Hometown Hero Mission: South Africa Africa trip gives Realtor® new perspective.
Charles “Chuck” Lee says the17-day missionary trip he took in May to Johannesburg, South Africa, was a life-changing experience. While he was struck by the abject poverty—thousands of people living in shanties made of 2- by 4-inch corrugated steel panels and, without indoor plumbing, sewage running into the streets—it was the resilience of the children that left an indelible mark.
“The kids may be a little hungrier than kids in other parts of the world, but they don’t realize they’re poor,” says Lee, a sales associate with Stockton Real Estate in Ponte Vedra Beach. “The first thing you want to do is dig deep into your pockets, but that’s not the solution. The key is teaching and loving them, so they know somebody cares.”
Lee traveled with a group of 16 volunteers from Southpoint Community Church of Jacksonville to the Real Life Conference at His People Christian Church of Johannesburg, with the primary goal of ministering to the local children. “We performed dramas, visited orphanages and delivered suitcases full of toiletries, candy and toys [including] 50 donated soccer balls,” he says.
One day that stands out in Lee’s mind is when they drove three hours to the village of Potchefstroom to hold a Bible study and feed a group of children fresh fruit and bread. “About 40 children attended the service,” he says. “These kids came running down the street, carrying plastic containers so they could carry food home. Most of the kids eat what the government [gives] out: a plastic pack filled with puffed corn and porridge with nutrients. It was really a touching experience.”
Lee and his wife, Karen, also traveled to Cape Town. His wife works for FreshMinistries of Jacksonville, a nonprofit organization that has joined forces with several faith-based groups to form a coalition called Siyafundisa (Zulu for “teaching our children”). Their mission is to help South Africa combat HIV/AIDS through prevention programs, including teaching children how to avoid contracting the virus. By the end of 2005, about 5.5 million South Africans were living with HIV. As many as 14 million children have been orphaned by the disease in South Africa alone, and almost 1,000 AIDS deaths occur there every day.
Lee hopes to return to South Africa next spring. “This is the kind of thing you cannot witness without changing the total compassion in your life,” he says. “If everyone could make a visit like this, we’d realize how fortunate we are.” Want to Contribute?
Contact Chuck Lee at (904) 285-4884, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org