Monday, February 18, 2008

Swazi Team 08

Day 1- January 15, 2008
Our team arrived at Bishop Airport at 11:30 am. Our families stayed for awhile visiting and then we said our goodbyes. Braden usually cries when we leave each other and it always breaks my heart, but this time was much harder as I have never been away from him for more than a few days. As Ashley walked away with a crying Braden in her arms, I started to cry too, which if you know me; you know that’s not uncommon. Some people look at crying as a weakness, but I believe it is a great strength. Crying always makes me feel better, not only is it cleansing but it also feels as good as screaming to the top of your lungs when you’re frustrated.

After the goodbyes were said, we went on to our gate, but of course before we could get there; we had to go through security. It was pretty funny; the two young ones of our team Krista and Lisa went through like they knew the protocol and it was just part of their daily routine. Then along come me and Tammy, the two that “had the airport been busy” would have everyone behind them impatiently waiting. I was first and had to go through the metal detector a couple times due to my cell phone left in my back pocket, oops! Forgot that was there. Then my laptop had to be put in a separate bin by itself. Oh and I hand my wallet to the guy instead of my passport. That wasn’t all too bad, I’m learning I thought. Tammy is behind me and seems to be doing better at this, I thought well she used to be a flight attendant, I should have just let her go first and followed her lead, I thought that way until we got all the way through to the end when the security guy went through our luggage. He opened Tammy’s and pulled out 2 two gallon sized zip lock bags full of toiletries…..liquids, solids, semi liquids, semi solids, some bottles of shampoo, gels and bubble bath, full size versions! I think I may have even seen a stray hair curler or two. The look of shock on all our faces was priceless as we stared at what appeared to be the entire contents of Tammy’s bathroom. The security gentleman looked at Tammy and said, I’m going to have to send you back. Tammy just stared at him in disbelief. She had that “deer in the head light” look, and the airport security officer, “gentleman that he was” had realized that Tammy had shut down. She wasn’t responding and she had that disbelieving look about her. He started removing non-liquid items from the bag and placing them in her suitcase, he then pulled out two bins and placed all legal liquids in one bin and oversize liquids in the other. So Tammy had to choose what she absolutely needed and what she could do without. It took some time to decide, but this was a very important decision, not one to be taken lightly. All in all, It was pretty funny!

This is just the beginning............

Swaziland is an amazing place with wonderful, loving, kind hearted people that have a true love for the lord. I find it heartwarming to see people that physically have nothing, yet are so hospitable and willing to give you what little they do have. The one thing I notice here is that there is a whole generation that is missing, they don't exist, and many have died from aids. Children are living with their Grandparents or in home's where no adults exist. Many are sick and without proper nutrition or medical care. My heart breaks.

The children at El Shaddai tugged at my heart and the orphanage is an amazing place with two very beautiful, kind hearted people that started it and continue to care for these children like their own. Amazing seems to be my new- often used word. My biggest fear right now is that there aren't any words big enough to describe my experience in Swaziland or the wonderful people there. I have truly fallen in love with this place and it has brought me closer to God. Another word that seems to pop up recently is "purpose," which I find ironic since so much of my journey back to God began with that one word. It was so hard to leave Swaziland and as I sat on the plane waiting for take off to travel back to the states, I had mixed emotions, part of me was anxious to get home to see my loved ones and to tell everyone of this wonderful place. A place that I feel so sad to leave behind. It has become a big part of me, yet I have a feeling this is just the beginning.

Our Swazi Greeting in Manzini

Swaziland Arrival-
We arrived in Swaziland about 2:00 in the afternoon. Pastor Dale and Jennifer Willson(with Free Methodist World Missions) were there to pick us up. We went to the church that New Covenant built in Manzini and met Busisewe (her and her husband Vasco live next to the church which is on the same property). We also met several children that live in the village and attend the church. It is a custom in Swaziland to greet your guest by singing to them. This video is of Busisewe and the children of the village greeting us. Every time I see it, I want to be there. Each child then shared something about themselves. These children are very intelligent, and they have hopes and dreams for their future. I see a definite poverty here, not like you see in the United States though. Many of these children live in homes without electricity, some live in homes where their are only children living, some may have not eaten that day yet they have an innocent hope in their faces and they were there to sing to us and greet us. Later we went to the conference center, had dinner and then shared with each other about the day and what we hope to get out of all of this. I am not quite sure what I hope to get out of this, I only know that I have a need to help in some way. I am exhausted and hope to sleep tonight.

