“Our children saw the stark difference between our comfortable lifestyle and wealth and the hardship and poverty that the people of Mcheneke Community, Malawi, live with daily. They also saw the difference in attitude between their own complaining and discontent hearts and the joyful, grateful hearts of the Care Workers and children that they met, despite their impoverished conditions.”
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.
At that point I was a Christian and was going to the Apostolic Faith Mission Church. Farai Gunhe (African Volunteer, Zimbabwe) was my youth leader, along with another lady, which is when I started hearing about Hands at Work and the work that Farai was involved with. He did invite me to join but I just didn’t think I had the gifts it took to serve the most vulnerable. However, it encouraged me when Farai kept pursuing me – he must have seen something in me.
Through serving and working with different people, I am a changed person. Not just in the communities, but in my family. I am a leader at my church because of the things that I have gone through and now people can trust me. If I was where I had been, than maybe I wouldn’t be alive, but God saved my life. That's why I also want to serve, to give life to other people.
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.
It is a prayer asking God to stir us up! As such, the words now point me to something much deeper than stirring puddings. In Hands at Work, we talk about ‘making it personal’ and fighting for the children of our communities as if they were our own. But it is so easy for our hearts to become indifferent or worse still, hardened, to the injustice and pain we see around us.
Through serving with Hands at Work, I have learned what it means to forgive. A few years ago, I felt the Holy Spirit telling me to forgive my auntie and pray a prayer of forgiveness. I was able to talk with her and release the bitterness and bondage that I had in my heart. Afterwards I felt joy and a new sense of connection with her.
When I first came to Africa, I think that I subconsciously associated the word ‘brokenness’ with weakness. I was fearful of sharing the broken areas of my heart because I was embarrassed by my past and ultimately feared rejection and judgement. I struggled to share because I didn’t fully understand and recognise the depth to which the brokenness and pain in my heart had spilled over into many different areas of my life.
“I find that often people think of discipleship as something that needs to be taught in a course but from what I can see in the Bible and from personal experience, discipleship is being with people and walking through life with them. If I think back to the people who have discipled me, I think about the people who have spent time with me and have been a part of my life. It is the act of being together.”
Jesus was born to die and, in doing that, won for me a life that He desires to be lived in all its fullness. Easter also helps me to surrender myself afresh to living a life that honours Christ and seeks to serve those around me. For me, it’s a time of thankfulness, self-reflection and recommitment.