Pure, genuine, untarnished happiness.

Today was a spectacular day. A day that we feel was marked by a form of happiness that seemed so pure, genuine and untarnished. We had two main events today and it feels like there is so much to tell! It was another princess party, this time for the girls at Enaleni and then the big day we have been anticipating for the boys as both Bhobokazi and Enaleni came together for a giant soccer day!

The soccer day was something we will remember for many years. All of the boys were picked up by bus and driven into the city to a soccer pitch we had rented. It began with the opportunity we had to hand out all of the brand new jerseys, shorts & socks to each of the boys at both our carepoints. The boys looked fantastic and they were beaming with happiness. We couldn’t help but look on with our own sense of joy thinking about how these gifts had translated from each of the sponsors back home. I had the opportunity to tell each of the kids that this special surprise was sent with love from their special friend in Canada. I wish you could see the reactions they had.

Day 5 Soccer-12We played hard with them. The male team members on our trip did such a stellar job of getting into the action with these boys. The little ones all gathered together and had their own game of timbits soccer. So hilarious to watch them herd around all together chasing the ball at once…with the new jerseys they had on it was off the charts cute. The older ones played games, competed in relay races, and had a big game of blob tag. The smiles on their faces said it all as they laughed and ran together. After sharing in a Chicken Dust lunch, the main event of the day began. Today was centred around a long-anticipated match between the Enaleni and the Bhobokazi soccer team. This wasn’t a scrimmage but a genuine, competitive match with a referee and all.

Day 5 Soccer-40I was so proud to watch these young men compete. As we all gathered in the stands to watch and cheer them on, we were in awe of the skills and team workmanship these two teams demonstrated. It was a highlight to watch these boys all grown up now competing hard but with such an amazing good spiritedness to their compete. The match was incredible and after being tied when time expired, it came down to one of the most intense penalty kicks back-and-forth’s I have ever seen. So so so fun! Such a memorable shared experience for both us and them. One of our team members shared a moment he had today with one of the older boys at the end of the day. He had actually done a home visit a few days back to his homestead and discovered that this 17 year old boy was the main caregiver for himself and his two younger siblings. He carries a lot of weight on his shoulders at such a young age. At the end of today, he sought us out to tell us how special today was for him being able to sit back and watch a soccer match among friends & laughter and for a few moments just be in the moment without the weight of everything else being felt.

Day 5 princess-10On the girls side of the fence, the princess party was once again a raving success. It was structured much the same as the princess party yesterday and between the dresses, nail painting, treasure boxes, cupcakes these girls, and so much more they seemed to just drink every moment in and glowed! There was much dancing to be had. In fact, it seemed today at Enaleni with no boys on site or in the vicinity, they actually let themselves get caught up in the moment even more! When the promenade happened as our team cheered them on, they walked in with their new dresses with a bit more sass and strut moving to an internal rhythm and with such a great display of self-confidence. How cool to see them taking in their moment and feeling so genuinely special and happy.

Day 5 princess-26One significant moment at the end was felt as they ended the party with our team circling around all the girls of the carepoint to pray for them to experience the protection and safety of their Father’s arms….knowing they were dreamt up by Him and being held in His arms. It was a beautiful picture of being surrounded by love.

Day 5 Soccer iphone-6At the end of the day, the boys of our team decided to have a little fun as they were finished a few minutes earlier than the girls. After a quick run around town to pick up some supplies, we rehearsed and planned our own princess party back at the team house. As the van with the women pulled up, we had taken the plans they had for the girls at our carepoint and turned it back on them. As they walked up the driveway they were met by our boys cheering them on and presenting flowers & chocolates as “Beauty and the Beast” played over the speakers in the background. It was both hilarious and meaningful as we allowed some silliness to transpire within our team. After a week of pretty intense investment & tiredness, tonight seemed appropriate to have a bit of goofiness settle in. The evening was full of shenanigans, more freezing pool fun, and a ton of laughter. It always seems that around this time of the trip these things start to happen as we find a way to get some respite from the intensity of emotions we are going through together. Tomorrow, we are excited for church at Enaleni and can’t wait for the opportunity to share worship with our Swazi friends.

Lots of pictures today and again some powerful words shared from our team to enjoy. Sorry if we are bombarding you with reading and photos….but it is so hard to hold ourselves back with all that we are experiencing! – Jon

Day 5 princess-5What a transforming day! Today we had the Princess Party at Enaleni. When we drove up on the carepoint, some of the children were already there waiting for us. We started decorating and setting up our stations. Keri-Ann and I were working the manicure station. What a great time pampering these little girls and young ladies. They got to soak their fingers and then pick the colour polish they wanted. Today we painted 840 fingernails. What a blast I had. To see the girls in their beautiful new dresses brought tears to my eyes. These girls are so beautiful inside and out. The sparkle in their eyes says a lot. As I painted each girls nails I told them how beautiful they were and how much God loved them and made them this way. I said a little prayer for each girl as I let them move on to the next station.

When we arrived back at our guest house we saw Dawson standing on the sidewalk with a crown on his head and then we saw all the rest of our male team members standing just inside the gate with crowns on their heads. Dawson came up to our van and helped each lady out of the van and escorted her inside the gate where a male team member was waiting for each one of us with flowers and chocolates. Does it get any better than that?? Oh yes it does! When we got inside they made us coffee or tea or juice of our choice, they served us dinner and waited on us hand and foot. They cleaned up our dishes and got us dessert and coffee. They then treated us to a live play of Beauty and the Beast. I have not laughed and cried so much in such a short time in a long time. Jon assured us that we were also Princesses and we were valued.

