Pam Heubner, from Minnesota, first encountered Hands at Work through her son and daughter-in-law who were volunteering with the organization via the Peace Corps. Following her exposure to the transformative work, Pam responded to an urge to further her involvement. Read below as she shares her story.
By Jungjoo Pak
“MOOOOOMMY~.” My days often start with my almost three-year-old son hollering for me to come and get him out of his crib. Who needs an alarm clock when you’ve got young kids eager to start the day? Most of my days are spent running after my two very energetic boys (Owen who’s almost three and Oliver who just turned one), cooking meals after meals and wiping the floor countless times. Faces and names of the precious children I met in Africa on my last trip in 2007 often seem so distant and irrelevant to my hectic day-to-day life. I know this about myself—my tendency to be so self absorbed and caught up in my own world. That’s why I am so grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to volunteer with Hands U.S. office for the past several years. More than my small contribution to Hands, I really do receive so much more by staying connected through my involvement. Every story I read from the different communities adopted by Hands reminds me of the stark reality I saw, touched and felt back in 2007.
How can I ever forget a precious little girl named Thandazile who fell asleep to my “amazing grace” lullaby with tears rolling down her small cheeks as she drifted into sleep? She couldn’t have been more than two at the time. Yet when a bus came to pick her up from a Hands care center to take her back home at the end of the day, she just got in line and walked up to find herself a seat in the bus. Her independence at such a young age was a necessity for survival. The image of this little toddler walking up to that bus is still so vivid in my memory. Now with children of my own, these memories dig even deeper into my heart.
It does seem so overwhelming to think about all the orphaned children in Africa who are desperately in need, both physically and spiritually. But I am so encouraged by Hands’ focus on reaching one child at a time. One of the songs that spoke to me so deeply during my trip to Africa was a song called “He knows my name.” This song talks about how our heavenly father knows every child’s name. Though often lost in a seemingly insurmountable “number” of orphaned children in Africa, every child is known by God! This is the approach I’ve been trying to take—trying to be faithful with the opportunities God is giving us in reaching and supporting the most vulnerable children in Africa one child at a time.
When it came time to plan for my younger son’s first birthday, which tends to be a pretty big deal in my culture, I had a vague desire to somehow use the party to remember and support many precious little children in Africa as we celebrate my precious little son’s first year of life. At around the same time, I became aware of a small community in South Africa called Oshoek. This community had been in relationship with Hands for a few years and infrastructure has been put in place to bring in practical help (such as providing one nutritious meal a day for the most vulnerable orphans in the community). When I found out about Oshoek, I wanted to connect my son’s first birthday to the lives of children in Oshoek. We sent out invitations to our family, friends and co-workers along with a note that asked our guests to consider bringing a donation for Oshoek instead of a gift for Oliver.
The party was held at a local park on a beautiful Saturday morning with 80+ guests. Along with cupcakes and a popcorn bar, I put together and displayed a poster of Oshoek that included a brief community profile along with pictures of the community and its people. Through the party we were able to raise $855. I was overwhelmed by the generous response of our guests. I am reminded through this that there really is no village/people too remote or too small for God. I know that it is ultimately the Lord who caused us to come to know and remember Oshoek.
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.
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
Many kids spend their summers playing sports, hanging out with friends, and avoiding as much responsibility as possible, but not the Gilchrists. This summer Johnny, 12; Joey, 11; Holly, 8; and Hannah, 6, did odd jobs to raise money for the Baraka community in Zambia.
Recently, Bridgette Gilchrist of Northbrook, IL, heard about Hands at Work in Africa from a friend, Chloe Steinke. Chloe had invited a handful of people to a Skype call she held at her house with the founder of Hands at Work, George Snyman.
Bridgette Gilchrist said, “After talking to George, I was really excited about hearing about Baraka, Zambia. I told my four kids about the situation and the first thing one of them said was, ‘How can we help the orphans?’”
Joey immediately responded, “We can take care of other people’s pets over the summer!” A short while later he had a flyer printed up advertising his services with the slogan, “H.E.L.P.: Helping Everyone’s Lives Prosper.” He passed out flyers all over the neighborhood and talked about the vulnerability of the children in Baraka.
"It was hard to raise the money at first because I didn't get a call for awhile,” said Joey. “But as the days passed, the calls started coming in. I love dogs so it very fun taking care of them. I heard all of the terrible things from my mom that happened there and I wanted to help." Joey, with help from his brother, Johnny, ended up having a pet every week from the end of June to the beginning of August.
Hannah and Holly put a map of Zambia up in their bedroom and pray for the village of Baraka nightly. Hannah decided to make her own flyer as well. Since she wasn't old enough to pet sit she listed chores on her flyer like taking in the mail while people were on vacation, sweeping porches, watering flowers, or any other tasks people wanted done. The title of her flyer was "Africa on My Shoulders".
Hannah and her sister, Holly, had a neighbor that called them all summer long to collect her newspapers and mail. Bridgette also put out a bucket at the office where she worked to collect change from all my officemates.
“At the end of the summer we ended up with $500! What a miracle!” said Bridgette. With the success the kids have had they have decided to pet sit and collect mail for the village in Baraka, not just in the summer, but all year round.
While many children are saving up money for the next toy or video game these kids were raising money for orphaned children in Africa. When asked if it was hard to give the money away 12-year old Johnny said, “It wasn't that hard to give the money away because I knew it was going for a good cause. I knew that the orphans needed help." 6-year old Holly added, “"It was so sad that they didn't have anything. I loved working for the orphans because you could actually feel what it was like to give money away to other people. I want to help them because we have everything that they don't have. It feels really nice to give away money."
8-year old Hannah said, “I have drawn a line from where we are to Zambia on a map and I taped it above my bed. I knew that I had to give the money away because I knew that the orphans need stuff more than me. They are a really poor country and God is telling a lot of people to give them money so they can live. I prayed for Baraka and that all the orphans get what they need and that they would have clean water and food. One day I want to visit Baraka."
Hands at Work would love to thank the Gilchrist family on behalf of the community of Baraka and add that I know the children of Baraka would love for you to visit!
“In 2008, more than 14 million children in sub-Saharan Africa had lost one or both parents due to AIDS.”
“Speak up for those who have no voice, for the rights of all who are poor. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
|From Taste of Africa Fundraiser|
On Tuesday, June 1, my wife and I who have spent 3 years serving with Hands at Work in Africa hosted, “A Taste of Africa,” a fundraising dinner and awareness event at Grace Lutheran Church in our hometown of Hibbing, MN.
We have been so challenged by what we have seen during our time here that we wanted to share stories and challenge others to take action.
We started planning an event before we left South Africa where we are working. After debating for awhile what we should do we decided on doing a traditional “African” meal. The meal consisted of chicken, mealie meal, Chakalaka, Coleslaw, and ifisashi.
After the dinner we shared a video and then a presentation about what Hands at Work and the church in Africa are doing in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. People were shocked to hear that 6000 children a day will lose a parent. The devastation we have seen throughout Africa caused by disease and poverty is immense. But the hope that churches across Africa are bringing to their communities is also astounding. Hands at Work in Africa works through local churches in communities in Africa. They find areas where HIV/AIDS infection rates are high and support structures like clinics and hospitals are low, and then challenge the church with what the Bible says about helping the poor, orphaned and widowed.
James 1:27, “Pure religion is to help the poor and widowed in their distress and keep oneself unstained by the world.” Having seen what we have seen it is impossible to stay silent. To find out more about what Hands at Work in Africa is doing to help visit www.handsatwork.org/our-response. To read more about the affects of HIV/AIDS on Africa go to www.avert.org or visit www.unaids.org.