Thursday, 24 October 2013

One Year Down … And Two More On The Way!

Yes, I realize that’s a lot of information to process in one nine-word title but what better way to capture your attention?

One Year Down

As most of you are reading this, you’re probably thinking, “Has it really been more than a full year? It feels like an eternity without them home because we miss them so much!” In all likelihood, you’re probably thinking the exact opposite – that the year has blown by and it feels like yesterday when we were saying our teary goodbyes. We’re thinking the same and find it hard to believe that more than 365 days has passed since we first landed in Africa.

September 14, 2012 – Diane and Byron first step foot on African soil as they arrive into South Africa, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, wondering what the heck the next year is going to hold for them. Not even 4 months into wedded bliss, the newlyweds are beginning the rest of their lives together by making their passions and dreams come true – committing to a year in Africa with Hands at Work to serve and care for the most vulnerable children in the poorest of the poor communities.

True story.

Most of you expected us home by now. So did we. Before we left, we told everyone that, regardless of whether we extend our commitment with Hands or not, we would come home around the one-year mark. It was very much our intention to be home for the 8(!) weddings we were invited to between August and September but with apologies to Chris & Annette, Claire & Jennings, James & Mae-Lee, Tyler & Jacquie, Jen & Dov, Jack & Sharon, Carol & Trung, and Chelsea & Brenden, plans changed. We didn’t feel at peace about leaving despite our one-year commitment having been fulfilled. There is always a big push at the end of the year to finish up current projects and to plan for the upcoming year and we wanted to stick around to help see that through. As a result, we made the decision to extend our time until the beginning of November before coming back home to Canada.

With our one-year anniversary in Africa officially having come and gone, I initially thought about providing a bit of a recap, complete with highlights and challenges, but realized that I had already done that at the 6-month mark. So, in an effort to keep this post reasonably sized, let’s just move ahead to the question you’ve all been asking from Day 1.

Two More on the Way!

I guess the title of this post doesn’t leave you in much suspense hey? Well, just so that it’s official in your mind, we have committed to come back to Africa with Hands at Work next year ... And this time, it’s a two-year commitment!

In all honesty, we never once envisioned committing to anything beyond one more year, giving us the flexibility to take it one year at a time but, somehow, Hands at Work tricked us into committing to two more years, much like I tricked Diane into thinking she was marrying a rich, successful lawyer. Looks like the tables have turned. Nicely done, Hands at Work. Nicely done.

As most of you know, this decision hung over us for many months. No matter how hard we tried, we just couldn’t escape it. It seemed like every little thing that happened, every emotion we felt, would somehow factor into our own little decision-making machine. Every time I thought of a good reason to stay, I would manage to come up with an equally convincing counterargument for why we should go home. If I felt a certain way, I’d inevitably end up second-guessing why I felt the way I did or strain to uncover the root of what that specific thought process was. In the end, I was torn. I loved being with Hands at Work. I loved Africa. I loved living life the way we were living. So what was the problem?

Holding on to life as we used to know it

The first problem was what I felt I was holding onto. From the beginning, Diane and I made it very clear that our time in Africa with Hands at Work was going to be more than just an ‘experience’. It was not our goal to do one year in Africa so that we could check it off the list and say, “Been there, done that!” Rather, we always said that it was the next step in our lives and the soil that we were choosing to plant our marriage in. It’s why we left our commitment completely open past the one year. We didn’t want to have any plans. Instead, we wanted to live by faith and allow God to lead us. Well … easier said than done.

As we debated for months on end about whether we should stay or go, I finally found myself asking the question: “What is it that is preventing us from committing to Africa?” I couldn’t really figure it out. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I miss family and friends dearly. Seeing my nephews and my niece grow up over Skype and pictures is not really how I had imagined it. And yes, there are certain aspects of home and North American living that we often get quite nostalgic about. But I discovered that the real things that were holding me back were things that are all too familiar to me – fear, anxiety, worry, doubt.

There was still so much I was holding on to back home. As much as we said our commitment was open-ended, we still very much had in our minds the default of one year. It’s like Diane and I, without ever saying it out loud to each other, had a secret pact that we weren’t really going to stay in Africa any longer than one year. Anything beyond that is too long to be away from family, too long to have our careers on hiatus, too long to go without earning an income. Basically, too long to be away from reality. It’s like I unknowingly, despite everything I said this year was going to be about, treated our time in Africa as something other than reality. The real world beckons, Byron. Don’t get left behind.

