A party that rocked … seventy Swazi preschoolers bouncing on a jumping castle (not all at once), creating handprint safari animal wall hangings, face painting, play dough creation and more mad up our day. But there is nothing like listening to their sweet little voices singing at the top of their lungs.

numcsile head out

Then there are the dance moves from the 2 year olds that outshine the rest of us by far.  Another joy for the kids was lunch – the famous Swaziland “Chicken Dust” with pieces of chicken as big as some of their faces.

Jon was with the school age kids on the Safari with 15 team members and I had 7. We were able to keep in touch via our tech devices, so that we could see and hear what both groups were experiencing … which was really cool until Jon sent a picture of my “special friend” hanging her head out of the bus window, driving at near highway speed. (“eesh” … as they say here in Swaziland) Fortunately they all arrived back at the Carepoint safe and sound with all body parts in tact.

At the end of the day eight of us went to the hospital to visit one of our Bhobokazi kids, Ntokoso Motsa. If you remember, I announced a month ago at church that this teenage boy was in ICU and we were asked to pray for him. He is now out of ICU and on a surgical ward, so there is some improvement. He is quite frail but we were all inspired by his tangible faith & trust in God. He was so happy to receive his care package & letter from his “special friends” at Riverwood, and be prayed for by our team. Out hearts collectively went out to him and the other patients in pain who lie in beds and rooms that are far from ideal for people who are suffering – one 10 year old boy even had to hold his own IV bag.  Life is just not fair … and I was reminded again how quick we Canadians are to complain when we are met with difficult circumstances but live in places where at least we are surrounded in comforts that to our Swazi friends would look luxurious.  Please pray for Ntokoso’s complete healing and that he will be able to return to his family soon!

Thanks for your prayers for us while we are on this journey. I can’t imagine a more supportive church! We love you!

– Carolyn

Party Day-13

Well….Jumbo Safari Drive is in the books!  What a day!  What an awesome day.  First let me say that I am so proud of our group and our church!  This day literally was made possible by almost 200 of you that chose to support our adventure and sponsored an elephant.  Let me tell you something….today was an incredibly special day for the kids.  Let me just say that those that are involved in leading the children at the care points….the field staff, the D-team, Pastor Peter & Precious….how each one came up to me after and told me how special this day was for the kids.

You need to remember that these children live in rural Swaziland.  They walk to the carepoints, walk to school, and rarely have the opportunity to venture outside of this….the excitement for this day was very high!  In fact, I was told many of the kids got very little sleep because they woke up at 4 or 5 AM to make sure they didn’t miss getting to the carepoint on time.  This was a true adventure for them….and you could see it on their faces as we watched the 4 buses drive up to Enaleni.

From the moment the buses left the carepoint, the kids were singing and dancing for the 1 hour ride to Hlane, the game park.  The bus ride was certainly a highlight for all of us… much fun partying on the bus with the kids.

The safari was really fun….and a bit funny too.  We had these huge buses trying to manouver through the game park….almost getting stuck in mud and hung up on dirt hills….but our drivers were amazing and they did their best to take us around.  Certainly the jeeps would have gotten us further….but heh….200 kids….that’s a lot of jeeps.

Most of the kids had never been.  In fact, often times in Swaziland, schools arrange for trips to game parks, but most of the rural kids would never be able to afford those field trips and thus they miss out on them.  This would be especially true for those kids attending our care points and their attendance there indicates they have a need for food that is not being met at home.  So…not only have they never experienced this….but many times they have stayed at home while knowing their peers were getting to.  I LOVE the fact that we took the step to do this.  The statement this makes to the kids, to the Hope Chest staff, and to all those that are watching from the community, is that we care deeply about making these children feel special.

I want you to know….I can still hear this as if I was there on the bus….but when our bus drove up on the lions that we saw…the gasp and the immediate rush to the windows by the kids was SO….perfect.  They were enthralled with them.  Very special.  The laughter, and smiles, and WIDE eyes when we drove up on a herd of elephants….priceless!  In fact one of the buses actually had an elephant “charge” at their bus showing a bit of aggression….everyone screamed….laughed…and didn’t quite know what to do 🙂

We managed to see lions, elephants, wildebeests, and hippos.  We missed seeing the giraffes and rhinos because the buses couldn’t drive in too far down the more undeveloped roads.  However, seeing these animals certainly provided sufficient excitement to make the kids feel like they had experienced something special.

We ended up with a huge lunch of Impala stew and rice and vegetables….the kids ate so much!  And it was really good….we all gathered at the fence at the watering hole after lunch to see the hippos in the water.

Then…there was the bus ride home.  This was a highlight for all of the buses….it was those moments you LOVE being a part of and will never forget.  The kids sang their hearts out….chanted for the drivers to pass the other buses and be the first…and danced like there was no tomorrow as we trekked down the highway.  We had the best drivers ever as they responded in kind and had fun as they let each other pass and there was a 4 way battle all the way home who would be in first place….the kids would chant – “overtake” to tell the driver to pass….and “YEBO” after he was successful.  The atmosphere on the bus was electric.  At one point, Bryan used his phone to read the decibel level of the singing and it was over 96!

