Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Farewell, Zambia!

For weeks leading up to my trip, people had been buttering me up.   “It’s so cool here right now, Byron.  Everyone is in jeans and a sweater.  You’d love it!”  I approached with cautious optimism, not allowing myself to fully buy into the hype.  This is Africa, after all.  It’s never “cool”.  It’s just varying degrees of sweaty.  As I stepped out of the plane onto the tarmac at Ndola International Airport, I could feel the weight of the heat immediately cling to my skin, bringing it to its usual state of midday stickiness.  I knew it was too good to be true.  I almost expected it.  Despite the unwelcome and uncomfortable heat, a sense of nostalgia filled me.  I’m back, Zambia!  The excitement of being back, however, soon gave way to the stark reality that this would be my last time in Zambia for a long time…  Perhaps even my last time, period.

As has become customary for my role over the past couple years, I was going to Zambia mainly to support our team in hosting one of our major partners that comes for monitoring and evaluation visits twice per year.  There’s a lot of work that goes into preparing for these visits and in determining the way forward for our partnership.  Helping to manage the projects we undertake with this partner has become one of the most prominent parts of my role and I was grateful to have the opportunity to meet with them one more time.  But, as with everything else that I have a hand in here, my main focus was in ensuring I was passing off things to other members of our team well, which is not always easy.  There’s a part of me that wants to be super involved right up until the second we leave.  At the same time, I know how crucial it is for me to let things go and build into others.  Living in that tension is something I will be wrestling through for the next 5 weeks.

As for the rest of my time in Zambia, it was a time focused on being with people and building into relationships.  It’s funny because, when Diane and I were first sent to Zambia, we were given the mandate to build relationship.  That’s it.  We struggled mightily with this, not because we didn’t have a desire to build relationships, but because we felt like there was so much more we could and should be doing in addition to the relationship building.  But now that I was facing the end of my time in Zambia, with people that have become like family to me, it’s really all I wanted to do (especially when it came to my two favourite girls pictured below...).

Tawonga & Shalom

Levy, Prag & Shalom

Tawonga with her family drawing of Diane (left), Me (right) and Baby (top)!

With that desire at the forefront of my mind, I scheduled a full day in Kitwe on my first weekend in Zambia with my fellow international volunteers, Ashley and Mel.  It ended up being the highlight of my trip and, perhaps, one of the most memorable days over the last 2.5 years. 

The day started with going to Blessing’s church in the community of Mulenga, one of the communities that Diane and I visited regularly during our 6 months in Kitwe.  If you recall from our early blog posts, Blessings was one of the key members of the Kitwe Service Centre when we were there and has since transitioned to a leader within our Zambia Regional Support Team. A pastor by trade, he’s very “unpastor-like” in the African context. While he exudes wisdom, he’s also one of the most humble and servant-hearted people we know. He has also since become a father to a cheeky little boy named Shekinah who was the object of much cheek-pinching and face rubbing (softest face ever!) during my time in Zambia.

Blessings, Prudence & Shekinah
Look at that soft, cheeky little face!

The next stop was Towela’s house.  Towela, the Service Centre Coordinator in Kitwe, became like our mother during our time in Zambia and the bond Diane and I grew with her is something we hold very dear to our hearts.  We spent 2 hours in her home that Sunday, visiting with her and her family, reminiscing about the ‘good ol’ days’ of us being in Kitwe and all the grief I used to cause her.  We also shared in the excitement of her becoming a grandmother to a little (and hopefully fat!) Asian baby.

Towela & Henry

The last stop was Clement’s house, where we spent another 1.5 hours and were fed some very delicious rice by Clement’s wife.  Clement is like a brother to me.  I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that we started in Hands at the same time and, in a sense, ‘grew up’ through Hands together.  When we first met him, he was a shy, reserved guy from the very rural village of Zimba.  In fact, he was so quiet that we weren’t even sure he knew how to speak English.  Before long, he was teaching me Bemba, I was helping him out with English (which he already knew pretty well), and we were using our newfound skills to find ways to make each other laugh (usually by attempting to make fun of each other).

