We had an awesome time at Urbana these last couple of days. I was really inspired by the 16,000 youth that were willing to give up their holidays and spend time worshiping, and trying to discern what God has planned for their lives! If you stopped by our booth, thank you! If you have questions be sure to check out the rest of the website, or email me at Jed@us.handsatwork.org.
George will be speaking Sunday night, May 6th, 6 PM at the Immanueal Baptist Church, 6009 Pershing BLVD Kenosha, WI.
I had the privilege of going on a mission trip to South Africa with a team from Wellspring Church in 2007. I had seen my share of human pain, suffering, and disease during my career as a head and neck surgeon. So I thought I would be prepared for anything I might come across while in Africa. I was mistaken.
The trip began with a visit to an HIV clinic. Before I begin to describe what I saw there, I’d like to explain the concept of an AIDS defining illness. There is a short list of diseases, which include mostly rare tumors and infections that only patients in the late stages of AIDS develop. If a patient manifests any one of the diseases on this list, they are defined as having “full blown AIDS”. I saw three patients with an AIDS defining illness on the first morning of my visit to the HIV clinic. To put this in perspective, I have seen only two patients with an AIDS defining illness during my thirteen years in medicine (9 years prior to the trip and 4 years after); I saw three cases in just one morning in South Africa. The AIDS epidemic in Africa was astonishing to witness even for a health care worker.
The next part of our trip was spent visiting the different townships where we saw first hand the devastation this disease had caused on entire communities. A common theme was to see grandmothers taking care of their grandchildren after one or both parents had died of AIDS or other diseases. In the worst cases, the oldest children would head up their household if no other family members were available. Poverty, hunger, and a lack of educational opportunities compounded the problems created by a broken family support structure.
As I paint this portrait of life in an AIDS afflicted Africa, the situation may have seemed hopeless, but it was not. It was actually hope FULL. Hope abounded because God’s love for the orphans and widows was clear and evident. You could see God’s love in the way the children were able to smile and laugh in spite of their circumstances. You could see His love in the resilience and strength of the oldest children when they stepped up to take care of their younger siblings. You could see God’s love in the Hands care workers who devoted their lives to looking after these orphans. The evidence of God’s love for them was palpable and I took great comfort in knowing He had this same love for me.
I learned many things on this trip but there are two lessons that will stay with me forever. First, I saw myself in these orphans. I thought this is how God must have seen me before I came to faith. I was an orphan living in spiritual poverty without hope for a better future. Then God came along and chose to love me, plucking me out of a hopeless situation, laying hold of my life, and claiming me as His own. We’ve all come from such a place. When you see such a graphic, visual illustration of the depths from which God has saved you, you can’t help but be changed by that. The second lesson was realizing how immeasurably God had blessed me. I had Christian parents who faithfully raised me from childhood rooted in His Word. I had a loving wife and healthy kids. I had a satisfying career that happened to provide a comfortable living for our family. I was blessed by any measure. But I was compelled to carefully examine my heart to see if I had been living my life as if I had been entitled to His blessings or entrusted with them. I felt deeply convicted that I needed to be a better steward of the things God had given me. On our last night, I spoke with George Snyman (founder of Hands at Work) and promised him, and most importantly our Lord, that I would never forget the lessons I had learned and that I would be vocal about the things I had seen in Africa.
After the trip, we moved down to Los Angeles to start a new job. Fast forward three years to 2010. By this time we had been at our new church in LA for 2 years. It was always my hope that George could eventually come speak at our new church but unfortunately, due to logistical reasons, this did not come to pass. However, I wasn’t ready to give up on the idea of George speaking in my hometown, so I arranged for George to speak at my house during a dinner gathering for friends. I knew that it would be a blessed experience for them to hear what God was doing through Hands but I also hoped that a number of them would feel led to help financially support the orphans. I figured if 7 or 8 of the families contributed together, that we could support a village of 50 children. The message God gave through George that night spoke deeply to everyone in attendance. One of my friends, Sam Kim, was so moved that he recruited some of his own friends to donate with us. Before I knew it, the hope of supporting one village became the reality of supporting two. For the last nine months, we have been supporting just over 100 orphans in Ilage, Nigeria. This whole experience has taught me a lesson I have learned repeatedly over my life and that is, if you show a little faithfulness in responding to God's call over your life, He will exceed your expectations.