Today was a day of letting kids be kids….of giving them a special experience they will never forget….and of making a statement to everyone watching that we are crazy about these children and will go as far as we can to make sure they know they are loved like our own.

Yes….Yebo….a day for the memory books….and one I personally was thrilled to be a part of!  Hopefully the pictures can convey even a fraction of the fun we had 🙂

– Jon

Team Posts

I just have a short story to tell that made me laugh inside and gave me an image that will stay with me the rest of my life, I’m sure. We had just got onto the highway to go on our ‘safari’ and were crazy-excited. The kids were so full of unbridled joy. They were singing as loud as they could and were literally dancing in the aisle of the bus as we were travelling at highway speed. Thinking like a North-American (and a parent) I got up and was trying to get these kids that were over the moon with unbridled joy to sit down. I was waving my arms and making ‘sit down’ motions and was having some success over the confusion. Then I glanced out the side window and saw one of the other buses passing us like we were standing still and Pastor Jon hanging halfway out the window, cheering at the top of his lungs and giving kids on our bus high fives as his bus blew by us. I stood and watched as the other bus got ahead of us and then I sat down and thought to myself, “Jos, this is Africa” and these kids are having the time of their life. Let them sing and dance in the aisles.    Thank you Jon for being the awesome inspiration that we need and keeping us focused on what we are here for.  – Jos

Hi family and friends, What an amazing time so far. I was so pleased the makes and gogos recognized me from last year and some of the kids also. We had a great day today, the older kids went on a safari and the 6 yrs and under stayed back at Enaleni for their own party. I remained behind to party with the young ones. Bonnie, you would have had a blast dancing with Grace!! I managed to get her up and we had fun dancing together to Waka, Waka. Sorry kids, I’m embarresing you again!! You don’t have to admit I’m your mum. It’s hard to believe we only have a few days left.  I am really soaking up the love here and hoping I’m giving lots back.   – May/Mom

What a fantastic day!  The safari was an incredible hit. Thank you to everyone who contributed to the elephant campaign that we had. The minute the kids got on the bus the party began for them. We had not even left the care point yet and the kids were in the isles singing at the top of their lungs and dancing as only the swazi kids can. I thoroughly enjoyed clapping along to their beat and Bryan said I had a perma-smile the entire time. It was so cool seeing these kids in their element. It hit me that coming to the care point and being with us is their chance to be just kids. They can forget worries and just have a genuine good time. These kids have so little but something as simple as being on a bus, driving in the country side, singing makes them so so happy. It was great being part of that today. I am taking everyday moment by moment and loving every bit of it.

So again, thank you for your support- this was a day that the kids will really remember and it could very well be a once in a life time experience. – Katrina


12 thoughts on “PARTY DAY!

  1. Thanks for the update Carolyn & Jon – sounds like an absolutely amazing day……Jon, I kinda feel like I was on the bus with all of you – thanks for the indepth description of your experience!!!…..96 decibals! alllllllright! That’s so awesome. Glad you had that amazing experience. Carolyn – we have NO idea how to live in poverty…..we take our life so much for granted….thanks for reminding us that we truly live in a blessed country and circumstances. Praying for all of you….you must be getting a wee bit tired…’ll be happy to know that it was a pleasant day in Winnipeg….with more pleasant weather on the way….Carolyn – we’ve had 10 new couples get engaged this week…and 15 babies to be dedicated! Mary – we decided not to do any of your work so you’d have something to come back to….ok I’m just kidding….the office is sure quiet these days….oh ya Ben has been on holidays. 🙂 We miss you guys! Stay safe…..and healthy. xoxo Diana

  2. Thank you for all the great pictures. They really give us a sense that “these kids are having the time of their life. Let them sing and dance in the aisles” — like Jos said 🙂

  3. Super amazing update!!! thanks for the pics and the stories!
    MARY. did you give your quilt away yet???

    get some sleep ya’ll. Sounds like a party over there and as Diana said it feels like were are there with you.

    Jon…Busting out the scooter tomorrow!!!! Get your stinky on the road when you get back and we can race….:)

    peace out and blessings to you all.

  4. Hello Swazi Friends!

    200 kids on Safari!! Wow. Sounds like lots of fun. I drove 45 kids/staff to the zoo last year with our work bus. 96 decibels sounds about right. And the party for the 6-and-unders must have been off the hook. There is something universally awesome about bouncy castles. Good work team, you make us proud!

    Allison, it was great hearing/seeing you yesterday. Hope you had a good rest. We’re going to be working hard to get all the work done at the house, it’ll be tight, but I’m looking forward to showing things off to you. Love and miss you so much!

