Wake Up: Part 3 By: Chinua Hawk

So the morning of day two I hurried to get myself together so I could make it downstairs for 5:45 am  prayer time before breakfast. In my mind I wanted to start the day off right fully engaged and present.

This day was all about the kids, we brought bubbles, soccer balls and some much needed food for their pantry.  It seemed like we blew bubbles for hours but the kids just loved it! I admit that because my physical condition was less than stellar it didn’t take much for me to get pretty tired so I would retreat to the van and rest for a bit.  It bothered me a great deal that I couldn’t run with the kids the way I wanted to. Anyway back to the kids. I’ll whine about my own story later.

So while I’m in the van I’m still thinking about the words “just be here.”  I had stopped looking for that huge earth shattering, soul shaking, miracle to appear.  I grabbed one of the soccer balls and started tossing it back and forth with one of the kids and boy did this kid enjoy that. The next thing I knew we had a huge circle with a bunch of other kids and some of my teammates just tossing the ball back and forth. It was so much fun! The funny thing is that in this circle is where I saw God. Of course I know He’d been there all the time but I couldn’t see the forest fore the trees.

I was struck in that circle by how the children would smile when I or one of my teammates would toss the ball to them. They were so happy to be chosen. I was also struck by how attentive they were to each other and made sure that every kid had a turn to toss the ball.  I was reminded that day that God is in EVERYTHING, the small things and the big things.  I saw God in their laughter when they were trying to teach me their names and I kept getting it wrong, something I’d been doing ironically all of my life with others.

The head teacher told one of my teammates that we were a blessing to the children simply because we see them. When I’d heard that I remember thinking that that is what we all want. We all crave to be seen. We all want it known that we are here and we deserve to be acknowledged.  Think about that and then, think about how God sees you!  Think about it the next time you speak to someone without making eye contact if you even speak at all. EVERYONE deserves to be seen!

I never imagined I would care or become as attached to the kids and my team as I did. I find myself looking at the clock imaging what time it is there and what they are doing now. I wonder if there is more food in their pantry or if someone is hurting them. I find myself praying for them at random times.

I came away from this experience with two great lessons.

The first is that, things will not heal brokenness. We all have our temporary fixes for the broken areas in our lives but until we truly surrender these things over to the Father we will never be healed and able to move on past these things. I can’t say that I’m completely sure how to do this but I know I have to keep trying and praying and leaning on God to show me how.

The second lesson has a story behind it so let me tell that first.

The end of my trip was mind blowing! I had the honor of participating in an event called “Litsemba” which means hope. There were I believe 3500 kids from various places at this event including the kids from the school my team and I served. It was kind of like an all day festival for them with food and all kinds of music.

That day I saw what looked like hundreds of kids come to Christ and I was just standing on stage in tears. Here comes the second lesson.

As I’m standing there in tears God revealed to me that It didn’t matter what I thought I was coming to Africa to do. Soccer balls, soap, food, water, medicine, none of that was more important than what I was witnessing. I’m wishing I had millions of dollars to do more for these kids and that was all wrong. Their salvation was last on my list and it should’ve been first.  I cried tears of joy for the one’s that came to Christ and tears of sadness for the one’s that didn’t.

I want you all to know that I’m not telling you these stories because I want to look like a good person, I’m sharing because I want to inspire you to get involved. It doesn’t have to be Africa, there are needs you can fill in your own backyard.  Helping someone else may make your own situation appear less daunting.

I don’t like being hot. I don’t like getting dirty. I detest yard work with a passion and yet here I am wanting to go to Africa again.

God wants to do something AMAZING with your life. Don’t let fear keep you from where God is trying to take you! I’m a witness that God is not going to just drop you off in the middle of chaos and leave you by yourself.

My plan is to definitely go back again. I don’t know for sure that that is Gods plan but I’m hoping it is.

If my stories have touched you and you want to travel to Africa, I suggest going with Heart for Africa.  Check out their site www.heartforafrica.org

They are doing some incredible work so please support them in anyway you can.

Thank you so much for reading my blog and for helping me get to Africa.

Love and Peace,

Chinua Hawk

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Part One: Wake Up By: Chinua Hawk

So here I am about a month out from my trip to Swaziland and this is the first morning I’ve had to really think about it.  Months have gone by filled with task after task leaving me exhausted and completely out of gas and ideas.  Consumed with these “tasks” I put the important things aside and focused on just getting it done.  Frustration ensued and chaos arrived soon after, and it never occurred to me to seek Gods direction. I just needed to get “it” done.  I hadn’t read my bible in a few months and almost completely stopped praying, and the worst part is that I didn’t even realize it.

Two days ago I was convicted for not praying before I went to bed which was something I never failed to do until recently.  So I prayed. The next day I opened my bible up and read. I prayed again. This morning I woke up with a clear mind and more importantly I felt Gods presence again.  So I laid in bed for awhile reading, praying and thinking. I started thinking about my childhood and it hit me that I never wanted for anything.  I was never hungry. I was never without clothing or a comfortable home.  I have a mother that loved her children and worked her fingers to the bone to make sure we had what we needed. I had pets, toys and a bedroom decorated with my favorite action heros.  I could go on but one might get the idea that I’m bragging.  Trust me I’m not.  What I’m understanding this morning is that when something is your normal experience you don’t always look at it as something special or a blessing, it’s just what you have.  Some of us can go a life time without realizing how blessed we are.