The Children at El Shaddai Orphanage

January 18-El Shaddai
Today we went to the El Shaddai orphanage. It is located in the most beautiful mountain setting. The beauty of this place is a reminder of God's love and the glorious detailed earth he made for us. The bible says, "Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love.

When we first arrived, we toured the orphanage and met the children, the ladies that take care of the children and Callie and Charmaine, the couple that have taken it upon themselves to love and care for all these children. What wonderful, loving people they are. The children here are bright and well behaved. We planted four gardens, along side to help, were several of the young boys that reside at the orphanage. They knew exactly what to do and took charge of the job at hand. It amazes me that boys of their age (grade 5) would be so eager to do such a chore. They were excited that they were invited to help. Pastor Dale, Krista and Lisa painted the roof of the school. Several times throughout the day people from the community came to get milk. The children are so unspoiled, they take nothing for granted and are eager to help where needed. The setting is a very laid back and slow going one, with a mind-set, if it doesn’t get done today, tomorrow is another day. We met many of the 48 children that reside at El Shaddai; a three month old baby boy named Benjamin tugged at my heartstrings. I truly enjoyed spending the day with the kids.

Jewelry Making 101

I spent some time with the Swazi ladies while they were making the jewelry that helps to support El Shaddai orphanage. I showed them a few beading techniques. They laughed though when I walked in with a hand full of rocks. I’m sure they thought I was crazy! I then showed them how to wire-wrap it and put it on a piece of leather.

Hospital Visit and Prayer Walk

Today is Saturday January 19, 2008, today we went to the hospital in Mbabane to visit the children. There were several mothers with their infants, many were very sick. We prayed with them and sang children’s bible songs to them. I spoke with a young mother with a very sick little boy, she said, he was 10 months old. He was so tiny; as small as a one month old baby. There was a small room at the end of the hall that abandoned children were kept. Some were abandoned because their parents had died, some because they were mentally challenged, one little girl about three years old was abandoned because their were too many girls in her family, her name had meant too many girls. There was a baby that was about 2 or 3, it was hard to tell his age as he was quite ill. He was in a crib and he was frightened of us. Cathy spent some time with him and he cam around a bit and she was able to touch his hand. It is so sad, he was so sick, so afraid and so alone. It is hard to write this as the memory of it haunts me. I picked up a baby boy about 6 months old. The back side of him was wet with urine and so was the bedding he was lying in. He smiled right away when I picked him up. The nurse was giving the children bathes so I thought better of the situation. He was next and she did bathe him. We stayed and held the other children. The nurse finished bathing the little baby and put him back in the same clothes, only a different towel wrapped around him for a diaper. She then laid him in the crib with the same wet bedding. It broke my heart. I picked him up and held him for awhile. When it was time to leave, I had to put him back in his crib. He cried when I did, it was very hard to leave. I wanted so much to take him with me.

We went on a prayer walk later in Manzini. It was very crowded and didn’t appear to be too safe. The people of Manzini seem so lost. I prayed for them to know and love God, I prayed for employment so they wouldn’t be hungry and I prayed for wisdom, to keep them and their children safe from AIDS.

We went back to the church in Manzini and went on a walk through the village and met the families of the children we met on the first day. Many of the children didn’t have sponsors to attend school. I met a young girl that needed a sponsor, she is 16 and her name is Ntombifuthi. My heart went out to her as she is quite shy; we talked as we walked through the village. She loves to read. I asked her what kind of books she likes to read and she said novels and the bible. I asked her if she had a bible and she said she didn’t but she read the bible at church. I have pledged to sponsor Ntombifuthi so that she can attend school. She was so excited, the smile that crossed her face was one of not only great joy, but I also saw such relief. She is a very intelligent young lady and it would be a shame for her to not have the opportunity to attend school. She had stood by her friends excited for them as they had each received a sponsor, all the while waiting for someone to sponsor her.

