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

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