Great time at Urbana (US)

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 

Hands U.S. at the Global Leadership Summit

Hands at Work is excited to be participating in the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit on August 8-9, 2012.  

The vision of the Global Leadership Summit is to transform Christian leaders around the world with an injection of vision, skill development, and inspiration for the sake of the local church.  We're excited to be a part of it!  Visit their website for more details and look for our booth at Sunset Church in San Francisco, one of 200+ premier host sites.


A Trip That Changed My Life.

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.

Stephen Jo

If you would like more information about how you can go on a team or as an individual click here.

Azeez Aina & Bilikisu

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.

George on Moody Bible Radio - Jan. 18

Mark your calendars for Wednesday, January 18th, and tune in to hear George Snyman, founder of Hands at Work, on Moody Bible Radio. Hear his interview live at 10am CDT. If you're in the Chicago area, tune in to 90.1 FM or AM 1110. Outside of the Chicago area, visit the program's website or click on Listen Live. If you can't catch the interview live, don't worry! Past programs are also available on their website.

Elena's Story (ZAM)

Elena Kwani is a girl aged 14, an orphan now in grade 6 at Brunnelli Upper Basic school. She comes from Shikambo village which is 7km from the feeding point.

When her parents died, life became very difficult for Elena. Her schooling was interrupted because of hunger. Instead of going to school, Elena would wake up early in the morning to go and look for piece work in other people’s fields to earn money to buy food.

Since Baraka Home-based Care began to work in Elena’s village, her life has changed.

Through the meals and other supports provided by Baraka Home-based Care, Elena has been able to return to school. She has stopped working in other people’s field as she used to. She now concentrates in class and all the teachers are happy at her improvement. When she finishes school, she goes straight to the feeding point, where the food she eats gives her the strength she needs to walk to the school and remain attentive during her lessons.

Thanks to a group of concerned Christians in the Chicago area, Hands at Work has been partnering with the community of Baraka since 2009 to mobilize and equip local Christians to effectively care for the poorest of the poor.

Bikes for Baraka (ZAM)

Team leaders in Baraka, Zambia, receiving new bicylces Late last year, the volunteer care workers in Baraka, Zambia, identified a need within their community: Being in a rural location often means care workers must walk long distances to visit orphans and families in need of home-based care. Homes that are far away are not visited very often because the distance is difficult to cover on foot. Not only is home visitation sometimes difficult, there is also the problem of transporting sick children to the clinic or the hospital - both are far from most homes. In addition, the task of gathering supplies for the local care centre means that volunteers often must walk 5km to the road, hitch a ride 20km to town, buy supplies and do the trip in reverse with supplies in tow!

The volunteers were in need of a way to make their work more efficient. The solution? Bicycles! A proposal was submitted to purchase four brand-new bicycles for Baraka care workers to share. With the assistance of Hands at Work USA and a generous family from Wisconsin, money was allocated and by March 2011 the bikes had been purchased. There was even some spare change to be used to buy spare parts as needed!

Now the distance to visit a home can be covered in less than half the amount of time it takes to walk, remote homes can be visited more often, supplies can be easily carried and sick children can be transported for medical care. Enjoy your bikes!

Zambia Celebration

Greetings Friends,


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."





Jed Heubner

Smiling Again

“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

 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

Hands founder, George, to take a tour of 'duty' in the USA

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
Time 08:00pm 

"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.
 Thursday, 4 November
Venue Grace in Racine, 3626 Highway 31, Racine, WI
Time 07:00pm

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.
 Friday, 5 November
Venue Glenview Community Church, 1000 Elm Street, Glenview, IL
Time 07:00pm

Date Sunday, 7 November
Venue Grace in Racine, 3626 Highway 31, Racine, WI
Time 8:30am and 10:15

Date Sunday, 21 November
Venue Cornerstone Community Church, Orange County
Time Sunday services 09:00am and 11:00am

Love God, Love Your Neighbor
 Tuesday, 23 November
Venue Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN
Time 06:30pm - 09:00pm

George will also be interviewed on radio! Tune in:

Date Monday, 1 November
Time 1:15pm
Radio station George will be interviewed by Frank Carmichael on Happenings Radio AM1050 WLIP

Date Tuesday, 2 November
Time 6:00pm 
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
Time 3:00pm
Radio station Interviewed by James McDonald for Worldview on Chicago Public Radio

Africa on Their Shoulders

Johnny, Holly, Hannah, Joey

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!

To read more about Baraka click here>>>>

To read more about Zambia click here>>>>

A Taste of Africa

 “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.”

Proverbs 31:8-9

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 mealChakalaka, 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  To read more about the affects of HIV/AIDS on Africa go to or visit