A day marked by joy.

We had a remarkable day at Bhobokazi today. It was marked by joy & laughter. It was a day in which we saw the spirit of the care point in such a vibrant way that even those who have never been feel like they have a history with it after a single day. Maybe that sounds strange but we were quite overwhelmed with our sense of how much these children and young adults are thriving. It was felt in so many ways today. Moments like our time of singing that felt like we were exploding through the rooftops and almost convinced that you could probably hear us from home. day2j-15Moments like our story telling or crafts where every kids was captivated. Moments like our teen programming where we felt every one of them hanging from the words being spoken and asking questions eager to learn and grow. Moments like the hour long game of tag our youngest team member Josh orchestrated with a group of children. Each of these moments gave us the sense that our presence there was being embraced and welcomed beyond our imagination. We didn’t host an experience today at the care point, we shared one with them.

It really left us feeling humbled and in awe to reflect on how far this care point has grown and matured. We couldn’t stop gushing together about how remarkable these kids were. They are so sharp and full of life and potential. We stood amazed at the way that this care point is being led by the very children that have grown up attending it. What a gift to be allowed to experience this and to feel the joy and fulfillment of knowing we are invested into these successes. Today was a day that we rest our heads on our pillows feeling the kind of satisfaction that money or things can’t provide. What a treasure!

Our team is doing spectacular and they are giving everything they’ve got. They are stealing every moment of the day possible to put themselves fully into this experience. We are so proud of them already! I am reminded today of how precious these experiences of community are in our lives. We are laughing hard, crying deeply, and opening our lives up in the kind of vulnerability that allows our hearts to be molded and shaped. What a great group of people! We have a couple of team members that would love to share of their experiences of how God is moving in their lives. We also have a bunch of photos to share that hopefully give you a glimpse into the spirit of the day. Thanks for joining us and following along. We are loving our time of reading the comments during our evening debriefs.

day2j-27KeriAnn
Seven years ago I cheered on my beautiful friend Monica as she fulfilled her mission dream in Swaziland. I lived vicariously through her and dreamed of one day seeing what she saw. We talked a lot about going on mission trips together and dreamed of experiencing Swaziland together one day. Unfortunately, one day never came. Earlier this year Monica passed away suddenly and it left a huge hole in my heart. Leading up to this trip I really needed to figure out what my motivation was for coming to Swaziland. Was it to love on the children? Was it to get a cultural experience? Was it to grieve the loss of my friend? Was that even a right motivation? Was any of it a right motivation? My head was flooded with so many questions but I felt that this was the perfect timing for me. I am a teacher and this was the first; and possibly only time I’d get to join on this mission. (Let’s be honest though, if God calls again – my answer will be yes!) Being a wife and mother is another doubt that threatened to keep me from this trip. I had a lesson in submitting my dreams to God. He truly does fulfil them even when we are busy questioning!

I am in Swaziland. During the two days of traveling that it took to get here I had a lot of time to think. I thought a lot about my family. The sacrifice they go through having me here for two weeks without a lot of connection to keep us close. I thought a lot about Monica too. I don’t think it truly hit me until our first day at Enaleni. Stepping off of the bus and seeing the church brought tears to my eyes. The wind was in my hair and I could swear I heard Monica say YOU’RE HERE! It was definitely a moment of closure for me. The people at the carepoints are amazing. I had the privilege of being invited to the homestead where the grandfather had passed away. It literally broke my heart. I felt their grief and my grief come together as I did my best to keep my tears in check. I am feeling so many emotions it’s hard to put into words.

Then today I was filled with so much joy as I met my special friend Siwakhile. He was shocked and surprised that I was there. I met his brothers, cousins and friends! He is a 13 year old boy so he didn’t want to be snuggled too much but he let me hug him. He sat with me and knitted. This made me think of Monica too because she loved to knit. Even though we weren’t able to go on a mission trip together I feel like she is cheering me on in heaven and God is giving me these moments to know that heaven isn’t that far away. There is so much more that I could say but I must let someone else talk! I am so thankful for the messages.

