To try and sum up my trip to South Africa feels like an impossible task. There are just some experiences you go through in life that no words could ever fully capture. However, I will do my best to at least share some of my thoughts. There is something about traveling and serving others that connects you to the heart of Jesus in no other way I have ever experienced before. I have grown more deeply in love with the heart of Jesus because of this Singles Corps to South Africa.
Throughout our week, Lin and Mark Ottenweller spoke specifically about the compassionate heart of Jesus. Jesus saw the invisible, the broken, the vulnerable and the rejected and He took the time to really see them; to make them visible and worthy of love. Having recently journeyed through two of my hardest years as a disciple, I have felt the sting of loneliness, pain, and heartbreak. There have been losses I have grieved and moments of feeling dauntingly unnoticed.
During part of our trip, our small group attended a parent support group that HOPE worldwide has set up in some of the poorest areas of Johannesburg. These are ten month programs designed to help mothers learn skills and practical applications of parenting, as well as receive emotional support. During our session, the mothers shared their stories of who they were before the program and how HOPE worldwide has made a difference. Women shared the abuse they grew up with and how they would pass that on to their children. One mother vulnerably confessed that because she couldn’t afford food every day, when her child would go to her to ask for food, she would hit him. She would do this simply because of the rage she felt with not being able to provide for her children. Another mother shared that she just did not care about her children, would leave them for hours and hours at a time, and even numbed herself to a point of wanting to end her own life. When asked who had a good relationship with their mother growing up, not one mother raised her hand.
These women have come from some of the most broken places; being raped, abused, kicked out of school and unable to finish their high school education. The feeling of being invisible and unseen is all too familiar for each of them. After sharing these stories, they continued to share how they have changed. They shared their stories of how they were taught to love. I sat there, holding back tears, as I expressed to them the incredible impact they are making on their families. These women have the amazing courage to be cycle breakers. I love seeing how people can become empowered and compelled through love, to break chains that have been passed down through generations.
These women’s children and future families will forever be changed simply because they were taught how to love. “We love because He first loved us” 1 John 4:19. This reflects the heart of HOPE and the motivation behind programs like this parent support group. I have the privilege of working in an Early Childhood Program here in the States, and the biggest impact that will be an indicator of true growth for any child we work with, is if the parent is involved and willing to reinforce the strategies we teach.
Through this program, HOPE worldwide is generating lasting change from the inside out. When people are given the opportunity to share their story, to be seen, it empowers them and in turn causes them to gain a belief that they can change and be different. I believe through this program, HOPE is continuing to empower these mothers in the community to change. Upon graduating the program, many have become advocates and teachers to other women in their community. Some mothers have even started working with HOPE worldwide to lead these programs. The impact and transformation of this community has come down to giving each individual woman the opportunity to be really seen.
There are still many things I want to see happen in South Africa, and I have a firm belief I will be back again next year. However, to see the way HOPE worldwide is a shining light of the compassionate heart of Jesus, has ignited a deeper fire in my own heart. I am reminded of how Jesus has noticed me and I am inspired to look for ways I can take the time to really see and listen to the stories of those around me; because love is truly one of the most powerful things we can offer others.
The team at Sonja Kill Memorial Hospital recently celebrated its 5 year anniversary. SKMH opened in April 2012 with the mission to meet the needs of poor children and women of Southern Cambodia. It is managed by HOPE worldwide . Since its opening, nearly 50,000 patients have been touched by the team. On May 26, the hospital honored 31 employees who have served since the hospital’s opening day. Through the dedication of its staff and supporters, SKMH has seen tremendous growth. Since its opening, the hospital has accomplished the following:
· More than 140,000 patient consultations with nearly 50,000 new patients
· 71% of visits have been for women and children
· Nearly 800 children have been born at the hospital since the opening of the Maternity building in November 2014
· 7 Cambodian doctors have graduated from three year hospital training program.
· Currently employs over 180 people
· The Neo Natal Intensive care unit opened November 2015. To date the NICU has served 49 children
· Centralized Medical Gas System for NICU and campus opened in November 2016.
· Surgical department opened in 2015
· Surgical team has performed over 360 surgeries in 2016, not including C-Sections. 86 surgeries have been for children
· Blood bank opened in August 2016
· A Learning Center for children of hospital staff opened on June 12
Sonja Kill Memorial Hospital has been blessed with international support from medical and administrative partners as well as volunteers from around the world to serve and teach. The local Cambodian staff continues to grow and serves as the primary patient care providers.
The team is grateful for all the support that has been given this past five years; however, there remains more to do. Future development includes the addition of a CT scan, upgraded X-ray diagnostic equipment, continued development of staff training programming and pursuit of international accreditations. Please consider how you can make a difference at the Sonja Kill Memorial Hospital. Go to https://www.hopeww.org/donate . Use the drop down box and select Sonja Kill Memorial Hospital. If you wish to learn more about the Sonja Kill Memorial Hospital, please visit www.skmh.org .
Dr. Rin Receiving the Empathy Amplified AwardClick here to watch .
Jenny Harkabus spent Christmas serving in the Philippines. She wrote this, and also made a short video:
I did not imagine that I would be spending Christmas in the Philippines for my first HOPE Youth Corps experience. This opportunity has deeply changed my perspective on the importance of service in my daily walk.
We are created in God's image, therefore we are meant to help and serve others. I know this to be true because I have never felt so used by God and fulfilled, than the times spent serving and pouring out my love in the Philippines.
James 1:27 says, " Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." Some translations refer to this as true religion. The bible also stresses the importance of giving to the poor (1 John 3:17, Matt 9:21, Proverbs 14:31). God considers caring for the poor and orphans as true religion, yet this can be an area of faith that is overlooked.
I was privileged to spend time with girls who have experienced trauma and abuse at the HOPE worldwide center in Laguna. Many of these girls have been separated from their families, becoming orphans, as a result of the abuse they have experienced. I also received the opportunity to play with children within the community as we rebuilt their homes and provided them with medical care. I witnessed the children’s precious value for human relationships, as they clung to me emotionally and physically. They showed me instant love and respect, which I find to be rare in today’s society. Our focus should be about investing in others just as the children in the Philippines invested in me.