I would like to leave you with one final thought. If you have never been to Africa, I would encourage you to go and see what the Lord is doing there. I promise that your experiences there will change the way you think about what it means for God to love someone. And quite frankly, I’m certain that in the process, it will change your life too.
If you would like more information about how you can go on a team or as an individual click here.
In 2008, Azeez Aina (age 7) and Bilikisu (age 5) lost their father in a motor vehicle accident in Lagos, Nigeria. Prior to his death, the father’s income provided the girls with housing, schooling, and health care. Since his death, their mother has had difficulty caring for both girls and her 2 year old son. Without her husband or support from relatives or in-laws, she could no longer afford to provide the same level of care for the children. Aina stopped attending school because her mother could no longer pay for the tuition.
After her husband’s funeral, Aina and Bilikisu’s mother relocated to Ilaje community to find more affordable housing. There, she found a one-room house for herself and three children as well as a menial job cooking and cleaning for a street food vendor. She has worked long 12-hour days between 6 AM and 6 PM. Although she was able to bring her 2 year old son to work, her young daughters were left alone at home until she returned from work to care for and feed them.
Thanks to the support of a group of Christians in the Los Angeles, California area, Hands at Work has been partnering with the Eagle Foundation CBO to provide basic health care services, education, and a daily hot meal to orphans and vulnerable children in Ilaje. Aina and Bilikisu’s mother learned about Eagle Foundation CBO from another woman who cares for the most vulnerable children in Ilaje community. She brought the two girls to the school to see if they could receive basic education there.
The two girls were taken in by the community school in February 2011 and are happy and thriving in their new school environment. Aina is in Basic 1 and Bilikisu is in Kindergarten 2. Since joining the school, the children have received uniforms and writing materials as part of their education. They also receive basic health care including a de-worming program in May 2011 given to all the children in the community school. They no longer have to wait for their mother to come home from work each day to be fed as each child is given one meal per day at the community school. In addition to providing education and meeting basic physical needs, a care worker from Eagle Foundation CBO also provides support and stability to the family. The care worker is establishing a nurturing and trusting relationship with the children by helping with homework assignments and making home visits while their mother is away at work.
Would you like to get involved and help support a community? Find out more here.
Siphwe is 6 years old. She was living in the capital city of Zambia, Lusaka, when her parents passed away and she was abruptly uprooted and moved 300 km to live with her elderly grandmother in the small, rural village called Susu. Siphwe's grandmother is doing the best she can, but she is very tired, and her only source of income is the small amount of money that comes from crops she can sell from her garden. Siphwe sleeps on the floor at home with one blanket and often receives very little food at home.
But Siphwe's life is changing, because she is now visited regularly by Christopher, a care worker for a small grassroots organization called Susu Home-based Care. Christopher has been a consistent parental influence and encouragement for Siphwe. He is someone who she can trust, who loves and supports her. Christopher ensures that Siphwe is consistently attending the local school here she receives a healthy meal. This consistent food has been a huge blessing to Siphwe, as she now has the energy to walk to and from her home, to focus in school, and to help her grandmother with household chores. Siphwe still has many challenges in her life, but Christopher and the other care workers for Susu Home-based Care believe that the longer she is in their care and a part of this program, the more she will grow into a healthy, happy young girl.
"No longer will the poor be nameless." -Psalm 9:18
Thanks to generous American donors like Grace Church in Racine, Wisconsin, the Ten Talents Foundation, Nurses for Africa, and individuals like you, Hands at Work is able to support the village of Susu through Christian volunteers who have big dreams for their community. If you're interested in supporting a a child like Siphwe through Hands at Work, click GIVE NOW. Tell Siphwe's story. Advocate on her behalf. Give a name to the nameless. If we can help you, let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
A couple of weeks ago Lauren Lee and I had the opportunity to attend Hands at Work in Africa’s Regional Celebration in Zambia. Each year these celebrations are a time of gathering together Hands at Work international volunteers and the community-based partners from all over Africa to encourage each other and celebrate all that God is doing throughout the global Hands at Work Family. This year, from April 13-16, Hands had its biggest Celebration ever in Zambia with nearly 200 representatives from over 40 communities in Africa as well as representatives from Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States.
The theme of the Celebrations this year was, “Going Deeper.” The vision of Hands at Work is the local church in Africa effectively caring for the orphaned, widowed and the dying and unified in this mission with the church outside Africa. All of the different sessions focused on Going Deeper in relationship to make this vision become a reality. The celebration kicked off with a message from Hands at Work founder George Snyman who focused on Going Deeper in our relationship with Christ. He asked the question, “Why do you do what you do?” The motivation for caring for the orphaned, widowed and dying should come out of a deep love for Christ, a thankful spirit for what He has done for us, and a willingness to share that sacrificial love with others through service.