Scott – Thank you so much for allowing me to be your wife but also for allowing me to serve others. You are an amazing husband. I love you more every day. Elliot and Allegra – make sure you give your dad LOTS OF HUGS and smell him just a little for me. I miss you all so much. I can’t wait to hug you all at the airport! You better be there! With signs! I am praying for you all! Be safe, sending you love and kisses from Africa xo

Jordan
“Faith & Fowl”
day2iphone-6I have found one important life skills is the ability to remain composed on the outside while on the inside you are quite taken aback by the surprising, unusual, or unfamiliar situation that is suddenly unfolding. Fortunately, life has given me many opportunities to develop this skill. Jonathan, Amy and I had just settled in on the homestead of a family we were visiting. Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I saw a girl pounce on a chicken. The chicken let out a loud squawk, but was quickly subdued as this girl slapped on a sleeper hold with the skill of a professional wrestler. This was surprising. I may have showed my shock briefly, but I remained composed. The girl then proceeded to bring the chicken to her father. He then gave the chicken to me to hold in my lap. He told me that it was a gift to show his appreciation. This was unfamiliar. Although, we were told it does happen.

It is very rude in Swaziland to refuse a gift so I humbly accepted and held the chicken in my lap with its bum hanging slightly off to the side in case its bowls weren’t completely emptied during its encounter with the incredibly agile girl moments earlier. Thankfully I was able to remain composed. In the moments that followed we had a brief opportunity to converse with a man who’s faith inspired me. As we first arrived and placed on the ground a gift of rice and corn meal he greeted us saying, “Praise God! Hallelujah!” He expressed his gratitude letting us know that he was confident that God would provide for his family. I told him that there was much love for his family from their friends at Riverwood Church and that his faith was an inspiration to me. He responded by telling me that if we trust Jesus He will provide. His words were simple, but profound.

Later on in the day I realized that this man was the second pillar of faith that I had the privilege of meeting. When we first arrived at Bhobokazi I met one of the cooks named Monica. Before Riverwood was in Swaziland. Before Bhobokazi was a twice forgotten care point. Monica was there. She had a vision to see the kids of her community fed. She would walk from house to house collecting food and cook for the kids. Monica’s faith was the first seed from which Bhobokazi grew. Not only that but at least three of her sons are developing into leaders that not only are having an impact on Bhobokazi, but on the whole country of Swaziland.

20 thoughts on “A day marked by joy.

  1. Hi All! What a tremendous post! I am so thrilled for all of you and for the people at Bhobokazi 🙂 I was trying to think of something to write to encourage all of you but, as often happens my brain has failed me (ask LeeAnn, she will tell you). So I am taking a play from my former teacher days and using the words of someone else. I read these words written in a book called “Jesus, man of joy” by an author named Sherwood Wirt and thought of all of you. They encouraged me for sure and I hope they do the same for you!

    “C.S. Lewis once told me, there is too much solemness and intensity in dealing with sacred matters, too much speaking in holy tones. The tragic loss in all this pious gamesmanship is to the individual in the pew, who begins to feel that in the midst of the religious razzle-dazzle he or she cannot get through to the Lord Himself. I have learned that joy is more than a sense of the comic, more than earthly pleasure, and to a believer even more than what we call happiness. Joy is the enjoyment of God and the good things that come from His Hand. If freedom in Christ is cake, joy is the frosting. If the Bible gives us the wonderful words of life, joy supplies the music. If the way to heaven turns out to be a strenuous and steep climb, joy is the chair lift.”

    I pray that you continue to experience moments where you get you ride the chair lift on the way to the top! Thank you for what you are doing not only for those kids but for each other as well.

    Oh, and LeeAnn – the only one who has been injured since you have been gone has been me – also I am thankful that the stairs are carpeted and I need to remember to turn on lights when I go downstairs at night. I leave you with that image. Love you!

    -Adam

  2. Keri Ann, I’m so happy for you! God is using you in a mighty way on this trip. You will be forever changed in a positive way! Swazi Team 2017, we are praying over you as you minister to the people of Swaziland. Love on those kids, give hugs never ending and keep showing Jesus through you all. I’m proud to know you are representing Riverwood there in Swaziland! Enjoy and savour every moment!

  3. Jon. I love the hat, it is so you. Make sure to bring it home with you as i want to see you wearing it in person right at Riverwood. You really do have class and a great sense of style and fashion.

  4. Amazing blogs over the past 2 days!!! The pictures are fantastic. My prayers and thoughts are with you all. The lord is so good. Continue to let him lead you all. It looks like you all are having a great time and many blessing are being had by all, team and Swazi friends.
    Can someone give Xoliswa Maiba my special friend a big hug from me.
    So proud of you all
    Kim

  5. What a great day, thank you for sharing. I do not have much to say today and that is a rarity lol with tears streaming down my cheeks in joy of all the love you have shared, the posts and the pictures.. love it! I can see the joy in all of your faces and love the little ones, how they have smiles so bright and wide… and such love and God moments. rest well you all! Till tomorrow night! Keep safe, have fun and sleep well! xox

  6. I find myself looking forward to the events of the day. That is such a wonderful feeling of wonder how beautiful life can be so enchanting and inspiring within the little things. How we all seem to take our daily lives for granted and expected.
    I am completely and utterly in awe of what is happening. Who would have known . Thank you team Swazi and Riverwood for sponsoring such an extraordinary experience. Not only for yourselves your your hosts your children but also for all of us who are unable to attend. It really does seem like we are all there with you.
    Thank you my sweet Keriann for being such a loving daughter friend and sister mother and wife. Your capacity to love and show love is ever abounding with the love of God shining through you. I thank God each day for you. Please enjoy the coming days ahead. Really a moot point as I know you will be inspired as well as inspire. Never give up and always strive for happiness and love.
    To team Swazi. I pray your leadership and love continues to grow and blossom for years to come. I ask this in Jesus name. Amen.
    Sleep well, dream sweetly and love deeply with the start of a new day. God Bless

  7. I love settling down at the end of my day to read of your adventures and see the evidence of the wonderful memories you are making. It has been my experience that we have a mindset when we head into the mission field that we are going to minister to others, but the truth is, they minister right back. ❤️

  8. Greetings Team Swazi 2017! As has been said by others….the posts are powerful and the pictures are stunning! Thank you so much for sharing of yourselves and giving us the experience vicariously through you! I love the faces of the sweet children you get to love on! Hugs to you all!

  9. So glad technology allows us these glimpses into your experiences, it has been a blessing already bearing witness in this way. So moving!

  10. Although it’s been over 4 years since we moved from Manitoba and Riverwood I still feel connected to the Church and still have our sponsor child. KeriAnn I am so proud of your leap of faith. Can you please give my girl Khululiwe M. from Bhobokazi a big hug from us ? Sending lots of prayers to you and the Swazi team for strength, health and faith through this journey.

  11. Lump in my throat as I think of all you’re giving there. As you share deep grief and immense joy with our dear Swazi friends my heart is so moved! I think of a song we used to sing “Jesus, all for Jesus…. all I am and have and ever want to be…. Jesus all for Jesus”. That is exactly how we see you guys there! We are praying for much strength, refreshment and health for you all! Lotsa love to you all!

  12. Dear team,

    THANK YOU so much for the resounding success that was operation Hug Hlengiwe. She loved it and I am so grateful to you all for ministering to both of us in such a simple but powerful way.

    KeriAnn, thank you for sharing your heart with us, and the struggles you faced as you planned this trip to Swaziland. I’m so, so sorry for the loss of your friend, and at the same time grateful that God continues to give us opportunities to grieve as well as celebrate alongside our Swazi brothers and sisters. I am praying that he will continue to bless you and heal you during this trip.

    Jordan! Have to admit that I’m a bit jealous of your chicken, and also a little disappointed that it didn’t have an opportunity to “empty its bowels” on you. Because that would be hilarious. And I’ve no doubt that you would still have been able to remain composed (at least on the outside).
    I’m saving some coloring for you that Russ did today. He says: “I made a beautiful picture! It’s dragons.” Just looks like a bunch of dots to me, but we both know that he sees a lot of things that we miss. Love you so much!

    1. The pictures are so beautiful and the stories are amazing. I just started a new job and there is a lot of unknowns and it can get a bit stressful. However, when I stop and think that my wife and son are in Africa…for some reason it calms me down and gives me great joy. Joy that my wife could get to experience something that she has been wanting to do for such a long time. (Who’s perfectly suited for this….has the team noticed that Krista has a huge heart? Has Swaziland flooded yet with her tears?) And joy that my son has an opportunity to grow in an experience like this. I am so proud of him for doing this. Hearing that you are interacting with the kids swells my heart. (I might catch Krista’s tearing up things). I love you both.

  13. Hey Team!

    IIIII’MMMMM BAAAACCCCKKK. Your best friend Zach here. I’m holding out for the longest comment on every blog I think haha. Jon’s probably going to start editing my posts as he reads them, but don’t try it, Jon. I have my spies on the team, and they’ll let me know if you’re not reading all the words I’ve written!

    Anyway, wow team, what a brilliant account of your time in beautiful Bhobokazi! I can’t wait to read about your adventures today at Enaleni.

