In February, twelve international volunteers from around the world came to serve with Hands at Work for a year. For the first five weeks of orientation, their time was spent in different sessions at the Hands at Work Hub in South Africa and out in the most vulnerable communities, learning about the vision and model of Hands at Work. Then for the remainder of orientation, each individual was placed with a local Hands at Work office, in either Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia or Zimbabwe, where they spent four weeks learning from, observing, encouraging and walking with the local Hands at Work teams as they serve the most vulnerable. It was a time to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to live out the biblical mandate that God has given in James 1:27, ‘to care for the orphans and widows in their distress.’
Jakob and Candece share their personal reflections on how the five weeks of orientation at the Hands at Work Hub in South Africa and four-week placement at a local Hands at Work office have helped to shape their understanding of what it means to serve the most vulnerable and give of themselves even if it personally costs them.
Jakob Muller, International Volunteer (Germany)
“An impactful time during orientation was my community stay in Welverdiend, South Africa. I was very touched by their warm hospitality and friendliness. I saw the challenges of daily life for the family. I was able to develop good relationships with the family and didn’t feel like a visitor, but rather like part of the family. Throughout the weekend, God showed me how easy my life is, regarding things like doing laundry in a washing machine, cleaning dishes in a dishwasher and cooking on a stove. I saw the vulnerability of this family and felt a sense of responsibility to be praying for them. It challenged me because there were times where I felt like prayer was not enough to support. I tried to strengthen my faith and for the first time in my life, I was searching for God with all of my heart.
“For my placement, I had the privilege of being in Zambia, where I had several opportunities to participate in Relationship Groups with the Care Workers. Relationship Groups are a time for the Care Workers to meet together and share their burdens with one another and hear from the word of God. These times were very powerful for me. I realised that God is key in their work and that they take power from their daily time with Him. In the loud times of worship, I felt close to God, in a way that I never had before, even though I had no idea what they were singing.
“While in Zambia, I had a significant Holy Home Visit that stood out to me. We visited an elderly man who cares for eight children and struggles with diabetes. The more questions we asked, the more problems came up; problems that I never had in my life. I felt speechless, empty and unable to even give this man a word of encouragement. Yet despite his circumstances, he was happy that I visited and thanked me for helping to care for his kids. Hearing that was overwhelming for me and I am grateful to God that I can serve with Hands at Work and see so much hope in the next generation.”
Candece _____, International Volunteer (Australia)
“Although I have only been with Hands at Work for a few months, it has been an incredible opportunity to learn and experience many new things. While we were out in the communities, we were able to get a feel for some of the challenges that people are experiencing and gain a deeper understanding of the personal struggles of the most vulnerable families and Care Workers living there. It was a time to see and understand more of Hands at Work’s vision and the reason behind why we are here doing what we do.
“Once orientation finished, I had the chance to spend four weeks in Zimbabwe and Mozambique for my placement. Despite the many challenges faced in the communities, I walked alongside some amazing African leaders who taught me a lot, with not only their words but also by their actions. One of my highlights was watching the male Care Workers interact with the children as there aren’t many positive male role models in the communities.
“Marie is a Care Worker in Matsinho Community, Mozambique, whose story really impacted me. Marie, who has been serving alongside Hands at Work for several years, has experienced many hardships, yet remains committed to caring for the most vulnerable children. In mid-March, Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique and left much devastation and destruction in her community, of which I saw firsthand while I was there. Again, she remained committed to caring and loving the children and being a source of light and hope in their lives. Her faithfulness, joy and heart for God will forever be an influence in my own life.
“Serving in Africa has been an opportunity to learn more about the importance of relationships, love and what it means to serve. Seeing the relationships between the children and their Care Workers has taught me a lot. It demonstrates that these children aren’t simply another number on the attendance register at the Care Point, but rather they are loved, cared for and known by name, just as the Bible tells us. We love because He first loved us. It has been a challenge both spiritually and emotionally. I am learning to truly appreciate what I do have, not taking it for granted. I look forward to what God has in store for the remainder of the year as I continue to grow in my walk with Christ.”