An unforgettable day.

It really doesn’t seem possible that we only have one day left at each carepoint.  This is going by so fast and yet the well of memories, stories and impact is so deep for all of us.  What a privilege it was to be with Enaleni church at to know that in spite of thousands of miles, we worship together this weekend with you back at Riverwood.  The church sends it greetings!  Make (‘mah-geh’) Carolyn, Precious says a big hello and wishes you were here.  Babe Todd, the Peter and whole church sends their greetings to you.

IMG_2066The family day party was fantastic….sharing a BBQ meal together….watching our team serve the community so well.  The staff were able to host a community meeting with all of the parents that came.  The kids played hard and our team did too.  It was a party!

It has been such a joy and privilege to watch this team in action.  For all that have supported them….be proud of the investment that they are making here.

I figured it was time to bring a few random updates from our team about our week so far and to highlight some of the not-so-known facts:

1. We are very proud of Karen who successfully used sarcasm for the first time in her life.  We all cheered for her.  Way to go Karen!
2. Our team is very polarized in their opinion of hot pineapples on their food.
3. When Ben plays “Don’t wake the Bear” with the kids….he is ridiculously scary.  I think he’s made some children cry….here is proof:

4. We chased after some monkeys at our guesthouse tonight but couldn’t catch up to them.
5. Carolyn…you are in good company….at least 3 team members fell asleep during my sermon at Enaleni today.
image6. Things got a bit strange while getting ready for our large group time with the kids tomorrow.  The pantyhose was out.

7. I think the signs of fatigue are setting in.  Tonight some strange things were happening….our team broke out in a spontaneous song of On Top of Spaghetti….when I asked Ben to lead us in a song to start our meeting he led us in a rendition of “My Pet Mosquito Gueedo” (maybe he will teach it to Riverwood in a couple of weeks?)….when getting ready for our activities, 5 of our team members were found sniffing scented Crayola markers for extended periods of time….I’m beginning to get a bit worried.


Hopefully a good nights sleep tonight will be the solution.  We are very excited to return to Bhobokazi tomorrow….and looking forward to giving out the care packages many of you have put together.  For now, I will let a few of our team members give you a really meaningful glimpse of the impact of our day today!

Until tomorrow – Jon

Today was definitely a Sunday service I will never forget.   Started off like any other….got up, put on our Sunday clothes and headed to church. We arrived at the Enaleni Church and slowly meandered our way in. As my eyes adjusted to the lighting, I was slightly disappointed. The women were seated on the left and the men on the right. This wasn’t the exotic Swaziland service I had expected. It was closer to the typical Mennonite services that I always joke about. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The service began with a seemingly random woman in the crowd breaking out in song. Moments later the guy on the keyboard hit the keys, giving a soft background piano melody for the singing women. And that’s where the similarities stopped. The solo musician dropped one of those cheesy premixed keyboard beats, and the whole congregation sprung up. In an instant they had sprung out of their seats and were tapping their feet while grooving to the beat. Hips were swinging, everyone was singing and my ears almost started ringing. It was the furthest thing from the expected Mennonite service, and was closer to a wedding dance party. Everyone was on their feet praising the Lord in any way they felt suitable. The songs were constant through out the service, with only quick messages from the elders or pastors in between.

IMG_2059At one point an elderly man began slowly dancing his way onto the stage. He was decked out in a suit, and was at the age where I would have expected him to be accompanied by a cane. He got on stage and began singing his heart out. And then the dance moves started, and the longer he danced, the crazier the moves got. Nearing the end of his piece, he was shaking his hips putting Michael Jackson’s dancing to shame.

Sitting here reflecting on the service, I can’t help but be amazed at how these people worship. It was so genuine and real. It seemed they had no rules or ideas of how you “should” have a worship service. As long as it was praise you were good to go. Riverwood services are great, but I truly hope I will be able to experience a Swazi service like that again.

Today has been an awesome and unforgettable day, looking forward to see what we can accomplish in our final days here in Swaziland. – mark….aka my swazi name (Sidthesloth)

Talk about going from one extreme to the other. Today I was brought to tears as I watched the kids leave the carepoint. They have to leave a couple of hours before dark so they have time to walk home and do some chores before the sun goes down. Some live very far. IMG_2127They leave waving and smiling in their broken worn shoes, some even barefoot. Some are carrying their younger siblings or neighbors’ kids when they are just so young themselves. As they leave my heart just breaks knowing the sad conditions some are going home to. Maybe a dark hut because they have no electricity or oil for lamps. Maybe no food or water until the make their way back to the carepoint…so many sad conditions. As I was stuck in my moment of sorrow a team member suddenly started to surround me and lift my spirits.

