Flowers, tractors & the greatest kind of gift.

It may sound like this blog is getting rediculously repetitive but we have had yet another extraordinary day filled again with a flurry of emotions. We were back for our second day at the Enaleni carepoint and had such an incredible time connecting with the kids today.

Day 3 Enaleni iphone-1Our day began with a surprise delivery to our guest house during breakfast as a bucket full of flowers were given to Carolyn for her anniversary. Todd had managed to orchestrate this moment from the other side of the world and it sure worked! Well done!!

Our day at Enaleni brought so much joy as we could hear the sounds of laughter, singing, and a lot of screaming (the good kind of fun filled screaming) emerging from all areas of the carepoint. Today was also particularly active with planned games for the older kids, massive games of catch the Canadian, and of course a lot of soccer to be had. We also had some pretty meaningful times during our programming with kids of all ages….the pre-school, the school aged and the teens. During the school aged lesson, David was drawing out the story as it was told on a large paper display on the wall. The kids were enthralled with his drawing skills and watching him try and keep up. We know that the loved it because when it came time for them to draw in their workbooks, a bunch of them kept asking David to do it for them.

Day 3 Enaleni-15Jordan did an awesome job today teaching our teen group and letting them know of the incredible love and forgiveness that God has for each one of them. It was again great to see these older kids feeling so special and having their own time to learn, ask questions, and grow. I loved watching our team have the chance to mentor and share their lives with them!

One moment went pretty deep today when some of the women on our team were called over to pray for one of the girls at our carepoint. There is concern about her being quite sick and they asked us to pray for healing. It was one of those moments when it felt like everyone standing in that circle couldn’t hold themselves back and just prayed with as much gusto as they could for her. May God hold her in His arms and take care of her.

We also watched as a tractor arrived on site to level some of the ground and to help with some of the digging for a small construction project of building a new cooking structure for the Gogos. It is always fun to see 100 kids gathered around watching in excitement as something new was happening with a great big tractor! (well for the mothers on the trip it was more like nerve-racking).

Day 3 Enaleni iphone-17We ended our day by heading out for supper and inviting Pastor Peter and Precious to join us. We spent supper connecting with them and two of their three children. What a great time to speak encouragement to them, to share stories of home, and to deepen the friendship we have shared for so many years. As a team we presented them with a few gifts including a photo book we made that was all about Riverwood. We wanted to give them a glimpse into what life was like at our church and to share our lives with them as well. We also had a chance to celebrate with them in person the exciting news that they will be joining our Riverwood team that is heading to Israel in November. They are so giddy and excited they couldn’t stop jumping around and smiling and expressing their thanks. They send their biggest heartfelt greetings and love to you back home!

During debrief tonight as a team, we shared once again how remarkable it is that we get to share in this connection with these kids and these communities. I don’t know if you are getting tired of hearing that, but we just keep getting surprised every day that it grows deeper even still. Enjoy a few photos of the day and an important story that Brenda has to share with you. Thanks to all who have invested into this experience with us….your investment is multiplying!

Now….time for another jump into the pool at the team house that will send even a Canadian into hypothermia. There are a few of us that have made a pact to jump in every day we are here. It started with a bunch but only a few remain…we will stay strong! Goodnight from Swaziland! – Jon

Brenda (M) – The Best Gift I Could Ever Imagine
Swazipics 288Where to start? As they say, the best place to start is at the beginning. I had been privileged to sponsor a young man since 2011. This particular young man has even more history however as he was one of the original children we met when we first visited the carepoint in 2008 and become an iconic image showing the deep need of the community. It was a photo we shared showing him in torn pants and with only one shoe. We would look for each other each year as I stepped off the bus at Enaleni and we shared many experiences over the years creating wonderful memories for both of us. I last saw “my boy” in 2014 not knowing that I would stay home the following year (2015) to join the magnificent world of grand-parenting! During the year of 2016 I learned that my boy no longer attended the carepoint. I was very sad knowing that he would not be there the next time I travelled to Swaziland. On the Swazi 2016 trip I was shocked to learn that my boy had ended up in jail. I so wished that I had known in time and had the opportunity to visit him.

