It's gonna be just like Christmas!

I’m sitting in the living room of our guest house, watching Carolyn and Kelly scurry around like Santa’s elves on a mission. They are so excited and so very energized. It’s 5:30 pm on Monday and they are attempting to unpack and organize the 250 lbs of Riverwood Care Packages we brought with us and arrange the additional 100 lbs of stuff we bought today. We’ve made our final decision on which Care Point we will be sponsoring and we can’t wait to introduce the people of our Care Point to you … tomorrow! But today…there is work to be done.

This afternoon, after meeting Gugu and touring her school (see the entry below for that story) we went for a quick lunch and then shopping. What we know about our Care Point is that they have attempted to start a school for the children in the area that can’t afford to pay the fees to go to a regular school. That school has nothing but a volunteer who has stepped forward to gather and teach the kids. It has no school supplies, no crayons, no blackboard, no paper, no desks, no chairs and no tables. So…our first stop was to visit a sparsely stocked school supply store in search of some teaching supplies. We managed to find a set of ‘early-reader’ books and bought those. Then we hit the ‘Shoprite’ and went a little crazy.

We bought school supplies for an entire school of 40 kids. We bought crayons, scribblers, pencils, pens, rulers, erasers, scissors, paper and games. Then we bought the teacher a soft briefcase and loaded it with pens, felt markers, a stapler, highlighters, calculator, a record keeping book and a few nice personal toiletry items just for her. After that…we went on a mission to load nine buckets with groceries and create nine special care packages. We created 4 for the Gogo’s (the volunteer women from the village who cook for the children at the Care Point.) Four more for the families we plan on doing ‘home-visits’ with in the village…and another for the teacher. The four of us made all sorts of suggestions of what we should put in the buckets…but Kriek vetoed most of our ideas. The reason for the veto was that we were shopping like Canadians. Most of what we suggested they had no use for and wasn’t essential. So we bought peanut butter (high in protein), sugar (a very rare grocery item in their homes), a solid bar of laundry soap, candles (their only source of light), beans, and some special treats… coffee and tea and jam.

We stood in the line of this very busy grocery store fighting back tears. (Some of us did better than others.) We looked at our two grocery carts full of school supplies and the most basic of grocery items and realized that for the people who are about to become our new friends in the village…these things we just take for granted are the very things they don’t even have. These small and simple commodities that overload our pantries at home are, for our new friends, rare and special gifts.

Anyway…we’re off to dinner with Jumbo and Kriek…but a couple of quick notes before I sign off:

First…a HUGE THANK YOU! to those of you who have left ‘comments’ on the blog. The four of us huddle around the computer or if we’re lucky enough, print them off and one of us reads them while we’re traveling. I guess we’re just saps, but most times there are a few tears in this experience too. We feel like we’ve been gone forever and your words have encouraged and strengthened us every time.

Second…I bought a giraffe! She’s a girl-giraffe and I’ve become quite attached to her…but she doesn’t have a name. Send me your best ideas and the winning name gets a present from Swaziland.

Lots of love…


18 thoughts on “It's gonna be just like Christmas!

  1. name;searched under meanings : belovedMUDIWA Gender: Feminine & Masculine Usage: Southern African Means “beloved” in Shona. think this should be it !lots of love, you beloved out there…. big HUGS your way… pass some on the the kids okay?we prayed for you specifically this morning….. strength and courage

  2. God bless you in your business…. take time to pause and “breath in the moments” you’ll never have quite this experience in africa again…. especially this one-of-a-kind christmas/easter/birthday party…celebrate…. Jesus came so that we’d have more life, amen?more life abundently…. large highs, also times of deep contemplation , reflection, and empathy…. take time to discover each one of you, one scripture that He wants to communicate to you and also through you, this day…. ponder seperatly and don’t forget to see object lessons within the unique land you are in…. may peace be with you and God’s signiture on the land you walk and drive… You are His annointed hands and feet – He will lift the weight of the tremendous yoke off your shoulders…. surrender EVERYTHING to Him…. including your fears and triumphs…. He is the master of what will be accomplished…. take time to hear his whispers that are customized to each of you individuallyRom 8 – he will equip with words and strengthdance in His joy…. in HIS waterfall of blessings and renewal

  3. It was great to finally get a chance to read the blog. I have to admit that it brought back a lot of ministry memories of my time in YWAM. Please know that Dawn and I are praying for you guys, I know that you will come back changed. I know that there will be times when you feel like that there is more that could be done and what can we really do as a church when the needs seem so big. However, God will give you the direction and show you all the best place for us as a church to have the most eternal impact on Swaziland. We will never know this side of eternity the impact we will make, but I can’t wait to find out!Blake Muggleton

