Tom and Barbara had no idea what they were getting themselves into. All they knew was that one of the pastors at their church had been dropping hints about going on an international mission trip to Door of Hope in South Africa for quite a while. Eventually, these hints transformed into a call from God and they signed up to travel with a team affiliated with the North Caroline Baptists on Mission. They arrived at Door of Hope in February on their first international mission trip—their first but probably not their last.
The work was harder than they expected, work made all the more difficult by an unusually rainy week, forcing this determined team to build a retaining wall in the rain and the mud. The rain, however, is not what they talked about when I asked them to share about their experience. Tom was quick to tell me he had no regrets in choosing to come on this trip. When I asked what he would share with someone who might consider coming to volunteer at Door of Hope Village, he responded, “It’s hard work, but it is so worthwhile. You’ll come back with so much more than what you’ve given.”
Tom and Barbara spent most of their two weeks in South Africa building a retaining wall out of cement blocks and laying concrete for a walkway outside the “Play and Learn Centre.” When the rain became too heavy to work in, the team moved inside the hall, sorting and rearranging donations to provide easier access to the items inside. Of course, their time in South Africa was not all work. The team enjoyed visiting the Lion and Safari Park and explored an outdoor market. They also attended worship at Berea Baptist Mission (where Door of Hope began) and toured two of the three baby houses, learning more about Door of Hope’s mission to save abandoned babies.
Barbara reflected on her experience seeing the baby box for the first time. “I’d heard about children being abandoned in a box,” she said, “but until you see it, you can’t grasp it.” She told me that her initial encounter with the box broke her heart, but she didn’t feel that way for long. One look in the children’s eyes and she realised how much life they have. She saw the way the aunties cared for the children and reflected, “This isn’t an orphanage. This is a home.”
Tom shared that the highlight of his trip didn’t come at the baby houses as it did for most of the team. For him, it was when he saw the toddlers playing at the “Play and Learn Centre” in the village. Tom’s heart was moved when he saw these happy, healthy children who, not long ago, were babies much like the ones he saw at the baby houses. The children at Door of Hope have the opportunity to grow and learn in a loving and safe environment. “They are getting a chance at life that they wouldn’t have gotten were it not for Door of Hope” he reflected.
As our conversation came to a close, I asked if there were any other meaningful moments that they wanted to share. Barbara told me a story. “A few days ago,” she began, “My daughter-in-law sent me a video of my five-year-old grandson singing the children’s song ‘Do Lord.’ And then I came out here and heard the kids singing the very same thing. Here my grandson was in a big formal church singing, ‘Do Lord, oh do Lord, oh do remember me’ with special hand motions. And the kids here were doing the exact same thing, hand motions and all. It fills you with hope.” Barbara ended our conversation by reflecting, with confidence, “This couldn’t take place if God wasn’t in it. This is an amazing mission that is taking place and we know God is behind it.”
Lord, we know that you never forget your children. We know that every child matters to you, but we are a forgetful people. As we sing with your youngest children, may we be reminded of a God who never forgets, and may we be inspired to join in your active work of remembering. Amen.