About 9 months ago I had a meal with some friends from our local church and also my vicar from my last year at university, Richard. Richard is now the founder of an organisation called The Filling Station, which is a new and informal way for Christians to meet together to learn about God, worship and join together in community. There is always powerful teaching and a chance to receive prayer. Our local meeting point (Millbank, Aberdeenshire) is just wonderful. It has grown all across the UK and Northern Ireland as well as France and Switzerland. Anyway! Richard was up visiting our Filling Station team and over dinner he happened to mention that each year The Filling Station takes two teams of volunteers out to South Africa to work at an orphanage there called Hands At Work. My ears pricked up and I said what an amazing opportunity it sounded. Richard’s answer? “You should come!” Me? “Alright then! I’ll get Rob (my husband) to come too!”
So that was how this trip was born. It wasn’t completely plain sailing though because after verbally committing I then started to worry about the practicalities of the trip, money, child care etc. Short version, I procrastinated! Then one day (one very bad day when my children were being difficult and my husband was away for two weeks and I was just hanging on in there-mums you know what I talking about!) the doorbell rang and I, clad in my charcoal facemask in a small attempt to make myself feel better, peeked out of the window to see Richard on my doorstep! Now is when I tell you that Richard lives in England and I live in Scotland, so the visit was unexpected (happily!) and I certainly didn’t want him to leave whilst I was washing my face, so I hurtled down the stairs and flung the door open, charcoal facemark and all! I digress! Richard was nearby visiting a different Filling Station and had just thought to pop in on his way by and as we had our cup of tea he told me all about Hands At Work. Honestly, it felt like God, knowing that I was having a dreadful day and knowing that I was procrastinating, dropped Richard down in my midst to encourage me to commit to the wonderful adventure that lay ahead of me. I just had to accept His call. Since then I have been on the Hands At Work website and read other volunteers experiences and each one of them talks about “their call” to visit Hands At Work and that day having tea with Richard was definitely my “call”.
What is exciting right now is that I know when God calls you to something it’s because He has plans for you. Right now those plans are completely unknown to me and so all I can do is focus on the work that I will be doing there and pray that I will be useful to Gods purposes and hope that at the same time He will reveal Himself once more to me. Normally the unknown is a problem for me as I like to know what’s happening. Not so much about the day to day things, in that respect I am seriously disorganised and live moment to moment. But for the bigger things I need certainty, yet here I am, about to leave for ten days on this trip and I have no certainty about what will happen at all yet I feel completely ok about because I do have one certainty. God will meet us there, and that’s all I need.
So a little bit about Hands At Work as I am sure you don’t just want to hear about my face mask moments! Hands At Work has an unusual yet incredibly effective model for reaching the orphaned children of Africa. The fact is that the rate at which the number of orphans is rising (180,000 a month in Africa) is completely unmanageable and the needs of these children cannot be met by orphanages alone. Purpose build orphanages are already overflowing and struggling with the need out there so Hands At Work has developed a model that encourages local community involvement and support for the children. Extract from their website:
In this model, orphaned children are kept within family-unit groups headed by a local caregiver (a grandmother, an aunt, or an elder sibling) within the community, where they receive the psycho-social care that family and community provide. The community-based organisations then support these families through community Care Points and teams of trained local Care Workers who visit the children in their homes.
This approach utilises the community’s existing resources, and forms the basis of a partnership between the local community and outside supporters in caring for the most vulnerable. The Hands at Work model of care was deemed a “best-practice” model by USAID.
To read more about their model please go to Hands At Work Our Model .
Hands At Work make home visits which are called Holy Home Visits, to these family groups in order to assess the needs of the children and also to support the Primary Caregiver in the house. Sometimes this will be an older relative but often this could be the eldest sibling and this person is often carrying deep burdens and hurts and so Hands At Work take the time to make sure that this individual is taken care of as well as the other children. The areas in which Hands At Work provides support are places where HIV/AIDS has devastated the communities and the people left are mainly the older generation and then the children. There is a middle generation of family members that has just disappeared. Holy Home Visits envelop the love of Christ, in that He welcomes us into His family and so this family love is then extended to others in need.
Hands At Work also helps mobilise the local African churches and equips them to be able to reach out and provide for the orphans within their local community.
Hands At Work have what they call Care Points, which are places within the community where the children can gather to receive food, education and healthcare. The charity has a vision to turn these Care Points into Life Centres which takes the idea of the Care Point outside of just being a physical place where care can be given, but also a spiritual place where children can come knowing that they are safe in a relational and emotionally specific way too.
I honestly don’t have enough time to tell you about all the different ways in which Hands At Work help provide for these orphans and their communities and I would really encourage you to go to their website and read about George and Carolyn Snyman who founded the charity and who gave up their lives and their jobs to walk this journey in faith. It is a charity that has a completely Christ centred approach to looking after the poor and who use their ministry in South Africa to encourage and build up the church in the rest of the world. The global church sees amazing things happening in Africa through the walk of its Christ followers at Hands At Work and it cheers and encourages the hearts of all who hear about their mission. In other places around the world where there maybe wealth and riches but spiritual poverty, a country like Africa, where there is only financial poverty reflects the life of the spiritually wealthy. I think it is amazing that whilst George and Carolyn have such big hearts for the poor in Africa, they also have big hearts for those of us living across the rest of the world, to see Gods Kingdom come to all.
Depending on my ability to communicate whilst I am away I will bring you updates about this exciting journey either whilst away or when I get back. I look forward to sharing with you what we will be part of.
Please take a moment to go to http://www.handsatwork.org and find out more about this inspirational charity.