Later I had tears running down my cheeks as the team prepared tomorrows crafts and games. We laughed so hard together. Silly ridiculous comments and happenings had us giggling till we gasped for air and our stomachs hurt. It may be that exhaustion has brought on delirium or maybe this team has truly bonded or maybe a little of both. It really doesn’t matter which just knowing the team room overflows with trust and closeness as we continue to serve these precious people. It makes me wish that we all had matching scarfies 😉 – leigh

It’s been a crazy few days since last time I wrote, filled with laughter, kindness, dancing and Love. After the soccer day on Friday we took buses back to Bhobhokazi, which I’m sure you’ve heard from previous blogs, were a blast. I was on the bus with the older kids and Cherry and I danced our hearts out with the girls at the back. We were teaching each other moves while dripping sweat and being tossed around from the bumpy roads. I really started to connect more with these girls as we began talking about our lives. I was talking to them as if they were my friends back at home and it was such a humbling experience. Yesterday at the Bhobokazi family day I had a more challenging day. I was very tired and it was really hot out. The heat makes me grumpy, or what our team refers to as “Heat Rage”. Right when we got to the care point I had two young boys climbing and jumping all over me who were bursting with energy. I played with them for quite a while, slowing draining what little energy I had to give.IMG_5205 In the afternoon I found myself connecting with the older girls from the previous day. We spent some time painting nails and talking about all sorts of things. When first coming on this trip I assumed I would be spending most of my time with the young kids because that’s what I’m used to. However, I find myself really enjoying hanging out and spending time with the older kids and I feel as though I am making an impact on their lives. They are definitely making one on mine. I love to paint their nails and make bracelets with them while talking and laughing. They are all so beautiful and I love making them feel and believe that they are. We only have two days left to spend at the care points and I can’t wait to see what God has in store. – hailey



14 thoughts on “An unforgettable day.

  1. Team: The energy coming from everyone here in Winnipeg directed at you guys in Swazi is ridiculously awesome. Even though were not there with you, we are all so pumped. Love the posts, and keep up the hard work and fun, with all the children.

  2. Stacey and Haley there is something different about a Swazi smile!! You both look like you are in your element!
    I am so glad that you got to experience this together. Continue to work hard as you come to your finals days with the children. We pray that you continue to make a difference one child at a time. Of course I have to add be good! Your volleyball team will await your return. Mom (Sandy)

  3. Wow what a great day!! So proud of you all and my girls kailey and Jo. Digging in to serve others. You do it so well at the Bakeshop but to see you scooping out portions to serve our Swazi family just puts a huge smile on my face and in my heart. Kailey remember you are a ten cow wife. Text or email if you’re not coming home.

    Leigh I don’t know you personally but I just loved that you put your heart and soul into making things just a bit easier for the women and young ladies. Such a practical yet profound gesture of love.

    I’m excited for the couple of days you have left. I know you all must be exhausted but hang in there for a few more life impacting days.

    Have loved looking at all the pictures and reading the comments.

    Living vicariously through you all.

    Xoxo. Betsy

  4. The worship experience you describe is inspiring. It sounds like they “leave it all on the field” when they worship like you have done on your mission trip as a whole. Speaking of that, way to represent us and Him! Thanks! … and Jon, those of you who are surprised at Karen’s use of sarcasm certainly have not been married to her for almost 30 years and been on the receiving end when, usually with a household task left undone or not to exacting standards, it (along with a rather cutting rapier wit) rears its ugly head ;-). Thanks for looking after the love of my life, Jerry.

  5. Dear Swazi team of 2015. I was at the airport when you all left that morning a lifetime ago!? a bunch of people, some knew each other, many practically strangers, but all called to go for a common purpose. Now i see and read how your hearts have been knit together. It is a beautiful thing. Deb Deb (Deb schwartz) asked if it was a sin to be jealous, and i hope not because the more i see the more i wish i was with you all. I think you will come home feeling part of a NEW family.

