Well….today was one of those days that had all sorts of reasons why it could have been a down and difficult day…but that turned out to be exactly the kind of day it was supposed to be! Let me explain….
We began our day sitting down at breakfast and then getting ready to board the bus….our team hosts, Mark & Allison drove up….and they came out with somber looks on their faces. I asked what was going on and they told me that last night (Sunday night) the Bhobokazi area was hit by a large storm. It must have been very very windy and strong….because the shade structure we had built at Bhobo had been damaged. They weren’t sure the extent of the damage….but they knew it was a reasonable amount.
So….we pulled together as a team….and filled everyone in on what was happening…and Carolyn & I tried to process with everyone that these occurrences are a part of the ordinary life that people experience here. We as a team bound together and determined even before we boarded the bus or saw the extent of the damage that we would forge ahead together and that whatever we faced, God had a plan for the day. The team responded incredibly.
It was disheartening. Here is this carepoint we have been working with for a bit over a year….a carepoint that previously had been known as the neglected carepoint….and we were so excited to finally see progress being made….and it just seemed to disappear. We quickly discovered that we would not be able to do any work on the structure that day nor be able to send a build team to Enaleni….so we picked up 48 bottles of coke (in the glass) from the store across the street (that needed our business) and sat down to meet.
We talked through as a team the emotions we were feeling….and it was really significant. There was together a resolve and a recognition that this carepoint meant so much more to us than a simple building that had been built on site…..the point for us was that a building can come and go in a flash….but the relationships we are building there and have built so far mean so much more. The building will get fixed and put back up….but we decided then and there that Bhobokazi needed to know that no matter what we faced….we were committed to them. So we decided to spend the day investing into that.
A team of people arrived shortly after to dismantle the entire structure and remove it from the site in order to fix the broken parts and to prepare the materials to be used again to build it.
We took the opportunity to clear the grounds at Bhobo of any small stumps growing from the ground and to try and make the grounds a bit more level and evened out…and safe.
Then….we had an idea….the kitchen was still simply a concrete building…so we sent Chris and Bryan into town with Jumbo to buy some paint. Then….we put a crew together and they decided to tackle painting the kitchen. What a vision they had….check out what a simple concrete unpainted building was transformed into in a matter of hours….
So great! We had a really great day of continuing to build the relationships with the children and to make them feel connected. We also had the privilege of handing out the care packages for all of the Bhobhokazi kids today. What a great time distributing your love and care!!
Four of our team members also had the chance to take the four go-gos who do the cooking everyday, as volunteers, to do something special with them….they took them shopping for a new outfit into town!! So great….I’m sure you will hear more about that experience.
Anyway….what started as a day that could have gone bad…..turned into the perfect day for us as a team….and then we ended it up by going to Pastor Peter & Precious’ house for supper….that’s right….all 25+ of us were fed and hosted at their house for an incredibly delicious meal! What a great time connected with them and their family!
Anyway….I’ll let a few more experiences come out in our team blogs….thanks for reading the long post….and as always we’ll end with some pictures to let you see our day in colour.
Goodnight….after a long…but great day!
To Sheila, Eric and the rest of the gang:
Well we arrived at Bhobhokazi today prepared to put in a full day of construction around the new shelter and do programs for the children. What we came to was something quite different and not what we expected. A wind storm came through the area and the structure collapsed overnight. We were disheartened to say the least. So the plans that we had in place got derailed a bit. The team took it in stride though and we had a chance to pray together and ask God to teach us what His plan was in all of this. We were very thankful that it did not happen when children were under it which, would have been much more tragic. So we plug on and continue to trust that God will show us His plan for this care point.
The church service at Enaleni yesterday was very interesting. There is so much freedom in their worship and there is definitely a lot of movement during church. They were so excited with the new sound system and put it to good use. The whole team was warmly welcomed. Jon preached a great message and Wayne and I had a chance to say a few words as well. It was very surreal standing on the platform and looking out at the Swazi audience we have heard about so often. The team got a chance to sing an African son with the children on the platform and I think the enjoyed it a lot. They sure enjoyed the KFC lunch as well. Lots of smiling faces.
…sorry going into town with Jumbo…will be back soon…
…Back again…Came back from town with paint to paint the kitchen. We all rolled up our sleeves and got it painted…with the start of a mural as well. The magees went into town with some of our ladies to buy new outfits and when they got back and literally started dancing when they saw it…it was very cute! We also handed out the gift bags and I gave Lungile hers. She was all smiles J I gave her a hug and got a picture with her…again. When the kids started to leave for home she gave Kelly a big smile and a hug. I’m sure she will love all she got.
We finished the evening with a meal at the Langas. It was crowded with all of us there but the meal was delicious. Amanda…I met a pastor who said he knew you and Matt…he said to say hi…Pastor Lucas…I think?? I also met Tandika at church. She told me she was your good friend…so I got a picture with her…surprise surprise.
