Every Wednesday morning at Hands, we gather together in small groups to dig into God’s word and share what He is doing in each of our lives. For the last 3 years, we have lead and facilitated a small group in our home. It is a special time that we treasure and look forward to every week. Year after year, our groups change and we have loved each group that we have been a part of. But this year’s small group has been particularly special to us. We wanted to introduce you to our small group: Caiver – a South African who is part of our maintenance team. We have been in groups with Caiver before, but this year we really saw him come out of his shell working through health challenges and sharing very personally from his own experiences. Baba John – the strongest 70+ year old we know. He is part of our maintenance team as well as a pastor in his community. Oumie – the grandmother of the Hands at Work community, we love the wisdom and deep faith she brings. The Mohajer family – a Iranian/Canadian/British family whose willingness to be open and vulnerable has been so valuable to our small group this year. Caleb – a young British guy who earnestly sought after God’s heart. As a small group, we have been sharing and praying for Gogo Laura and her family in Mafambisa community, South Africa. Each member of our group has been involved in different ways throughout this year, from visiting her in her home to building her and her family a new structure and spending time with her grandchildren. Before we all went our separate ways for the Christmas holidays, we spent a morning as a group with Gogo Laura and her grandchildren. It was great to be there altogether and share with her how had been lifting up her family this past year. This Wednesday is our last small group of this year. We will be sad to see our group disperse but we know that because it’s hard, it’s the right thing to do and we are looking forward to what God has in store for our new small group in 2019.
Out little "staycation" got off to a bit of a rocky start, when my phone was stolen out of Finn’s bag on the first Saturday, while we were out running errands. It threw me more then I realized at first, I have never had something stolen from me before. It was a reminder of the poverty and vulnerability of the country we are living in. And it became an exercise in spiritual discipline for me, I couldn't change what had happened but I committed to praying for the thieves when thoughts of anger or frustration started to creep in. Despite our efforts we never did recover my phone but with the support of a number of people we were able to replace it. I am incredibly grateful for those who helped us out!!
We have been trying to learn over the last few years how to grow some of our own food. Often fresh things from the nearest shop go off quickly and better quality things are more expensive. So we dedicated some of our staycation time cleaning out the garden and researching what can be planted in the upcoming months. Neither Tommy or I are naturals at gardening, but it has been fun to learn as a family how to do this together.
We finished off the week with a few nights away in a town called Badplaas just a few hours away. We did lots of swimming and spending time outside. Just what we needed to finish off our restful week.
As a family we went to community prayer in Mluti at the end of July . Finn is so busy these days it is difficult for us to participate in some of these things. But we love letting Finn explore the communities and he loves the times of worship. He is so happy to dance and clap along with the beautiful melodies.
Our dear friends Sara + Xolani got married on Aug 4th. Sara is from New York and Xolani is from near where we live in South Africa. A cross cultural wedding brought lots of new experiences for us during the preparations and the wedding day. There was a “white wedding” church service in the morning and a more traditional African service in the afternoon. Tommy participated in the cow butchering event before the wedding, and as part of the bridal party I experienced lots of new things! It was a beautiful day, and we are so thrilled for them!
This past week I spent a few days with a team from the UK in the Community of Share. They have a nearly 10 year relationship with the community and it was amazing to see then reconnect with so many familiar faces. Together we walked the community going on Holy Home Visits and began work on painting the Life Center.
Since the wedding I have been reflecting on this well known verse in 1 Corinthians about love. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.Love never dies.They have been an encouragement and a challenge to me and I hope they speak to you as well.
June seemed to fly by so quickly for us! We celebrated lots of birthdays, and spent a number of days in the community. This year Hands at Work has begun projects to see the transformation of the physical structures of our Life Centers. The vision is to see our Care Workers, children and the international church come together to bring colour and life to these spaces. Before we invited others to be a part of this we wanted to have the opportunity to participate in this ourselves. In the middle of June we saw the completion of a project in Zwelisha community in South Africa. At the end of June, I had the opportunity to spend 12 days in Malawi. It's the longest I have been away from Finnley + Tommy since Finn was born. It was such a blessing to be able to leave them behind and know that Tommy had incredible support from our community. I never thought twice or felt the need to worry, it put my momma heart at ease knowing they were so well supported! Malawi is known as the "warm heart of africa" and every time I return it becomes more and more evident why. The friendly, genuine warmth and hospitality displayed by it's people makes it a place such a pleasure to return to. I was in Malawi to host a group of nurses from the US. I really enjoy hosting these teams, they are very different from the other teams Hands receives and God also does something unique through them. We spent time primarily in the community of Mcheneke running mobile clinics and health education classes alongside local nurses from Malawi. It's amazing how hosting a team gives you all kinds of opportunities to share your own heart and calling to this work. God has a way of refreshing you as you pour out onto others. Coming up this month, Malster family 'staycation', preparing for our dear friends wedding, and spending time in the communities in South Africa.
Last week we headed out as a family to Oshoek, a rural mountainous area of South Africa where Hands at Work has a local office. We were there to support and encourage the team there, who care for children in 5 communities on the South Africa, Swaziland border. The office building doubles as accommodation for visitors. Finn loved staying in the sparse building with mattresses on the floor. It was hours of entertainment for him. He did so well in a new environment and being passed from person to person. It was a privilege for us as parents to watch him bring joy to so many souls.
It was a beautiful week, building relationship with some incredible people. At the end of the week, we both felt like we could have used a few more days. We left feeling refreshed and with full hearts.