Pastor Dales Crazy Driving!!!

This is a picture of Lisa and Krista after riding with Pastor Dale!!!!!
Today our team spent some time together and bonded with each other. Pastor Dale, Linda and Tom went to meet with Busiciwe to discuss church business. The rest of our team spent time in the devotions room talking. We had a lot of fun. When they returned, we headed to El Shaddai to work on the garden. On the way there we stopped to give candy to some Swazi children. I was hanging out the van window so that I could reach the children to hand it to them, I didn’t get completely in before Pastor started driving again, I think this has become a game to him as this was not the first time that I went flying in the van. I had to do some fancy maneuvering to get myself back in the van while it is moving full force and get back in my seat. It was quite comical and we laughed. I didn't know I had moves like that. You have to be pretty quick about getting in your seat and belted in when Pastor Dale is driving because the minute the van door is closed, he’s off to the races and flying around curves! I have noticed that is the way people drive in Swaziland though. What's that old saying?.......When in Rome, do as the Romans! It must pertain to Swaziland too!

The Dam

We went to the dam near the orphanage; it was fun and we took many pictures. There was a family of goats walking along on the sidewalk. It was funny to see them just walking on the bridge. We had a lot of fun laughing, joking and cutting up. It was a good day.

There is an electricity shortage in Swaziland, They turn it off quite often to conserve. The Dam has the ability to generate electricity for all of Swaziland and is fully functional, yet there is a disagreement over who controls the dam, so it remains off. Many are not affected by this, as they don’t have electricity, but what a waste to not use it.

A Great Day!

Sunday, January 20, 2008
Today was the most amazing day yet. We started the day by spending a half an hour reflecting with the lord. I sat on the hill behind my room in awe at the beautiful mountain that God created. Such intricate detail, it’s so amazing how everything fits together in his grand scheme of it all. And as I sat there in peace, praising the beauty that he created, I came back to something I read once, “When God is at the center of your life, you worship, when he’s not, you worry.” What a wonderful way to start the day. I sure could get used to that. How many times do we allow life to get in the way and we don’t take time to spend quietly in his presence. Perhaps we should give ourselves permission to do this everyday. Perhaps we should schedule it on our planners. This country is beautiful! I really think Rob would love it here. The pace is so much slower. People aren’t in any hurry to get anywhere. And their outlook on daily tasks is “if it doesn’t get finished today, there is always tomorrow.” I love that!

We went to the church in Manzini. The new Pastor was to be announced today. Everyone arrived in their Sunday best and the children were adorable. The little boys had traditional Swazi attire with their wraps and necklaces. The choir wore their traditional wraps too. The service started with the children singing. A little boy sang Jesus loves the little children of the world. It was so cute and I teared up a bit as it reminded me of Braden and I was sure missing him. The service lasted a few hours but it never really seemed like it, as there was always something going on. I love it when the Swazi choir sings. They sound so beautiful and put so much into it. I noticed that when Ntombifuthi sings, her face lights up as she praise’s God. There is an innocence in their worship, they come to the father as a child. They are kind hearted and loving.

Honorary Swazi

Busciwe and the choir presented Linda, Tom, Pastor Dale and the Pastor from Mozambique with traditional Swazi wraps. It was very touching. I have gotten to know Linda more while here and as I knew she is an amazing person, this trip has brought a new found respect for her. I feel honored to know her. God is doing great things through her. She has a true faith in him and listens to him. I think that is the key, she listens. She takes the time to listen. She remains so humbled.

God Speaks to your Heart......

This is a photo of me and my sponsor daughter Ntambifuthi. She is 16 years old, somewhat shy, has a beautiful voice and a big love for the Lord!

