A family gathering.

We are officially past the halfway point of our trip and on one hand it feels like it is flying by and on the other hand, we can barely remember our time in Paris because it feels like we have experienced a lifetime since then!

I’m sorry if it feels like we are becoming a broken record….but we have had yet another great and significant day at Bhobokazi! Today we carried on an idea that began last year of hosting a family day for the carepoint. It has been really meaningful for the development of the carepoint and for us as a team to have an opportunity to meet and connect with the caregivers of the homesteads.

IMG_1962I was struck in a moment early this morning as we were just getting things started and people were journeying in down the beaten paths all around the carepoint. There was a grandmother coming to take part in the day with some of the children she was caring for but she obviously had a very difficult time walking because of her health. She had a crutch for one arm and I watched as she made her way down a 50 foot path across the field to the entrance of the carepoint. Just before she got to the gate she had a fall and I thought oh no! A bunch of other ladies gathered around her but I quickly realized she was okay as they were all giggling. But I was then struck with the question….I wonder how long it took her to make her journey today….I know it took about 5 minutes to make the 50 foot walk a bit uphill….but what was the rest of her journey….how far away did she live.

In Winnipeg we have incredible facilities and opportunities for access when it comes to people struggling with their physical health….but this woman lives in a rural community where all you find is walking paths for miles connecting homestead to homestead. Her journey to join us made a substantial statement for us….this was an important day!

Our day included the kids jumping on the bouncy castle, many games, a performance by the kids for their parents and us, and of course a big ‘ol BBQ for lunch! What a privilege to share this time with some of the families we are supporting. Also, it brings to light how many children don’t have a caregiver that can join with them because their situations are so broken. The other reality is that for some a family day is no different than a normal day at the carepoint because the oldest on the homestead is also young enough to attend normally.

IMG_1960Another highlight was the family photos….seeing these families walk away with a printed family photo was priceless. They were so proud to have it, and very protective too J Such a simple thing as a 4×6 photo of a family and it can be so impacting and cause so much gratitude. That is a bit confronting to our own lives.

The kids performed a traditional swazi dance for us that blew us away. Very fun to watch the kids perform for their caregivers much like we would take in a Christmas concert at school. Only in this place there was a lot more dancing and screaming and whistling and hooting and hollering! A highlight for us!IMG_2027

Also, Leigh had a chance to hand out the Days for Girls kits to all of the Bhobokazi girls and they all snuck away under a tree outside the carepoint to have instructions given and to be told how incredibly special they are! Leigh, you rocked it today!

The whole day just continued to give us a heightened sense of connection and community to Bhobokazi. It was seen in our team sharing the work in the kitchen around the fire cooking pop (corn mash) with the gogo’s….it was heard in the laughter….it was felt in the conversations….and it is something we are so grateful for!

IMG_2047The team is tired….but doing really well.  We have forged a strong bond already….and sure love having fun and laughing together.  They continue to put all they have into every day and I’m so proud of what they have done.  Tomorrow we get to sleep in for a few extra minutes and then head to church at Enaleni. Looking forward to worshipping with many of you from thousands of miles away….and though it will look and sound very different we will gather before the same God together 🙂

Good night! – Jon

Ben
Days continue to get better and better, more packed, more involved, and still the key moments are found in the simple one on one interactions. Being able to connect during a game of hand slap, teaching a kid my favorite magic card trick (he better practice and not give my secret away) , a piggy back ride around the carepoint, the thanks of a grandmother for a home visit with a simple gift of beans and rice, or answering questions from a teenager about what kind of peoIMG_4832ple love God more. I’ve been able to connect with kids, adults, caregivers, workers, gogo’s (the carepoint pioneers) and our team better than I thought possible. My Saswati is a work in progress, honestly its downright terrible, but we are able to interact on a level that is inspiring and simply amazing. I look forward to each day and what it might hold. I’m glad we have three days more and I’m already worried that we only have three days left. So much yet to do, say, and experience together with the Swazi people. Thanks for all those supporting us. This team here is great. – ben

Cheryl
What another amazing day!!! We got to play Skip-bo with our special friend and four other boys today. He was so good at it. He caught on right away and won the game. What a great smile he had.

