These are the responses of the Sunbury Baptist Church team, Australia, when asked to describe their team trip to South Africa in one word or sentence. God truly was a faithful Father and showed the team His heart for the most vulnerable. They returned with impacting stories and life-changing perspectives.
Today, the first team from Australia will be heading to South Africa. Phil and Rachel McLaughlin are leading a team from Melbourne, leaving June 29, and about a week later, Leyton Wood and Tamara McLaughlin will be leading a team from Sydney to South Africa. As these two groups from Australia head across to South Africa, we encourage you to keep them daily in your prayers. We are expectant that God will greatly bless both teams and the communities they visit!
At Hands at Work, we are continually blessed by international teams who travel to Africa to be a part of God’s work among the most vulnerable people. We strive to embrace our short term teams as not guests, but family. Our desire is they will not stand on the outside and look in, but be on the ground, confronted by God’s heart for those who suffer, and challenged to serve with the love of Jesus. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together – 1 Corinthians 12:26
One way the international church unites with the local church in bringing life to our children is through week-long camps. “We loved playing, having lessons, learning about God’s light, and having good food.” – Jenepher, 14 and Ruth 12, sisters from Kalende community. “They learned about mercy, obedience, and how there is God’s light all the time” – Dorothy, their Care Worker
Suzette serves as a volunteer with the Hands at Work team in the United States. In 2013 she came with her husband, Abe, to Africa to visit Hands for the first time, and this year they are bringing a team from their church. Here she tells us her own personal journey and the journey of her team, as they prepare to come.
For the past two months, a group of individuals have come together to experience a short term volunteer opportunity offered by Hands at Work. They have come to dive deeper into who we are as well as see and understand what we do in some of the most vulnerable communities across three of the eight countries we work in.
Tuesday December 10, 2013
Looking back at 2013 for Hands at Work on the very day of Nelson Mandela’s funeral is very emotional and yet a rewarding experience for me as an African and a South African. Today I am so proud to belong to the global Hands at Work family fighting injustice by reaching out to the most vulnerable children in Africa.
I see some characteristics in Mandela’s life that we hold dear to in the Hands family. He had an amazing ability to cross cultural barriers. His whole life reflected sacrificial giving. Not only did he spend most of his adult life in prison, but once he was released he continued to live a sacrificial lifestyle. During his time as President of South Africa he gave his full salary every month towards those in poverty. After he completed his career as a politician he started the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. He never stopped living a life of giving! He believed in and encouraged others all the time that an individual can make a difference in this world. Each one should just do what he or she can do.
In the beginning of 2013, Hands at Work leaders across Africa came together in Zambia. After a time of prayer and deep introspection, a renewed commitment was made to accept full responsibility for Hands and the vision we believe God gave us to live out. Part of our time together was living in one of the poorest communities with the children and grandmothers we care for. It was a time of deep impact and out of it we developed Maranatha Workshops. Maranatha means, “Come Lord”. These workshops are an invitation for Jesus to come and reveal His Father's heart to the Care Worker. In this time, Care Workers begin to recognise the wounds that are deep within themselves. That due to the wounds they carry, they have often wounded others out of that pain. Now the realisation is being awakened to the One true healer. The One who came to pour His life into their hearts and bring restoration to their lives. The workshops have clarified the different role players in the Hands model and how we can support and encourage each other to reach the children and their Care Workers in the best possible way. Our commitment is to do this workshop in every one of our communities before the end of June 2014. As we end 2013 we have already reached many communities in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. The stories from the workshops are encouraging and we have discovered just how much pain and brokenness exists within the communities.
A highlight this year was to see how individuals and families not only visited us in Africa, but how they went home and mobilised their international communities to adopt the African communities they visited on the ground. We also saw short-term volunteers return home and then bring teams to Africa. They refused to just carry on living their lives as they had before coming to Africa. They became advocates among their circles of influence. I stayed in the homes of families all over the world where they would show me photos of our children in Africa and tell me those children’s names. They were praying for them every day!