Clement & Family

Last September, Clement and his wife welcomed their second child into the world, a baby boy they named … wait for it … Byron!  What an honour!  Poor little guy, though.  Zambians really struggle with the name and he’ll soon find himself constantly correcting everyone.  “No, not Bylot (seriously, I’ve been called that many times) … BY – RON!”  After waiting 6 long months, I finally had the opportunity to meet my namesake and the little guy did not disappoint!  Funny enough, baby Byron is a hot, sweaty mess that already has an insatiable appetite.  We are kindred spirits, after all! 

Instant cuddles from Baby Byron!

Two Byrons are better than one!

To see the leaders that each of Blessings, Towela and Clement have become today fills Diane and I with a tremendous amount of pride, not because we felt we had anything to do with it, but because we got to be a part of it.  We love each of them so much and each holds a very special place in our hearts.  It was these 3 that gave Diane and I our Bemba names, a responsibility they did not take lightly.  It wasn’t until the very end of our 6 months in Kitwe, and after much deliberation, that it was revealed that Diane would be named Bukata, which means glory, and that I would be named Temwani, which means love.  These names may potentially carry on more significance in the near future…

When it came time to say goodbye on my last day in Zambia, it wasn’t pretty.  Hands at Work has a tradition that, when someone leaves, we take time out of either our Monday or Friday morning meeting to give that person a proper farewell.  That farewell involves everybody being given the chance to speak a word of encouragement and offer his/her parting words.  I’ve witnessed many farewells in my time here and I always knew I would dread the day when it came to my turn.  Not only is it incredibly emotional but it’s also very strange and awkward to hear people speak about you and shower you with love and praise in front of many others.

I thought I was going to keep it together.  After all, I’m a man.  I don’t cry.  I work out.  And, who knows, maybe we’ll be back in Zambia sooner than later and I’ll see everyone again … Those words of reassurance rung hollow once people started speaking.  I could see tears from others beginning to flow and, soon, the dreaded lump developed in my throat.  Just look down, Byron.  Don’t look ‘em in the eye!  In reality, it was all in vain.  There was no defense mechanism that could have prevented the tears from streaming down my face the instant that Towela opened her mouth.  “You truly are my son.  And Diane is truly my daughter.”  Zing! Right in the heartstrings!

After several people shared, I was given the opportunity to have the final word.  Already struggling with emotion, I tried to compose myself so that I could offer my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for everyone sitting in that room.  I managed about two words before I was forced to take a very, very long pause.  This is going to go one of two ways, I thought to myself.  Either I mutter out a quick, “Thank you” and leave with my dignity still somewhat in tact or I pour out my heart like a blubbering mess and deal with the consequences later.  Of course, I chose the latter. 

As I looked around the room of people I was saying goodbye to, I was filled with a sense of awe and wonder.  Here I was, this regular, random, Chinese-Canadian guy, immersed in a room with 3 other international volunteers and about 20 local Zambians, each of us there because we followed God’s call to care for the most vulnerable.  In that moment, I couldn’t help but think of how wonderful it all was –how it was such a beautiful snapshot of the type of community God envisioned for His people – and how I was so blessed to be a part of it. 

I will miss you dearly, Zambia.  

- Temwani

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Blog Exchange!

To change things up a bit and to try something new, a few of us decided to participate in a ‘blog exchange’ and write a blog for someone else this month.  Thanks to Ashley Humphreys for making this happen!  This specific edition of the Chan blog is brought to you by Daytona and Kristi Swarbrick.