It was hard to come to grips with this revelation. In spite of how faithful God has been, in spite of how much we’ve grown during this time, and in spite of everything that our hearts were feeling about being here, my mind, plagued by constant fear, anxiety, worry and doubt, would not allow me to feel at peace. It exposed a lot about where our hearts were at and how we were mostly paying lip service to our faith rather than really living by it.

This is what we have been really challenged by since being here. What does it mean to live by faith? How different would our lives look, and our actions and choices be, if we lived with the absolute, undoubted assurance that God is true to His promises? What would it look like if we made choices based on where God was leading our hearts rather than based on what it might cost us?

Making the decision to commit for another two years doesn’t signal a seismic shift in our faith. Again, we love Hands at Work, we love Africa (most of the time), and we love the way we are living. We’re not making ourselves out to be martyrs, by any means. But it does represent a step for us, and a rather large one, at that. Our heads were holding on to the things of home, the real world and the traditional way of life. Our hearts were leading us to live a different way. After it was all said and done, our hearts won out. And it likely wouldn’t have been the case had we not grown in our faith and our understanding of God’s promises to us.

Committing and Digging Deep

The second problem was that I was wary of choosing to stay in Africa simply because it was the easy thing for us to do. Being in Africa, with a missionary organization committed to caring for the most vulnerable children, immersed in a community with an amazing group of people that share the same heart and vision, makes it easy for us to live our lives in line with our values. The greater challenge is for us to carry that over into our lives back home or wherever we choose to carry on next. It’s easy to think that there’s nothing else that God is possibly calling us to do when we’re already caring for orphaned and vulnerable children in the poorest of the poor communities and that this is the closest to God’s heart that we could ever be. But it’s not like African children are the only demographic in need of people reaching out to them in God’s love and grace.

With that in mind, I knew I wanted to continue to serve this cause. I just wasn’t sure what was the best way for me to do it. I wanted to look beyond how I felt and, instead, look at how I could be the most effective servant or where I could have the greatest impact. Whether that meant staying in Africa or going back home, I had no idea. All I knew was that I wanted to serve and I wanted to do it in the best, most effective way possible. I wanted to combine everything involved – my time, my skills, my passions – and maximize it for the greatest output. So typical Byron.

The problem of our generation is that we have too many options. We’re so preoccupied with finding fulfillment, achieving success (however we define it) and unlocking our full potential that we’re never really satisfied. That pretty much sums up the source behind my constantly conflicted mind. Fortunately, I was deeply challenged on this by some of the leadership at Hands. I was asked to think about some of the greatest people in history. Those people accomplished what they did, not out of an abundance of options but, rather, because they really didn’t have any. Instead, they accomplished great things because they were firmly committed to the path that was either presented before them or that they had chosen.

Ashamedly, I am plagued by the ‘grass is greener’ predicament. I am so hesitant to commit to anything because I worry that I may be passing up something better. I’m constantly one foot in, one foot out, always preparing myself to jump ship should a better opportunity or alternative come along. Ironically, it’s that type of mindset that will prevent me from ever finding fulfillment. I realize that, if I truly want to find fulfillment, I have to be willing to commit to something, to see it through, to dig deep. I can’t expect otherwise despite what our instant gratification culture has trained me to believe.

I also had to come to grips with the fact that I will never be, nor should I ever be, irreplaceable. In short, I had to get over myself. I was so busy filling my head with expectations of greatness (in the conventional sense of the term), with thoughts that I was special and unique and had so much to offer the world, that I was losing sight of the great things God was already doing through me or could potentially be doing through me here. It took me a while to come around to it because, in a smackdown to reality (and humility), I wasn’t the hero. And that’s the whole point. God doesn’t want me to be the hero. The pride I would take in that would ultimately be my undoing. Rather, He wants me to get back to an understanding that, without His mercy, His grace and His love, I am nothing.

After coming to those humbling realizations, the decision actually became much more of a no-brainer than we had ever imagined. We desire to build into the mission and vision of Hands at Work. We want to dig in and dig deep and to continue to commit our lives to serving the most vulnerable children in the poorest of the poor communities. We aspire to continue to invest into the relationships we have established here and to be part of a life-giving community. We are excited about how God will continue to challenge, shape and mold us and how He will continue to reveal His heart to us.

