In the summer of 2016, Kayla Chang (now 16) went on a missions trip to Malawi through Hands at Work with a team from Grace Church of Alameda in northern California. The team was there for 10 days with the goal of “[building] relationships with the Care Workers…show them that we were there to support them, pray for them, and help in any way that we could…We hoped that the relationships we built could continue in the future when we would send more teams.” Here she recounts her mission and some of her fondest memories.
I think these trips are important because Hands and our teams act as a bridge between these vulnerable communities and the Lord. Although we aren’t doing big things like building them houses or buying them food, our support and presence help the Care Workers and orphans so much. We are showing them that there are people out there who are thinking of them, supporting them, and spreading the good news that God is always watching over them. The Lord called my family that summer to serve, and He is always working through people to go on missions like this. He is always thinking of everyone out in this world. And that’s why I think these trips are important: it shows that the Lord will always provide. It might not be in the way you think, but He keeps sending teams to Africa and working through them to bless the Care Workers and children.
Everyone you meet on the trip impacts you in some way. I can still remember names and faces and their stories. I can't even imagine how much the kids have grown since then. It was so fun playing soccer or throwing a tennis ball with all the little kids. I remember Edward, an orphan my youngest brother Tyler played with all the time. Once, I couldn't find Tyler because Edward had brought him to his house and introduced Tyler to his grandmother! I miss Edward's big and genuine smile so much and the Curious George t-shirt he always wore, too.
I remember visiting a family with four kids. The oldest sibling was a girl my age. Her mother had died when she was young and her father struggled with alcohol abuse. She told me that she felt so much pressure having to care for all her siblings. At the time, we were both only 13. Her responsibilities of taking care of her siblings were not even comparable to my chore of unloading the dishwasher.
I can think of so many more memories, but the most heartwarming moment of the trip was the day before I had to leave. It was a Friday and it was a celebration day. We played games and drew with the kids and they got a special lunch: juice, crackers, and goat meat on top of their usual cabbage and nsima (a type of cornmeal porridge). I still remember the moment; it brought me to tears. One girl whom I had gotten to know, Charlotte, stood by herself while eating her lunch. She grabbed her green cup, took a sip of her juice, and made that sound after you taste something really refreshing, like a really crisp "ahh." She smiled one of the biggest smiles I have ever seen, took another sip and my heart just dropped. I was so surprised how much a cup half filled with juice could make a little girl so happy.
I think for the first time in my life, I really realized how privileged I was in comparison to the rest of the world. I had a million more things than all these kids that I had never appreciated: a house, an education, clothes, a family who loved me, and so many more opportunities. My heart broke seeing that the houses of orphaned children were as big as my bed and their ripped and dirty clothes. They didn't even have a real bathroom or fresh water. After that trip, I thanked God for everything he had given me. I prayed in thanks more than I ever had and I prayed for the children. I truly believe that trip opened my eyes and strengthened my relationship with Christ.
To be completely honest, this trip was very hard for me. I lived without running water for 10 days and I had never experienced that before. But the people I met, the relationships I built, and the things I experienced were so worth it and I’d recommend others to go, too. You could get thrown into a world you aren't used to, and you will truly be humbled by the experience.