Reflections on a decade of hope and transformation

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Stuart Harris (left) with WorldShare’s new Vice Chair, Katelyn Barakat (centre) and new Board Chair, Glen Richardson (right).

After nine years of service in the role, Stuart Harris recently finished up as WorldShare’s Board Chair. To commemorate this season, we caught up with him to reflect on the beginning, the changes, and the highlights of his time on the Board.

How did you first connect with WorldShare?  

Two things came together to bring me to WorldShare, or CNEC as it was known as then.

I was living in Manly [in Sydney] at the time and I was involved with a local community initiative called Manly Manado, which was connecting people in Manly with communities in Manado in Indonesia. And one of our partner organisations in Indonesia was being managed by CNEC [WorldShare] at that time.

Around the same time, I met Gerald Thomas [who was CNEC [WorldShare] Board Chair at the time] at St Matthews church and we became good friends.

Gerald introduced me to CNEC’s other ministry partners and HEAL Africa’s story caught my imagination and grabbed hold of my heart. So much so, that I ended up producing two photographic documentary books – one about our partner in Indonesia and the second about HEAL.

And that was the beginning of a long partnership that has brought me to this point.

You’ve just finished up nine years on the Board and several years of involvement before that, what are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen over that time?

It feels like there’s been a lot of change during my time on the board, but I think one of the biggest changes was Joanna coming on as CEO.

Jo has great ideas and a remarkable ability to execute those ideas and bring them to fruition. 

But I think what Jo has done so well over the years is to articulate very clearly what our mission is at WorldShare… and to articulate clearly who it is we’re trying to reach when we talk about the most vulnerable.

Where is God calling us to? Where are the most vulnerable? Where can we partner to restore hope and life? Jo has really helped us on the Board work through these kinds of questions during this time.   

And I think today we’re seeing the fruit of that clarity of vision.

I imagine you’ve also seen our ministry partners grow over that time…

Yes! I love seeing our ministry partners grow and that we get to support them in doing so.

For each of our partners, their mission began with someone seeing a problem in their local community and feeling called to try and solve it – often in an innovative way.

Each of them has then got to a point on their journey where they need someone to come alongside and support them. And I love the way we partner with them. We come alongside and say we can see your vision, and we share it.

We obviously get to support them financially but also, we support them with ideas and expertise, with policies and things like that – things that don’t sound particularly exciting but that help create robust structure and organisations, accountability and governance, important things that make it more likely for them to see their vision realised.

It’s exciting to see something go from a small seed, pouring water on it and seeing it burst with life through the ground and grow into something really strong. Something that can create shelter and fruit for generations to come.

That’s something I think is quite unique about WorldShare.

Stuart is a keen photographer and has many incredible images from his ministry partner visits over the years. Here he’s captured one of HEAL Africa’s doctors measuring up a young child for special shoes.

It’s clear you’ve got a real heart for our partners, and you’ve had a few opportunities to visit them overseas, do you have any favourite stories from your time with them? 

Some of my favourite stories are actually from when partners have visited us here in Australia and come into our homes. That is another unique opportunity we have as part of the WorldShare community…

But, because you asked, I will tell one quick story from a visit to HEAL Africa in the DR Congo.

It was the last day of our trip, and we were gathered in HEAL’s chapel with a couple hundred local men and women. We were sharing reflections on the week we’d just spent at the hospital. 

The person before me was a great speaker and while he was talking, I was sitting there thinking ‘Great, what am I going to say to follow up this?’

And in that moment God put something on my heart. I looked up and in front of me was this mother with her child sitting on her lap. And I could see that her child was recovering from having their clubfoot restored.

And I could tell she was wondering ‘Is my child going to be okay’?

And in that moment, I knew that child was going to be okay.

I’m not giving some prophetic vision here. I was actually speaking truth because I’ve experienced it myself. I knew that child was going to be okay, because I had a clubfoot when I was young!

Just then they handed me the microphone and I got up and I looked at that mother (and there were others in the crowd with children who had had the same surgery) and I said, I can promise you that this is an amazing facility that you’re in… and your children are going to be absolutely fine. And how do I know that?

At this point I rolled up the leg of my long pants and I told them about how I had clubfoot as a baby and now look at my leg, you can’t see any difference.

And guess what? I can run, I can jump, I can hop.

And I started doing that on the spot.

And I tell you, all these mothers started doing this beautiful chanting and cheering and it was just… a wonderful experience.

That experience (and many like it during my time at WorldShare have) reminded me that we all get to bring hope to each other. And that’s been the gift that I’ve received, having been able to serve in the way that I have with WorldShare in the last nine years.

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