Hope From Africa // GUEST BLOG: ALEX WOLF

We want Hope Heals to be a place with many different voices sharing their unique stories of hope, so today we launch a totally new element on our blog -- GUEST BLOGGERS!  We couldn't think of a better person to write the inaugural entry than my sister (this is Jay, btw), Alex Wolf.  Not only is Alex an incredibly talented artist and graphic designer, but she is a brilliant and thoughtful teacher and writer--oh and did I mention she's wrapping up a 6 month stint as a missionary in Africa?!  She's amazing, and we would not have this new Hope Heals site were it not for the overwhelming gift of her great talents (did you see her fantastic representation of the gospel here?).  We love you lots Alex--we are so proud of you and thankful for you!  {you can follow Alex's adventuues on her blog and tumblr}

I am currently serving as a missionary with the International Mission Board in Johannesburg, South Africa. My official job title is Storyteller, which is just a cool way of saying that I use videography and graphic design to record and publish the stories of the Lord's work among the people of Sub-Saharan Africa. I have a day job, an office, a desk and computer, but my work also takes me daily into the inner city and the slums, orphanages and prostitutes' homes, markets and schools. Hidden in the wilds of urban Africa are the stories worth telling, the stories with living, breathing characters and heart-wrenching tragedy and good endings and bad endings and no endings at all. The poet Muriel Rukeyser wrote that "the universe is made out of stories, not atoms." Just as atoms are categorized by their charges, I believe that stories can be placed into one of two categories: those of hope and those of hopelessness. Sadly, this continent tells too many of the latter. 

In my spare time abroad, I've assisted Jay and Katherine in re-branding their ministry, which so beautifully conveys the power of Christ-sourced hope in the midst of tragedy. My simultaneous immersion in my work with Hope Heals and my work with the African nationals has provided such a unique juxtaposition of the two types of stories. Jay and Katherine's story is not finished, but we know the ending and the moral: Jesus wins. These two beautiful humans suffered beyond fathoming and continue to tread the choppy waters of recovery, but they remain firmly anchored by the hope that God is working all things together for the good of those who love Him. Conversely, many of my African friends have endured catastrophe comparable to Jay and Katherine's, but the aftermath is wholly different, hideously marked by the absence of hope.  

Four young prostitutes squatting in a abandoned yellow house. A Congolese family forced from their homeland by civil unrest. A six-year-old girl caught molesting other children after being raped by her uncle. Young parents who lost their baby boy to a highly curable case of pneumonia. A preteen who heads his household after his parents died of HIV-related illness. Two toddlers who watched from the floor as their pregnant mother attempted to hang herself. A teenage boy hospitalized for weeks after being attacked by thugs for a few dollars. Baby sisters locked alone in their home for days as their mother traded sex for alcohol. 

These are the real stories of dear people who, without an anchoring hope, float adrift in the storms of life. Constantly battered by the gales of HIV/AIDS, civil war, ancestor worship, poverty, genocide, rape, and unemployment, this entire continent hungers for hope. All they need is someone to tell them where they can find it. The Lord has given me the weighty privilege of sharing this hope with many hurting people. I will forever treasure the moments of elation, the eager prayers, and the expressions of happy disbelief that such grace could exist, that we have an immovable hope of Heaven once we wearily finish our earthly race. 

I'm a teller of the stories of Africa, but I also get to proclaim the universe's ultimate story: God, in the definitive act of loving mercy, came to Earth in the form of Jesus. The perfect and almighty Creator of the universe stooped down to this wretched Earth. He willingly forfeited His throne in Paradise to live in this place of unbearable suffering. He claimed man's sin as His own, bore the death penalty meant for us, and swallowed in full the wrath of a just God so that we may live in eternal freedom. He defeated death on our behalf and victoriously rose from the grave. This grace is strange and inconceivable and so very, very real. This hope means that death and its agents will unfailingly succumb to the power of Jesus. We can face any fear, any illness, any poverty, any danger as we cling to the promise of eternity in the presence of our Savior King. 

Christ's hope finds us and pulls us out of our black despair. By God's mysterious grace, my family already held that hope when we received a very unwanted phone call on the afternoon of April 21, 2008. By His design, Jay and Katherine are living testimonies to the sustaining, supernatural power of this hope. During these past months, supersaturated with stories of the deepest anguish, the Lord has blessed me with a radiant daily reminder of His hope through my work on Hope Heals. My countless phone calls and e-mails and Facetimes with Jay and Katherine during my time in Africa stand as proof that God has not forgotten about us. He is for us. His hope heals us. This truth, which this ministry champions, inspires me to keep tossing the anchors to the people drowning in these stormy seas.