When I was sixteen years old, I felt God speak my destiny over my life in which I knew God wanted me to serve him and be a voice to the church. I knew for the first time, beyond the shadow of a doubt, what I was truly meant to do. I thought to myself, “I want to be a pastor, yeah! That’s what I’m called to do.” Let me preface this with explaining so you understand I was unaware there was much else to ministry other than pastoral ministry or overseas mission work.
At the time I felt completely called to preach behind a pulpit but would let it be known I was NOT called to missions. I had not felt called, nor was I interested. In fact, nothing about mission work interested me at all. I had some great experiences behind a pulpit, even from a young age. This positive experience only proved that, in my mind, what I knew to be true: preaching is my arena. It seems a dangerous, yet funny game sometimes, when we say, “I won’t do this,” or “I know I’m not called to that.” It seems God works through the verbal and mental noes we put in front of him. Fast forward to the summer of my senior year in college, where I had learned there were MANY different aspects to ministry and only six years after I’d made these limiting declarations, already served in varying aspects of ministry including Christian radio and youth ministry. That summer began a fork in the road that I never saw coming…
Growing up in Southern California found me surfing regularly with a passion to ride waves and someday, even see the world while surfing at the same time. It was summer of my senior year I found out there was such a thing as a “surf missionary,” a literal organization that brought in surfers to do overseas mission work to bring aid, donations, clothes, and reach the natives as well as surfers with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Now, though I had no conviction or desire previously for nations, college left me with a curiosity of the world, and an excitement to surf all the more. I applied for Surfing the Nations, was accepted, and a week after graduating college, left for Hawaii. Shortly after that, I spent the rest of the summer doing mission work in Indonesia. For the first time I was able to see poverty in person: children begging along the streets for money, fourteen and fifteen year old girls trying to sell their bodies to support their families, and the maimed and homeless strewn everywhere. For the first time I was able to see what hunger looked like on the face of a child. For the first time I was able to see a gaping need in third world countries that I wasn’t even aware existed. You see, it’s one thing to just want to do missions, it’s another when you become aware that the world around you, isn’t the only one out there. When the mind shifts from our daily wants of clothes, treats, feasts of food, and gadgets to an awareness of hunger, wide-spread diseases, or everyday fatalities, the heart follows suit. I never had a heart for mission work. Why? Because I had no exposure to what was going on across the world. I had no awareness of what other humans battled against every day of their lives. And now, here I was, in the midst of a people group in need. I believe the truth remains, that when most people see a need, it is within them to want to help. They need only to experience the need, and this is where my passion for missions began.
I hope that you will run past the proverbial “dangling surfboard” to understand that there is a burning need for us who are capable to help those in need.
My mission work and passion for surfing took me from Hawaii, to Indonesia, to Nicaragua, and to South Africa. And eventually God no longer needed to dangle a surfboard in front of me to get me to bite. I had been in the trenches with these people, I saw their hurt and their lack. My passion was no longer surfing with bringing aid to third world people as a bonus on the side. No, the people became the passion. Those natives will forever leave a mark on my heart for what I choose to do, what I choose to write, and how I even choose to spend my money. I hope that by simply understanding the process the Lord took me through, that you will run past the proverbial “dangling surfboard” to understand that there is a burning need for us who are capable to help those in need.
Having done surf missions in South Africa, I didn’t expect to begin caring for the country or continent. I really wanted a heart for the people, but truth be told I was just as excited about crossing off “going on a safari” on my bucket list as I was worrying about what the people really needed. Sure I had sermons to share that sounded good, and clothes to give away, but something astounded me: it wasn’t my things the people cared about, even in their poverty, it was simply me they were interested in. This not only caught me off guard, but truly seemed mind-boggling. In the various countries I’ve visited around the world, it’s in the poverty stricken areas of a community you see begging, swindling and bartering at its best. But I had never been to a place with visible poverty that didn’t have the familiar symptoms of it. These people still seemed happy and joyful. They wanted to know me and wanted to know love. I could only think to myself, “if these people are happy even in their lack, what could a world of provision and education look like for them?” Furthermore, how could something like this be accomplished?
Highlight: Heart For Africa, a non-profit organization that is seeking to help the dangerously, rapidly growing problems facing the nation of Swaziland, Africa. Swaziland borders South Africa on its north, south, and west borders; and meets Mozambique on its east border. It’s a small country, no larger than New Jersey in size, but boasts some of the worst statistics on the planet. For starters, there are over 200,000 orphans in this country, 15,000 of whom are without parents and head their own household. As Heart for Africa (HFA) puts it,
“In this orphan headed household there are no funds to pay school fees, so the children stay home and are not educated. They cannot work and have no money for food and so the cycle of poverty and AIDS continues as they sell themselves to men to survive.”
But the most shocking of the stats: a 42% HIV/AIDS rate that has left the nation with an average life expectancy of 29 years old. If nothing is done to stop the widespread AIDS and living standards, professionals have projected there to be no adults in the country by 2020 if something is not done.
Malnutrition also plays a huge role in the mortality rate of the developing world, threatening to also shorten the lives of children and adults alike. It is no joke to say that there are three year old children that get their food every day from the local dump, sifting through garbage for hours for a single meal.
HFA has tried to focus on four main areas including hunger, orphans, poverty, and education. The plan is to connect to the children through the churches. While Swaziland is over 80% Christian and there are over 6,000 churches there, the organization believes that by partnering and joining with the churches, it will become easier to help the kids and allow them to reach the 200,000 orphans with support from us in the United States and Canada. It takes human effort and solutions. But if we can instill hope in the young ones, we can begin to build a generation that will turn the tide on fatal problems currently facing the country. Anything that Heart for Africa has implemented, has had a sustainable aspect to it, including employment and large scale farming to break the cycle of poverty. Though HFA is aware they can’t solve all of Swaziland’s problems, their intent is to join alongside the people of Swaziland in helping as much as possible. One aspect they have started is called “Project Canaan,” in which they have sought to create a self-sustaining entity that can support all of the orphanages in Swaziland. It includes farmland (to help feed those in need,) a chapel, a baby home (for abandoned babies,) a toddler home, a dam to cultivate clean water, an artisan school, learning center and medical center.
HFA has set up a plethora of opportunities to partner with them in their vision. Some of these include marathons, speaking engagements, “Celebrate Hope” events, golf marathons, or even sponsoring a child. HFA hosts an annual “golf marathon” every year in Milton, GA where people donate to play against others to profit the organization, the golf marathon also offers fun competitions such as putting, longest drive, and “closest to the pin” contests. They offer partnerships for anyone who wants to run to raise support and awareness for any of the projects that HFA has going. Let’s say there’s a local marathon your city or neighboring city is hosting, you could enter the marathon and then raise money for the proceeds to go directly towards HFA. Another fundraising project is called “Coins 4 Kids.” In this project they encourage people to support them by saving their loose change. This project focuses on two areas of support for the El Roi Baby Home. HFA’s “Coins 4 Kids” project uses the coins you collect to pay for goats at the Baby Home for providing milk and meat, which means provision for the needy orphans and vulnerable children that Heart for Africa serves. The goats help to generate employment, income, and food in Swaziland. They also offer trips to Swaziland as well to invite you to personally come and help in their efforts. Travel to Swaziland and help in the different areas they have to serve. There are few things in my life I’ve experienced more fulfilling and rewarding than having had the opportunity to help those in need. You have the time, you have the resources, you need only to care enough. Bringing help to those in need, feeding the hungry, clothing the have-nots, and praying with the broken will change your life, and, if you let it… will change the native’s lives of Swaziland as well.
You can find out more at www.heartforafrica.org