A remarkable sense of community – Bhobokazi

As we arrived at Bhobokazi today, I can’t help but remember that not too long ago this place was called “the forgotten carepoint.”  But today what we experienced could not be farther from that label!  Six years ago when we committed to sponsoring this place, it was quite barren.  Today, it was bursting at the seams with life!

We can’t help but all feel incredibly grateful and humbled by what we experienced today.  From the moment we arrived on site, until we literally had to get kicked off….we felt a sense of community, belonging and connection.  It didn’t matter whether it was those of us that had been there before, or those stepping onto the soil for the first time, we all felt so naturally connected and accepted.  I loved watching our team help make the food with the bomakes today….to be welcomed in not just to visit but to help clean the pots, start the fire, fetch the water…the represents a sense of comfort and trust that meant a lot to us.  There is something about being fully invited into another’s kitchen that represents a deeper level of intimacy…it may sound strange but this was real for us today!

We also found out that about a month ago, another nearby carepoint (not run by Hope Chest) shut down.  This has created a sudden influx of new kids….and we saw it today!  There were more than 120 kids there today….SO many new faces.  We are excited to hear the news that the fence will be expanded with new land that the chief has given to help this place grow!

Watching our team connect with the children today was something inspiring.  I wish I could communicate with words the scene at the carepoint…..but it was so ALIVE…that is the best word I can come up with.  Laughter, screams, cheering, singing, even the sounds of a full on game of tackle football that Stacey helped create 🙂

A true privilege to be a part of this day.  I will let the words of some of our team and the photos say the rest.  All I can say is how honoured we felt to have been invited into such a sacred experience of community today at Bhobokazi.

Good night from Swaziland! – Jon

It’s my first time going to Swaziland and so far it’s been a great 2 days at the care points. The moment we arrived at Bhobokazi today our team was overcome with love and joy from the bomake women. I had to hold back my tears, it was just amazing to see how happy these women were to see us and to be doing what they doIMG_4118 with the children each day. One of the bomake was jumping up and down yelling hallelujah and how happy, happy, happy she was. I had the opportunity to help out in the kitchen today, and even though I wasn’t sure of everything I was doing the women showed so much appreciation. I thought playing soccer in my long skirt with the kids yesterday was hot and sweaty but being in the kitchen was a whole new experience of heat. We laughed and danced while cooking and they made me feel right at home. It makes you realize that not only do we have a huge impact on their lives but they impact ours in an unimaginable way as well. Later in the day I spent some time skipping and painting nails with the older girls. They were so open with me and you could really feel the friendship among the group and the inclusion of me into their group. It made them feel so special that I was spending time with them and making them feel beautiful and loved. I’m glad that I can come from so far away and build these lasting connections with people I didn’t even know before. I’m looking forward to the rest of the days to come and the blessings I will give and receive from these kids. – hailey

I have been waiting to be back at our carepoints since I left last year. It felt so right to be holding little kids and being hugged by the ladies who run the kitchen. The day flew by so quickly and there were many exchanges with kids I’ve known now for a number of years. I love how much they have grown. At our evening debrief we acknowledged that the smiles and laughter hide the truth of difficult lives and fractured families.

IMG_0457As we arrived at Bhobokazi we were greeted by Gracie and that is an experience you can’t forget. You can’t help but love her because she leaves you feeling truly loved. A typical greeting would be a handshake but these women were coming to us with open arms and greeting us like family. A greeting by Gracie usually includes a dance as well J

We kept looking for our boy Phiso and didn’t see him. When we started asking around and found out that he had not been there for several months. Again this is heart-breaking news. On the good side his grandmother is going to call someone to inform our boys caregiver that we are here. Seeing him will be good but knowing that he will most likely fall out of the support program is almost too much to bear.

As I finish my day I realize that I am emotionally drained. I guess this is because I given everything to these kids and held nothing back. Tomorrow is another day and I’ll do it again. – bryan

Today was an amazing day in so many ways! The first person I saw was Gracie who greeted me with open arms and a huge smile. It was so great to see all the new kids at this carepoint and it was soooo great to see the kids I knew from previous years. So many remembered me. I started playing play dough and I was making bracelets and rings for them. I made about 7 of them and then this little girl took my hand and put one on me that she had made. It really touched my heart. She had the biggest smile I have ever seen.IMG_4012

We also had the honor of going on a home visit. I had met the Grandmother earlier that day her name is Margaret. She is such a sweet lady. Her son had passed away so she has his 5 children to look after plus 3 of her own. The home is very small but she was so happy that we came. We prayed for them and they were all so happy and thankful that we would care about them. In the end I am sure we were more blessed then they were.