Well that’s it for now…Love you all and miss you a lot
It’s been a while since I have posted something. There have been some very busy days and a lot to process. Saturday was a treat to see. All the boys showing up in everything from busses to backs of trucks. It was amazing to watch an impossible number of boys of all sizes climb out just when we figured there were no more another ten would get out. There was so much anticipation in the air. One of the first things we did was to hand out a treat of cookies and fruit. I was impressed how they know that they need to line up if they want to get the treat. I saw two little boys who looked to be about two years old looking lost. I tried to take them both over to a shady area to eat their food. One eagerly took my figure but the other one shied away. I took the eager one and the other followed at a distance. I sat down on the ground and the new friend plunked down in my lap. He pushed his banana into my hand and looked up with pleading eyes. I pealed it and he bent forward and took a big bight. If I waited too long to lift the fruit up he would just push his head back into my chest. In between bights he would work on his cookies. My shy friend was watching all this and still holding on to his banana. I motioned to him to come over and he scooted over and held his prized possession up to me. I almost laughed because as soon as he had the pealed banana back he scooted right back to where he had been. When the snack was done we headed over to a large shade tree to hear from our soccer pro. As I was standing listening to the very powerful story of his life and escape from poverty my little friend fell fast asleep on my shoulder. I can’t imagine how these little children can trust a total stranger enough to sleep in their arms. As I listened to the talk I heard challenges for them to stay strong, to believe in dreams, to do well in school and never let anyone put them down. He told the boys that an education could open up the world for them. That the next teacher or lawyer or political leader could be right there in their midst.
I took my little sleeping guy up to a big tree and laid him on a soccer bag to continue his nap. As I did he woke and looked at me and I rubbed his back till he fell asleep again.
As I sat and watched the different groups of boys learning new soccer skills from the Pro I realized that they looked like every other boy I knew. The new yellow jerseys, thier excited smiles, the new soccer balls, that they were no different from the boys back home. Except that these boys had nothing to distract them. Under they new shirts were ragged shorts. Shirts that were scrubbed clean but threadbare on the edges. Pants that were barely hanging together. They were so thankful for everything we were doing and didn’t want to leave at the end of the day. I wish kids back home would have to live like this for a while and learn that everything life brings them is a gift and not a right.
Enough for today. I have to hit the pillow now as there is much to be done tomorrow. I will share more later. Love to all my friends and family who are following and even those who aren’t posting anything.
Two thoughts have solidified for me over the last few days:
First, our days at the care points have provided me with the most integrated/balanced ‘proclamation of the gospel’ experience of my life. Everywhere in Swaziland you commonly see groups of people walking along the sides of the roads – for me this is a picture of the gospel. ‘Speaking out the gospel’ walks side by side with sitting and being with those in need, listening without judgment, reaching out with a warm handshake or hug, inviting the Spirit of Christ to meet needs, filling hungry bellies, clothing the vulnerable, and building where there is need. When the gospel ‘walks as a group’, there is a strength and beauty that reflects the Heart of God.
Secondly, a life of gratitude, service, and worship is a life worth living.
The last day and a half has been one of intense emotion. Many of us began to get a true sense of life in rural Swaziland- the lack of food, the lack of shelter, a sense of powerlessness to change your life station, etc. This awareness shed light on the materialism that surrounds us in North America and, inevitably, feelings of guilt developed. As we sifted through these emotions, I was reminded of a challenge Pastor Todd posted awhile back. He encouraged us to love and serve despite the risk of having our hearts broken. It seemed the quintessential moment for the message of that challenge.
A couple of years ago a song entitled Risk was released. As I listened to it last evening, the words encouraged me and I woke up motivated to press forward. Then we arrived at Bhobhokazi this morning. Instantly, we felt disheartened by the destruction. However, as we took time to debrief we were reminded that we are in a relationship with this care point, which means we don’t give up when obstacles arise. We “pull up our socks” and get back to work.
The discouragement that comes along with the challenges here can sometimes seem overwhelming. But as we press through these discouraging times, God’s faithfulness is revealed. God loves Bhobhokazi with an unrelenting passion and his plans for it are good. In the future, I am sure we will see Bhobhokazi rise from the dust and be a light in this community. That is definitely worth the risk.
“I’d rather stand on the edge of a cliff and hang my toes over a bit, and then jumped when they dared me, even if it scared me and I get hurt. I’d rather build my wings on the way down, do my best not to fall to the ground and then laugh at my mistakes cause they’re only lessons I’ve learned. I guess I could just play it safe and forget about love, hope and faith, with my eyes on the shoreline keeping my tied and staying home. But I’ll never discover new lands by keeping my feet on the sand. No, I’d rather set sail and get carried away by the storm…I’d rather burn with desire deep in my soul and love like a fire that’s out of control. Laugh, dance, fall, chance and kiss. I’d rather live my whole life with a sense of abandon, squeeze every drop out no matter what happens and not wonder what I’ve missed. I’d rather risk.”