A Hope for Eternity
June 1, 2023|
A vision trip story written by Kaylee Paterson
Standing for the first time in what felt like ages was the greatest sensation I’d had since first sitting down for my flight 15 hours ago. Stretching my stiff muscles brought the feeling back to my legs and, as I walked off the plane, I couldn’t help but be excited as the realization dawned on me: I’m in South Africa! I’d arrived. It was dark outside and I couldn’t see anything, but I knew deep within me that what rested on the other side of that window was a whole new world.
Brimming with hope and possibility, each morning I awoke to views of blissful mountains and wispy clouds floating in the fresh cold air of the bright sky. The beautiful intricacies of God’s creation can never be fully understood or contained within a picture. Such is the majesty and mystery of our eternal, loving, and grace-filled God.
Driving through the townships was eye-opening. As it was my first time in South Africa, I hadn’t known what to expect. What I did know was that it would be nothing like America. When I looked outside the window of our van, I saw houses made of sheet metal and other crude materials. Shacks. I saw people dealing drugs on the side of the road. Trash was strewn all along the sidewalks, even piles of it in some places. I saw people, the resignation of hopelessness written on their faces. Born into extreme poverty, this life is all they’ve ever known, and most can’t, or don’t dare to, imagine a brighter future. The poverty here has no comparison to that in America.
My heart broke for them. I wondered what was going through their minds as each day passed by. All of these people are doing as much as they can with the little they have to survive. Thoughts of simply surviving the current day swept away any hope for the future, erased any expectations of a hope-filled eternity. So much despair and hopelessness filled the air. Sadness settled in like thick fog and all I wanted to do was help in some way. I didn’t want to be sucked into the sorrowfulness of it all and lose hope of a brighter outcome.
As the van pulled into Hope Africa, God gave me joy. Before I even got out, I was greeted with smiles and waves as we passed by some of the staff members. Walking into the building, the staff members gave me hugs and introduced themselves – I felt so welcome. We sang and prayed and praised God together. I could see it in their eyes: the love they have for God and the hope they have in Him. This uncommon passion translates into their teaching, which then impacts their students. Throughout the week I witnessed the staff pour out the love of God to their students not only in practical ways, but emotionally and spiritually as well. They lived out and demonstrated what heaven on earth looks like, captivating the students as they shared the love of God with them.
For new students, the first class they attend is Life Direction, where they take a journey through their past, present, and future to better understand themselves. It’s such an important first step, to learn about yourself. To recognize where you come from and begin to heal from brokenness. Then to finally come to acceptance about who you are and where you are so you can begin to carve a path to your future (from your past). You must understand, believe, and trust yourself to know where you’re going and how to get there.
I got to participate in a few Life Direction classes. In one class session, we learned about trust, asking important questions like, “Do you trust people?”, “Do you trust yourself?”, and, sitting across from your partner you just met, asking “Do you trust me?”. These were hard questions to be asking, but such important ones. While getting to know my partner and asking him these questions, he shared that he doesn’t trust people. People he thought were friends had betrayed him, and now he doesn’t have friends, let alone trust the people he is closest to. Then I asked him if he trusted me. To my surprise, he said yes. Me, a stranger he just met not 5 minutes ago, he trusted, when he trusts no one else. What a gift! Trust does not come easily in this culture.
As I listen to other students’ stories, I see just how broken this world is. Rape, loneliness, sour relationships, physical poverty, lack of resources, hopelessness, and despair are like a virus. In a spiritual sense, there is war. Light fighting against the dark. God is fighting for His people. But God has already won.
Our hope for eternity has its foundation in this truth – Jesus secured the victory for us at Calvary – and our hope for today is tethered tightly to this promise.
In the middle of this spiritual battle, and the midst of this gloom, a light shines, penetrating the darkness. Hope Africa, surrounded by warfare and true to its name, stands as a symbol of hope. A sacred place overflowing with the hope of a future here on earth and hope for the future of eternity. A place of restoration and healing.
Isaiah 60:1 says, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” Sitting in on the Faith Discovery class, one student I had the chance to talk to shared about how she hadn’t gone to church in a long time. After participating in and learning from the lessons over the past couple weeks, her heart was moved to start going back to church. Captivated by the gospel, she longed for and found community not only at her church but within the classroom too. Just watching and listening to the pastor, I was mesmerized and I couldn’t help but absorb the words he shared about how great life with Jesus truly is. I looked around the room to the other students and saw how engaged they were, and how God had transformed them within just a few weeks. Three students gave their lives to Christ that day. A beautiful image of the work God is doing and how He calls us to live for more.
After completing Life Direction and Faith Discovery Group, students move on to economic development classes so that they can learn the skills needed to start businesses and be prepared for the job market. By this point, they’ve formed a solid foundation by working through their past, learning interpersonal skills, and discovering their worth and dignity as image bearers of God. Many graduates report that they wouldn’t have been able to successfully put this education into practice without first doing the inner work; tending the soil of their hearts and minds so that they can bear good fruit.
At Hope Africa, I see students rise from the ashes of their past and stand clothed in the glory of the Lord, becoming light in the darkness of this world. Hope Africa helps their students fully realize the greater purpose of their creation. That they were meant for more and are more than they believe themselves to be. The truth of who they are in Christ is revealed.
The beauty of God’s creation is visibly infected with the sin of the world. In the townships through poverty and the lives of the students through their broken stories. But God redeems and restores the broken. Like a mosaic, God takes broken pieces and creates a new and beautiful masterpiece. Like a blacksmith, God takes scrap metal and shapes it, forging it into a weapon to use for His glory. There is hope in knowing that God makes beauty from ashes and that He brings the dead back to life. Hope Africa is a light within the dark. A flame of hope that can’t be put out. The forge God uses to form His design on earth and for eternity.
When you give to Hope Africa Collective, you are sowing seeds that bear eternal fruit. You are fulfilling Jesus’s command not only to care for the poor (Matthew 25:34-36, Luke 12:16-21, Luke 14:12-14, Luke 16:19-31, etc) but also to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Every student is equipped with the skills they need to provide for their families, and offered a living hope in Jesus. Graduates go on to shine their lights in their communities. Please prayerfully consider giving hope here.