It was family day at Bhobozi today so ladies came dressed up and there was excitement in the air. Bryan and I manned the family photo booth. It was so cool to see their faces when Bryan took a picture on one side and the photo came out of the printer where I was sitting. They asked how did you do that. When I told them it was wireless they asked if it when through the air? I said yes and they were just amazed.IMG_4814

God is so good. To see those happy little faces line up to get their food and so happy for whatever they are given. Seeing the smiles on their faces and the unconditional love they give to us. It amazes me day after day.  We truly do have a great team. We have bonded and gel so well.  I feel very honored to be part of this team.

Darlene and Denise, thank you so much for praying for me. I have most of my voice back or at least the kids aren’t scared of me any more. Thank you gals for following along and responding.  KeriAnn thank you for following again and sending your comments.  Mom so glad you are following along and commenting. You rock!

Thanks for following along on this great journey, wish I could bring you all along. – cheryl

13 thoughts on “A family gathering.

  1. It’s so great to read all the blog posts and see all the pictures. I’m so jealous! Is that a sin?

    It sounds like we have real friends in Swaziland! It seem like through our continued support and love we have gained trust with the children and caregivers at our care points and now we are reaching a new level of friendship. How wonderful!

    Leigh, I wanted to say how proud I am of you for working so hard on a project that I know you are passionate about. According to what I read on the Days for Girls website, providing sanitary protection can be a game changer. Not only for the individual girl but also for whole communities. I had no idea that girls stayed home and missed considerable amounts of school because of their periods. Because of this program they are now able to get an education and because of that they have the chance to make significant changes and contributions to their communities. Great job Leigh for identifying the need and then having the fortitude to champion it through to fruition. You are a hero.

    To all the rest of you, thank you. Thank you for spending your time and money on a community of people that may otherwise be forgotten.

    And a finally, special shout out to Jon, my boss (LeeAnn) and my special room mate from last year, Agnes. I’m not sure who is your room mate this year Agnes but I wish it was me.

    Love you guys,

    Deb Schwartz

  2. Sending you our love and prayers. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. It helps us feel apart. We are uplifted by the precious moments captured in pictures and hearing your hearts is wonderful. Blessing to all the team Love Jim and Cheryl McMillan.

  3. THANK YOU SOO MUCH FOR SHARING TEAM ! For bringing such love smiles and entertainment for Africa . I am so glad these beautiful kids are there with their families and not abducted for some slavery . I really need to see their smiling wonderful faces and that they are enjoying themselves !!! My spirit is with you ! send all the people my love and big hugs !!

  4. Thank you for your hard work and showering these communities with your love. What an amazing experience living out God’s love! Praying for you all during your remaining days in Swaziland and for travelling mercies to come home again.

  5. Thanks for sharing The pictures are awesome I am really touched by the Days for Girls Continuing to pray for the team and of course Johanna (miss you but very proud of you )

  6. As I scan the pictures I see a shared feature on both Riverwooder and Swazi faces… a joy that is virtually iridescent. May you all be truly blessed as you come together in relationship and the common bond of love for our Saviour. Praying for you all!

  7. Thank you team for giving selflessly your love and energy to these children. What a blessing this trip has been for them. Thank you Leigh for your work on the Days for Girls project. I didn’t know about the girls not being able to go to school. Karen thank you so much for the picture. I’ve sent you an email reply. Praying for you all. Safe journey home.

  8. Love seeing how your family day turned out yesterday (or today?!) I’m always counting 7 hrs ahead in my mind to know what time it is for you guys! Last night at church it was great to see you all “in action” too! (on the video). Ben I found myself laughing out loud as I read your post about your magic tricks ! I would LOVE to hear and experience the worship time you must have had today at “Swazi church”! We are praying for you all as you keep on giving! Much love to all!

