In 2019 Carolyn Perkins travelled as part of Habitat's Building on Faith team with Hillsborough Parish. Read her Advent reflection below.
In July 2019, I was part of a Habitat Building on Faith trip through Hillsborough Parish and led by Anna Williams. Our aim was to help build homes for two families near Mulanje in Malawi. Our team of ten volunteers, including my husband Adam and I, left Belfast on an early morning coach bound for Dublin airport and twelve days later delivered us back to the same spot. The sense of achievement and personal growth I’d experienced in that time can hardly be summed up, but one word has stayed with me when I think back on our trip and that is ‘Joy’. In our culture where so many things promise to bring us joy and yet invariably fall short of delivering, the Habitat build was overwhelmingly positive.
The early seeds of joy were planted as we carried out fundraising activities. For one of these we enlisted friends and families to help us with bag packing over the Christmas period. Not only was this a fun and rewarding way to spend an afternoon, we also exceeded our target by almost two-fold and were elated!
Arriving in Mulanje at the start of the trip we were introduced to the families of Margaret and Ida, who would be the beneficiaries of the new Habitat homes. The welcoming ceremony was an expression of pure joy and excitement, the dancing and cheering we were greeted with was almost overwhelming.
I had anticipated the build would be challenging and while it was, I hadn’t expected there to be so many joyful moments along the way. From the delight shown by local builders when we spoke Chichewa, to hearing first-hand how the houses would change lives and the thrill of laying the last block, throughout the time we were there we witnessed joy in so many forms. Before reaching the site each day we were cheered by small children running to wave at our bus and during our rest breaks we shared the simple joy of playing with the children from our village. Their laughs and smiles will be a lasting memory, I would love young people here to be able to enjoy themselves so freely. It was a joy to serve as part of a Habitat build and the memories from our trip are many and wonderful.
Christmas is a time of joy and the season of advent, particularly with the current challenges, can be an opportunity to focus on the hope that came with Jesus’s birth. If we can set aside the burdens of our daily lives, perhaps we will be reminded that serving can be our purpose and joy.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13 NIV)
Dear God, may we know the joy of being in a relationship with you. Thank you for the celebration of Christmas when you came to earth as the servant King. Help us to serve others in our lives and, in doing so, know the peace of your love. Amen.