Because of all this, we decided two years felt right. Had we committed to only one year instead, we likely would have had the whole “should we stay or should we go?” conundrum hang over us throughout much of the next year. As we have already experienced, one year goes by in a flash. We needed something that was far enough away that we could not grasp it, allowing our minds and our hearts to be fully committed and fully present to being here in Africa. Committing for two additional years gives us an opportunity to really build into and build off of what we have already started here. And we couldn’t be more excited.

The Caveat

At the risk of sounding too lawyerly (which has never really been a problem for me), we did build in one caveat to our two-year commitment. Can you guess what it is? Well, if you’re part of the Chan/Hoang/Nguyen clan, I’m sure you’ll find much relief in the caveat taking the form of a potential Byron Jr.! While Baby Chan hasn’t entered the immediate plans, it’s definitely in the picture for the short-term future. I mean, we’re not getting any younger (Diane turned 29 this past week!), and we’re both coming down with a slight (or serious, if we’re talking about Diane) case of baby fever. Our family planning hasn’t changed since being in Africa and we’re getting to the stage in our lives where we do want to start our own family soon. And, at this point, we envision starting our family in the love and support of our family and friends back home (and because Diane’s mom would probably beat us otherwise).

Having said that, our plan is to concentrate on our time with Hands and keep the Chan clan to just 2 members, at least for now. Fortunately, this is something we feel completely confident and at peace with in terms of leaving it up to God (not like we have much choice in the matter, anyway!). If we are blessed with a little By-Ju in the oven, we will take it as a sign that it may be time for a new season and reassess what our commitment here looks like. If not, we’ll take it as a sign that we’re exactly where we’re meant to be and continue on. Either way, we stand firm in faith that God will lead the way. After all, He’s brought us this far and continues to show us His faithfulness time and time again. 

- Byron

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Old Friends and New Friends

Back in October of last year, Byron and I did our very first community stay in a South African community called Oshoek. We spent four days and three nights in the home of a Gogo (grandma in Siswati) and her six grandchildren – getting to know them and experiencing life the way they do. Click here to read about our experience the first time around. The family is from the country of Swaziland, the border of which is about a half hour drive from Oshoek. With the desire to put her six grandchildren through school, Gogo made the decision a few years ago to move her family to South Africa, where school fees are much cheaper than they are in Swaziland. Since then, she has been fighting tirelessly to put food on the table and to make ends meet. Life has been difficult. They are isolated, tucked away in the hills of Oshoek, with little to no support from anyone. 

Beautiful scenery in Oshoek, South Africa
A few weeks ago, Byron and I had the opportunity to visit our family again and to stay with them for a night. This time, we had our friend, Sibusiso, with us, a fellow Hands at Work volunteer who was born and raised in Swaziland. We felt grateful for the opportunity to spend time with our family again, to show them that we hadn’t forgotten about them and to encourage them in the small ways that we could. 

Our friend Sibusiso
Clement, the youngest boy in the family, ran at full speed and jumped straight into Byron’s arms as soon as he saw us – what a special moment!  We were relieved that they hadn’t forgotten us and that we wouldn’t have to battle through the shyness that many African children have towards foreigners. It was almost as though we had never left!

Clement was all smiles!
We decided to go with Gogo to fetch firewood as the girls in the family went to fetch water. Byron tried his hand at chopping wood but that lasted all of two minutes. Sibu and the other two boys did the rest of the chopping while I gathered the chopped wood and Byron pushed the wheelbarrow. 

Wheelbarrow duties never got in the way of Byron being stupid
Observing as the boys chopped fire wood
That night, Byron and I slept in our sleeping bags on a foam mattress on the floor. Gogo spent a lot of time preparing our sleeping quarters, ensuring that we had more than enough to be comfortable and warm in our bed and providing us with the best that she had. What an incredibly sweet gesture. The condition of the home was about the same as it was back in October – old, dirty and seemingly on the brink of falling apart. With Gogo so old and away from the house most of the day working, the house is often left a mess with dirt and garbage everywhere.

The room we slept in
Our bed
The front area of the house
Kitchen on the right and a bedroom on the left
Gogo's bedroom
The kitchen with a wood burning stove
We were sad to discover that the two youngest kids have not been going to school for a while (they’re not too sure how long they’ve been out of school for). With the large amount of Swazi citizens illegally settling in South Africa to put their children through school, the South African government often cracks down on the public schools, chasing out any children without the proper papers. We wondered if anybody knew about this, if anyone was doing something to get the children back in school.