I believe God speaks to each one of us differently. For some it may be a voice, others may have visions and dreams, for some it may be an inner voice, for me it is a feeling in my heart.

I had wanted to give something to Ntambifuthi to remind her of the time we shared together. I had a bracelet with me that I had made and thought that would be a good gift, as it was a bracelet that I wore often. We were on our way to Manzini and I would see her when we arrived. I put my jacket on and my bracelet broke. Right away I knew that God hadn't wanted me to give the bracelet to her. I didn't know why, I just felt he didn't. When we arrived and I spent some time with Ntambifuthi, she told me me she liked to read the bible and I could tell, she knew a lot of scripture. I commented that she must read her bible often, she said she didn't have her own but she did read it when she is at church. It was then that I knew why my bracelet broke. I had my bible with me that day because it was my turn to do devotions at lunch. The bible I had, was given to me when I was 16 years old, by my grandparents, when I was baptized. My name was inscribed on the cover in silver and on the inside cover was the date in 1981 and my grandparents names. God had put it upon my heart to give her my bible. The appreciation she portrayed will be with me forever. It was a great moment.

The Flight Home

As I sit here on the flight to Amsterdam with 3 hours to go, I can't help but think about what I leave behind. I am sad to leave such a beautiful country with such loving people. Sad to leave these people who physically have nothing, yet spiritually have everything.
I try to mentally prepare myself for going back to the states. I feel changed by all of this as many have said I would. I want to hold onto that for as long as I can. I wonder what I will say when people ask about Africa. I want to shout how I feel, but there aren't any words in the English language that can compare. I pray that more will go and see, go and help, go and come back and tell others, for this is an experience that will be with me forever. I feel like I left my heart there. And in that I know I will do justice to this mission that God has set before me. This mission to tell others of the state these wonderful, loving, kind hearted people with such a joy for the lord are in.
What an amazing experience to learn their culture, to witness and share their worship and true love and joy for the lord. I am suddenly reminded of our reservations in singing praise. My own reservations, how many times have I wanted to sing out loud, dance and throw my arms in the air in praise to our wonderful God. Yet sadly I contain myself in fear of what others will think. I watch Ntambufuthi, she is shy, a bit reserved and everything I want to know about her, I have to draw it out of her, yet when she sings praises to the lord, you think surely this is not the same shy young girl. She has a vibrant unreserved joy that shines in her song, her movement and her face. If only we could worship with such a magnitude of glory!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Cultural Center & Game Park

Execution Mountain is just behind Tom's head in this picture.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
We went to the cultural center and to the game park. The cultural center was quite interesting. There is a mountain behind it called Execution Mountain. Anyone that broke the law used to have to go up to Execution Mountain and either jump off or run into a spear. I’m not sure what I would do if I had to choose, I think I would have to ask what was behind curtain number 3.

I enjoyed the dancing and learning about the Swazi Culture. The grandmother is called the Go-Go, she lives in a hut by herself. If a child is in trouble with his parents and can get to the Go-Go’s hut before the parents get to him, he is safe and the parents can’t do anything. I like that! I mentioned this to Ashley and she said, what’s the difference? That is how it is with you and Braden.

Traditional Swaziland dancing and singing at the Cultural Center

At the Game Park we rode in a Land Rover that had a net around it as protection from the wild animals. Ha! I think if the lions had wanted to eat us, we would have been dinner. They had their chance, as we were sitting ducks with a flat tire in the lion area. We didn’t have a spare and Bosche, our guide, got on his radio for help. When it came, he ran to the gate to let the other driver in. I was thinking… he supposed to just leave us here like that? It was a little unnerving.

An Elephant came right up to our Land Rover. Busiciwe was sitting in the front and it came within inches of her. I was a little nervous but she was very still and quiet. Afterward she said she almost peed her pants. We also saw the rhinos, a hippo, the lions, warthogs, a crocodile (one in the water and one waiting to eat us, hiding in the tall grass)and several deer like animals (I can’t remember the name of them so we’ll call them lion food).

Sunday, February 3, 2008