A Swaziland church service followed by Family Day was day that will last long in the memories of our team! This was a vision birthed in our hearts months ago, along with lots of discussion & wonderings –“would this idea even work”; then to see it become a reality was simply amazing! We are so grateful to God; to the Swazi field staff who gave us the go ahead to try another one of our “crazy” ideas and to our team who put themselves out there – meeting & serving the caregivers of the children that we have fallen in love with. It was a thrill to hear from some of the parents in their broken English how grateful they are for what we have done and are doing for their children. We took over 60 family portraits that were printed for them to take home – a definite highlight watching them beam with pride over them.
The kids had a blast on the jumping castles with their parents looking on but having to turn away when Jon’s jumping caused his pants to part ways behind him. Thankfully he had his Swazi costume flag to cover the gaping hole most of the time….it was a windy day.
One of the greatest results of this day is something we can’t even put into words because we could only listen in as the Swazi staff had the opportunity to speak to the caregivers about what Enaleni was trying to accomplish in the community. This was an event designed to help give more ownership to the local community for this project.
So….another day to top the charts for us. From a stellar Canadian food crew serving well over 300 lunches to seeing Ron dance across the stage in church….from a traditional Swazi dance performed by the older girls to a singing satire performance by the older boys that had everyone in stitches (wish we knew what they were saying)….from unreserved flying acrobats across the jumping castles to the kids carrying cabbages that were literally half their size….today was a day of so many highlights that we will need to let the photos tell the rest. Thanks for your prayers and support. We’ve only got a few days left and we are going to squeeze every drop out of them. Good night from Swaziland.
Really surprised I am writing this from Africa. Three years ago my daughter Kristyn went to Kenya and my wife Sandy went with her to help settle her in as I had vowed I would never do something like that. Kristyn texted me a couple days ago that she remembers me saying I would never go to Africa and that God must have a sense of humour and probably laughed and said that is what you think.
It is a fantastic experience to go on a mission trip with your daughter. I have now seen Stacey in her element. The smile on her face and the faces of these kids when she interacts with them brings tears to my eyes. I also got to see Stacey in a wedding dress and this wont cost me anything (she was a princess at the Bhobokazi party).
I have gone through the gamut of emotions this past week. I have had trouble understanding why we have so much and these families have so little. How can I even make a difference here. Jon gave a mini sermon this morning at church that talked about Thomas and how he doubted that Jesus was back. He needed to touch the holes in his hands and feet and would not believe that Jesus was back unless he saw it for himself. The analogy he used was the African Impala that can jump over ten feet in the air yet when a three foot fence is put in front of him he wont jump it as he cannot see what is on the other side. That’s how I have lived my life always afraid to step out in faith. The families here feel every day is a blessing and a step of faith. That is how I want to live my life stepping out in faith every day. – Ron
Today began with a church service unlike any I’ve experienced before. And while they say it lasted about three hours, it didn’t seem like that at all. (Pastor Todd, don’t get any ideas!) After noon I helped watch the kids on the bouncer, and they were having a riot – it was difficult to get them off when it was time to be done! We were also treated to performances by a junior girls choir and a skit by the youth boys that looked hilarious; I wish I could have understood what they were saying – the Swazi crowd sure laughed! I spent a bit more time visiting with my special friend. We were able to serve food to the whole group, distribute cabbages to each of the children and the Gogos, and of course helped clean up. I also met and visited with some very interesting caregivers, including a prince (who is a brother to the current King of Swaziland), an elder from Mozambique whose dance moves were riveting, and some parents and grandparents who expressed their deep gratitude for our assistance with their children.
All in all, this experience has been remarkable for me. Feeling a bit like a drop of joy in an ocean of pain has been humbling, but so rewarding. The hardest part has been doing this journey without Pam, who passed away nine months ago. She was so looking forward to doing this experience with me, and would have loved it and given herself fully to every moment of it – bringing joy to the kids and encouragement to the workers, meeting the caregivers, listening to their stories. So I am doing my best to do these things on behalf of both of us, and I truly feel I am receiving far more than I am giving. Meeting these dear people, hearing them thank us sincerely – not just for giving to them, but for being here with them – these connections are so life-giving.
So, to any of you who may question the value of what Riverwood is doing in Swaziland, whether it is sponsoring kids, filling gift bags, praying, or getting crazy and coming all the way over here, let me encourage you. It is no small thing. In fact, it is immeasurable. – Paul