We first physically met Byron and Diane in September 2012 as we were part of the same Hands at Work intake.  Both couples being from Canada, we actually first met virtually via a Skype conversation with all the Canadian volunteers starting with Hands.  We remember hearing Byron share that he and Diane were going to be married in a month and that they were going to spend their first year of marriage as volunteers at Hands.  We have to admit that when we got off the Skype call, we both looked at each other and said, “They’re crazy!  A first year of marriage is difficult enough, never mind adding in the challenges that come with moving, leaving family, and living in an entirely different culture.”  We have since journeyed the past 2.5 years with them and know that starting their marriage in Africa and volunteering for Hands at Work was definitely the right thing for Byron and Diane to do.  They were obedient and responded to God’s call for them.  In addition, Byron and Diane are some of the closest people to us.  We are so thankful for their friendship and for being able to grow with them over the past years.

Experiencing a 5-week orientation together definitely had our friendship off to a quick start.  Throw in a 3-day drive to Zambia in close quarters, a priceless encounter with some baboons, and celebrating Diane’s birthday at Victoria Falls, we knew that these two were very special to us. 

September 2012 Intake Group

Chans and Swarbricks at Victoria Falls

As many of you reading this are probably friends and family of Byron and Diane, you know the amazing people that they are.  Not only do they have the skills and personalities that fill certain roles within Hands, but they also contribute greatly to the community and to us, personally, as friends.  Both are quick to welcome visitors or new volunteers, helping to make everyone feel comfortable and at home.  They are constantly reaching out to others, hosting them for dinner at their home, or meeting for coffee to go deeper in relationships.  They have been a huge sounding board for both of us, listening when they need to listen, and challenging us when we need to be challenged.  We appreciate their honest approach to friendship. 

We have loved watching Byron and Diane grow as a couple.  It is evident that they have not taken this commitment lightly.  Their marriage is mature and strong and has even been a model to us who have been married for 17 years.

Over the past year, Kristi has worked very closely with Diane as they both have been part of the South Africa Regional Support Team (RST).  Diane has been a huge blessing as the Project Accountant for the RST.  There is a saying that we often say at Hands: “We are before we do”.  This is very true of Diane.  She is such a patient, supportive, encouraging person.  These characteristics are part of who Diane is; they even spill over into her work.  She has been recently training a new bookkeeper at our local Service Centre.  She understands what it means to build capacity to enable others so that they truly own the work that they do.  We appreciate Diane’s humility in all that she does. 

Byron is a natural-born leader who steps into many situations with wisdom, but the really great thing about the way he leads is that he does it through serving humbly (and also with a great deal of humour).  In his role, Byron supports and offers guidance to our Project Support team as a servant-leader.  Although there is work to be done, he ensure he takes that time to see how each of us are doing both personally and work-related and how he can be of help.  Byron does not sacrifice relationship over work.  Daytona and Byron have been active in encouraging a worshipful community.  One of Daytona’s greatest pleasures at Hands has been playing worship with Byron on a more regular basis.  Byron has a heart for God and is a skilled musician.  He is willing to put in the hard work that it takes and to step out of his comfort zone for the community.

Recently we had the opportunity to drive down to Pretoria for the weekend with Byron and Diane and a few others.  It was a fun weekend just to hang out as a group of close friends and of course food was a big deal since Byron was there!  The menu included Thai, Korean, muffins at the market, pizza in a cone, ribs hot off a South African braai, Taiwanese Fried Chicken, and bubble tea!  The highlight of our trip, however, was having Byron and Diane go public with their baby news!  While sitting down for a cup of the sweetest lemonade ever, they gave up the secret by showing us something they had bought at the market.  Pulling out a baby mobile, everyone was emotionally impacted, realizing that our two favourite Chans were becoming three. 

We love this photo as it captures the moment perfectly and shows all the emotion that was felt.  We are extremely excited for Byron and Diane as we know that they will make fantastic parents, raising their son or daughter to know what it means to be loved by God and to love Him and others.  We have to admit, however, that as excited as we are, we are sad that this means them returning to Canada in just two short months.  We thank God for the last 2.5 years together.  This has been the start of a beautiful friendship and we will miss them greatly!

