“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20

My name is Judi Bertels, and I am the CEO of African Vision of Hope. In 1998, my family said yes. Yes, we will get involved in taking down a human trafficking ring. Yes, we will step out of our comfort zone. Yes, we will quit our corporate jobs. What started as 12 Zambian boys brought to the USA to sing, unknowingly being trafficked, has become thousands of children’s lives who have been rescued. I can honestly say there is nothing in my past that prepared my family and I for this journey. Nothing. When the call comes, our only requirement is to say yes. The Lord will provide everything else.

In God’s economy, we can never estimate what we think as a trial but is actually part of His plan. I am humbled. I am not qualified, but I am called. It is difficult and gut-wrenching to live in two different worlds, to know that something as simple as putting a child in a desk can impact generations forever. Something happens on the mission field that is hard to explain. The Bible is lived out. It comes alive. It is praises on the lips of orphaned children, widows learning to read, studying without books, videos and iPhones. It is the unpolluted Word of God. I see the Father’s heart and compassion and why it is written in scripture that it is neglect for these things that breaks His heart.

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Judi and her husband, Bob, at the first African Vision of Hope School in 2003

The distractions that possess our lives fade away. Retirement accounts, shopping, eating, switching on the lights, what to wear…these become gifts, not entitlements. It is difficult to step out of abundance and into survival. Life has a different beat, a different rhythm. We are trusting in the Lord to supply needs and are given a determination and perseverance knowing that these things have an urgency. Their lives are hanging in the balance, and tomorrow may not come. There is not a “them” and an “us”, there is only “we”.

There is a global orphan crisis that we can do something about. These children are waiting. Their prayers are what has called us. They deserve to be loved. They need hope and would do anything to just sit in a classroom and learn. I have held the hands of children who live in the streets and beg for every meal they eat. I have sat with widows who have been cast out of society, causing them to resort to the worst kind of violation to provide for their family. I have looked into the eyes of a child who has been told they cannot be enrolled in school because there is not enough room.

I have to remind myself to get out of the boat and let go of whatever I am hanging on to. I keep my roots shallow and my grip loose on this earth. I will never understand His faithfulness if I am hanging on. I cannot go on with life “business as usual”. Together, we are in a battle, fighting for an end to injustice and poverty, hunger and trafficking, slavery and oppression. God’s plan is not for comfort or safety. It is THY kingdom come, not MY kingdom come.

Can I count on you to help me make room for thousands of children sitting outside the fence, roaming the streets, praying and begging for help? African Vision of Hope schools can only grow if our current students are taken care of.  We cannot quit on them. There is no plan B. It’s up to us. It’s up to you.

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