Clement and Nonhle, the two youngest in the family
As the day wore on, Byron and I both felt a growing sense of hopelessness. Gogo is old and can barely earn enough to feed the children. The eldest boy, 20 years old now, but only with a grade eight education, is more interested in making rap music than pursuing an education. The eldest girl, 19, is often gone for days on end (she wasn't there when we visited and we suspect she was staying with a boyfriend), leaving the cleaning and cooking up to Gogo and her younger siblings and cousins. The two youngest children have been chased out of school and have no immediate plans to go back. The middle sister, age 14, spends her time hanging out with friends outside the neighbourhood bar where loud rap music blares and guys get drunk. Needless to say, it's not the ideal hangout spot for a young, teenage girl, especially when her little sister often follows her there. Without the intervention of Care Workers and those who can advocate on these children's behalf, what hope do they have? What hope does Gogo have in trying to provide a better life for her grandchildren? This is where the role of our Care Workers is SO critical. If home visits are being done properly and if Care Workers have a deep, parental-like relationship with the children they are visiting, situations like this one would never go unnoticed. It’s our job to advocate for children who have no voice and to stand up for those who are helpless. As discouraging as it may be at times, we will continue to pray for our family and to follow up on their situation.

After a cold, wet night, we said our goodbyes the following morning and continued our journey to Sibu’s house in the beautiful country of Swaziland!

As I mentioned earlier, Sibu is one of our fellow volunteers at Hands. He was discovered in his tiny little rural church after the leaders at Hands at Work, desiring to expand into the HIV-ravaged country of Swaziland, caught wind of a man who had devoted his life to caring for the orphaned and vulnerable children in his community. Since then, Sibu has been living in South Africa at the Hub, learning about Hands and taking up responsibilities as a member of the South Africa Regional Support Team.

Byron and I were invited to spend a couple of days with Sibu in his home, to spend time with his brothers and to meet his Gogo, the woman who raised him and his siblings. Sibu doesn't often get the opportunity to go home to see his family so this trip was a real blessing for him. He also could not have been more excited to show us his home and introduce us to his family. Byron and I were just honoured that we got to meet his family, see where and how he grew up in and visit his beloved church.

All in all, it was a great weekend. It's moments like these that really offer us a lot of perspective and remind us of how blessed we are.

Here are some pictures of our time with Sibu.

Look what we stumbled upon in Mbabane (the capital of Swaziland) ... The food was actually really good!
Sibu, Byron, Sibu's brother and his cousin
Byron and I at the top of the hill we climbed with Sibu
Resting our feet and enjoying the view
Huddling around the fire while dinner was being cooked at Sibu's home
Making breakfast with Sibu's sister the next morning
Sibu's Gogo
Sibu and his Gogo
 - Diane

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Back to Zambia!

Again! After 3.5 months at the Hands at Work Hub in South Africa, we return to the place where a huge part of our journey began in Africa – the magical land of Zambia. We arrived with mixed feelings. On the one hand, we were dreading having to pack our lives up … yet again. It feels like, lately, we’ve constantly been on the move, making it difficult for us to feel settled in one place. We also aren’t looking forward to Zambian living – the many inconveniences and inefficiencies and the slow pace of what seems like all aspects of life here, not to mention the constant heat! There’s also much less of a community feel here. While Hands is focused on building up its presence in Zambia, there are still far fewer people here than there are at the Hub in South Africa. At times, it’s easy to get a little stir crazy because there’s really not a whole lot to do. We live rurally, on a farm, with a handful of Hands volunteers. The farm is about 12 kms away from Luanshya, the nearest town, and about 45 kms away from Kitwe, where we lived the first time we were sent to Zambia. But, as we’ve learnt in the past, it’s good to be uncomfortable. After all, we certainly didn’t come to Africa to be comfortable!

On the other hand, we are really looking forward to connecting with everyone back in Zambia, particularly the Kitwe Service Centre team – Blessings, Towela and Clement – that quickly became like family to us, and the international volunteers here that we became good friends with. We are also really excited about what we will be doing from a work perspective. When we first arrived in Zambia in mid-October of last year, we were mere rookies, fresh out of orientation. We didn’t know anything about Zambia, nor did we understand much about who Hands was or what we were going to be doing. Fast-forward 10 months and the difference is like night and day. We’re not saying that being in Africa a year has made us experts, by any means, but we now have a far greater understanding of our roles and of the big picture. We feel we have finally reached a point where we are contributing into Hands and really building into the work that’s going on here. In fact, it’s a big part of why we’ve been sent back to Zambia!