  9. Leigh Mae, how is it that your bangs are straight??? Love you, miss you and am oh so proud of my baby sister!!! xoxoxo

  10. Hi LeeAnn, I am taking dictation from Charlie and Rylie, they are the ones speaking in what follows….

    -Charlie

    “Dear mom. I love you. You were right I was going to have fun with dad. I am happy you are with Busi!! I love you so much! Love Charlie!”

    -Rylie

    “XOXOXOXOXOXOX. From Rylie.”

    -Adam

    Honestly, I tried for 10 minutes to get Rylie to say more that that but she just complained about how much she hates my beard and would say anything. Little brat!! Way to go Honey! We are routing for you and the team and we are praying for you everyday and reading the Blog!

    -Rylie

    “Daddy, I still hate your beard!”

  11. Hey Team!!
    So excited to follow along on your journey. I have been pouring over all the photos and reading all the updates. I have been so blessed by the smiles on all the faces, and the joy you are all having by serving our wonderful brothers & sisters in Swaziland. Way to go team!! Thank you so much for serving and giving of yourselves in this way. Leigh, I am so delighted that your vision and all that hard work has come together. This project is so near and dear to your heart, and I am so glad that you are able to see in person their reactions when the packages were handed out.
    Hey Roomies! (Kailey & Stacey) wish I was there again with you having those late night roomie chats. Love seeing the pics of you guys with the kids, and how your faces are so full of joy. Kailey, you look like you are at home 🙂 Stacey, loved the jersey! Way to represent! Sports day looked like so much fun!!
    Team! Way to go! Way to put it all out there!

    The Weekend Epic classes has started a series on Poverty, and we are so excited that it falls when you guys are serving in Swaziland. So they have a few words of encouragement too:

    (9:15 am students)
    “It is so awesome that you take out weeks of your time to help out por countries. Keep it up!” Jackson M
    “You guys are awesome! From the videos the kids look so happy. Keep doing what you are doing.” Tobias S.
    “Hey guys, What’s up? Saw piictures looking good keep up the good work” Marcel K
    “Hope you are having a lot of fun, learning and helping the people there!” Lots of love Michelle H
    “Hey guys, so excited that you are there to help the people of Swaziland! I hope you guys are having a great time!” Brandon B
    “Hope you ave a great time and good luck!” Dakota M
    “Hope you are doing well. I will pray for your work. Thaks for being there.” Julia C.
    “Hey Guys! The things you do in Swaziland is kinda Awesome!! Keep it up you’re doing awesome! I can’t imagine myself there so it is awesome that you volunteered to do something extraordinary!” Meadow M
    “Never lose hope no matter how bad it is. God will never leave you so stay strong and BE YOU.” Ryan B
    “” Have a good time, hope you are having one. It is amazing that you are taking time out of your life to help others. DO LOTS, HELP LOTS, BUILD LOTS….YEAH!” Ian P

    (11:15am service)
    “Thank you for what you are doing”
    ” Keep up the good work. You can make a difference” Josh P.
    “Don’t stop helping. We can change the earth and make it a better place” K
    “I’ve heard the great timeyou’ve been doing in Swaziland. Praying for you all everyday. Stay safe and Have Fun!! Can’t wait to hear all the stories that you guys have when you come back” Kalena G
    “Have fun, be safe, it is good what you are doing, keep it up, good work”
    “we are pryaing for you guys! Be humble on your experience”
    “We heard about the Swaziland trip. You guys are cool! It’s cool what you are doing there” Breanne B
    “It’s good what you are doing. Keep it up”
    “Have fun! Change a kids life”

    Many continued blessings as you lay it all out there. Thank you for representing our church family.
    Lots of love,
    Amy & Weekend Epic students & Staff

  12. Leigh you bet you rocked it!! I am so happy that you got to impact the lives of more young woman! Looks like such a fun day!!

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