In 2013 we had our first advocacy day in Chicago and friends of Hands came from all over the US to join us. A number of people with professional careers have cut back their working hours so they can volunteer their time to support Hands. Their skill and time will make such a difference in the countries where they live, and for us in Africa this is such an encouragement to see people accepting our vision with us and committing themselves to it.
As I mentioned, this is the day of Mandela’s funeral. But this is also the day when Carolyn and I celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. Early this morning, as we prayed together we had such a sense of overwhelming gratefulness. God is so good to us! He kept us together, He provided for our daily needs, He blessed us with children, grandchildren, and many amazing friends. He gave us a heart and dream to serve others. He showed us His heart! We raise an Ebenezer today declaring loud and clear that we serve a great and faithful God. Right from the start of our marriage, Carolyn and I agreed what our core values would be and we never negotiated away from them. We held to Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
We want to give that verse to everyone who is part of the Hands family and who believes in the dream of a better life for those we are serving. Hold to a dream bigger than yourself, commit to core values, and be held accountable. Today we stand as living testimonies that once you start to live for others and not yourself, you will always look back and say, “I received undeserving favor!”
The vision of Hands at Work is to see the local Church in Africa effectively caring for the most vulnerable, and unified in this mission with the Church outside Africa. The second part is just as vital as the first. Outside of Africa, support comes from churches, volunteers, advocates, prayer warriors, businesses and more. When people give, and give sacrificially, to the most vulnerable children in Africa, there is transformation happening on both sides: the giver and the receiver. And when people understand that they are blessed to be a blessing, they give freely.
A Church Story
Daphne with a Care Worker in Oshoek, South AfricaIn Australia, Daphne has been a friend of Hands for over 10 years. She has supported our work and been a voice for the children of Africa in her community, even when she was often the sole voice. But her endurance has been honoured by God. Daphne came to Africa to serve with Hands on the Short Team Service Team in July 2013. When she returned to her church in Perth, and having invited George Snyman to speak to her congregation, they began to support a community. Heart City Church is now supporting 25 children in Welverdiend, South Africa, with the hope to increase this number even further in the future. Heart City Church joins the Sunbury group, also from Australia, who support a further 75 children in Welverdiend at Pfunani Community Based Organisation. Heart City Church is now hoping to send their first team in September 2014 to experience Africa as Daphne has. We praise God for her dedication and His work in the hearts of so many people in Australia.
A Business Story
We are often inspired by how one person’s story of Africa can create a ripple effect. In the US, Lauren Lee, who works as part of the Hands US International Office, shared her passion for the children of Africa with her friend Bill. Bill works for Microsoft and this company has a program where they will potentially match funding for charities. Lauren encouraged Bill to apply to this matching program and his application was successful! Bill contributed 5,000 USD and Microsoft matched this funding, allowing 10,000 USD to be donated to Hands at Work, specifically to the Malawi Service Centre! This support is an amazing example of how we can each use our influence and voice to advocate for the most vulnerable children.
An Advocate Story
Jacob Erick with new friends in AfricaIn September 2010, Todd and Katie Wells served in the Democratic Republic of Congo for 7 months, living with Pastor Erick, our Hands at Work Congolese leader. As they returned to Canada, they knew their hearts would never be the same. When they gave birth to their son, they named him Jacob Erick, after the pastor whose life had inspired them. They also decided to raise funds for the community of Kitabataba in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where children were receiving home visits from Care Workers, but had no food security, access to education, or basic health care. In the beginning it was quite difficult. People who had not been to Africa did not understand the level of urgency. But in His mighty faithfulness, God gave Todd and Katie the strength to persevere, and they secured support for 50 children. In September 2013, Todd and Katie returned to the Congo and visited Kitabataba where they witnessed the transformation that has happened over the past couple of years. They could see the part that their support had played, but what impacted them more deeply was seeing the servant hearts of the Care Workers who had become like parents to the 50 children of Nyota Community Based Organisation. They could see Erick’s influence everywhere as the Care Workers displayed his same compassion and love. Also, Erick had the opportunity to meet baby Jacob in Zambia for the first time! Todd and Katie and their friends and family are now increasing the number of children they support to 75 children. This commitment requires sacrifice, but it is a sacrifice that is building God’s kingdom.