Darlene, thank you so much for writing on the blog. I am feeling better. I still have no voice. I miss you too!! Gogo Brenda, I am so happy for you!!! Thank you for praying for me. I am feeling better. Please pray I will get my voice back sooooon. Brenda and Carolyn just want you to know I really miss you and think of you often!! My team at work, if you are reading the blog, just know I am missing you and thinking of you as well. Until next time. – cheryl

Today was THE day for me. So much going on in our relationships with the kids, the community, the Riverwood team, and those who make this carepoint run day in and day out. The ladies who cook and care for the kids at Bhobokazi are something else! The love, the care and oh that joy. The joy is ridiculous and it’s awesome. It spreads throughout Bhobokazi like you wouldn’t believe. We were smiling within seconds of jumping off the bus.IMG_4095-Edit

I also had the opportunity to meet our friend, Temantfulini. It was all that I asked for and more. Being able to connect with a child I only previously knew from across the world was something I will never forget. Your Riverwood team is amazing and giving all their sweat, their tears and their hearts. Proud to be here with these people.  Looking forward to the days ahead – benN



17 thoughts on “A remarkable sense of community – Bhobokazi

  1. Ben, I cried when I read your blog entry. What a blessing for you! Somehow I can picture you there and running around acting crazy with all those kids! Be blessed and be a blessing! Enjoy everything!

  2. Definitely some laugh out loud moments today as I looked at the pictures! Great “photo booth” shots Jon!

    Haley … I love the picture with you & Gracie. She is quite the lady! Her joy & contentment speak volumes; and I love that you had an opportunity to spend some time with her!

    Bryan & Cheryl … I feel your heartbreak in not being able to see Phiso. I will pray that God opens up an opportunity for him to get to Bhobokazi while you are there. I know how much he means to you! Cheryl I love that smile of yours that lights up the room – (even in daylight hours) – when you are around the children. The motherly love that you shower upon them is precious! I SO miss seeing you in action!!

    Ben … I absolutely love the picture with you and Temantfulini! Jon did a great job of capturing a beautiful bonding moment between you and her. So glad that you are able to experience Swaziland up close … and so personally!

    Kailey – Happy, Happy Birthday !! (April 30th girl!) Another birthday in Swaziland! I cannot think of a better place for you to be on such a day! I love your heart & devotion!

    Swazi Team thanks for all that you did to bring hours of smiles, laughter & love to Bhobokazi – no longer “forgotten” but “SO BELOVED”!


  3. It sounds like another amazing day! I can hardly wait to read your posts each evening. I absolutely LOVE the photos, they capture such powerful and real emotion and you can just feel how much you are impacting these kids. Now Leigh get your butt into more pictures!!!

  4. Well Jos, I think that this Swazi experience is definitely bringing out more of that kindly grandpa side of you. It looks like you are ‘in your element’ as you are finding time to enjoy interacting and playing with those wonderful children. It is fun to watch. Hugs and a gentle kiss to you. —- your admiring wife 🙂

  5. Leigh! What you are doing is truly amazing, you really are a “supremely talented” person! 😉
    The pictures are great, I can’t stop looking at them, everybody looks so happy!

  6. Jon thanks for the pictures from Bhobokazi. I love seeing how thrilled the children are to have you all there. Cheryl, I am sorry to hear you are not well. I will pray for your voice to return and that you will recover quickly. I searched the pictures for our girl Zinhle Zylane and I believe I found her in a picture of three girls in great hats and boas but I couldn’t read her name tag. I’m praying you will meet her and be able to give her our love. To the team… May God’s protection and strength carry you each day as you fulfill the mission he has for each of you.

  7. Hi Team
    Once again– so fabulous to see all of you lovin’ on the kids!
    Karen– I saw the famous talking drum! I am sure they loved every second of it!
    Bryan– I am sorry that you and Cheryl did not see your boy. I could feel your pain in the blog. Praying that you and Cheryl will have a special moment with him!!
    Cheryl– praying that your voice will return but by the photos we can see that you have not let it interfere with anything!!
    Thanks to the whole team for shining so beautifully in Swaziland!

  8. Everyday I look at these pictures…tears flow….these kids are so amazing….and the smiles on all your faces and theirs…ya – just makes the tears flow! Zach – how do i print the bulletin? Just kidding! Ben – i lost my voice – how on earth am I gonna lead worship?!!! Also just kidding….LeeAnn…your office buddy is out of sorts without you…and i’m not kidding. ha ha…Miss you all!!!