As we prepared for Swazi 2017 Jon and Carolyn worked with the Swazi staff to see if it was possible for me to visit him in prison during our trip. Imagine my joy mixed with uncertainty as I learned that it would indeed be possible! As I prepared for the visit my mind was swirling with questions. What would he be like? Would he be angry? Would his heart be hardened? Would he be ok with me visiting him? What would the jail situation be? How would we visit? Behind glass? In a room being watched? There was no end to my wondering. But I knew that I needed to trust the Lord….this was not a surprise to Him.

I went to visit at the appointed day and time and was so disappointed he was not there! He was in court. In Swaziland there is no warning as to when you will be called to appear in court. But the visit allowed us the opportunity to view the surroundings at the youth detention where he was being detained. We tried again today and oh my goodness he was there!!!

As he walked up to greet us, I saw a young man smiling and eyes shining! My heart and eyes were overflowing as we hugged tightly and he told me that he thought he would never see me again! We had a wonderful visit where I learned that he is in class and doing well in school. He has returned to the Lord and is “preaching” in the detention centre and he has had the opportunity to sing on a Christian radio station. I was witness to a sacred moment as I watched the emotional exchange between him and Deli (the woman who shepherded the carepoint when he attended). He asked for forgiveness and she told him he was already forgiven. She expressed her love to him. I was able to share pictures with him from previous visits and give him a Bible. He was so grateful for the gifts and the visit.

There are no words for me to express how thankful I am to our Lord for the gift that I was given today. To see grace, forgiveness and love in action. To know that nothing is impossible with our Lord. To have been granted the opportunity to see “my boy” and know that he was in the arms of his Father. – Brenda

 

23 thoughts on “Flowers, tractors & the greatest kind of gift.

  1. It’s so good to be able to keep up to date with your “extraordinary” days in Swaziland. I’m praying for all of you.

  2. What a beautiful surprise!! An anniversary not forgotten. A show of love over many continents. Love has no boundaries or borders.
    Brenda, your story was was heartbreaking and also joyful. Gods plan is definitely at work in your boy as he is reaching others who may be lost and he is Gods instrument to deliver His message of eternal and unconditional love. I am so happy you were able to overcome obstacles from preventing you to first hand see what your boy is accomplishing. It is obvious you and previous teams had a lasting impact on his faith and belief system.
    Thank you Swazi team 2017 for doing Gods work. Great pics of everyone sharing good times together and creating a lasting beautiful bond. Sleep well

  3. Jon, we never get tired of reading the stories the team shares at debrief. It is a humble experience and we look forward each day to read about them and what God is doing there. Blessings to you all!

  4. Oh my goodness! What a day! Brenda, what a lovely gift for your young man to know that his mistakes do not cause you to love him any less; you truly shined with the love of Christ! I also lift my hand in joined prayer for the young girl at Enaleni. We serve an awesome God, The Great Physician! Lord I know that where physical healing is not Your will, You will provide healing of the spirit. May this young one feel You near today. You are the calmer of the storm. We are safe in Your hand. Amen. ❤️

  5. Thank you for sharing the joys, the tears, and the laughter in pictures and all the stories. I just love looking at all the pictures and can well imagine the conversations that are being had with each child and teen and team member. I love the stories of forgiveness, grace and so much love that was shared by Brenda while visiting her swazi son in prison. It is amazing how we can perceive the devastation of a youth facility but how when we really take a look at all God is doing for that boy and for other youth it is amazing. Your swazi son is bringing Gods word to so many inside. what an incredible gift. Although it was not expected, your swazi son is sharing Gods word, love and showing and mirroring forgiveness. Even in prison he is sharing and showing love. A true story of faith that God knows so much more than we can imagine. How trust and faith can always do the Impossible.

    I love the flowers sent from Todd and the fact that the little detail was such a huge thought of love to Carolyn. Todd and Carolyn- You both continue to minister what marriages should look like. Happy Anniversary Carolyn and Todd.
    I will also to continue to pray for the young lady with health issues. It takes a huge faith and community when one is struggling with health issues. It is the community that provides hope to the one enduring that. I will join the team in prayer for the young girl.
    Well so much to think about, so many words to post, but will leave it for next time. Sleep well all, and to the other members that are chickens about diving in the cold waters.. Remember nothing great happens inside your comfort zone! Take the plunge you won’t regret it ( okay maybe a little)) … Hold hands and jump!!! ” love to you all from Canada”

  6. Wow! i bought some nice flowers! 🙂 Most of you know i’m pretty love-sick…and that i go through severe withdrawal symptoms when Carolyn’s not around…but i’m simply crazy about that woman!…everyday!