An excerpt of Ephesians 4 was given to everyone at the start of the Celebrations to read. I think it speaks directly to the purpose of these regional celebrations.
"I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received ...speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."
On the last day of the celebration before the official program started a large group of individuals gathered in the morning to sing songs together. It was just an amazing time. Here is a video of one of my favorite songs, “Ananipenda,” which translates to, "He loves me."
“Ilary is smiling again.” In October and November of 2010, George Snyman shared with churches and groups all over the Midwest the joy that filled his heart when he heard those words. Ilary, a Mozambiquan refugee in South Africa, used to wake up each morning not knowing if and how she would eat that day, and her haunted gaze used to keep George, founder and CEO of Hands at Work, awake at night. But Ilary’s story, which George shared often on his recent tour of the U.S., is a story of hope, thanks to God’s grace and the home-based care volunteers in Ilary’s community.
Some highlights of George’s tour in the U.S. included:
- Celebrating with old friends at Grace Church in Racine, Wisconsin, and sharing with them the latest on the impact their church has made in rural Susu, Zambia
- Worshipping God with The Spark in Kenosha, Wisconsin
- Radio interviews with Milwaukee Public Radio and Chicago Public Radio
- Praying for Daniel and the entire village of Baraka, Zambia, with supporters in Chicago
- Sharing the story of George’s adopted daughter Nikiwe at Salem Baptist Academy in Chicago
- Making new friends and sharing dinner with old ones at Bethlehem Bapist Chruch in Minneapolis
- Celebrating a cold, snowy Thanksgiving in Minnesota
- Speaking at a new church located in Garden Grove, CA, called Cornerstone.
- Sharing dinner with advocates Stephen and Amy Jo, who are committed with their friends to raising support for orphaned and vulnerable children in Ilaje, Nigeria
- Stopping finally in Puerto Rico, where advocates Isa Velez, Diane and Dolores Rodriguez are busy translating Hands materials into Spanish in order to spread the word about Hands in their country
Thank you all for your prayers and support for George’s trip! Plans for 2011 are already underway. If you are interested in getting involved with George’s next trip to the U.S., please email email@example.com.
Chicago supporters praying for Baracka, Zambia, and for George
George on the chilly waterfront of Lake Michigan with Jed and Pam Heubner
Sharing about Africa with students from New Trier High School in Glendale, Illinois
George Snyman's six-week tour is underway. He will spending time in the UK and Canada before visiting the USA. Spending nearly three weeks in the country, he will be speaking in Wisconsin, Illinois and Minneapolis from 3 to 23 November.
George is known for being an encouraging and challenging speaker. He will not only be talking about Hands at Work, but also about our mandate as Christians to respond to poverty. Not to be missed!
Date Wednesday, 3 November
Venue University of Wisconsin-Madison
"This is not OK"
AIDS is the greatest orphan maker of our time. If we really do want justice we must wake up... Individuals can change the world! Join K Love and live worship by The Spark as George Snyman speaks about his life's work. Download the flyer.
Date Thursday, 4 November
Venue Grace in Racine, 3626 Highway 31, Racine, WI
Also see George at Grace in Racine on Sunday!
"This is not OK"
Come, listen to The Spark and hear George Snyman speak about his life's work caring and advocating for the most vulnerable, destitute and orphaned victims of AIDS in Africa. Download the flyer.
Date Friday, 5 November
Venue Glenview Community Church, 1000 Elm Street, Glenview, IL
Date Sunday, 21 November
Venue Cornerstone Community Church, Orange County
Time Sunday services 09:00am and 11:00am
George will also be interviewed on radio! Tune in:
Date Monday, 1 November
Radio station George will be interviewed by Frank Carmichael on Happenings Radio AM1050 WLIP
Date Tuesday, 2 November
Radio station Milwaukee Public Radio
Date Wednesday, 3 November
Time 10:00 – 11:00am
Radio station Live interview via telephone with Nancy Turner from Moody Bible Radio
Heard on 90.1 FM Chicago and AM 1110 Chicago
Date Friday, 5 November
Radio station Interviewed by James McDonald for Worldview on Chicago Public Radio