By Stephen Jo
In 2007, I had an opportunity to join a missions team to Africa with my church. I was excited about the trip but also had reservations about going because it would mean leaving my wife alone to care for a toddler and newborn for two weeks. In one of her many acts of grace toward me in our marriage, Amy encouraged me to go so I went on my first trip to South Africa through Hands at Work that July. I knew the experience would change me but I didn’t anticipate how profoundly it would affect my family in the coming years.
I returned from that first trip committed to caring for the African orphan and widow on a deeper level. I gathered a group of friends to hear George Snyman speak during one of his U.S. visits. This led to supporting orphans in a poor Nigerian township. In time, I joined the Hands U.S. Board and visited two more African countries, Nigeria and Malawi. As my children grew, stories and photos of orphans and widows I had met along my travels were shared frequently in our home. These stories helped shape two foundational truths for my children; much of the world does not live as we do and God gives much joy in a life poured out by serving others.
In July 2018, my family would have their first chance to put a face and place to all the stories I had shared with them over the years. They would join me as I led a medical team from Wellspring Church to Mcheneke, a village in Malawi our church had supported for years. My kids, Haley and Matthew, were now 13 and 11. Our team would provide medical care to 250 orphans and Care Workers. It was a pleasure to see my kids help run the mobile clinic and play with the orphans like they would with their friends at home.
We were humbled by the Mcheneke orphans who smiled amid trying circumstances and the Care Workers who tirelessly looked after them. This is a common theme seen across all villages that Hands serves and it never gets old to witness it. But the most poignant lesson on this trip was gleaned through my children. On our final day in Malawi, Haley shared that she sometimes had doubts about God’s existence but the week’s experiences proved to her that God was indeed real. When asked why, she said it was because she could clearly see Jesus in the lives of the Care Workers and orphans. I was stunned. While many have difficulty seeing God in the poorest places of our globe, Haley could see God’s active and abiding presence in the care of the orphan and widow. It was apparent that God was allowing my children to see their time in Africa through the eyes of faith. I left Malawi thanking God for the lessons taught to us by the orphans, widows and Care Workers, and praying that the fruits of those lessons would be evident in my family for many years to come.