  4. How awesome our God is.I am so moved by such great faith and so humbled by our excess.I’m reminded of the “story” of a man on his roof surrounded by rising flood water.His prayers to God to be rescued rise to the heavens each day.On the first day, a boat comes and he refuses a ride because he believes “God will come save him.” The next day, a helicopter and the next day another search and rescue vehicle. Finally, the man drowns and asks God why He didn’t come, to which God replied, I sent a boat, helicopter and rescue vehicle for you.It reminds us that we, the church, are the hope of the world.It’s not enough for us to pray for Africa, we must also be there. If that’s a stretch for any of us, so be it. Let’s just do it- stretch our gifts, our time, our prayers, our efforts to make a Godly difference.Therefore, I suggest the Giraffe be named “Stretch” to remind us of what’s required of each of us to do God’s work in Africa. (And, of course, the long neck thing that’s goin’ on)

  5. Hello all!I’m sitting here, during working hours, finally getting a minute to check out the blog! (yes Todd, I’m working too)….I love your entries into the blog – I am feeling a smidge of what you are experiencing – and my eyes are WET. Thanks for the cry. :)I love the giraffe. I think you should name her Ginger. I looked at her, and that’s what popped in my head – then I looked up the meaning….Female Latin meaning: Spring-like; flourishing.Well, back to the grind…..ah heck, maybe i’ll take the rest of the day off. :)Be blessed and be well.Love to All!Diana

  6. Hey Todd,Carolyn, Jon & Kelly:Love reading your blog updates. So exciting to think our church can impact a community so far away from us so significantly. Can’t wait to hear about our care point and meet the people!!And as far as naming your little giraffe. I have two African names I really like and can’t decide which one to suggest so I’ll let you have both:Kya which means “A diamond in the sky”.andChika which means “A gift from God” or “God is Supreme”See you soon – Michelle Wall

  7. Hey guys,Oh my goodness – talk about fun, joy, delight and guilt all wrapped into one great big package.I remember how excited I was to receive a goat for Christmas – a goat that meant another family somewhere in a third world country would get the basic necessities for life – like goat milk. Imagine being the bearer of gifts like peanut butter, jam and coffee – I can only imagine how wide those eyes will be when you present your gifts. It’s so little for us yet so big for them.Viona and I were pondering one Sunday how you even begin to choose a care point when there is need all around. How do you in effect choose one group over another? How does one group of people suddenly become blessed and yet others continue to suffer. What an immense decision. So… I began praying for you guys that you would be able to make that choice and feel at peace. I can hardly wait to see pictures of our care point and see the joy in the eyes through those pictures.Thanks for taking time to write on the blog – it’s the next best thing to being there.What an adventure – what stories you will share for years to come – thanks guys for letting us be a small part of it.Hey Carolyn – nothing on the blog here about bathrooms yet – so…..Name for the giraffe – ASHA – means life in Swahili or Dayo – means joy arrives

  8. Hi friends!!!! LOVED reading your blog(s) today (played catch up since sunday’s blog, actually)…. Carolyn, I was sure struck by the fact that Gugu meets with Children’s workers weekly to pray for ministry worldwide. Humbling….I can’t help but feel pangs of conviction and sorrow as I read your posts…. “Oh God, show me how to live HERE”…. I feel like a spoiled Christian; I am caught in the middle of wanting to enjoy good gifts that God gives, but not wanting those things to govern me; and in fact longing to be so much more like Christ in the way I use my life and the “things” that surround me. Ah, the crucified life. I just need a clearer picture of what that looks like. Anyways… this could become a huge philosophical essay… I’ll stop. Just know that I appreciate your words big time and am SO blessed as I hear what you’re experiencing. Love and miss you all!!

  9. How about Gugu Dynamite, to help remebmer, your Swaziland Hero!It has been so great to follow you on your trip.I can’t wait to see the pic’s of the people God has chosen for us to care for!

