My Journey Into Africa
By Heidi Lum
Many people have asked how and why I started a non-profit, Advocates for Africa’s Children, to help orphans in a tiny country on the far-flung side of the world. Here’s my story:
In 2005, a famous speaker came to our church and invited people to go help the hungry in Africa on a short-term mission trip. I didn’t think I could go; my husband, Ellery, and I were not prepared financially, and we had two small children, one of whom has autism. My heart was racing. I felt the Lord saying to me that I had to trust Him with everything – with the finances, with my husband, and with my children. I went forward in faith. Later, Ellery gave me his blessing, and I was able to raise every penny needed to go. People supported me by expertly taking care of my children. It was an exercise in faith, and I learned to trust God to provide for my needs if I followed Him.
My team in Swaziland prayed a lot in the van on the way to our work site each morning. Every day, God answered in miraculous ways. It was really amazing. I began to know that if I heard God tell me to do something, and we prayed and did it, amazing things would happen.
While in Swaziland, I had a dream that I was there with my family, feeding children at a hill-side homestead. Behind the Swazi people, the word “Compassion” rose up like the moon rising in the night sky.
I wanted confirmation that I understood what God was saying. That night, I heard our hosts talk about the numbers of children orphaned by AIDS, and what happens to them. I was devastated. There were 14 million orphans in Africa whose futures were very bleak. Without parents, the children lacked funds for school, food, clothing, and decent shelter. The really desperate kids end up prostituting themselves just so they can survive. This, of course make the problems of HIV/AIDS and poverty worse. Many children, who have lost one parent to AIDS, must watch the surviving parent die as well. In the meantime, there is no adult in the family who is able to earn a living. Even though children may have one parent, they may not be better off than those with no parents. I took this information and my devastation as confirmation of what God was telling me earlier that day in the dream.
Two days later I had a vision just as I was waking up in the morning. God was taking my heart and planting it in the soil of Africa. It was quite a vivid picture. Another confirmation that God was calling me.
When I got back home I told my unsuspecting husband that we had to move to Africa! Bless him, he didn’t say “No!” outright, but he didn’t jump up and say, “Yes!” either.
My first time back home at church, I was praising and worshiping God with all my heart. I had my eyes closed, and I began to see a line of Swazi children in front of a distinctive homestead, looking to me for help. I kept seeing this every time I closed my eyes. Toward the end of the worship time, I began to see God’s arms stretched around them in an embrace, and I heard, “Feed my sheep!” I knew, without a doubt, that God was calling me to Africa.
I began to work on a proposal to a large nonprofit, to see if they would partner with us to start a new sponsorship program in Swaziland. They said it would take them 10 years to get there. I KNEW that the orphaned children couldn’t wait that long, and I knew God didn’t want me to wait that long, either. I was compelled to start working right away. I started looking into other ways that we could go and help children in under-served rural areas, partnering with the local church.
In Africa, God gave a woman a vision about her son. In the vision, the son received a letter from a white woman in America. He was to do what the woman asked of him. She told her son about the vision. When her son heard that I was looking for a pastor to work with in Swaziland, he contacted me. We had an immediate connection.
Meanwhile, I kept getting turned down by every organization I approached. I was told that it wasn’t going to be possible from several people. I was discouraged, but I KNEW God was calling me. I called my a mentor, and we prayed on the phone together. While praying, God’s still, small voice said, “You can’t pour new wine into old wineskins. You need to make new wineskins for new wine I am giving you.” Immediately I knew what to do. I had to start a new non-profit in order to follow God’s call. The next day I started the legal paperwork to incorporate Advocates for Africa’s Children. I also opened a bank account that first week, and the first donations came in.
I went before the missions committee at my church and asked for support. I gave a presentation about the needs in Swaziland and what I felt God was calling me to do. I asked my church missions committee to sponsor our first trip and fund the first project. All of my requests were approved and funded! I thought it impossible!! But it happened!
We were recipients of the Easter offering that year. I prayed and fasted before Easter, asking for all that we needed. Exactly what we needed to purchase all of the materials for the first project was given! Another miracle!
God again provided for all of my financial needs. Every team member had to raise funds for their travel costs, and all was provided for. Though the trip was not easy, and there were seemingly endless hurdles to get through, God was faithful. We had enough funds to cover everything we needed. Knowing my calling kept me going through all of the difficulties and hurdles that had to be overcome.
I was asked to preach while in Swaziland (I’d never preached before), and God gave me the message the night before. And somehow, the messages were exactly what the people needed to hear. After the second sermon, it was evident that the Spirit of the Lord was present in a powerful way. We invited all who wanted to receive prayer to come and we began to pray for the people. About 10 people came to know the Lord through Jesus that day, and several were healed instantly of various illnesses, including AIDS and debilitating arthritis. Praise God!
It has now been 17 years since I was first called. We have done so many projects to provide clean water and food for more than 4,000 people, most of whom are orphaned and vulnerable children and those who care for them. I have hosted teams nearly every year, and my family is very involved in the ministry. We have constructed church buildings, preschools, guest houses, chicken and pig and goat businesses, purchased a tractor, and the list goes on. God has provided all the way through, each and every time. I’ve lost count of the number of sermons I’ve given, and as God did the first time, He continues to give me His words.
I have been greatly tested over the years, and have been deeply discouraged by corruption, people letting me down, and my own weakness. However, it is so obvious that God’s hand has been in this all the way through. People call me courageous, but the truth is, I am confident in the Lord. God is strong even when we are weak. God uses unlikely people to do the impossible. It’s not easy, but God uses us to do amazing things, if we are willing to follow Jesus and trust Him to provide all that we need.
To learn more about Heidi’s story, watch this video: