Hearts that are full & bursting.

It becomes a daunting task to attempt to put down in words the experiences of a day like today. There are so many emotions we have experienced in a day and each one of them could take a page to express. From the very first steps taken onto carepoint soil by our first time team members….to the running embraces of our long time friends for those that have been many times before, today was a day of new & old friendships merging together. We had numerous team members have the opportunity to meet their special friends for the first time. What an incredible memory to create!

day1iphone-10As we arrived at Enaleni, the entire team hadn’t even finished stepping off the bus before there were laughing kids on top of shoulders and in the arms of our team. We had an incredible day reconnecting with the Gogo’s, the shepherds (carepoint leaders) and the children. After about a thousand hugs and smiles took place in a matter of minutes, we began our day sharing a devotional with the Gogo’s and the staff. This is something we intentionally do to make the women feel remembered and special. These women are the ones that cook day in and day out to care for each of the children at the carepoint all year long and we want them to feel treasured and remembered by us every day we visit.

The kids programming today went great. We were teaching from the story of Joseph and it was so fun to see each of the children learning and taking in the experiences that included crazy coloured coats made from streamers, time in their small groups doing crafts and talking, and singing our hearts out with both old and new songs.

IMG_2636Today also marked a very special beginning. Last year one of the older children at the carepoint made a remark that hit us square in the eyes. He asked us why we always do programming geared for the younger kids and the older ones never get to engage beyond watching something below their age. We quickly realized how right he was and that we had kinda gotten stuck in the way we did things early on when the only kids at the carepoint were the small ones. I guess that’s what happens when we stick around and stay connected over 9 years….these kids grow up!

This year we have created an intentional investment into the older kids. Rather than sitting through the main lesson, we are breaking the kids aged 12 & up off and spending our time talking to them about issues that pertain to them more directly. We are hopeful that this will make an impact for them!

Today had some tough moments as well. For a few of our team members, today was a realization that S’petho was no longer there. This was the young man that passed away just under a year ago and was a beloved friend to so many. His loss is still felt deeply.

day1iphone-14At the end of the day, we had the opportunity to make a couple of home visits with a few of our team members. One of these visits served as an incredible reminder for us of just how woven our lives have become with this community here. We were asked to visit this homestead because of the need they are in. However, just this morning we heard that the grandfather living there had passed away today. The family & homestead was in mourning. As we made our way with packages of food to bring to them as a gift, we wondered how the visit would be knowing that they were in the midst of such difficulty. This homestead has 10 children living there with a mother and grandmother caring for them. They had been struggling as the grandfather was sick and they didn’t have enough to provide. As we walked up the skinny dirt path into the homestead we heard the sounds of singing echoing from within the home. There were neighbours there to assist with the process of grieving and together they were singing songs of worship. As we made our way into the room, they welcomed us direclty into the their process of greiving. We shared songs, prayers and tears with them and had the opportunity to speak words of encouragement to them and pray for them. I wish I could put words to explain the sacredness of these moments and how privileged we felt to be welcomed into one of the most intimate experiences of grief. It was both heartbreaking and beautiful.

As I sat there, I was struck with how crazy it was that such a foreign experience could feel so familiar and natural. How this house we were in for the first time was actually littered with pictures and letters from sponsors back home at Riverwood from many years. How remarkable it was that in an instant we could be welcomed into this experience and not even for a moment feel like strangers or that we were infringing.

Today we left with our hearts bursting from the joy and the laughter we shared with the children of Enaleni….but we also left feeling stronger than ever that this idea of a community to community connection is something that has become incredibly powerful and deep. We are so grateful.


Team posts:

What a day! As a first timer walking into Enaleni I wasn’t too sure what to expect. As the van powered through the rocky dirt road my anticipation grew as I thought “this is Africa, and I love it”. Within 45 seconds of leaving the van a child had made it’s way onto on my shoulders. Shortly after that the same child and three others were all being pushed on the swings by me and Jonathan. That was the best welcome to Swaziland I ever could have asked for. I struggle with often hearing statistics about children in need in Africa. Yes because they are staggering numbers, but mainly because it is such an inhumane way of describing the souls that God cares so deeply for. Perhaps that’s why that -only 24 hours in- I have been so deeply impacted and by this experience. Just one of the souls at Enaleni or Bhobokazi completely and utterly overtakes any statistic we could ever read. I found my self convicted as I held these kids, that God doesn’t have regard for the statistics, He does however, have the highest regard for the individual soul.

As the day progressed I was hit multiple times with an emotional realization of how true ministry is accomplished: one soul at a time. I was blessed today to connect with many kids and have lots of laughs, but I tell you the truth, if I had only played with one kid the entire time and by the end of the day had put a smile on that child’s face, my soul would have been fully satisfied and entirely right before the Lord. – Cole/Dawson

Wow, what an awesome experience to be back in Swaziland. The first day at Enaleni was like a family reunion. Kids are taller and staff still haven’t aged. There are some new faces and some old faces are missing. Some time ago we were told that we would be adjusting our program to recognise that kids grow up and are no longer little. So a group of us began to address the topics together with the field staff in Swaziland. After a few changes it was determined that I was opening the first session with a talk about journaling.

I should say that public speaking is not my favorite thing to do. I hardly slept the night before because I was afraid of failure. Today, after a brief introduction I stepped up and let God take control. Everything went very well and the teens seemed to be interested. We went to small groups and again I trusted God to give me the right words. I could see that the kids were unsure of how to start but with some encouragement they put down the first few words. Soon the page was filling up and they were so into it. We are hoping that they will continue to write down their thoughts and concerns.

Why do I waste time worrying about not being prepared? Why do I rely on my own strength when God has so much to offer? Lord, thank you for the reminder as we roll out another Swazi experience. I’m looking forward to tomorrow as we do this all over again for the teens at Bhobokazi carepoint. May we again have an impact on the teens there. – Bryan

28 thoughts on “Hearts that are full & bursting.

  1. I am glad to hear that y’all are having a blast, and that the kids were so amped to see ya as well! The mutual anticipation and care that was shared in this post seems to be the Spirit moving w/ y’all, and I am excited to hear more about how it is going! Keep depending on the Lord to give ya the words, wisdom and heart to share His love w/ all that you encounter. I am so glad to have the chance to follow you on this journey that God has sent you on. Keep that in your heart and mind: The Lord sent you there, it is no coincidence or accident, so don’t lose heart of sight of Him. He is doing the work through you, and so then y’all can do anything! (Phillipians 4:13 is proof of this.. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”.) Have a blast w/ the rest of your time! 🙂

    Stop trying to make “Dawson” happen, it’s NOT going to happen! 😛 .. Haha, I hope you continue to have a good time and seeing parts of the Lord that you have little experience with. Keep your heart open to all that He wants for you, and I know this isn’t too big a problem for you, but remember that He will help you through it all. Keep your eyes on Him, and “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” -Philippians 4:6.. Can’t wait to see you and share and hear of our ministry this summer! 🙂 .. miss ya Cole! #HurryBack!

    Haha so now that I am home, you are gone; funny how that works. Keep up what I’m sure is fabulous work. I trust that you are having tons of fun, and experiencing connections that grow so unreasonably fast that we know the only way it’s possible is through God. Let the Spirit continue to be in and control your interactions, so that they will produce much more fruit than if we depend on ourselves.
    “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” -John 15:4-5 … Miss you! #HurryBack! 😛

  2. Dawson, Thank you for sharing your first day with us! I loved reading your insights and hearing about how God is moving so powerfully in your heart already.

    Bryan, thanks for stepping out of your comfort zone to minister to the older kids! I’m thrilled that we are focusing more on them this year and you are perfect for the job since most of these kids have literally grown up seeing you every year.

    Jordan, thank you for representing our family this year. I can’t wait to hear all of your stories and am eagerly looking for your face on the blog every night. Love you soooooo much!

    And to everyone else, you are in my thoughts and my prayers. Someone please give Hlengiwe a BIG hug from me. Actually, I would like to amend that request. Everyone, please hug her for me. All the time.

  3. Sheld and I read your post Jon and we both wept from the sadness of hearing of our Muzi’s loss of his Grandfather. Thank you for sharing. His family will be in our prayers. Thank you for being there that day and being a part of it all. I wish it was us but in some way find so much comfort in knowing you were there. On a different note, Muzi is so tall and I am regretting the size of underwear we sent to him. From this point on it will have to be mens underwear. 🙂

  4. WOW!!! I only caught a glimpse of your tears, emotion of the day and the time in greif as well as the laughter.. what a rollercoaster of emotion. Being able to be so vulnerable in such times is such an incredible gift. To have the community supporting our riverwooders as well as our Riverwooders being supported by the children and families is the true sense of community. I can’t imagine the pain as well as the joy you all felt today. God is moving in so many ways at these care points. What impacted me specifically was the fact that children often get unnoticed as they age out, so glad that the older children have a place to be as well and have those mature, so needed conversations and supports. Teens are so special, and they have so much to offer. The youth leaders that are coming of age on the carepoints are so special and it is nice to see that they too are being noticed. I love the connections that are being made and as I sit here crying in joy and pain at my table reading through it all, I want to just continue to cheer you all on. By the way- Way to Go Brian… facing fears and letting the Lord be your guide is very brave and courageous. I will continue to pray for you all to be blessed in what is up next for you all. Can’t wait to hear more. thank you all for sharing your inner most intimate thoughts with us all. Till next time Swazi team.Have a great night. Great updates Jon- I look forward to next time! much love

  5. My only way to describe my thoughts & emotions right now are lots of tears of sadness & joy. Yes. I am completely speechless right now. ( isn’t that a 1st) please give my precious friend Nomphilo & her family lots of love & hugs from me. Can You P.J. , Carolyn or Brenda please point her out for me whenever possible. Thanks. Go out into all the earth & preach the gospel, that is exactly what each & everyone of you guys are doing. Great job faithful servants. I’m glad to see that there is a pool there P.J. What about the beach??? Hello Agnes. You really inspire me & it is so good to see you in action again in Africa. You really do belong ( not long term though) & fit so nicely at our care points & wow what a way to still be honouring your own daughter, you are flying around Africa just like she flew. No go & kick some ???? Whatever ( dust, what else) & have a blast doing it. Love you all, even if I don’t know all of you’s. That ‘s what my bible & pastor ( I won’t mention which pastor) tells me I need to do. So there.

  6. Okay so finally figured out this GRAVATAR thing.. omg;sh I am so technically challenged… I truly am trying to get a message to the team, and perhaps by the end of the journey i will figure this thing out!!! the” anonymous” posts from above is from me.. LOL.. have a good sleep all!

    1. Wow. I see you finally made it on here my girl. Good for you. I can only imagine how your heart is overflowing with love Keri. I see it in your eyes. I am so very proud of you and happy you are able to connect on such an intimate level of love through Out eternal Father. As your Father here I am filled with happiness for you and I have a hard time holding back me emotions and keeping them in check as I read these wonderful posts. I know you will be filled with al sorts of motivation in the upcoming days. If the first day is any indication you are all in for miracles to happen in a global sense.
      May you continue to walk in Gods grace and let His love shine through you in everything you do. Be well my Girl. Daddy loves you very much xoxo

  7. So much happening in so short a time laughter and crying, love all the time. Thank you for sharing vulnerably with us. Love the coats of many colours what a great idea and way to share it. Looks like the kids really enjoyed it. Way to go Brian so super to know our teens are recognized for their specialness. Keep it up praying for you guys.

  8. Wow – sounds like a wonderful first day. I’m happy to hear that you all arrived safely and are already “fully into things”. Bryan your time with the older kids sounds very meaningful. I’m sure they will continue to journal. It’s good to hear how God answered your fears in such a special way. Hi to Cheryl:)

  9. Wow, praying richness and replenishment following those sacred moments of sharing grief. In Enaleni and. Bo. I am sure there are/ have/will be more heartbreaking realizations as you encounter this, realities the depth, impact and frequency of so different from our western world. You also demonstrated the truth that our hearts are the same, we can share, grieve, grow together with our brothers and sisters whose life is so different. Impacted by the sharing of that togetherness, community, friendships. Challenges. Thanks.

    1. Bryan, rock on!! So pumped to learn of reaching teens, teaching them journaling. Such a powerful lifelong tool, process. Kudos to all of you involved w teens…… and sparles of joy, replenishment, comfort to all of you firsttimers as adjust, and to those returning who grieve. Perhaps journal as well, capture in the moment a few sentences and setting while its fresh…. a week later its different and forget details. As you pour yourselves out, know He sees and hears your hearts in each moment.

      1. Meant to say, journal at end of day, ect instead of waiting till at home… altho I am sure ypu will lots of thoughts as you return home as well. Praying deep peace as you see, absorb, minister so much. Ok, I had better get to bed and you do too.

  10. Praying for all of you and thinking of you each day! Sounds like the years of relationships that have built are making great impact in this community. Amazing to hear how God is using all of you in a great way!

  11. Wow! What an amazing first day! I’m sure there was so much emotion to it all, there was the energy and joy of meeting/returning to Enaleni, nervousness in the unexpected, and sadness in the grief of losing a friend in the community. But it is so clear that God’s presence is noticeable through all of it! Cole way to open up to seeing the beauty of God’s children! You’re right that when people think of Africa a lot of the time they only see the depressing statistics, but you are going further and showing these kids that they are children of a King! And that will change more lives than you can count! And Bryan way to go and do something out of your comfort zone! That lesson of journalling has the potential to take their faith so much deeper and you never just how far that message will go for some of them!
    Last of all Jon and Mama (Carolyn) we miss you both at the office! I am so proud of the way that you lead the team with so much courage, wisdom and faith. I’m praying for you all the time and love what God is doing through both of you!

    P.S. The dad update: i haven’t seen him cry yet but he told me to imagine that i was chopped in half and that my good half was on the other side of the world…so i think that means he misses you. We’re taking care of him though!

  12. Hey guys! Each time I read your posts and see your smiles and theirs it “grows my heart” just a bit more!! I love how you all are pouring out yourselves!! It is so very evident on all the pics!! Love you guys and praying for you every day! Thanks for sharing your stories with us back here at home. I too would love to hug the ones you get to hug!! (Surprise surprise!!) Rhoda

  13. first of all. LOVE YOU GUYS!! Thank-you for all you are doing!!

    I really want to gush, but my day has started and the rolling stone is building momentum. I just really wanted to let you all know that while Swaziland is always close to my heart and thoughts, currently all things Swaziland is in my FACE!! I am thinking and praying for you all. Also, I might need to get my leaky eyes checked, they are hampering my reading.

    I will save all my gushing for another time.

    Please pass on Greetings to the Mullins family, and to the other AIM team members.

    One more thing, once you have all gone around and hugged everyone, could you go around and hug everyone again for me? especially Temantfulini!! Thanks!


  14. Ohhhhh Swazi Team! I can just picture you all sitting in the Team room after a long day. I’m sure some shoes have been kicked off, people are sinking into any comfy seats and someone has probably zoned out by the time Jon or Carolyn is reading this comment haha!

    I want to start by saying how proud I am of each of you. Seeing the pictures and reading the updates is such a testament to your investment and devotion to what God has placed before you. And you’re probably tired! But it’s probably also worth it eh?

    Jon, we’re just driving back from Murray Moffatt’s place and I was reading your words in the car and we’re humbled by what you experienced on your home visit. More than that, I was struck by how similar God’s people are. Despite cultural differences, language barriers and social-economic statuses, we all understand the language of grief. Across the earth we gather to worship, pray, and encourage each other in our grief. What a beautiful picture of how God has designed the human heart.

    Cole, listen up and stop snapchatting! I’m so so proud of you. Seeing you in photos and hearing your words about stepping on the ground in Enaleni moved me, not just because of the incredible truth they hold, but also because I know full well what you’ve experienced and I’m incredibly proud of you for fully engaging and for allowing yourself to be open and vulnerable to how the Holy Spirit has chosen to show you his children as he sees them. (I think that was probably a run-on sentence, hopefully you’re not learning your grammar from me haha). I remember that first day and I’m sure you’ve realized now after this second day that it’s only gonna get better and better! I’m continuing to pray for you and I can’t wait to see and hear how God continues to impact you. We miss you on the production team! Love you!

    Well team! I hope your first day at Bhobokazi was great! I hope you all have Nkosing’phile lots of big hugs for me and I can’t wait to read all about it! Continue serving well! Your church family stands with you in faith and strength and we’re praying for you!

    Much love!


  15. Swazi-Team 2017!…what a remarkable first two days you’ve had! Being used by God…touching the needs of a hurting world…dispensing the love of Jesus (that has been deposited right into our hearts!)…never get’s old, does it? My prayer for all of you today is that whatever you had dreamt up…God would do immeasurably more! Enjoy the burning sensation in your chest!…that’s just your heart stretching its capacity to love deeper, stronger and with more determination! Have an awesome team-time and unwind tonight! We’re praying for you! – t

  16. Hi team… (special hugs to my Keri),
    It is overwhelming to see how life is linked in love…not always in language and not always in learning…but always in love! It is evident that God has shaped this team for this trip and this time. Your skill-sets compliment each other and this is just the beginning….wow…hold on and enjoy the journey. As I set up my Canadian classroom and think about my small pocket of little learners, I couldn’t help smile at the teacher/student ratios you have…lol…God works in abundance and He blesses big…this is always true. When we see great need…He sees our obedience and uses us to meet the need – way to go Riverwood. What a huge opportunity you are having to touch many more hearts and lives. God bless you with energy beyond what your sleep may bring. May He provide wisdom in the words you speak beyond what you have planned for He sees more than we can anticipate. Love and prayers for the days ahead.


  17. Hi team,
    What a wonderful day you have had. I really enjoyed the chicken story. Brenda, you will have to fill me in on what became of the little feller.
    Enjoying every bit of your journey. Thank you for your heartfelt sharing..
    Love and hugs Brenda. Missing you.

  18. Hi Mom and Josh, Gracie and Sarah here,

    Wow, what an amazing experience!!!! So happy for you.
    I think of you every day and know that you are helping and changing lives every day. You are so amazing and i love you very much. Love Gracie;)
    Sarah talking, wow so so inpackting and i am so icsited to hear about eveary thing you did love you.

    Hi guys, Jes here. I am so inspired by your time there. MY heart just explodes at the thought of how the time, touch and sharing will change lives.
    Love you guys and we will keep watching!

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