Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Like We Never Left

As I sit here reflecting on our time back in Africa so far, I feel such a sense of peace and joy with where our journey has led us, back to Africa for another 2(ish!) years. We left our friends and families back home for a place that we love, where we have been so richly welcomed and accepted as part of a bigger family. As much as we were sad to be leaving our home, our family and friends, settling back into life in South Africa and back into our roles with Hands at Work has been easier than ever before because of the love and support we received from all of you before we left. Thank you!

Here’s an update on what we’ve been up to since coming back to Africa:

On the work side, Byron and I have been extremely excited to get back into the swing of things. We felt a bit in the dark the first few days, trying to get caught up on where everything was at, who was doing what and what our priorities were. For me, it was a little easier jumping back into things because I resumed my role as on the Project Support Team as a Project Accountant. One difference to what I was doing before Christmas is that now my focus has shifted to supporting our South Africa, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, and Mozambique operations (I was previously supporting Zambia). As a Project Accountant, I’m not only responsible for ensuring that our financial data is captured correctly and allocated to the appropriate cost codes, but also to ‘build capacity’ into the local bookkeepers that sit in our Service Centre offices. To build a system where we uphold local community ownership, it’s crucial that all the work that I do invests and builds into our local bookkeepers and encourages their growth and development. This is much easier said than done when the ‘capacity building’ largely has to be done over email and Whatsapp! I really hope to have the opportunity to travel to Zimbabwe this year to meet the team there and to really build into the relationships that I’ve started to cultivate since being back.

Byron continues to head up all the legal work – dealing with various legal issues that pop up from time to time and pushing to have Hands at Work appropriately registered and compliant across the 8 African countries we work in. He’s said it many times before – it’s not as simple and straightforward as it sounds! In countries where bribes are expected and corruption runs rife in all levels of government, it’s exhausting, time consuming and costly to go about doing things the right way. We, of course, are committed to going through the right channels which often means that months or years of hard work by people like Byron can be halted or dragged through layers of red tape before changes are actually made. To complicate matters, it has been an ongoing challenge to find trustworthy and reliable legal counsel across the 8 countries, particularly when the majority of communication can only be done via email. I can really see how Byron’s patience is tested on a daily basis dealing with all this! In addition to the legal work, Byron plays a coordination and support role on the Project Support Team. In essence, he serves a bridging function between the various members of the Project Support and the Operations Team, helping to communicate and prioritize all of the projects and proposals across the 8 countries we work in. This is a new role to Hands and one that hubby really seems to enjoy. It’s a unique perspective to have, being able to see every single project that is currently operating across 8 different countries and to see each one in the context of Hands as a whole.
In case you were wondering, here is what the outside of our offices looks like. Byron and I work in the office that is on the far right hand side, right beside each other!
Byron and I at our desks
On the personal side, the biggest change for us has been moving up to our own little flat! Since arriving at Hands in September 2012, Byron and I have stayed in the Village, which are dorm style accommodations with shared bathrooms, kitchen and living space. While we loved being down at the Village and always being around lots of people (okay, Byron liked it much more than I did!), we have absolutely LOVED having our own home here and a private space that’s just for us. Our flat is on the same property as the Village and our offices, just up the hill where all the other long-term accommodation is located. We live in a flat that is just over 250 sq. ft. (that includes our bedroom, kitchen, shower and toilet!) which is attached to a larger 3-bedroom house that one of the families serving with Hands is currently living in. I’ve had lots of time to practice my cooking skills since being in Africa and a huge component of our down time and social life is to cook and have friends over for dinner. Our place is so small that we can’t fit a dining table inside so we use the front verandah as our dining room. The one thing that we have learned about ourselves since moving into our flat is how happy and content we can be with such simple and humble surroundings. Our place now is definitely a step up from the house we lived in for 6 months last year in Kitwe, Zambia, but is by no means luxurious or extravagant. It’s small (we essentially cook in our bedroom and sleep in our kitchen!) but it is our home and we couldn’t be happier.

Outside of our place
View from the front door. That's our bed on the left. The kitchen is on the right side and at the very back is our toilet and kitchen sink
View from the other side of our bed with the shower in the far back corner
View from the back of our flat. The brown doors on the left are our wardrobes
The shower
The bathroom
One of the best parts of our place - the lovely views!

There’s a scripture that I have been thinking about lately and it comes from Revelation 3:20. It says:

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me”

For so long, I felt like God was gently knocking at our doors. From the time that we were in university through to when we were both working, we knew that He was knocking and that He was patiently waiting for us to open the door. He promises that if we open it, He will come to us. Every time we take a leap of faith or walk in the direction that God is leading us, I feel as though we crack that door open just a little more, allowing more of Him to come into our hearts and to change us. The sense of peace that we have felt since coming back in February, at the front end of another 2 year commitment, could have only resulted from His transforming work in our hearts over the past year and a half. Each step of faith that we have taken, while scary and uncertain beforehand, has resulted in more happiness and joy than we could have imagined. We have no doubt that this is where we belong right now, that this is the work and the community we are meant to be a part of in this season. I just pray that we would continue to be attentive to hearing his gentle knock and courageous enough to open the door a little wider each time!



  1. Nice digs, guys! Craving that South African serenity these days and Springbok, your guys' posts are always a great read :)! Best wishes out there, are you out of Reese Peanut butter cups yet?

  2. Thanks, cuz! Yes, we are all out of the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups but good news ... They now sell them in South Africa! South African awaits your return...