Hands U.S. recently interviewed long-term volunteer Sara (Waldvogel) Makwakwa from New York, now living in South Africa full time. Sara reflects on her calling to serve the vulnerable, her decision to join the volunteer intake and ultimately commit to serve in Africa full time. If you think you may be interested in joining a volunteer intake with Hands at Work in Africa, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.handsatwork.org/come.
When did you know you wanted to give your life to this ministry and continue to serve in Africa?
In October 2017 at Hands at Work’s annual gathering, God spoke to me when He challenged me about knowing the kids in Malawi and South Africa by name. Do I pray for them by name? Do I take their challenges personally? Do I allow things to happen to them that I wouldn’t allow to my children? Up until then, I was happy to serve and felt that I was doing enough by performing the tasks that are part of my role. But during that gathering, the Holy Spirit convicted me that that’s not enough. “I brought you into the homes of these children. I’ve told you their names so that you can speak their names in prayer. Who else prays for them by name? It might only be you.” It was at that October gathering that I realized God has entrusted these children to me.
How did your family and friends respond?
For my family, once they knew that I was assured that God had called me here, they were very supportive.
In what ways have you and your life been transformed from serving with Hands?
There’s a recognition that my life is not my own, that there’s more. This earth is not my own. We are working for something so much greater. For me, when I live far away as a missionary, I don’t exactly know where “home” is. That makes me remember that I’m actually just passing through, on earth for this time and purpose. God has given me this life to use for His glory.
What is your greatest challenge as you continue following God’s calling for you?
The greatest challenge to continue following God’s calling is also the greatest blessing. Getting involved in the lives of people who are suffering is so hard. True compassion is suffering with someone, not pitying them or trying to help them, but joining in their suffering. Because Hands makes sure we are shining the light of Christ in the darkest of places, it means the level of suffering our people face is sometimes unthinkable.
What has God taught you through this journey?
In my journey of deciding to join and serve with Hands, he has taught me “to hold my plans very loosely.” His ways are so much better than our ways. It’s a good thing to not know the future. I always wanted to have my life planned, and I felt safe having a plan, but actually, not knowing what next year holds creates a whole new type of reliance on God. When you think you know what’s coming, you’re not forced to rely on God the way that you do when you don’t know what’s coming. I am learning to be content to not know my future and just trust in God. God has taught me that I need him every day. I cannot do this without him. I am useless when I try to make a difference without him.
What would you say to those considering to serve with Hands?
My advice would be to just take the risk. If you’re considering coming for a year and you have a list of reasons not to come, a year is not that long, and it’s so worth it. All those things will be there when you get home, or God could change your life and you may decide to stay longer. Not many reasons are good enough to not do it for a year.