This time we’ll only be in Zambia for 6.5 weeks, as opposed to the 6.5 months we spent here the first go-around. It’s shaping up to be a very busy 6.5 weeks for both of us, though! Diane’s main responsibilities include training and working together with a new accountant that Hands recently hired to fill a huge role with our Zambia finances. She’ll also be helping out the Kitwe and Luanshya Service Centres with their bookkeeping functions, an area of constant need. As for me, I’ll be spending the majority of my time working with our Regional Support Team and our Service Centres in Kitwe and Luanshya to ensure that certain projects are completed by the end of the year. I will also be facilitating the planning and budgeting for essential projects and workshops in 2014, as well as providing general support wherever I can.

When we shifted into our long-term roles a few months ago, I wondered if I would struggle with not being out in our African communities, interacting with our Care Workers and seeing the children we serve on a regular basis. It was very much a regular part of our day when we walked with the Kitwe Service Centre for those 6.5 months and I absolutely loved it. I mean, who wouldn’t love this ...

Me and Philip, a little boy from a community called Mulenga (and yes ... that is me wearing a headband ...)
But now that we’re back in completely different roles, we are both very excited about how everything has taken shape. As much as we loved being in the community, we know and now completely understand that, as foreigners, that could never be part of our long-term role. Never mind the fact that we could never fill the shoes of our local community leaders, it’s just not sustainable, nor does it build into one of our core values of local community ownership. A part of us will always want to be on the ground and in the community with our kids (they’re pretty damn cute). But we know that we add much more value and build into something much bigger when we serve as the behind-the-scenes support. While we haven’t been able to settle down in a home as of yet, it’s been really, really good for us to feel like we’ve settled into our roles with Hands. We love that we’ve been entrusted with more responsibility and are being given opportunities to build into what we’re doing here.

With the rollercoaster 6.5 months we had here, it definitely became a love-hate kind of thing in our relationship with Zambia. But since we’ve been gone, we think fondly of our experience and are now able to laugh about the tough times we faced. We look forward to what God has in store for us this time around. It’s good to be back!

Enjoy some photos from our first few days back.

- Byron

Playing with 5 week old puppies at the farm
Relaxing, roast pig style
All 6 puppies napping
Jessie, the puppies' mom
Community church in Mulenga
Visiting a Care Worker's home after church
Diane with Johnny, Philip's older brother
Sylvia and Denise, one of our Care Worker's wife and daughter in Mulenga. She was NOT happy to see white people.
Shekinah, Blessings' new baby boy
Our room for the next 6 weeks inside the main house at the farm. Separate beds make for romantic times.
View of the farm
The office at the farm ... where all the magic happens
The volunteer kitchen
Got milk?
Former chicken coops being constructed into new accommodation for volunteers
Guest "chalets", also converted from former chicken coops
The back of the main house with our ghetto, non-functioning swimming pool
Reunited with our favourite little sweetheart at the farm, Towanga

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Ce-le-brate Good Times, Come On!

Lately we've been noticing how quickly time is passing by. We have been back at the Hub in South Africa for over 3 months now, settled into our roles (Diane on the Finance / Project Support team for our Zambia operations and Byron on the Legal / Operations / Clau Clau Service Centre Project Support / Kitwe Service Centre Project Support side of things). Between the move back to South Africa, visits from our family, taking on more responsibility with our new roles, and life in general, it feels like we haven't had much time to spare. But no matter how quickly time has escaped us, it's never too late to reflect on the good times and to share these memories with friends and family back home.

In April every year, Care Workers and Service Centre staff from across the 8 countries that Hands at Work operates in, together with international volunteers, advocates and friends of Hands at Work, and local church leaders converge at Kachele Farm, our 'Hub' in Zambia, to "ce-le-brate good times, come on!" This annual conference, called 'Celebrations', is a time for our Care Workers and Service Centre staff - the men and women whose very heart and passion our organization is built on - to meet up, share stories, re-connect and be challenged and encouraged by the work we're doing and the testimonies and stories coming out of our communities. Most importantly, it's an opportunity to gather the entire Hands Family together in one place.

Whether we traveled to Zambia by bus, by car or by plane, whether we came from the next town over (like us) or all the way from Nigeria, the UK or the US, there was an undeniable sense of family and community among us. Many of our Care Workers (1-4 from each Community Based Organization (CBO) together with the CBO Coordinator) braved long (like, really long!) bus journeys and multiple border crossings (which are always gong shows in Africa) just to be part of Celebrations. For many of our Care Workers, this is the only time of year they get to travel outside of their community. For some, it was their first time ever!