My thoughts then drifted from my own experience to the reality of the orphans of Swaziland. They don’t have parents, no mother or father to love , protect and care for them. How long will it be until their next meal? Where do they sleep at night or keep warm? Who shields them from the predators?  I don’t know this world and the thought of growing up like that breaks my heart.  My grandmother used to say “God always sends somebody by.” I get what she means now. God is sending me and countless others from around the world to go “by” and represent Him by helping His children.  So for now I’m listening for the Fathers voice. I’m going where He has directed me and that place is Swaziland, Africa.

To be continued…

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Book Inspires Man to Provide Blankets to African Orphanage By: Elane Moonier, Staff Reporter

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone reading this article could do something simple that would touch the life of an orphan child in another country?  Well, we can, all of us can, and it is as easy as donating a blanket. A local effort is underway to collect 1,000 blankets in southeast Missouri for orphans in Swaziland, Africa.

Chris Edmonds, President of Element 74, LLC, is spearheading the drive to collect the blankets, and also helping organize a fundraising event, called Celebrate Hope, to be held Saturday, Feb. 27. Edmonds said he became interested in the Heart of Africa ministry after a friend gave him a book to read, titled, It’s Not Okay With Me.

The book was written by Janine Maxwell, who was once a high-powered marketing executive but became a full-time ministry worker after a trip to Africa. She co-founded the Heart of Africa organization, a faith-based, not-for profit charity, which works to provide self sustainable homes for orphans and vulnerable children; providing shelter, food, water, clothing, health care, education and love.

“The book challenged me to make a difference and take action against the situation in Africa,” Edmonds stated.  He pointed out that Swaziland has the highest HIV infection rate of any country in the world, at 43 percent, and has a population of just over 900,000. Of those, 200,000 are orphans, which is over 20 percent of the population. “The AIDS pandemic is decimating an entire generation of adults and is leaving children to literally raise children,” he said.

Edmonds and a team of others from Cape Girardeau will travel to Swaziland in July to deliver the blankets and to work alongside Heart for Africa volunteers. They will be working with the children and helping with an event called ‘Litsemba,’ which translates to mean ‘hope.’

‘Litsemba’ will consist of gathering 15,000 orphans and vulnerable street children into a soccer stadium for a day of  praise and worship. It is also designed to create international awareness to the orphan problem and hopefully get the United Nations and other nations to take action.

One of the goals of Heart For Africa is to build an orphanage in Swaziland. The local event called Celebrate Hope Cape is part of the mission to raise $100,000 for construction of that orphanage. Celebrate Hope will take place on Feb. 27 at The Venue in Cape Girardeau. Janine Maxwell, herself, will be at the event to speak about her first book, It’s Not Okay With Me, and her newest book, Is it Okay with You?

Former President Bill Clinton said this about Maxwell’s second  book: “Is it Okay With You? forces us to ask ourselves do we each have a responsibility to act upon vast inequality and suffering? It shouldn’t be okay with us, because we all have the ability to make a remarkable difference in the future of humanity.”

Also serving on the Celebrate Hope committee is Theresa Birk of Jackson. The orphanage that will be built in Swaziland will be dedicated in memory of her 20-month old son, Jared, who tragically passed away last year.

For anyone who would like to donate a blanket, new or gently used blankets are needed. Dark colors work best and fleece is a great fabric option for the climate. Size is not important, as most of the children sleep on the ground, so the blanket should be large enough for the children to wrap up in it. The blankets should also be clean.

Anyone wishing to learn more about Celebrate Hope Cape can visit the website at www.celebratehopecape.com. To learn more about Heart For Africa, see the website at www.heartforafrica.org.

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God Created Everyone for a Purpose By: Eric Stallworth

Several years ago, I read these words of Paul recorded by Luke, “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.” Those words are so powerful to me, please allow me to explain by sharing a little of my story. I was born and raised in the inner city on the south side of Chicago. As a family, we never travelled outside of the United States and the idea of visiting the continent of Africa never crossed my mind. My family was regular attendees of a black Baptist church and I have memories of once a year bringing home a piggy bank in the shape of a smallloaf of bread, to put our change in over several months to support missionaries. Over the years, while channel surfing, I would come upon a television segment talking about the plight of African children who were orphaned and vulnerable. My response was to change the channel, thinking could I really make a difference? The problems were so massive. So I closed my eyes and tried to pretend that everything was okay in the world. But in the summer of 2008, my life journey took me to Kenya to serve a couple of communities there and new life questions began to form in my mind. Questions like, why was I born in North America rather than Africa? If I truly follow His leading, where and what is He leading me to go and do? Was I born for purpose or is it arbitrary?

As a Christ follower, I believe that I am not an accident and God created everyone for purpose. My partnership with Heart for Africa began when I was serving others in another way. For several months, I had been serving as a small group leader of high school students at my church, North Point Community Church. Each summer, North Point sends teams of students and small group leaders overseas to serve others. So although I had the excuses of our nation being in the midst of a recession and personal challenges I was experiencing, I decided to not wallow in my own sadness and do something. So last year, I took a baby step and answered the call to serve in Swaziland. And I had no idea what God would do with that willing decision. Alongside our students, we helped host over 10,000 Africans, primarily orphans and vulnerable children at Litsemba 2010. We distributed thousands of beanies, blankets, bibles and warm meals. We partnered with a Swazi church helping them create a garden and prayed for those sick in the community.

In an ancient Hebrew book, you will find these words of wisdom when translated into English, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor.” Those words sum up the reason why after a few months from returning home from Swaziland, my wife Margaret and I decided that we should serve together in the coming year in Swaziland. To paraphrase, I am returning but this time, I am bringing reinforcements. And that is the power of a short-term service trip. For ten days, you get to turn your focus totally on serving others, not looking to your own interests but the interests of others. Once you experience it, you desperately want those you love to experience it as well.

By: Eric Stallworth

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