As the lives of the children we give to are changed, our own hearts experience a deeper understanding of how God has given everything to us. He gave us His son. “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)
This Christmas, may we give thanks with a grateful heart.
A group of individuals in Australia, led by the compassionate McLaughlin family, seek to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable children in South Africa, and to the Care Workers who serve so sacrificially each day to build for a positive future for their community. By partnering with communities like Welverdiend, in Bushbuck Ridge, this group has seen transformation taking place in many lives. Here is just one story:
In 2009, 6 young children were devastated by the loss of their parents. The eldest girl, Busie, 15, took responsibility for their mentally challenged and mute brother, Robert, and an uncle offered to take in the four youngest siblings: Segney, Gertrude, Ronald, and Karimo. It wasn’t long before the children realized they were not going to experience the care and provision they had anticipated from their uncle. Their uncle began stealing the small government orphan grant being given to the four orphaned children. On many nights, the children went to bed without food and often went to school without adequate clothes. One by one, the children fled from their uncle to their old home.
In 2011, Busie became pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl. With no one to help Busie raise her daughter and siblings, and with repeated years of failing at school, Busie dropped out in Grade 8. Motivation to continue attending dwindled and the hope for a brighter future became bleak. Housework and providing meals for the family became overwhelming. The growing instability in this family’s life started to affect the other children’s school work and their teachers became concerned. Aware that the family was in need of support, the teachers asked Care Workers at Pfunani Community Based Organisation to help.
Ester, a Pfunani Care Worker began to visit the family and look for ways to support them. She helped the children to apply for a social grant which they are now receiving. Each morning, Care Workers visit the family home on their way to the Care Point to ensure porridge is cooked for Robert. During other home visits, Ester helps to ensure the house is clean, laundry is washed, and meals are cooked. Although Busie still struggles with feelings of depression, the family are discovering a new reality of hope. Not only are they fed physically, with a nutritious meal each day at the Care Point, but also spiritually and emotionally. They enjoy interacting with other children at the Care Point and attend weekly lessons led by their older peers, where issues such as self-esteem, healthy relationships, and sexual education are discussed.
Ester desires to continue helping Busie and her family to experience brighter days, to understand that they are loved and embraced as family.
The McLaughlin family and friends desired to make their partnership with Pfunani Community Based Organisation personal. They wanted it to go beyond just the sending of funds. This group are getting to know the Care Workers and children by name, and they look for creative and meaningful ways to impact their lives and the community. In 2013, they formed a team and travelled to South Africa to spend time with the people they had grown to love. During their time in the community, they worked to make the Pfunani Care Point a safe, secure and fun place for the children and Care Workers to meet.
Children like Busie and her siblings, who have battled with so much loss and rejection, now find a place of acceptance and value. The McLaughlin family and friends work closely with Hands at Work to make a positive impact in the lives of these vulnerable children. And through it, they have discovered a new reality of hope for the children and Care Workers they know by name.
Have you considered sending a team to visit Hands at Work, or joining other individuals who desire to bring hope to the most vulnerable? Find out how you could get involved with Hands at Work by sending a group of passionate people to serve on a short-term team. No skills are required, just a commitment to serve and a desire to care.
To find out more, contact your local Hands at Work office:
For other countries please contact email@example.com
Today I want to do something dangerous. I want to try to define short-term missions, or teams coming to visit Hands. Why are we doing it? What does it actually mean? Maybe I should just say what it does not mean. It's not a missional experience that we are trying to create, or a sort of short-term outreach that is good for a team to go on as an experience and say "I can tick the box of being in Africa". Rather it's a sacrificial, well planned commitment in friendship through servanthood. It is ongoing, bringing healing and maturity and encouragement to both those going and those receiving. Those going are saying, “Because I understand that love is not expressed in words but in deeds.” Those receiving are saying "I am blessed because I am not forgotten. I'm known by name and I have hope. Many people are coming here to help me, encourage me, and they receive healing themselves."
