“I had no idea that this was going to be such a life-altering experience!”
Over this past Christmas and New Year, a group of singles from all over the world (Australia, Singapore, the US, etc) spent their holidays in Sri Lanka, away from family, serving at a school for underprivileged children, an orphanage for boys, and a pediatric hospital for autistic children. They also greatly encouraged the local church, the Colombo Church of Christ, as you can read in this article written by David de los Santos. David and his wife Nadia are the young couple leading the church in Sri Lanka.
All around the world, 2016 was a year of the unexpected. This year marks the year where our church here in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, officially tripled in size by the hand of God, and that was certainly unexpected! We weren’t expecting an offer to host a HOPE worldwide Singles Corps right here in Sri Lanka, but we accepted it! We were humbled that Sri Lanka would be noticed and served in such an incredible way. While we were putting together all of the projects, I had no idea that this was going to be such a life-altering experience. It was an amazing feeling. One of the hit songs of 2016 was Justin Timberlake’s, “Can’t Stop the Feeling”. He wrote,
“I got this feeling inside my bones
It goes electric, wavy when I turn it on
All through my city, all through my home
We're flying up, no ceiling, when we're in our zone…”
I understand that the song is about dancing, but this is how we felt while serving the children in our groups over here! It was such an incredible feeling to be serving alongside people from all over the world with a shared purpose. A genuine electric feeling could be felt in around us. I was personally moved by the sheer number of disciples that signed up to come to our relatively unknown island country of Sri Lanka. Our hopes and our expectations were exceeded by the volunteers who sacrificed their entire holiday season to just humbly serve a people that they had never met before. These brothers and sisters not only inspired the church, but the community in Colombo as well.
I was shocked when I first walked into the room to see our volunteers, all on their own, striking up deep and meaningful conversations with every single set of Sri Lankan parents. The volunteers encouraged the parents to form a support system for themselves in order to help each other in their difficulties. I was inspired!
Many of the kids will rarely speak with strangers, but the volunteers were so excellent with children, that every single child felt compelled to speak and even play games with our group. What a miracle! The staff was of the hospital couldn’t help but be in awe of such serving hearts in the special needs wing of the hospital. It was a once in a lifetime experience for many of them. It just goes to show that a little love makes a big difference.
We ended our days with a life-changing spiritual retreat in the palm tree filled outskirts of the city. We started the retreat with three hours of solitary time with God, praying and reflecting on what we had done, and learned during our time in service to others. Then we had lessons for two days about getting out of our comfort zones, and moving forward with faith in God!
Afterwards, our new year’s party began! We started the night with prayer, a message on the cross, and a memorable communion to prepare us for the new year ahead of us, and then we danced the night away! There was an incredible amount of fun, dancing, food, and fireworks.
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.