On June 8th, 2017, a team of excited disciples met at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson Airport to embark on an adventure of a lifetime! Destination: South Africa.
The team was about as diverse as you could get. Several retirement-age couples, a few younger singles, a PhD student, a single mom who had never before boarded an airplane, and others all converged on Atlanta, excited about the opportunity to serve the poor in Africa. The 15 hour flight seemed endless when one of our members developed a severe allergic reaction soon after takeoff. This was just the beginning but clearly demonstrated the determination and resilience of the team. They had come to serve and would not be deterred!
The next week was heart moving as together we worked in the mornings with the kids in the informal settlements. In the afternoon, we either did home visits or attended parent support groups (PSG’s). These groups bring together the most destitute moms who cannot afford to bring their children to a crèche (preschool). HOPE comes to them, literally. Through word of mouth or canvassing these women learn of a place where they can come to learn how to break the chain of violence handed down to them from their parents, to be different, to be better. It becomes their safe place, maybe for the first time, a place where they can share the hurts and heartaches that come with being raised in a violent, poverty-stricken corner of our world. It is a place where they are heard, valued, loved and hugged. The result is mind boggling. Women start seeing themselves differently and start gaining self respect and confidence. When I started coming a couple of years back, there were a few of these groups in the community. Now there are 71 and over 50 graduates have been hired as community workers. They have a resounding voice in the community where every day, their neighbors witness the changes in them. A changed life speaks louder than many words.
Visits to the shacks that are their homes are so revealing. A family of seven can easily crowd in a small room with one bed. What stood out the most to me is that for many of them, their hopeless living situations have not changed. But their desperation has turned to hope because they have changed!
We had a tremendous time together. We were even able to fit in a tour of Soweto to help us understand the apartheid system and those who fought to bring it down. South African history is filled with brave heroes who overcame incredible obstacles. It always fills my heart to know that through our devotion and sacrifice, HOPE is a part of that change. We all are a part of transforming lives!
The Compassion Tour is an experience of a lifetime. Save the date now (June 2018) so that you can join us on our next tour as we bring light to a hurting continent.