    The family days looked to be a HUGE success again, so much fun! Way to go guys. Way to serve every way that you were or were not asked to do.

    Benny, you big bad scary bear you! I LOVE seeing you in action, seeing you give all that you have. I love seeing your Daddy heart out there where so many of those children don’t have a daddy to love them. What an eternal gift. I am so so proud of you. Go ahead give it all and don’t hold back. when you get back i have your back, i can even lead worship for you next weekend!…..well, maybe not.

    have fun handing out packages and watching the responses!
    Love, ingrid.

  6. Bryan & Cheryl -got your e-mail – nice to hear from you personally! Time is going very fast for you -guess quite a bit of the time goes into travel time. Love you & look forward to hearing more when you get home. George wants me to show him how to get on your blog today. Love, Mom

  7. thanks for all of your wonderful sharing–for letting us into your hearts and your fun. thanks for giving your all and for being Riverwood in Swaziland–It is so great to hear your stories and see you all in action. Jon–you are an awesome leader and your joy comes through in all you do–love to all Sue and Mom

  8. Sounds like you have had an amazing last couple of days! “Family Day” was one of the highlights last year and it appears that it has become that again!

    Mark … There is nothing like an Enaleni Church service! The words you used to describe their worship – “real & genuine” … is so accurate!! It always feels like our Swazi friends teach us AS much … or more … about God and life, as we ever hope to convey to them!

    Leigh – Love your heart … how you are moved to tears with compassion but can laugh till it hurts later with the team!

    Hailey – Way to go on connecting with the older girls & sending the message that they matter, through your attention, words and action!

    Bryan & Cheryl – So glad you got to see your boy at the Bhobokazi Family Day!

    Charlene – Love seeing your smile as you have played with & loved the children! Thanks for risking and going on this adventure to serve kids on the other side of the world, even while you have your own two little guys at home!

    Jon – Thanks for the greetings from Peter & Precious … miss seeing them in person! So sorry to hear that there were a few sleepers while you were preaching on Sunday. Just to be clear – I have never actually slept during your sermon – just have always really meditated on what you are saying … simply attempting to free myself from all distractions!
    From the church service pic of “Enaleni’s Dance Performer”, it looks like he has taken on an apprentice! ☺

    The pictures once again were amazing – some made me laugh out loud … (Ben – didn’t Karen till you not to take that game so seriously? … you aren’t supposed to make the kids cry! ☺) And then … some pics brought tears to my eyes – seeing you all in action! Way to serve! And then there were two in particular that made me smile from ear to ear – those of you, who are returnees, can probably guess which ones!

    Praying for you all …

  9. Awe my heart is again deeply moved, inspired and provoked by all of you! Your huge generous hearts and your attitudes of “getting into it” with all that you are is truly encouraging to us here in Winnipeg! We continue to pray daily for you all on this last stretch of your amazing “God adventure”!!! I’d love to see some special Swaziland dancers/worshippers come to visit us at Riverwood! That service sounds downright AMAZING!!! So glad you all could experience that! Ben even your pic is scary! I can hear the roar even now!! Can’t wait to see you all on Friday! Love mom/Rhoda

  10. Aww Leigh here I am crying at work again reading the blog, especially your words 🙂 I know the passion you have for those kids and I can only imagine how hard it is to see them in such hard conditions. Know that you are making such a difference in their lives. So glad that you have such an awesome team, it truly sounds like a blast each and everyday 🙂

  11. Leigh!!!! You made me cry at work too….. what a great first impression for my first day in my new job! Lol!
    Keep it up, I can’t wait to hear your stories when you get back. BTW, you look amazing in those pictures.

  12. Those not-so-known facts were amazing! Wow. Also, I definitely know “My Pet Mosquito Gueedo” and I never thought I’d have that memory resurface. Thank you for that. 🙂

  13. Thank you Leigh for sharing your heart. Mine is right there with you. ((( HUG)))

    Swazi team I cheer on each one of you. As the Heat Rage days happen please receive the comfort and rest Christ offers us. You are being poured out as drink offerings – how I envision the sweaty days there. Please keep drinking your water, and loving those God puts in your day.

    It’s so exciting to read each day how you are doing, and especially so when I see the faces of the kids. They are growing up so fast, and I pray that these carepoints will be the turning point in their lives. That they would live for Jesus with the passion and vigor I see in their joyful faces. God you are so good!

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