    – Jordan

  5. Hey Ben, what’s new? Pls send info about what you,ve been up to :). Are u taking pictures? We’re looking forward to an evening at your place , popcorn, treats, etc and hearing all about it.. Hope today was awesome. Give God your best….
    here’s a good one for you.. Xx

    There was a preacher who had a horse for sale.
    One day a man came who wanted to buy the horse, but he wanted to ride it first to make sure it was healthy.
    The preacher said you can ride it, just remember this is a trained horse, it will only go if you say praise the Lord and it will only stop if you say Amen.
    The man say I’ll remember that then he got on the horse and said praise the Lord.
    The horse took off running like crazy straight towards the edge of a cliff.
    The man was pulling back on the reins, yelling WHOA, and everything else he could think of to get the horse to stop.
    finally he remembered to say Amen, the horse stopped right at the edge of the cliff.

    The man goes WHEW praise the Lord.


  6. Mary Robinson,
    Thank you very much Jon and Carolyn for all the pictures and updates. Every day I wait for 7 a.m. to come so I can read about another day at Swaziland. I love reading about the individual experiences. You are all doing such an amazing job. I pray for you all every day especially for strength as morning comes quickly in Swaziland. Excitement and pure joy of caring for and loving all those children can be exhausting. I just got back from church and saw the group picture with you wearing those amazing wraps. It brought back so many special moments of last year’s church service. God is good. I pray God will continue to bless you and keep you all safe and healthy.

    Thank you Jon so very much for the picture of my special friend. I was so excited to see him. I at first thought you had the wrong person. I did not recognize him! He has so much more hair and looks so big. But best of all he had this amazing smile. He looked so happy. I worry all year if he is going to be o.k. So seeing him so happy made my very happy. I am reminded of the song we sang this morning, “God, you are an amazing God.”

  7. Hi folks: Sorry my post is a little late this time. Had a bit of an off day yesterday and the spirit just wasn’t there. Feeling chipper today though; so you will have to put up with two posts. Yesterday’s Party Day/Safari was the first time I felt envious of you guys. I would love to have been on one of those buses with the kids singing and clapping and dancing around; urging the bus drivers on to have their bus come in first. That sounded like real joy, the kind of joy the Lord intended for us in this life, but which we seem to somehow mess up a lot of the time. Imagine if you had such joy and happiness every day of your life?? Wow.!! Wonder if Heaven will be like that?? Hope so.

    Once again your pics just about did me in. Loved the animals. As an outdoorsman I would really, really have liked to have been there to see those amazing creatures in their natural environment. The one of the lion peering through the bushes is a classic. Captures the essence of that noble animal, in his environment, looking calm and serene and fully in charge of his world. Whoever snapped #19 got a good one, and gets my first vote for the animal pics. The defiant elephant gave him a good run for his money. What a protector, facing down a giant machine and all the technolgy of the 20th.Century. Telling you this is my land, you can pass after all of my herd are safely out of the way, and not before, or you deal with me. Reminds me a bit of Arch Angel Michael, The Lords (and our) protector.

    The people pics weren’t any easier. The group shot in front of the bus tells a whole story. The little boy holding the plate with the lion painted on it, and the other little boy with his hoodie up will make great posters from your trip. But for me, the winner was the big fella with the white cap on his head. He isn’t just smiling with his lips, his whole face, indeed his whole countenance is one big, happy, friendly, smile. Would love to have him as a friend just to see him smile. I think I would visit him every day. – God Bless and have another great one today. – Gramma & Grampa Ralph

  8. WOW! it all sounds/looks so amazing and I am thrilled to even be on this side of the world cheering you on as you do all of these amazing things with the kids and just be Jesus to them (something I can’t wait to be apart of myself!) The hospital visit sounds like it would have been so difficult but what an amazing example that boy can be to all of us; so inspiring!
    Mama I’m missing you like crazy and my travel bug seems to be even worse now that you are gone. praying for you and the team every day and am so proud of you!

  9. Thank you so much for the fabulous pictures and stories!!……but much more than that Thank You for loving on these kids and representing us all over there …what a blessing you all are to them! Can’t wait for details!

  10. What an incredible experience, not only for the children, but also for our Riverwood team! The looks of awe and amazement on the faces of the kids is priceless! Way to go team! And great to hear that your hospital visit to the child bore good news of his recovery – we will definitely be praying! And thanks for the reminder of how blessed we are here compared to what others in the world contend with medically! We were so blessed this morning in church with your message, Jon & Carolyn – lifted us up!! Mary, Bryan & Cheryl, Yvonne & Eric, we miss you guys!! God speed and we look forward to hearing first hand from all of you your stories when you return! Love & hugs to all, Pam & Vic

  11. Hi Mary, great to see you with the little one what a surprise. Just show Amiya and kamden some pictures they liked the animals and their eyes lit up when they seen your picture they sure (all of us) miss you looking forward to seeing you on Fri.
    PS Jon make sure you do a child head count and Check Mary’s luggage for any little stow aways.Enjoy the rest of the trip.

  12. Hey Dad, pretty neat stuff you are doing there! I could imagine after seeing the othe bus drive by with those kids having so much fun that it would be hard to even attempt to have the other bus settle down. So funny. I can’t wait for you to tell me all about your trip! -Andrew

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s