  10. Everyday I look forward to reading your blog. It makes me realize that even though I feel my days are hard there are others who have it harder. The name that I think would be so beautiful is the African name: Manyara, which means “you have been humbled”. Kelly I got to visit your little Conner the other day. He is so cute, I love him to death. He seemed to be getting a little cold which of course because of my constant kisses, I too am sick now.To everyone,Thanks so much for blogging all these wonderful things. I am so inspired and ecstatic for the work that God is doing, through you guys, out there. I think about you all every day and pray that you guys will continually be filled with this fresh light of God. What a wonderful experience you guys get to partake in.Love you, Ash

  11. yebo!Unjani?Todd and Carolyn, Jon and Kelly,I must admit that i feel a tinge of jealousy as I read of your experiences in Africa so far. More than that however, I relate the things you are seeing to some of the situations I encountered in Guatemala. When you speak of the children of Africa and some of the struggles that they are experiencing my heart cries out in anguish. God’s precious little children – needing love and more and unable to find it. It is amazin g to think that perhaps the Kidz Zone of Riverwood it reaching beyond its own doors and into the world at large. I am excited to see what the response will be from the children of Riverwood. Let them dream of the possibilities!Todd, you are always talking about tearing down the walls of the church…. hum, you have a strange affiliation to tearing down walls! Now more than ever I look at Riverwood and find a home there. It is exciting to dreams of the impact Riverwood is able to have – Glory be to God!As for the giraffe — I think a fitting name for it would be…Esperanzaspanish for hope!I tried to find out how to say hope in Siswati but found that information very difficult to come across!But I believe that Hope is something Riverwood is able to provide in such a tangible way. It is sometimes the smallest things that mean the most! We take for granted the things we have and forget to be thankful to God for the things and opportunities He gives us. We can change that and allow His blessings to flow through us and to provide Hope for the people of Swaziland. I am proud of the four of you and can not wait for you to return so I can hear more of the stories and see the pictures of those wonderful kids!! Wait, usually I recieve these letters… strange… now I am sending them!Feel blessed because God is opening doors in your lives!Salakahle,Giles

  12. Thank you so much for all of your updates. It has been very encouraging to see all that you are doing and experiencing. I can’t wait to hear all about it when you come back!We are all blessed to be apart of a Church where our leaders are demonstrating what Christ meant when he said “love your neighbour” I found a few names that might work for your giraffe:Nia – Purpose – SwahiliTinashe – God is with us – ShonaAmadi – Blessing – IgboChioma – God is good – IgboGod Bless,Rachel

  13. I think that that you should call the giraffe that you bought after the little girl that Auntie Carolyn was holding in her arms. I think that would be a great name for the giraffe because every time you go by it you can think of her and the giraffe would be a constant reminder to pray for her, as she has a special place in your heart. Look forward to seeing you soon, and your stories,- Layla

  14. Every day I look forward to checking your blog. I am so excited to learn about the care point you have chosen! The photos and the stories and the facts are so moving, and I love knowing that our church can make a difference in so many people’s lives. I pray that God’s love would come through loud and clear in every dollar, item, gesture, word, and hug.

  15. Good Morning! It must be about 6-am there. I’m finding myself praying for you and the people that you will come in contact with on your last days. My heart is feeling heavily burdened, am I’m not even there. I can only imagine what you are feeling as your time there draws to a close.In regards to a name for your giraffe Todd, MANYARA seems to be appropriate. It means “you have been humbled” in Shona. We will be praying for safe travels home.Love you guys,Lisa

  16. I am truly touched by all of this info and extremely overwhelmed! I think this may be a turning point in my life, I am not sure…but, I will be in awe when I get the chance to hear more from you C&T. Dad & Mom send their love and pray for you everyday, they are on the countdown for your return.As for the giraffe’s name? I think she should be called Humble, that’s what I’ll be every time I see her, she will remind me….I have nothing I should complain about!Hugs to allClaudia

  17. I typed out a prayer for you on here yesterday that blogger somehow lost…and I was extremely upset about that.God quickly righted my thinking and asked me if that prayer would be any less effective.Oops, I had to answer “no”.Whether you heard/read/saw those words or not will not determine when and how he chooses to answer my requests for you and for Riverwood.I found a phrase on an “african” site, and have no idea what dialect it would be from but I like:Wenda Banga Tevia. “Go build a fire”We could call her Wendy for short.Go build a fire Riverwood leaders…build a fire of hope…build a fire of love…Safe travels!V.

  18. I’ve loved checking up on all the updates you guys have sent so we can experience a little bit of what you all have seen. I love the picture of the child (I think it’s a girl) wearing glasses. It’s so cute!I had a few suggestions for the giraffe’s name:Juji is an african name for “heap of love” which is I’m sure what you all experienced. Kia is also african and means “season’s beginning” which is symbolic of what has been started by setting up this care point

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