    Your blog was so inspiring and proves (again) why we do this!

    Thank you for giving so much of yourself…all day long!

    Thank you for remaining teachable!

    Thank you for serving with such whole-hearts!

    Thank you for allowing yourselves to be stretched and tenderized!

    Thank you for watching out for one another!

    Thank you for facing tensions, conflicts and less-than-ideal-situations with grace, patience and love!

    …and Thank you for anticipating that God is going to use you…and lighting up when He does!

    Team!…your church is behind you and so proud of you!

    – t

  7. What a great joy it is to each night read your words and seeing the pictures. you bring us there with you. it’s a privilege to come along side you as we read about your day. Blessings to each of you. May the Lord continue to make this a special experience for each one.

  8. Jan Dunn spoke of this young man often. I’ve seen his picture while visiting her home. He’s often been in my thoughts and on my heart. How fantastic to hear that Brenda was able to meet and encourage him. This makes my day so much better. (bit of a rough one here at Websterhouse) I am filled with encouragement that even the places I end up involuntarily can be places God will use me in.

    Hugs to all the team members, we are so grateful for all you are doing. I see your faces in the pictures, and even though I don’t know each of your names, I cheer you on, and will continue to pray for you as I scroll through each night. So get in the pictures, so I can pray for you! 🙂

  9. Kailey and Jaret!! I love all the pictures – especially of the instant famlily one. You look so happy!! Love you lots. Ps just because one of the little ones might fit in your suitcase doesn’t mean it’s ok!! Xoxoxo. Momma h

  10. Brenda
    Thanks for sharing with us. Your words where powerful and very thought provoking. The Lord can use us in many circumstances. We never know just how he will direct our path, even we have made wrong decisions. He can use those times to his benefit.
    Keep up the great work Swazi team.
    Can’t wait every night to see your pictures and stories.
    Kim

  11. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. It is such a blessing and I so look forward to reading them each day. The pictures are amazing. Such Life and Joy are communicated!! So grateful to The Lord for all of you sharing His Abundant Love!! With much love, hugs, and prayers. Cheryl McMillan.

  12. Hi team,
    Lovely day again, you are correct in saying it is repetitive. I think for those who have experienced this before it is so understandable. They know and understand what you are feeling. I applaude your heartfelt desire to help us see and feel what you are experiencing. The thing that comes to my mind is relationship, familiarity, family. Relationships can get sad, heartbreaking and messy as we have seen. Those of you that go every year and those that have been more than once are developing such strong bonds. Those that are there for the first time are witness in person to what has been said, I know that this is something I will never personally experience, but I thank you all for sharing your experience with all of us in our place in this world. You are having such an impact. Well done, very well done indeed.

    Bren,
    I’m so happy for you to have had that experience. It is so outside the box . A first. I love that. I can only imagine his shock, confusion then delight that you would come to see him in that place. I don’t imagine it would ever even have entered his mind that it would be possible. This is the most wonderful kind of surprise.the most wonderful kind of gift, for him and for you. I can’t wait to talk about it when you get home my friend.
    Love you
    Cherylqq

  13. So cool! Josh I was so struck by the photo of you and all the kids sitting around you. What an amazing photo!! (Thanks Jon). I’ve been showing everyone at Linden this photo…even if I don’t know them. For some reason you sitting there totally shows your servant heart and your love of kids. I wonder if you realize how special that is for a young man your age. I’m so proud of the man you are and becoming. There is another photo of you standing with a small kid. Another awesome pic. Could be Lochlan eh? Keep opening yourself up to what Christ wants to reveal to you.

    Hello my wife. Loch is getting really snuggly. I know that will make you a bit sad but he is doing great. He’s had some wonderful play times with friends and grandparents. He keeps eating candy so he can pray for you. I am looking forward to seeing photos of today’s princess party. Thank you for doing this experience…I think it will change our family.

  14. Brenda your story made me cry, it was so beautiful! These are moments that you look back and see how God was working in every single situation since finding the care point almost a decade ago. That story shows so much hope and how God works in all things for his glory. Thank you for pushing through all the unknown and nervousness so that you could witness this transformation and share the story with us!