Byron and Diane – thank you for who you are!  We love you!

Conquering the Amphitheatre Hike together!

- Kristi & Daytona

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Christmas Adventures in South Africa

Having already spent a month back in Canada in July, we decided to stay in South Africa over the Christmas holidays and seize the opportunity to explore more of the country we've called home over the past couple years. We packed up the X-Trail and embarked on a 2.5 week road trip throughout a large portion of South Africa, starting from our home in White River and eventually making our way all the way to Cape Town. When it was all said and done, we had driven a total 6,326 kilometres over those 2.5 weeks. It also felt like, between the two of us, we had gained a total of 6,326 pounds.

It was a bit of a strange feeling, as it was the first time that either of us had spent Christmas Day without our families, but it was also special for us to spend our very first Christmas together as our own family and to have an unexpected visitor join us at the very end of our trip.

Rather than try to recount the trip through words, I will spare you a long blog post (for once!) and allow pictures and videos to tell the story. Enjoy!

- Byron

Friday, 19 December 2014

Zimbabwe and Mozambique

It had been a long stretch of Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm office time for both Byron and I. For me, it had been months and months since I last visited one of our communities or did a home visit. We always say how important it is for us ‘office rats’ to stay connected to the work we do by going out into the community, doing home visits and spending time with the children and Care Workers at our community based organizations (CBOs). But, if we’re not careful or intentional, it can be easy to go months without stepping foot in the community. Perhaps this would make a great New Years’ Resolution for Byron and I ….

When we were asked to be part of a team that would travel to Zimbabwe and Mozambique to support our Service Centre in Mutare, we were stoked, to say the least! Finally, an opportunity to spend an entire week out of the office, building into relationships with our Service Centre staff, and to visit our Care Workers and children in the CBOs. The purpose of our trip: to support the Service Centre in finishing off 2014 well – helping them set plans and priorities for the remainder of the year and to begin budgeting and planning for 2015.

The whole gang!
As with most trips we take with Hands, our time was short. We drove three days, there and back, to spend six days on the ground. In Zimbabwe, we spent a couple of days having meetings with the local team in the Service Centre office and one day in Pimai, where one of our CBOs is located. Pimai is in a region called Honde Valley – a secluded, rural, farming area about two hours’ drive from Mutare. How amazing it was to take in the beautiful, picturesque scenery, to do a home visit with one of our local African leaders, Jackie, and to play with the kids at the Care Point. My heart felt so glad to be there with Byron and, again, I was reassured of the exact reason why Byron and I were in Africa – to help care for and provide hope to children. Here are some photos of our time in Pimai.

Beautiful views as we drove from Mutare to Pimai
The Care Point 
Jackie, a Kenyan who serves with us in South Africa
Tyler, Farai, John and Byron. Farai and John are part of the Mutare SC. Tyler is a fellow Canadian volunteering with us in South Africa
Walking to do home visits
Kids at the Care Point
The kids are SO adorable when they eat!
Byron and I always like befriending the kids who are in the corner by themselves!
We arrived in Macadeira, Mozambique, on a blistering hot day. A few of the children were finding shade under a large tree in the middle of the courtyard, playing in the dirt with sticks and stones (literally). A few Care Workers were busy cooking, preparing the daily meal that would feed 50. Little free-run community pigs were also having their meal in the large garbage pit in the middle of the Care Point, beside where the children play and the Care Workers cook.

As we got out of the car, we braced ourselves for the swarming of children that was inevitable. Macadeira, unlike many of the communities we have visited in the past, is relatively ‘untouched’. It really hasn’t been exposed to or visited by many ‘mzungus’ (white people, or yellow, in our case). As expected, we were immediately greeted by little hands grasping to touch our skin and smiling, curious faces trying to make sense of this different type of mzungu they were seeing for the first time. Some of the littlest ones were so terrified of us they would start crying as soon as we looked at them!