  9. Such beautiful smiling faces and laughing eyes in the kids and the adults!! Kailey happy birthday (insert happy birthday song here). Once again you are having the best birthday ever!! I love you so much T I hope your day was fantastic in every way!! Please come back to Canada with your team. Besides I think you only bought insurance for 2 weeks.

    hi Jo we miss you and kailey at the shop but are managing pretty well actually Remember this is the weekend of unicorn poop cupcakes… Love all the smiles and hugs you are giving and receiving Drink it all in..

    Xoxoxox. Betsy

  10. Hey Team–Gogo Brenda again!
    I forgot mention how FUN FUN the dress up looks. I bet the kids loved it!! Great idea!
    Also Happy Birthday to my Celiac Buddy– who is more than just my Celiac sister! Happy 25th Kailey!

  11. Leigh, so fun to see a couple pics of you there! It sounds like it has been an amazing experience of connecting with the team. You need to speak up soon Leigh, because I want to hear how your project in particular has been received. So important and so needed (are you shying away from sharing because it’s not “appropriate” for a church blog, speak up girl!)! We missed you on Tuesday but you were certainly on our hearts and minds as we got together that evening. Can’t wait to hear your stories in person when you get back!

  12. Hey everyone! Love following along everyday with you guys! Looks like everyone of you are “in your element”! Again great pics with great smiles! We are praying for you every day… for great joy, for health, for protection, for strength, for great connections with the ones you SO want to see, and for ALL God has on His heart for you! Ben I’ve had some great days with your beautiful family here! (We miss you & love you tons!) We look so forward to hearing so much more from you when you get back! Please give “our boy” lots of hugs from us! (Cherry I loved hearing your story on the earlier blog – very cool) Jon I just want to say thank you for your wonderful leadership of this team! Love your heart and your dedication year after year!

  13. Hey SwaziTeam2015! Just back from my sabbatical and settling in. i’ve been reading your blog updates, looking at all the pictures and my heart is once again inspired and so very grateful! Thanks for dreaming big! Thanks for praying hard! Thanks for travelling to our friends in Swaziland! Each of you as individuals and together as a team you are a profound and tangible extension of our entire church family! We can’t all be there to hug a child, share our sunglasses, snap a picture and then show the kids the little screen, tell the story of Jesus, encourage a care-point cook or swing a child in the air…letting them know that they are loved, important and precious…but you are there doing these things and so much more on our behalf! Thanks for reminding us what it looks like to give your life away and serve people who don’t have the same opportunities and advantages as we do. We will continue to pray for strength, health, protection and success on your mission! Many blessings! – t

  14. Amazing to hear about Bhobokazi, and all the change and vibrant life that is there now! Love reading the blog and reliving my own memories of Swaziland, just make sure to take it all in, it can go by so fast!

    Bryan & Cheryl, Prayers to you as I know it can be tough when a sponsor child stops going to a care point. Keep the smiles going, and enjoy your time there, as I know you both have your hearts there.

    Kailey, Happy birthday, too bad you probably can’t find/bake a gluten free cake for yourself! (Or maybe you can?)

    Ben, amazing to read of the adventure, the home visit, and that the 1st Bhobokazi day was THE day for you. Just remember you have quite a few days left! Also, my kid has a Mohawk! That’s awesome, and thanks for the email and picture!

  15. Hey Team.
    Thank you so much for pouring your love onto the kids. Those pics are AWESOME, especially the ones with the masks. I had to laugh, just great. As I now from my own experience, you can not “out-bless” the children and adults, you get it back ten-fold. To me it seamed like the Swazi people stand closer to God than we do in the West, and they pulled me closer to Him, while I was there. You may have the same experience. I also love the writing from all of you personally. Thank you so much for setting yourselves up to be vulnerable. Every day we’re looking so forward to find the daily update on the blog.
    The first thing Yvonne does, when she comes home from work is checking the blog with anticipation; but alas we have to wait… To be honest, she gets kind of cranky the later it gets. Thanks a lot John….
    We’ll continue to pray for all of you everyday, for strength, wisdom, energy and all what you need (God knows).
    Be blessed.

  16. Kailey! Happy birthday to you! Once again, we are missing you today, but are glad you are spending it in your happy place 🙂 Remember, you are beautiful and never settle for less than 30 cows, and maybe a goat (goat cheese has always been easier on your digestion anyways). Say hi to Philly for us, we are excited to see photos of her again, and to hear your stories! Love you xoxoxo

  17. Bryan & Cheryl –Good to see all the pictures again & the big smiles on your faces. Have another great day! Love, Mom

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