As much as Celebrations is a time of fun and re-connecting, it's also a time to introduce and roll out the key themes that Hands is focusing on in the upcoming year. It's a wonderful opportunity to assess how we're doing as an organization and what we can be doing better to more effectively reach and care for our children. Two of the themes that dominated the discussion during this year were: 'Holy Home Visits' and 'The Jesus We Know'.

We've said it here before but, if there's one activity we do that defines who we are as an organization, it is home visits. We visit others because Jesus first visited us. Home visits are what enable us to properly assess and understand our children. It is what allows us to engage in deep relationships with a child and is what separates us from being a mere service provider. In short, it shows the child that we care, that he/she is valued, and that he/she is known by name. It must be so much more than just a brief check-in or an obligatory visit to be crossed off a to-do list. One of the main points emphasized is that, for our home visits to be effective and transformational, each visit must be approached with the same preparation, attitude and anticipation as one would have if they were to be meeting with God himself. Would we go into such a meeting with an agenda or a time limit? Would we go with impatient attitudes or a narrow-mindedness that limits our expectations of what God can do in our lives? Of course not! Rather, we go for no other reason than to love and serve. If we adopt the right spirit in our home visits, we trust that God will show up. Only then will we truly see the transformational nature of "holy" home visits.

Another theme that we talked about is something we termed, ‘The Jesus We Know’. Many of our Care Workers have been raised their whole life with an understanding of God, of Christianity, that misconstrues or altogether misses the true message of the gospel. Instead, the prosperity gospel - the theology that financial blessing is the will of God for Christians, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will always increase one's material wealth (according to Wikipedia) - reaches throughout vast parts of Africa. Many are also exposed to a very legalistic view of what it means to be a Christian - that we must obey the Biblical commandments to earn favour with God and to, ultimately, earn our way into heaven. This, of course, is in stark contrast to the life Jesus lived and the good news He came to bring during His time on Earth. The 'Jesus We Know' is the Jesus who is the blameless Son of God but, yet, was mocked and persecuted and ultimately died for our sins. The 'Jesus We Know' is the Jesus who spent His life dwelling amongst the sinners, condemning the religious and the righteous. The 'Jesus We Know' is the King who came to be a humble servant and wash the feet of his disciples. During Celebrations, we were all deeply challenged with whether we know the true Jesus of the gospel, who loves and cares for widows and orphans, and who teaches us that it is the poor, the weak and the meek who will inherit the kingdom of heaven. As Christians, and as those who have made it our mission to care for such people, we need to be looking to the example that Christ set during His time on Earth and living our lives in a way that strives to be more like Him.

All-in-all, it was a joyous 3 days, full of fellowship, learning and just pure celebration of what God is doing in the lives of the children we serve. It was truly amazing! Our hearts were touched as we saw Service Centre Coordinators from different countries reunited after years, teasing each other and telling each other stories, despite their sometimes very broken English. The laughter, the dancing, the moments where a group of Care Workers would just break out in song ... these are memories we will hold dear to our hearts forever. Here are some pictures and hightlights from our time together.

-Diane & Byron

"The Wall" of protection that we build around the child 
Byron with baby Mischek, Clement's tank of a son 
A packed house on the first day of Celebrations with representatives from CBO's from all 8 of our countries! 
An impromptu song and dance before the start of day 2 ... so very African of us!
The little ones are always the belles of the ball. This little guy, Farai Jr., is the son of our Zimbabwe Service Centre Coordinator 
More singing and dancing
Amazing praise and worship

Prayer for those in need
Hadasah, the cutest little Congolese baby we have EVER met!!
Song and dance performances by each of the 8 countries Hands operates in

Nigerians (with honourary Nigerians) rocking the house (we just wanted to post this picture to show Lynn dancing)
The largest contingent at Celebrations, Zambia, after our song and dance number! 
Say "Mwentula!", which means "Smile!" in Bemba 
A precious group picture of the Kitwe Service Centre together with Care Workers from each of the CBOs that the Kitwe Service Centre supports
Our 2 favourite Zambian ladies: Elizabeth (R), the Coordinator of the Luanshya Service Centre together with Towela (L), our mom and the Coordinator of the Kitwe Service Centre
The dishes that fed over 225 people!
Is that ... Cleveland?! From The Family Guy?