    Looking through your photos reminds me of that first day at Bhobokazi for me. I remember we took time to talk about some of the history of Bhobokazi and as someone mentioned that it had earned the nickname “the Forgotten Carepoint” I heard God whisper to my soul, “it is no longer forgotten.” And I’m sure that the vibrancy of Bhobokazi has captured your heart and that you too have heard the God-whisper in your own soul.

    Keri-Ann, there is no doubt in my mind that Monica would be beaming with pride if she could see you now. You look right in your element with all those kids clawing for your attention and affection. As you likely know, many children in Swaziland don’t have their parents around anymore. I love seeing these photos and reading these words that tell of you using your mother-heart so well in loving these kids! I love that what could have held you back (being a wife and mom) is actually strengthening your impact in the lives of our dear Swazi friends. Thank you for representing us so well!

    Jordan! Congrats on receiving a chicken! Though it is becoming more common for our team members over the years, it is still rare and a privilege! Glad to hear that you dodged the poop. Beyond that, I love your reflection on the faith of our Swazi friends. So often it’s easy for us Westerners to see people in a country like Swaziland as needing us, but so often their simple and profound faith is actually what we need. I love how Monica’s simple (and seemingly small) seeds of faith are producing an incredible harvest through her children and all the children at Bhobokazi. May her work be an inspiration for us all! Truly the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few!

    Well team, I continue to be inspired and encouraged by your work. Please know that we are praying for each of you. I hope that you’re drinking in as much of this experience as you can (though it can sometimes feel like trying to drink from a fire hose eh?). I can’t wait to see more pictures and read more about your adventures! I believe, truly, that the work you are doing will have an impact long after you have left Swazi soil. I leave you with this verse as an encouragement:

    “Most of all, friends, always rejoice in the Lord! I never tire of saying it: Rejoice! Keep your gentle nature so that all people will know what it looks like to walk in His footsteps. The Lord is ever present with us. Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray. Pray about everything. He longs to hear your requests, so talk to God about your needs and be thankful for what has come. And know that the peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One.” – Philippians 4:4-7 (VOICE)

    Love you all team! I hope that your next days are even better!

    Zach

  14. As we, (me), pray for the health and safety of the Riverwood Swazi Team… and how that they might serve our brothers and sisters in Swazi….what about THEIR health and safety….the people who live there (Swazi)… could probably teach US… how to genuinely “live by faith”…praying and believing for all of their Basic-Daily-Needs…..maybe they will boost our faith more than we can boost their’s…..

  15. Between our chats through messenger and reading your thoughts on this blog, I know in my heart that this was the right choice for your heart and soul to recover from some of the bad that has happened recently. Reading that you felt some closure once reaching Enaleni must have been such a great feeling. I find myself craving to see pictures of what you are doing and I smile the moment I spot you in a picture no matter how close or far you might be. I know you are having an amazing time and that I will see you again soon. I would love to write more but it is hard to type when the keyboard is getting wet with your tears! I love you and will hopefully speak to you very soon.

  16. Hello team and especially krista and josh. I’m in Montreal right now. In ikea watching crowds of people walk by in hurried fashion. Kids are crying and wining. Not mine right now. Thankfully. But as I read your post I long to hear the voices and laughter that you are experiencing. To feel the simplicity of life away from the bustle. So happy for you and I will continue to pray for your team. So happy to see some soccer being played too. Lots of love.

  17. Krista and Josh, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news, proclaim peace, bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation and who say our God reigns”. It is unbelieveble how many precious feet are bringing that good news to these lovely people in Africa. God bless you and your team richly for your time, love and sacrifice! We love you and pray continually for you!
    Loch is also continuing to pray for you, as he eats his treats. He said that I could not pray with him because he does it his way! Dad heard him pray for you upstairs! Too sweet! In every sense of the word!!
    Love you guys! Have a great day!!!
    Mom/Grandma/Pappa

  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!

  19. KeriAnn! Lumps in my throat already from what you shared, only to be impacted by the fact of both Monicas’ legacy…. one in her and now your traveling to Swaziland and Bhobokazi, and then of Monica who echos some of your friends heart, in her faithful perseverance and seeds of Bhobokazi….. sorry if this is coming out wrong…..
    Just Amazed at three beautiful womens hearts (and of everyone there) and God using them, how intertwined in ways we don’t see, of Gods design unseen sometimes in each of our journeys and future impacts. Thinking of Precious and Peter, the Gogos, everyone on your team and Hopechests team, and your families letting you come here. Thanks Team Swazi, for impacting and leaving a bit of your hearts inside the kids and Swaziland. Praying replenishment after your lng day of work, tears, and joy. Thankful for the pictures.

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