Group members from the Sooke Harbour Christian Life Assembly church had a life-changing experience on a mission trip to Zambia in south-central Africa.
The trip was to work with Villages of Hope, which is an organization that provides free education, housing, and nutrition for children in pre-school to Grade 12, in eight different locations in Africa.
Pastor Lowell Holmquist is a friend of the founders of Villages of Hope, so he, along with his mother and three Sooke church members: Jason Ince, Katherine Miller, and Susie Sherman, went with a large group of other members from the Christian Life Assembly to deliver “boxes of love” to children in two different Villages of Hope.
There were about 2,500 boxes distributed to students in the villages, 50 of which came from Sooke. In the boxes were basic things such as school supplies, hygiene products, underwear, flip flops, small toys, and sunglasses.
“It was very humbling to watch the kids receive the boxes,” said Holmquist, adding the students waited patiently until everyone had received their box, and before opening them the students all drum rolled.
“The kids look forward to the boxes each year. And though what’s inside the boxes might seem insignificant to us, but it means so much to them. They are beyond grateful for the simplest things, things that we often take for granted in Canada.”
Holmquist noted students are required to have underwear and shoes in order to attend school, and he noticed one boy receiving a box only had one proper shoe, and the second he had made out of old materials in order to continue going to school.
“I’ll never forget the look on the boy’s face when he opened his box and there was a pair of flip-flops inside,” said Holmquist. “That’s the difference between a child being able to receive education or not.”
Holmquist also recalled one child who had boxes from previous years stacked up in his home, saying when the “boxes of love” are delivered it’s like Christmas for the children.
During the trip, the group was also able to help teach in the schools, serve food to the students, and helped the students learn more about personal hygiene. They also visited different cities and villages in Zambia, and were able to go on a safari and see a lot of exciting wildlife.
“This was the first mission trip the three individuals from the Sooke church had ever been on, so I think it was a pretty life-changing trip for them. The highlight was definitely spending time in the Villages of Hope,” said Holmquist.
“I think it’s so important for people to go experience what life is like in other places, it’s very eye-opening and changes your perspective on life.”
He said some of the people who went on the trip ended up sponsoring a child, building an on-going relationship with them even after the group arrived home.
“The trip was very impactful; on the children who received the boxes of love, but also on us, who came home with a different outlook. And when we come back to the church and shared these stories, I think it changed the congregation’s outlook as well,” said Holmquist, adding that next year he hopes to send more boxes of love than this year, and that more people will go on the trip.
“When you see the joy that people have in third-world countries, that isn’t attached to possessions or living conditions, it changes your priorities and you start to live differently. You certainly complain less, and become much more grateful for the Country we live in, and how blessed we are for basic things such as running water, heat, and electricity.”