Initially when we come to Africa it is difficult for us to understand that “me” and “my time” are actually the best gift I could give Africa. Me, as a person, and my time. It's so hard for us to believe this is really the best we can give when meeting all the amazing people in Africa and experience the pain and suffering in the villages where we work.
I was recently told a story about one of our Care Workers in one of the communities where we work. I was told how the words of Jesus in Matthew 25 came alive to her. The words, "I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. Whenever you give even a cup of water to one of these little ones …" It revolutionized her whole life and the way she cared. She confessed that now when she gets up in the morning she gets up and she looks for opportunities to have an impact. She looks for opportunities to reach out, even if it is only a cup of water to one of the most vulnerable children. It went further. One night, late, there was somebody knocking at the door. Initially she thought she could never open it up and put herself at risk. Again the scripture came to her. What if it is somebody that you could help, somebody that is in need? She opened the door and it was a vulnerable and orphaned girl from one of our communities who was kicked out of the house where she stayed. She had nowhere to go that night. This young lady who had this wonderful revelation of the word of God, took her into her house and she kept her there. In the morning she went to the hut where this young girl was staying. She dealt with the dispute that there was and why she wasn't welcome there anymore. She said it changed everything between her and this girl. This girl now trusted her at such a deep level. There was such a strong bond between the two of them that it gave her a beautiful opportunity to become deeply involved in her life.
Yes. These are stories that we hear at Hands at Work very often. It's beautiful. Of course we all know these stories are contagious. We've seen through the years that relationships are the core ingredients that change everything. We see people coming together from different cultures, different educational backgrounds, different thinking. And as they knit their hearts together in the dusty roads in Africa, and they meet the children, there's something beautiful and lasting in both their lives.
A part of the Hands Vision has always been that we want to serve the body of Christ. We believe in the body. We believe in the church. We especially believe in the young people coming to Africa and sending them back to take their rightful place as upcoming leaders in their communities and churches. The volunteers who have been with us from years ago, and a bit more recently, I have met on my journeys when I go to their countries and speak. Some of them come back to Hands and they share their lives with us. Their voices become tender and soft when they start sharing how grateful they are. They don't take things for granted anymore. They came to understand and ask “What is the difference between me and the people in Africa?” That's a humbling experience. It's also liberating. It sets you free and gives you a purpose to live a life that's continually blessing people around you, not just in Africa, but even in their own community. You are compelled to get involved in the lives of broken people around you.
I was recently in Australia with one of our church partners who has been with us for more than 10 years. The fire is still burning so high in that church. I asked the pastor, “How do you do this? How do you keep the flame alive? You are so compassionate about Africa. Every year teams are coming. Your involvement is amazing. Young people come to serve. It's incredible and it doesn't slow down its actually growing.” The pastor looked at me at that moment and very clearly said to me, "George, we are not good for Africa. Africa is good for us. Africa's impact in our church is so big. All of us know that it has played a huge defining role in helping us grow to maturity - to go and see and to go and learn - going to meet people by name. When they come back it brings purpose, it brings maturity, and it brings life."
Missions don’t exist because there's a church. Churches exist because there are missions and because all of us live to worship our Father and to make His name known. What an incredible privilege to do that in the place where the pain and brokenness and the suffering is at its worst. Surely, surely that is getting very close to our Father.
Hands at Work’s vision is to see the local Church in Africa effectively caring for the dying, orphaned and widowed, and unified in this mission with the Church outside Africa.
Greenfinch Church in Ipswich, UK has been partnering with Hands at Work for four years. Chris Bedford, the pastor of Greenfinch, shares his story about a special young boy who broke his heart and transformed his life – and that of his church.
“I guess there are just a few moments in life when something strikes you so hard that you feel totally powerless and useless.
Back in 2011, on our second day of home visits in the community of Chilabula, the harsh realities of everyday Zambian life hit me like a runaway freight train.