The Care Point in Macadeira, Mozambique. The Care Workers cook in the hut on the right and kids find shade under the big tree
Two of the little ones, Maria and Rosario (they're twins!), that we are caring for in Mozambique
Byron and Papaito! Possibly one of the cutest kids we've ever met!
That night, Byron and I did a community stay in the home of a lady named Rosalita and her two sons, Antonio and Juan. As I think back on that night we spent at Rosalita’s home, I can honestly say that it was one of the most difficult and challenging experiences that Byron and I have gone through in our time here. It was challenging not only in the physical sense, which was to be expected, but the experience stretched us much more emotionally and mentally than we were expecting.

There were massive language barriers – the family spoke not a word of English, only Shona and Portuguese; we had no running water, electricity, or toilet; the shower was made from branches and vines attached to a wooden stick structure; the hut we were to sleep in was made of mud and had a spider-infested, grass-thatched roof; there were no mats to sleep on. On several occasions, I remember both Byron and I saying that it was going to be a struggle to get through the night. The realization that, there we were, standing in the one of the most vulnerable homes, in one of the poorest communities, in one of the poorest countries in the world just kept smacking us in the face.

The sun was setting quickly as we arrived and I was acutely aware that we had little time left to spend with the family. It’s typical that people go to sleep shortly after sunset because it becomes too dark to do much else. In an attempt to help get dinner started, through sign language and simplified English, I tried to communicate that I wanted to help cook. Well … that didn’t work out quite as I hoped. Without even realizing it, I became the head chef of the night and was left to embark on a two hour cooking adventure (I use ‘adventure’ as a massive euphemism here). I had to cook all by myself … in the dark … using the dirt floor as my kitchen counter … over firewood (which is a lot harder than you think) … all while Byron was outside singing and dancing with the kids. As my eyes stung and my throat burned from all the firewood smoke I was inhaling, I couldn’t help but feel so grumpy, so cheated out of my opportunity to be with the family, all because I offered to help. And why wasn’t Rosalita helping? Couldn’t she see that I obviously had no idea what I was doing? It’s a terrible way to feel – I should have been more than happy to suck it up and make the meal, right? Yes. But in that moment, I didn’t feel happy. I was grumpy.

When I finished cooking, I called Rosalita over, pointed to the food, then pointed to her, her sons and Byron and I. Rosalita looked at me, then looked at the food and said, “Nada”. I replied, “Antonio, Juan?”. She said, “Nada”. Crap. I immediately felt sick when I realized that she thought I was cooking for just Byron and I. I felt even more awful thinking that because I ended up cooking that night, I actually prevented her from making her own meal and the family would go to bed hungry. What a disaster! So, there I was, standing in the dark with all this rice and cabbage that Byron and I couldn’t possibly finish ourselves (because I thought I was cooking for five, not two). After a bit of back and forth, I think we managed to work out that the family doesn’t actually eat rice for dinner. They like eating sadza, which is the African staple that resembles a thick, dense mashed potato like dish made of ground-up corn, because it keeps them feeling fuller, longer. In the end, after much insisting, Rosalita allowed me to dish up five servings, one for each of us. Later on that night, as I aired my frustrations to Byron, he astutely pointed out that even though I was trying to communicate that I wanted to help cook, the concept of ‘help’ wasn’t actually being communicated by my hand motions and so Rosalita just thought I was motioning that I wanted to cook my own food. Lesson learned for sure.

The time we spent with Rosalita and her sons was tough because we couldn’t help but feel so out of our element. We were frustrated that we weren’t able to communicate with the family, stressed about how we were going to sleep and whether we would get Malaria, and grumpy about the whole dinner fiasco. Worst of all though, as we caught ourselves feeling frustrated and stressed, we felt ashamed. This was the every-day reality for Rosalita, Antonio and Juan. It surprised us how easily frustrated we became and how insensitive we were to how this family lives day-in, day-out. Our night with Rosalita exposed us and revealed how easily we create barriers between us and those who we say we are called to care for and love. We long so much for our creature comforts that we find it difficult to stand in solidarity or even empathize with those who have so much less than us. It was definitely a tough pill to swallow.

