Well….right now we are making our way back to the Jo-burg airport at the end of our journey. We are through the Swaziland border and have said all of our goodbyes (except to Elliot and Sandilo our busdrivers). It is hard to believe this journey is already coming to an end….but we know for many of us this is a journey that has really only begun.
We had a tremendous last 1/2 day at Enaleni. There was a bus full that headed off a bit earlier in the morning to try and finish digging the main trench line for our irrigation system. We had a blast working hard at digging and were happy to have finished it by around 10:30. The remainder of the group arrived at the same time and then we put the tools away and just had a last couple of hours being with the kids and saying our goodbyes.
I could feel it in the air that each of our team members tried to make the most of every last second we had to be with the children that they had connected with in particular. It was a truly bittersweet morning as we one last time heard the laughter in the air, saw the smiles on their faces, and just got to see them being children excited that there were some adults there to play with them.
We took the opportunity to gather around and thank the many who make the Enaleni carepoint what it is and to celebrate them. We handed out cards and gifts and tried to speak as much encouragement as we could to those that put their lives into these children and the carepoint everyday. We celebrated the D-team members speaking to them how grateful we were that they communicate God’s amazing love for them every week. We gathered around the Gogos that arrive every day early in the morning and tirelessly cook for the neighbourhood children….not because of anything they get in return….but just because they know the need. I think each of us were again deeply impacted, humbled and challenged by the amazing commitment and faithfulness these ladies display. They truly are Swazi heros. We gave them all brand new winter jackets, running shoes, scarfs and socks. They were very excited about it.
We gathered the leadership team around and were able to again celebrate the significance that they will have in changing the Enaleni, Bhobokazi, and many other communities they are a part of. We can’t tell you how excited we are that these young men and women who have grown up within the carepoints have now been given this opportunity to go to the Leadership Academy for 8 months of study and then return to the carepoints to work as an apprentice and to help invest into these children. They are absolutely promising individuals who have a calling on their lives.
Thanks to a gift from a family at Riverwood, we were able to let them know that on Saturday, the day before they leave, they will be taken shopping with Allison to buy the things they will need to be away studying for 8 months. Again these are things we take for granted, but these kids have the very practical needs of things like toiletries, clothing, and such to be away from home. They are very excited.
We gathered Mark and Allison and their family to say a special thank you for the absolutely amazing hosts that they have been. Truly they have been a God-send to Swaziland and to the work that Hope Chest is doing there. And then we gathered Pastor Peter, Precious and their children and were able to speak just how much they mean to us, and to let them know that no matter how much we have done to help resource the church and carepoint….they really are the difference makers. They are the ones whom give their lives to lead and grow this place. They are the ones that have made sacrifice after sacrifice to make it happen. They are the ones that God has called to make Enaleni a light to the community around them. We prayed over them and asked for God’s blessing onto their lives.
It was a rich goodbye….and then we had a last few minutes to hug the children….to say our goodbyes and to do our best to fight back the emotions of the moment. We want the kids to see us leave with joy and not with sadness….we want them to not feel a sense of finality in that moment…..we want them to just know how happy we were to be with them. It was a chore to get everyone on the bus because we just did not want to leave. Oh how these kids have marked our lives.
We headed off from their to the game reserve for our team windup and to experience a bit more of Africa while we had the opportunity. What a joy to be together as a team doing this. We had so much fun, we had amazing game drives seeing giraffes, elephants, rhinos, water buffalo, zebras, and hippos. What a treat this year for both groups (2 jeeps) to see all of these. It felt like the perfect windup to an incredible trip. We spent the night in our open huts in the middle of the game park with a few of the team nervous about a middle of the night visit from a rhino….but alas we all survived the night.
We had short early morning game drive beginning at 6AM before boarding the bus to make the journey back to Jo-burg which is where we find ourselves now as I write this.
As I look back on this trip, I see many things that God has done for us…..and many things to be encouraged about. I am encouraged about the future hopes and dreams that have become clear for both Enaleni and Bhobokazi. We are excited that over the next couple of weeks, the field staff is going to be having more formal meetings with the Chief responsible for the land at Bhobokazki to try and secure additional land to develop there. They are very optimistic that this can happen…..this could possibly more than double the size that it is now….and it would open up many doors. The moment we get word that the land is made available we will put up a fence right away and in doing so secure that land for the carepoint. I have visions of a soccer field and a garden there as well….there are many older boys at Bhobokazi and having a soccer field would be one of the greatest things they could ever wish for.
We are excited that beginning over the next couple of months, I will be working to secure funding to hire two teachers to launch a formal pre-school at Enaleni. There is a huge need for this and Precious will be providing the leadership for this. The kids that don’t have a chance to get formally educated at a pre-school have a much much lower percentage at making it and passing the early grades. We are excited about the idea of providing not just some….but a high quality pre-school education for our young ones at Enaleni. This is seriously exciting to me. Also, we are working towards providing an opportunity for the older kids to receive vocational & skills training on site. This would be a formal program but would happen after hours from school. In this way we can see the older ones invested into in a way that they develop skills for their future.
I also see other significant things as I look back and reflect on these past two weeks. I see many of our team members that have been given the gift of brokenness. Hearts that have been broken for injustice. Hearts that have been broken for the vulnerable. Hearts that have been broken for the helpless. Hearts that have been broken by the incredible difficulties so many at a young age have had to experience. I think there is truly something sacred about this experience. Not just to feel sadness….certainly not pity….but to truly have allowed these ones to enter our hearts in a way that breaks us is a sacred experience. God has given many of us this gift. It is a gift to be protected….it is a gift that needs to be given the space in our lives to take root and to ultimately shape us into the kind of people that will stand up for the furthering of His kindgom. A kingdom in which those that are truly last are first. A kingdom which gives the highest value and priority to those that the world gives the least. A kingdom that stands up for those who cannot do so for themselves. A kingdom that becomes a voice to the voiceless.
I pray that for those on this trip….and for those at home that have been journeying with us….that this brokenness would not pass by and disappear….but that it would take root. That it would give us a renewed heart. That ultimately whether in Swaziland….or any other part of this world….we would be a part of God’s kingdom come in our worlds.
Thank you for being a part of our experience. As a group we have been honoured to have you along. You have been an important part of our days and of our experience. We’ll keep you posted on our journey home….and maybe add a few post trip reflections here. Below you can find the pictures from our last 1/2 day at Enaleni and a few shots from the safari experience.
Now….onto our 32 hours of travel home. Wish us luck…..