    Mama (Carolyn) I hope you had a great anniversary day! The Dad update: he was pretty sad yesterday…I tried to cheer him up and take him out for lunch but he didn’t want to be with me…i guess i just can’t compete with you.

  15. Kris and Josh my heart is bursting for you guys! So amazing to see these photos of you guys surrounded by so much pure love. Love reading about Josh organizing games for the kids. Seems like there is such and immediate and genuine connection among everyone you meet, the kids just latching on to you makes my heart melt. I feel like I am living this experience through you. Love you guys!!

  16. I’ll never get tired of hearing about extraordinary days full of emotions in Swaziland. Really, what other type of day is there?! And each extraordinary day is made up of special and unique moments and connections that we have the opportunity to glimpse through this blog. I know that contributing to this blog means sacrificing much needed sleep and digging deep after an emotionally exhausting day to try and find words to describe things that can never be fully explained. I can’t fully explain how grateful I am to you all for it.
    Jon, thank you so much for making this sacrifice and effort Every. Night. Sometimes
    I look for the blog before it’s up, do the math and then hope you’ve just gone to bed and will post it in the morning.

    Make Brenda, thank you for sharing your visit with “your boy”. My heart is so full… I can’t even begin to respond. Perhaps once you’re settled back at home we can let our young Canadian boys play together while we trade stories of our older Swazi ones.

    So many moments stood out to me today and filled my heart with joy:
    -Carolyn with her gorgeous bouquet-in-a-bucket (happy anniversary!)
    -Learning that Peter and Precious are going on the Israel trip, and the mental image of that news being delivered.
    -Jordan speaking to the older kids at Emaleni.
    -And, in the photos, what a great collection of strong able bodied team members lifting kids in the air! David, Jordan, Dawson and… Agnes. Agnes you are an inspiration to me and I hope we can make trip #5 together.

    Jordan, I love you so much and I am so proud of you! I will leave you with some deep thoughts from an (almost) three year old boy contemplating his steaming bowl of oatmeal:
    “Clouds don’t live inside.
    Not real ones – just pretend ones.
    There’s real ones in the eat-meal.”

    xoxoxo

  17. So team, another day has come to an end. Wow. I’m in so much awe at how you have been serving and loving our dear Swazi friends.

    I never tire of reading about your adventures and going through the photos! I love each one and could totally have twice as many (just saying Jon ;))

    Brenda, wow, I can’t believe the joy you must have felt seeing your boy again! And what a beautiful picture of redemption! Truly the foundation of faith that you helped lay has set him on solid ground. It’s my prayer that the prison he is in will become a house of worship.

    Team, thank you so much for how you continue to serve so faithfully. As the days go by and the exhaustion gets deeper and deeper, continue to push through! These days are long, but will go by too quickly. Drink them in and let the images of joy be seared into your mind. I’m praying for fresh energy and strength for each of you.

    Love you team!

    Zach

  18. I keep on following the blog letters, comments & pictures. I was especially touched by the visit to the boy in jail. Praying for you all. Hi, Bryan & Cheryl! Love, Mom

  19. Hello mom and Joshee,

    I am so so happy for you to have such an amazing experience. You are both so amazing and i look up to you both so much. I look forward every day to read your blog and see the amazing pictures of you and the kids that you are helping. You both look so happy! I love you and miss you both soooo much!!!!

    Love Gracie;)

  20. Dear mom and josh, I hope you have a good time there and that Tanzila does not get sick and that none of the kids you know get sick and die. I hope you have a good time there.
    Bye bye , signed by Lochlan

  21. Hello Krista and Josh,
    I hope you have had an amazing day! I loved the picture of Josh surrounded by a sea of African children. I would love to know what he was thinking and what he was feeling.
    This must be such an overwhelming experience for him!
    I love all the pictures with Josh playing ball and kidding around with the children . It makes me smile!
    I hope that you can share the gospel with ease and that it can be understood!
    Love you all,
    Mom

  22. Thank you Brenda (M) for sharing – The Best Gift I Could Ever Imagine –
    which moved me to tears. How faithful God is! And even when we (his people) are afraid and doubting His amazing grace is working and He does not let us down!

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