Monday, January 23, 2017

Back in USA

Wow, what an amazing trip.  It's hard to even know where to start.  My time was short, but my schedule was packed.  Maybe I'll just try to pick out some highlights.
  • Sunday
    • getting picked up at the City Bug by Alicia and Hayden, it was great to see some smiling faces after the long journey
    • the welcome braai, it was so nice to taste boerwors again
  • Monday
    • the watchword (I'll say more about this below)
    • getting to see Eunice
    • eating litchis on the way to Swaziland
    • community stay in Lomahasha, Swaziland
  • Tuesday
    • visiting Bhandeni in Swaziland
    • walking the maize fields (I'll say more about this below)
  • Wednesday 
    • Annual General meeting of the board
    • Board of Director's meeting (I'm the newly appointed secretary)
    • Dinner at the Snyman's house
  • Thursday
    • Finance meetings!
    • Dinner at the Snyman's house (again)
  • Friday
    • Lynn sharing at word and worship (such an uplifting and challenging message)
    • More finance meetings!
    • Dinner with the Dinhiras (Emily, Faith, and Divine)
  • Saturday
    • More quality time with the finance team
    • Dinner with the Ralphs and Lynn at Rocomamas
  • Sunday
    • Church at St. George's Anglican church
    • Spanish breakfast at the Courtyard Cafe
    • Heading home to see my family (I'll say more about this below as well)
  • Monday
    • Back in Minneapolis and driving to Hibbing
As you can see there wasn't much down time in there.  I wanted to just touch on a few items in more detail from above.  The first is the watchword.  Hands at Work begins each year with a Watchword; a guiding scripture which George, the co-founder of Hands, shares with the Hands family. This scripture is a promise, a challenge, an inspiration, an encouragement, and an opportunity to invite God to lead us throughout the year, expectant for what He will do in and through us.
The 2017 Watchword comes from Romans 12:12-13

“BE JOYFUL IN HOPE, PATIENT IN AFFLICTION, FAITHFUL IN PRAYER. SHARE WITH THE LORD’S PEOPLE WHO ARE IN NEED. PRACTICE HOSPITALITY.”

When I told Brooke she said, "Your grandma has that same verse on the mirror in the bathroom."  I know it is small, but it felt like a little confirmation on this big journey we've started.  Quitting jobs, moving to Hibbing, spending time in Africa as a family later this year, these aren't small steps of faith, but this just felt like a gentle reminder that we are not alone.  

The second item I wanted to share about was my time in Swaziland.  I think we may have only been there for less than 24 hours, but it was great to see the joy in the care workers there.  Many of you know there has been a severe drought in Southern Africa for the past two years.  For two years families have planted and had no harvest.  This might not seem like that big of a deal, but it is for subsistence farmers.  Hands at Work has been working tirelessly in these communities.  Their response has saved literally hundreds if not thousands of lives in the communities they are working in throughout Africa.  This year as part of the drought response in Lomahasha and Bandeni (the two communities we visited) they brought in a tractor to plow the fields and got the whole community to help plant maize in the fields for the orphans and widows.  I talked with one of the volunteers from Hands who told me they were so worried that the drought would continue.  They plowed the fields and planted in dust.  The rains hadn't started yet, but they knew if they didn't plant soon even if the rains did come there might not be enough time to grow the maize.  So they planted in faith in the dust.  That very night soft rains started to fall.  Now the maize in some places is taller than 6 feet!  They will still need continued rains not just in Swaziland, but all over southern Africa for good yields, but to see how much joy and hope this brought to the community was amazing.

The final thing I wanted to share was about my family.  It was the longest I had been away from Brooke and the twins since they were born.  They turned 3 months old the day after I got back.  Brooke was great and sent me pictures of their daily activities.  Mostly smiling, eating and playing.  It was great to get home and be with my family again!
 Our dear friend Eunice
 Looking towards the South African border from the yard of our home stay family

The room I stayed in with Vusi and the grandfather in Swaziland
 One of the maize fields planted by the community 
 Vusi and Bernard (from Germany) eating breakfast after our community stay
 The women cutting up leaves for lunch
 Our team ready to make the long journey up the hill to Bandeni (the children walk 2.5 hours one way to get to school each day it took us 40 minutes by truck as the road is rough)
 Dinner with the Dinhiras, Marc D, Bernard and his daughter Maria
 Marc D showing me the finance system.  He filled the board countless times!




Friday, January 6, 2017

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I'm currently sitting at the gate in Minneapolis.  In about 24 hours I will be landing in Johannesburg!  The world is small.  I'll be there for a quick 10 day trip for the annual Hands at Work kickoff meeting and a finance meeting. Also, as a part of this trip I'll  be doing a community stay with a family in Swaziland.  I am looking forward to connecting with families on the ground in one of the countries that was hardest hit by the drought this last year.  I'm hoping I'll see continued signs of rain and plants in the ground.  Please pray for my time in Africa that it will go well and that I'll see what God has for our family this year.  Also, please pray for Brooke, Eli, and Thomas as they stay in Hibbing during my time away.  Thanks for all of you that are helping Brooke out these next 10 days.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Welcome Thomas and Eli!

On October 17 we welcomed Thomas Walter and Eli Jeffrey into the world. Our scheduled c-section (at 38 weeks and 3 days) went off without a hitch, and the boys are happy and healthy.


Big belly (I loved being pregnant, but I was getting seriously uncomfortable!)


Meeting our boys


Eli (L) and Thomas (R)


Monday, October 3, 2016

A New Season

We are thrilled to be entering a new season in our lives with the imminent arrival of twin boys and a new job for Jed, working full-time for Hands at Work. Since returning in 2010 from three years serving with Hands in Africa, we have been dreaming of and preparing for this.

We believe that God has called us as a family to spend on our lives on behalf of the poor and vulnerable. Over the years, that calling has led us in some unexpected directions--living in Africa, moving to Minneapolis, caring for four special foster kids, advocating the poorest children in Chisamba and Mwaiseni, Zambia, Brooke quitting her statistics job to lead the Hands U.S. team, and Jed going back to school to study accounting. Jed's studies and work experience have prepared him for a new role within Hands that will be critical to strengthening Hands as an organization in order to protect the heart of who we are and what we do as we grow.

With guidance from Hands leadership, our hope for 2017 is for Jed to start work full-time in January and to spend 3-5 months in Africa as a family later in the year. This will enable us to reconnect with so many dear friends and new leaders who we haven't been able to spend an extended time with for many years. Although Jed's job won't require him to be based in Africa full-time, a 3-6 month stay will enable him to learn more about the finances at every level and to influence and be influenced by the volunteers on the ground in Africa.

Jed will officially be an employee of Hands at Work U.S., but we do need financial support in order to help pay his salary. Jed's work for Hands will have a major impact on the thousands of kids already being supported in some of the poorest communities in Africa. By supporting us (financially and in other ways), you can also play a huge role in making a difference in their lives!

For more information on how to donate, visit our Support Us page.

For more information about Hands at Work, including their unique model that promotes local community ownership, please visit handsatwork.org.

Feel free to contact us with any questions.

With love,
Brooke and Jed