I went to Sweetwaters, South Africa with Restoration Hope last October. This was my second trip there with Restoration Hope. The two trips were vastly different. Both were significant in the things God taught me, just very different. On my first trip, I saw the relief side of the Restoration Hope ministry. This involves orphan rescue and care. I spent much of my time in an orphanage outside of Sweetwaters. I was emotionally touched by this trip, but honestly left feeling a bit overwhelmed and depressed about the thousands of other orphans who live in Sweetwaters. I saw the only hope being to rescue all the children out of Sweetwaters, which is impossible of course. I asked myself, “How can this cycle ever stop?”
I am so thankful for this second trip. While I had heard about the two other aspects of Restoration Hope’s ministry, rebuilding capacity through Christian mentoring and redefining opportunity through education, I could not really wrap my mind around how those two things could even happen in a place like Sweetwaters. However, in October, we spent our week in Sweetwaters working alongside the mentors who minister to the children and teenagers there everyday. I was astounded by these young men and women, by their faith, their perseverance, and their hope for the God-sized miracle of restoring Sweetwaters. I was astounded, too, by the children and teenagers who live there. Many have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS, many are sick themselves, many have faced situations I could never fathom, yet they have hope and joy.
Most of all, though, I was astounded by the love and mercy of Jesus. He loves the people of Sweetwaters. He does not want to rescue them out of Sweetwaters, He wants to rescue them in Sweetwaters and use them to transform their community for His Father’s glory. And it is happening. Praise God, it is happening. I will forever be grateful for these two trips to Sweetwaters and the dear people I have met there. They have changed my life and faith. God removed the blinders from my eyes. He showed me we all are just like the children of Sweetwaters-poor, sick, orphaned, alone, desperate, and afraid. It is just not as obvious here in a country where we have so many comforts and distractions. Ultimately, though, for every one of us, Jesus is our only hope. God is at work in Sweetwaters, SA through the hands and feet of a few faithful followers. They need our prayers, our financial support, and if God leads, they need us to actually go to be encouragement, help, and another voice to share their story with the Church. I count myself and our church blessed to be a part of the restoration of this beautiful place and people.
Linda Lewis is a Restoration Hope Board member and missions coordinator at Highland Colony Baptist Church.