Although our time in Mozambique was short, Macadeira left such a deep impression on us and captured such a huge part of our hearts. We came away with our tails tucked between our legs, so to speak, humbled by the night we spent sleeping in Rosalita’s home and the many children we met. We loved our time in Zimbabwe and Mozambique and always feel grateful for the experiences that help us mature and grow in enabling us to see beyond ourselves.

Arriving at Rosalita's house with our entourage of community kids!
Cooking in the dark
Byron with Rosalita, Antonio (in red) and one of their neighbours in the morning

Sunday, 12 October 2014

My Time in Malawi

Two months ago, immediately upon our return to Africa from Canada, I had the privilege of going to Malawi for 6 days.  While I wish Diane could have been there with me (she went back to the Hub in South Africa), I was blessed to travel with George, the founder and CEO of Hands at Work.  I knew it would be a unique opportunity for me to be in an intimate environment with George and to be able to spend some quality time with him.  The man pours out wisdom and discernment and I was eager for some of that to flow down to me in our time together.

Visiting Malawi was very much an exposure trip for me but one of the other reasons I was sent by Hands was to meet with a lawyer we were hoping could assist us with our legal registration, among other things.  Unfortunately, I left the meeting with the lawyer utterly convinced that he knew as much about the law as I did and, in some cases, perhaps even less (which is a scary thought!). Though it was discouraging, it was yet another reminder of the challenges we face here on the ground and how, by virtue of my background, I am in a unique position to help serve Hands at Work and guide it through this process (as unqualified as I may feel to do so!).

Although the visit with the lawyer was a huge disappointment, the rest of my time in Malawi definitely was not.  Though my time there was short, I managed to visit 3 of the 4 communities (Maonde, Mngwere and Mcheneka) that Hands currently supports.  Being able to step foot in each of those communities, to see the unique environment that each offers, allows me to better understand the situations and challenges on the ground.  The privilege of meeting the Care Workers, of holding the tiny little hands of our children, gives me something to carry in my heart back with me to the Hub.  All of this, in some intangible way, provides me with an ability to serve all that is happening in Malawi much more effectively in my role as project support.  It also does wonders in helping me reconnect with what I am here for.

My time in Malawi was eye-opening.  It is extremely underdeveloped, as you would expect one of the poorest countries in the world to be, and extremely rural, particularly in Dedza (the region where our communities are located).  In spite of this or, perhaps, because of this, there was something about being there that was so peaceful. There is a certain serenity in the environment that I can’t quite describe.  I don’t know whether it was the cool weather (which is always a blessing in Africa!), the small mountains that separated the vast expanse of open fields, or the smiling faces of people we’d pass on the road, but there was just something so beautiful about Malawi.

This is the beauty I'm talking about!
Us on our two-hour hike to church in Mngwere

On our visit into the community of Maonde, we visited the home of a single mother of 3 children.  She barely spoke any English but, through members of our Service Centre staff translating, we heard her story – her story of daily struggle to fend for herself, her children and her siblings; her story of feeling alone, unvalued and unloved.  In many ways, no translation was needed.  The expression of hopelessness and rejection on her face and in her voice did more than any collection of words could.

I’ve written it here many times before but home visits are the foundation of what we do.  They often present a window, however small, into the reality of an individual’s life.  There’s something about a home visit that is so raw and intense.  On this visit, I listened to the story of a woman who has endured so much pain in her life and, in my inability to relate to her world of brokenness, words failed me.  How do I respond?  How can I genuinely communicate any message of hope when I’ve never walked a mile in her shoes?  How can I pretend that I empathize with her when I know I will return home to a vastly different life?  I sat there silent, struggling through the internal conflict.

