First of all, for those wondering about Bonnie’s marriage proposal….join the club….I too am wondering….as the story goes, Bonnie was on her way home from a home visit when she encountered this man. Apparently it was love at first sight….he wanted a photo with her and this is what came of it…..
Oh Bonnie 🙂
Well….again…what a day! We had a much needed evening off last night and just enjoyed connecting with each other, catching up on sleep, and watching some live music playing at the restaurant attached to the place we are staying. We had a chance to sleep in a little bit today (leaving at 9:20AM) so that just helped everyone rejuvenate just a bit. Then….we were off. Off to church at Enaleni. We were really excited and anticipating this experience of worshipping together. We knew that so many of you were joining in this experience as we brought small portion of Riverwood to join them.
We found out yesterday that they were doing baptisms at the service and so we headed out a bit earlier to join them for this. They do their baptisms before their church service and they have a baptismal tank built into the ground outside the church. They had filled the water up earlier that day and there were 6 people getting baptized. It was actually funny because the water was super cold….so they all were quite audibly experiencing the immersion in frigid waters….a fitting Canadian version I guess. It was really fun to see these people mark their lives there and to witness this.
Church was awesome as always! Lots of great singing…lots of rhythm and movement….some not so graceful by a few of us 🙂 We could tell how meaningful it was for them to have us together worshipping with them. I had the chance to preach today and it was really fun. I love preaching through a translator because you speak one sentence and then have a few minutes to think about the next one you are going to say…..but it was so good to be able to share God’s word with our brothers and sisters there. I spoke on Ephesians 5 and Matthew 5, challenging us all to live as chidden of the light that were once in darkness….and that as those that have the light, we are to bring that into the darkness around us. This is also what we have been talking about with the kids all week.
At the end of the service, they invited all of our team up on stage to put a Swazi flag on them as a gift of thanks. It was really meaningful for all of us! Then we served the whole church Chicken Dust! So fun and they loved it. We actually ran out and some of the kids had to share and our team just made some peanut butter sandwiches after because there were so many of the kids joining us for church. It was such an honour to serve them lunch.
Following the lunch we all had the opportunity to head off to a much anticipated visit to the market for the afternoon. Everyone loved shopping, and wished they had a bit more time….but they had a solid couple of hours so that’s plenty for me!! I managed to do some serious power shopping and restock some of our market supplies.
We had a really meaningful debrief tonight. There is so much God is doing in each of our hearts….lots of breaking…moulding…softening…and changes taking place. It is really a privilege to witness this happening….and to be a part of it.
I had a pretty emotional day personally. After the service I was talking with Precious (Pastor Peter’s wife) who is very connected to the children at our care points. I asked her how my little boy was doing. I have noticed his health has been better this year and his sores are healed up. We know that he is HIV positive but I was really encouraged at how his health was thriving this year. She let me know something that just broke my heart….our boy lives with his aunt and uncle because his mom is not really in the picture and neither is there a dad around. His aunt and uncle have been such tremendous caregivers. Well, Precious let me know that just two weeks ago his aunt (primary caregiver) passed away. My heart broke. I found myself welling up with the emotions of how real this poverty is….asking questions like when will the sad stories end? It feels like it just is not fair….and today this was very personal for me. My heart is breaking for my little boy and his sister who at such a young age are having to deal with these issues.
Yet I know that this means we need to have even more resolve to continue what we are doing….giving these children a place of stability, of love, of acceptance, and a place that they can discover God’s amazing heart of love for them.
It feels like such a short time ago that last year my wife and I were sitting with his aunt and uncle talking to them about how we are praying for them, how much we care and how much we love our little boy and his sister. Yet in such a short time she has been stolen away from them.
One thing that was really meaningful is that Precious said that she brought some of the church members to their house right after it happened to process and care for them and to pray with them. I am so grateful that the Enaleni care point and church has this heart to care for these children in need. We must resolve to continue investing into these things we are doing!
On the flip side, afterwards I had a breakthrough with my little guy and his 3 friends. Our little guy is very shy and a bit reserved….and in all the previous trips it takes a couple of days for him to feel like he feels confident enough to fully play…..but today I sat down with him for lunch and as he got up I caught his eye….and it is the same look that I have with my two little boys….that look that says, “I’m gonna get you”….I proceeded to chase him around the playground, with him hiding behind posts, running way from me as best he could all the while hoping to get caught….his friends joined in and pretty soon I had four little boys I was chasing all around the care point catching them….and hiding behind cars, bathrooms, and in the big pile of tires left over from our ATV track. It was a solid 30 minutes of pure fun and laughter and it was just as I experience with my own boys at home. I am so grateful.
