We at Hands U.S. are so thankful for what God is doing in our nation regarding Hands at Work in Africa. Churches across the U.S. are committing to communities across Africa, sending individual volunteers and short-term missions teams, praying, and raising funds so that children can receive food, basic healthcare, and an education.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
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!
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."
“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.