George, however, was anything but conflicted in how to respond.  He sat beside the woman, speaking in a tone so soft that I could barely hear the words coming from his mouth.  “He loves you and He knows you by name,” was repeated over and over as George stared straight into her eyes.  We only had time to visit one home in the entire community of Maonde and God brought us to that home.  I looked around at the people surrounding me – a white South African, a Canadian, an American, an Australian and several Malawians.  A rag-tag collection of individuals from all over the world brought together at that specific moment in time for no other reason than to be with this woman and to visit her in her home.  George made sure she understood that.  George made sure she recognized that this was Her Father letting her know that she was not alone. 

We could have brought her food.  We could have helped sweep her floor.  We could have tried to fix her roof.  Would it have mattered, though?  Perhaps for that day or the next.  Perhaps even longer.  Perhaps not.  I can’t say with absolute certainty that the message brought by George, by all who were there, made a difference in her life at that moment.  Some of you may read this and simply answer, “Probably not.”  But I refuse to undermine the power of hope and of the power in the message that ‘you are known, that you matter and that you are loved’. 

George sitting next to the woman we visited

Even if the message had not been delivered to her clearly that day, or if she had not accepted it as truth in her life, I know that it hit home with the Care Workers we were with.  And, ultimately, it will be their responsibility to make that message real and tangible for her.  This is why we say everything we do is on the back of our Care Workers and why we choose to invest so heavily in them.  We believe that they are the only ones who can truly effect change in their community.

The challenge in this was not lost on me during our visit to Mcheneka.  On that visit, we were accompanied by a church team from San Francisco.  We began our time by playing games with the children that were introduced and taught by the Care Workers.  The kids all participated and had fun but it was remarkable to see the way not only the children, but the Care Workers, responded to the games that were then introduced and taught by the American team.

(Side note … It was incredible to observe the differences in the African games versus the American games.  All of the African games were inclusive, i.e., participation by everyone was encouraged all throughout the game and there were no winners or losers.  All of the American games, on the other hand, promoted competition and involved some form of elimination process to determine a winner.  Insert social commentary here!)

Playing games with the Care Workers and children in Mcheneka

In each game we played, it seemed the Care Workers were actually having more fun than the children themselves. No longer were they there to facilitate games for the children and encourage their participation.  They were in it to win it!  And, in that, they reverted almost to a child-like state, doing anything to remain in the game even if it meant the exclusion or the rough handling of the children they are meant to serve.  While it was endearing to see the innocence and child-like nature of these grown men and women come out, it also spoke to something deeper.

In the poor, broken communities we work in, entire generations of people grow up without ever knowing what it is like to be a child.  Instead of playing with friends and doing homework, their days are filled with collecting water and firewood.  Instead of growing up under the love and care of a mother and father, they are forced into a parent-like role for their younger siblings at a very young age.  There was never any time for them to be “just a kid”.  Their circumstances would not allow for it.  Instead, their entire life had been about survival.  Fast forward 20-40 years and we have individuals that carry with them deep wounds.  They have a heart to care for children and for their communities but often don’t know how to do it.

As I watched the Care Workers in Mcheneka, my heart was filled with joy as they laughed and played like children.  At the same time, my heart sank when I imagined the brokenness of their own childhood and how it has shaped them today.  Through all of this, I hold on to hope.  Hope that relationship groups will create a forum for Care Workers to find unity amongst each other and peace within themselves.  Hope that Care Workers would come to understand God’s love for them in a real and meaningful way, like it did (hopefully) for the woman we visited.  Hope that this love will flow naturally from these Care Workers to our children.  And finally, hope that this living out of God’s love has the power to transform an entire generation of children from feeling rejected, alone and unloved by this world.

- Byron

Little ones appearing out of the trees!
Melissa and Sara with some of the kids in Maonde
Mngwere, the Life Centre with the best view!
Mngwere Life Centre
Bicycle taxis!
Irish potato fries off the side of the road
Me with Royie, our Service Centre Coordinator, and his wife, Violet