Anyway, it has been a great day. It has been a sad day….it has been a rich day of experiences that will mark me for life. I feel incredibly fortunate for the opportunity to lead and guide this team alongside Carolyn through these experiences and even more grateful to walk through this personal journey with them. I miss my family today….wishing my wife was here to share these emotions with.
We look forward to the next few days. We appreciate you journeying with us. Back to Bhobokazi tomorrow for a great day of connecting with our children there!
Below is our team members thoughts from the past couple of days….there has been a lot of experiences so there is lots to share today!
Just want to send out a huge thank you to all my family and friends who have been posting on the blog. I can’t tell you how much your words mean to me at the end of a long day. I came down with a cold shortly after we arrived here, and that has really been my greatest challenge so far. I can’t cuddle with the little kids, and it’s really taking a lot of self discipline to stay away from them! It hasn’t been quite as difficult to keep myself away from the work projects ;-), but I really WAS looking forward to that too. Please pray that I will recover in time to get in some more cuddles before we leave. Even so, this trip has been amazing so far. Church today pushed me WAY outside my comfort zone, and it turned out to be well worth the initial discomfort! We sang and danced and hugged (yes, I actually did all those things!), and at the end of the service the Enaleni ladies presented us each with a Swaziland flag. I got to see Mthandazo today too, and meet his mother (when we went on the home visit, the lady who I thought was his mother was actually an older sister). Sorry this post is a bit jumpy. I have so many more things to say, but I really need to go to bed, and turn this computer over to someone else. Can’t wait to share stories and pictures with you guys in person, and hopefully on the blog again too!
Church was so much fun today. I love how welcome we are and how we are encouraged to be so involved in the service. Jon gave a great message about shining God’s light which fit in perfectly with our VBS program. I could tell that it had a huge impact on some of the Swazis attending the service. Jon asked members of the church who were experiencing darkness in their lives to stand so that members of the Riverwood team could pray over them. That had to be my favourite part of the service. The two women I prayed over were overcome with emotions and were so grateful. One of the women requested prayer for her daughter Happy who is extremely ill. It was heartbreaking but such an amazing way to connect and serve out here. We got to hit the market today as well which was very successful. Knate I saw Noncedo and talked with her a bit. She is totally coming out of her shell. Mom, Dad, and Beau I have been having a hard time getting my e-mail to work out here and only sometimes get reception to send the odd text but I miss you!! Yvonne I have tried to track down both girls but I think I only have pictures of one so far! Thank you all for the prayers!
I am so sorry that I have not been In much contact with you folks but I have been very busy making wedding plans. It was honestly love at first sight and we are both very wild over each other. Pj has offered to marry us. My big day is on monday. I have my wedding dress, it is a Canada flag. Now onto other issues in my life, church African style is out of this world. We have a lot to learn from them, you all thought that I could never sit still in riverwood well you should of seen me let loose today. I did my best to behave but you know me it doesn”t last too long. I also want to say a HUGE THANK-YOU to everyone who loves me so much to of blessed me with a love offering to help me to bring the love of JESUS from ya all out to the people, children and my true love of Swaziland. You have no idea of how beautiful and precious These souls are. I came on behalf of you all. Evie and Joshua and all of my precious kid zone gang thanks for your love and prayers. I feel them all the way out here to Africa.Thank -you to everyone who has sent a blog to me or Carolin, they mean the world to me. Cheryl it was so cool to hear from you and you are so right you can never have to much fun in life no matter where you are. I love and pray for you also. Any chance of a coffee date when I get home? I am also open to any other coffee dates to anyone else. Please everyone pray and blog pj (pastor Jon) to bless us his favorite (as he says) with more shopping time. I have really seen a totally different side to him….I kid you not he has made me earn points for even the smallest favor like 1 hour of shopping time. Our amazing leader Carolyn who really does know Jesus has made sure I get at least a bit more shopping time.
Today was also a very bitter sweet day for me as I was really missing my mom who I lost a few years ago as it would of been her birthday today. But it was an amazing day to of been able to honor her in different ways and to celebrate her by living out my dream of being in Africa. She knew how much I wanted to have this experience. I even had the chance to wear her last stick of lip stick to church. It is PINK of all colours! Love, thoughts and prayers.