Thursday, December 15, 2011
Merry Christmas to you...and before you pass out from the shock of getting your first Christmas letter from us...let us say, we waited until we had something very newsworthy to share before sending them out. Actually, we want to let you in on what some of you may have already heard - our family is heading to Africa. There've been so many questions: Where are you going? Why are you going? Why would you take your kids? What about school? What about HOCKEY! When are you going? How long are you going for? Is it safe? So many more...so, with those in mind, here's the way we see it...
We're planning to be in South Africa at the beginning of February. We'll be staying at the Hands at Work base near White River, SA for the first six weeks. Hands at Work is an organization that has become very integrated into our family's life. Jason and I have both volunteered on separate trips, leading teams into Zambia with Hands, we've done advocacy and fundraising work here in Canada and we have some great relationships with volunteers and care workers through Hands at Work. As a result, our hearts have certainly become engaged in the work in Africa and it has infiltrated our daily lives here in Canada. Hands at Work works in eight different countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa, finding villages where there are the greatest needs and then going through the local church in that village to find volunteers to care for those that are dying and orphaned. Hands at Work then trains, supports and empowers them to care for those around them who society has rejected. Our role as international volunteers is to be scaffolding to the work that these community based care workers are doing...we'll be working alongside the workers and the service centres that support them to build capacity into them and enable them to grow in the care that they are providing.
Aidan is 13 and Easton is 10 - we feel that this is our window of opportunity to go as a family and serve together. The boys are excited (most days...) and willing to forgo half a season of hockey for this adventure so we're thankful for that. Hopefully, their NHL careers will withstand this little interruption. Their teachers are putting together project based curriculum for them so that they can finish out their school year with no problems. They are excited about keeping the boys connected to their school via Skype and email so that's been a huge support. As for Jason and I, we've come to this point in our lives where we realize that our time with the boys is fleeting. We want them to reflect on their growing up years as having been carefree and fun, filled with love and laughter, but we also want them to grow in compassion and instill in them the value of caring for others. These are difficult things to teach in a world where we are inundated with messages of self sufficiency, self preservation and accumulating as much as we can. To get ourselves to Africa, we've had to come to a point where we're willing to let go of much of what we see as security...house, car, jobs...all these things we've had to unclasp our tight grip on in order to fully embrace Africa. So, we're down to the last pinky hold and we're letting go. Everything is up for grabs at this point...I'm thankful for a great workplace that is supportive of the time off needed to go and for the hope of a job to return to. I love where I work...it's one of the hardest things to let go of. House...four walls and a lot of "security" but again, if we need to sell it to go, then we'll sell it to go. The only "thing" we're holding on to is our dog, Charlie, who has a place waiting for her until we return. So...that's the gist of it. Here's a link to our website: www.thevanbinsbergens.blogspot.com. We'll do our best to update it regularly as we go and while we're away. For now, there is a collection of stories and reflections from earlier trips to Africa. If you're wanting to be more involved, there are links to make donations to support us on our trip also to donate to the work that Hands at Work is doing. For our American friends, there is an address for the US office of Hands at Work for your donations.
Most of all, thank you for being here for us. We really don't take for granted the number of amazing people we have in our lives. Whether near or far, at some point this year, you've been thought of, missed and loved by us. We wish you all the very best in 2012...can't wait to be part of it with you. Love, Shelly, Jason, Aidan and Easton