Several homes had been visited the previous day and already it was clearly noticeable was that there was a distinct lack of young men everywhere we went. All the families visited were led by women and the 20 to 45 year old men were simply missing. There was talk about how many had been lost to illness (no-one ever mentioned “HIV”). It had the potential to be overwhelmingly sad and yet somehow, it didn’t hit home too hard.
But then it happened. Having walked quite some way through the bush, we arrived at a clearing where a typical African house was located - straw roof, mud walls, surrounded by a sandy, barren area. On the ground lay an older man, unkempt and distinct, wearing a huge thick coat despite us sweltering in the 33 degree heat. He sat up but wasn’t for talking much. This old grandfather had been left to bring up four children, despite his struggle to even look after himself. His two youngest children; Chatty, 3, and Cosmas, 6, where adopted by the Chilabula Community Based Organisation. The children were not at home, so their Care Worker set off to find them. Soon, the two boys came out of the bushes into the clearing. That same morning we had played with kids who looked just the same as these children - no shoes, ragged clothes, but who played with great joy and gusto and huge smiles. However, these two were different - shoulders slumped under deadpan faces. They sat down and we tried to engage them in a game. Eventually, there was the merest flicker of a smile from Cosmas - no more than a flicker - and yet enough to stir hope in me for him. Chatty, however, was a different story. His face never changed. It was sullen, fearful and confused. I feared that there was nothing that would make him smile.
Then the harsh truth emerged. His mother had died just three months previously, leaving him with his three older siblings and a grandfather. How does a child so young even begin to comprehend where his mother is, or who will take care of him, or where his next meal is coming from? Perhaps even worse than this, where does he get hugs from and who kisses him goodnight?
This one child, Chatty, broke my heart.
Can we stand by and simply watch this happen? As Matt Redman wrote “there must be more than this”.
Mark 9:37 (Jesus speaking): “Whoever embraces one of these children as I do embraces me, and far more than me – God who sent me.” (The Message)
I walked away from that situation and for over two years, this little child haunted my thoughts. Why didn’t I embrace the boy? Why didn’t I just grab him and hug him? Has my own culture knocked out of me the sense to love a lonely child? Why didn’t I try harder with him? What made me sit around and simply watch?
Now in 2013, we went back to the rural village of Chilabula. We arrived at a house that I did not immediately recognize, but Burton, a local Care Worker told me that it was Chatty’s house. I was immediately both excited, and apprehensive. This time, however, I was determined not to miss the opportunity to move beyond just seeing him. I would embrace him.
We walked up to the house and I spotted Chatty, sat on the floor with his twenty year old big sister, who is also looking after her own child. This time, Chatty seemed more comfortable to visit with us.
Chatty still looks a little serious, even sullen, but things are definitely different now. Just like many other Zambian boys, he was happy to play with us and showed us his plastic bag ball, neatly banded together. Burton spoke to Chatty and asked him “Do you remember this man” at which he nodded his head in affirmation. I was blown away that he could remember me. But why should he? We did nothing out of the ordinary to help last time, and yet he remembered.
I tried to do what Dads do and I put my arm around him and tried to make him smile. It worked, and suddenly everything made a little more sense and felt worthwhile. Of course, this child was depressed and confused two years previously when his mother had so recently passed away, but today, we could see change in his life. The love, support and care that Burton and the local Care Workers have shown Chatty, along with the support of his older sister have transformed this little boy. Chatty still has a long way to go in his life and it takes a bit of time to see a smile, but the life in him is slowly emerging.
This year, Chatty broke my heart once again, but not in a hopeless, despairing way. He makes me cry, not because I do not know what to do but because I see hope in the eyes of this child and because I see love being poured into his life. I see that I can be part of making a difference for one boy, living 5000 miles away on the other side of the world.”
Chris and his church consider the community of Chilabula as part of their family, congregation and ministry. Every week, they pray for the community and the children they know by name and they look forward to the next opportunity to visit them.
To find out how you and your church can be a part of reaching vulnerable children across Africa, contact your local Hands at Work office.
For other countries please contact firstname.lastname@example.org