly went by, early retirement became an option for us in September 2014. At that point we began to earnestly seek God about what our next steps would be. With many ups and downs, questions, concerns and conversations with our family about this big decision to make, we knew that God was calling us to Africa.
At the end of December 2014, we started to make our way to South Africa. I found it difficult to leave two grown kids behind but we knew that they supported us and understood the work we were entering into. With our daughter to greet us when we arrived in South Africa and her husband by her side, we were excited to be able to spend more time with them.
Over time, four years now – although we have been connected and working with Hands at Work since 2005 – we have searched for a better understanding of living this life here in Africa for God. We have gone from using our mission – to gain a sense of purpose and direction in our lives and as our goal to please God – to now having God Himself become the focus... to a place where He has become our desire.
This year we have a clearer vision of who God is, a better grasp on His unconditional love and a new view on His radiant glory, and we have experienced His goodness and now see Him as a treasure. A treasure not to be acquired, but as the treasure itself.
We use many of our hours to study scripture: to openly, honestly and persistently seek to further understand who Jesus was, and to understand how we now see the gospel, not as a way to get to Heaven as we once saw it, but as a way to get to God – our treasure. It is the way to overcome every obstacle. It is the way to everlasting joy. It speaks peace to our souls.
That is God’s desire: to experience life with us, to be in constant connection – even when no words are exchanged. While the busyness of our days seems distracting from this, as we try to meet all the demands of our work, there is a stillness happening behind the scenes – a sense of closeness, a hovering of the Spirit. This is when we clearly see that life happens on two levels: one being the work, teaching, healing and helping and the other being the constant communion, not just communication, with God. It is our faith that brings us to a place of knowing that through Christ we have been united with HIM. And in our times of focused prayer, prayer has become a joy, something we look forward to, a treasured experience.
This Christian life is not to simply live life and hold certain beliefs about the Bible but to lead the kind of life demonstrated in the Bible. This kind of life in its most abundant form can be lived anywhere, so why here in Africa?
We are not always sure of this answer. Many days it is obvious to us why we are here but on other days it is less that way, especially when difficult circumstances rip at our hearts and home – family and friends seem so far away. But what I do understand is that even in our deepest sorrow, God cares. He understands us, He sees every tear that falls and we know that at the end of the day we are called His Beloved. We can go to Him and we are not alone.
That connectedness we feel to our Father, we also feel to those around us who are brave enough to share their jagged edges, their broken pieces, their imperfections. We share our lives with those who feel forgotten, unworthy and who are in need, and those who feel rejected and lonely, because we are also all of those things. We are here to remind them and ourselves that we have a living God and He mends our hearts and minds. While we serve Him, He picks up all of our remaining pieces and fills those empty spaces and gaps. We will become whole.
As for many others, this is a work in progress. God continues to work in our lives, continues to teach us and grow us, continues to direct us, correct us and treasure us. WE are HIS and HE is OURS.
This is how it is to BE – our calling, to be a light in this world where darkness and oppression and unforgiveness reign. Where there is fear, we want to bring hope, where there is hate – bring love. We try to be vessels of kindness and patience, of generosity, of trust and encouragement, and where listening to God’s voice is natural. We know that we don’t do all of these things well everyday but, for now, we love the place we call home. As God turns His face towards us, as He does His work in us and as He speaks to us, we wholeheartedly desire to listen.
My child, listen to what I say,
and treasure my commands.
Tune your ears to wisdom,
and concentrate on understanding.
Cry out for insight,
and ask for understanding.
Search for them as you would for silver;
seek them like hidden treasures.
Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord,
and you will gain knowledge of God.
For the Lord grants wisdom!
From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest.
He is a shield to those who walk with integrity.
He guards the paths of the just
and protects those who are faithful to him.
Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair,
and you will find the right way to go.
For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will fill you with joy.
Wise choices will watch over you.
Understanding will keep you safe.
Proverbs 2: 1-11
Currently, Lisa serves on the Regional Support Team and the Partnerships Team while Brian serves on the Maintenance and HR Teams.