This Swazi 2017 is amazing and I am so blessed to be part of this team! I feel loved and supported and prayed for every day! – Princess Cheryl

As a first time Swazi team member I didn’t know what to expect as our trip was fast approaching. Full of mixed emotions I could hardly wait to arrive in Swaziland and experience first hand the atmosphere, culture and lifestyle of Enaleni and Bhobokazi. Luckily for me, I get to experience this trip with my wonderful wife, something that makes being half way around the world a lot easier. It’s funny, because on a random Saturday earlier this spring the two of us talked about potentially joining the team for an upcoming trip. The only problem was that both of us are new teachers and taking two weeks off work was probably not an option at this time in our lives. “Maybe in a few years” we said. The very next day at church, Riverwood announced that for the first time ever they would be travelling to Swaziland in August, an awesome opportunity for teachers to be able to attend. So now I sit here at the end of another amazing day in Swaziland part of the team, truly a God moment.

Day 3 Enaleni iphone-6We are only a week into our visit and I have already experienced so much. I could probably talk about it for days, but there is one thing that has struck me that I just can’t get over. For me, I am privileged to have grown up quite comfortably. I have a healthy and loving family, who can receive medical attention at any time; a wide variety of healthy and tasty foods to eat every single day; multiple sets clean clothes; a roof over my head to keep me sheltered; and almost any type of luxury I could ask for. Here in Swaziland that is not the case for everyone, something that can be seen quite quickly. However, no matter where I have found myself so far, I have experienced an abundance of joy. Everywhere we go you can see the joy in the faces of those we encounter. The way the kids light up and wave as we pass by them in the bus will make you smile every time. Seeing the little ones with huge smiles on their faces and then burst out into laughter and you pick them up or run around with them absolutely screams out joy to you. Watching the older boys play soccer (even with a flat ball), you can see how happy they are. The Shepherds who are constantly singing and dancing and loving on the kids. What a great display of joy. And a family who was badly sick but still had to provide for their children and who in my eyes didn’t have much. The needed everything that they had and more…and for them to offer us strangers a chicken as a gift for visiting, and praising the Lord for all he has done for them. Wow! There aren’t words I can use to describe it. It just shows you that you don’t need much to have joy.

Today I got to travel with the boys to a soccer field in the city where they were outfitted with uniforms, shorts and socks. Then each of them got a posed picture taken of themselves. They were all so happy to be standing there, proudly showing off their cool new gear. They couldn’t wait to get out onto the field and kick the ball around with their buddies. But the highlight was definitely the main match played between the two care points. The action on the field was always so exciting and entertaining, but I was very lucky to be in the stands with the little ones. Boy did they ever cheer on their teams. Little pockets of fans would form and chants of EN-A-LE-NI and BHO-BO-KA-ZI started to flood the seats. They were dancing and jumping around, pumping their fists in the air and showing off their team colors to the cameras. Another amazing display of joy. This all built up into an amazing moment, after a tie game on the field led to a shoot-out to decide the winner. Tensions rose as the momentum went back and forth. Each kick accompanied by cheers from the fans. After seven shooters with plenty of drama between each shot, one of the Enaleni players stepped on the field with his team down by one. Score and live to see another kick. Miss and Bhobokazi wins. With everyone on the edge of their seats the shot was taken. Bang, crossbar and out. Enaleni missed. And with that all the Bhobokazi boys took off down the field, taking their shirts off and spinning them in the air, young and old alike. What a finish. What a sight. What a joyous moment. And again, during the whole match I just couldn’t stop thinking about the joy that these kids had. From the madness in the stands to the intensity and passion that the athletes on the field played with, you could absolutely feel it.

I’m so fortunate to be here. I wish everyone back home could have the opportunity to experience what I have so far. It is life transforming. I just want to thank Riverwood for everything they have done to make this possible. I think it is absolutely amazing what this church is doing and you can absolutely see how much impact we are having here at Enaleni and Bhobokazi. What an amazing relationship created half way across the globe. I am so thankful for this opportunity, and I know that it will serve as a constant reminder to live my life with joy every single day. – Jonathan

23 thoughts on “Pure, genuine, untarnished happiness.

  1. Sounds like such a fun day. It’s so good to hear that you women on the team were treated as princesses too;) Cheryl, it wonderful to hear your report and I can just hear you affirming each one of those girls as you painted their nails. They were all blessed today.

  2. It was so lovely to see video of Swaziland at tonight’s service and to hear the carepoint singing us back from coffee. The football game looked like fun, it gave the boys a chance to be kids. ⚽️❤️ Very sweet gesture from the men to the women — we are all princes and princesses as children of the King! As fun as your photos are, I am sure you also see heartbreak daily. Know that you are covered in prayer. We love you, we miss you, and keep loving on these communities!

  3. The smiles are outstanding! Thank you for letting us live this experience through each of you in your words and your actions. It is so evident that the events you have planned have been divinely orchestrated by our loving Heavenly Father to shower you AND our extended Swazi-family with His extra blessings. It is amazing to see how painting nails can begin to meet the need of an insecure spirit and how goals can grow bonds between care point communities. God works in wonderfully creative ways…awesome!! Tonight I pray that your rest is rejuvenating and that you are ready for another incredible day…can’t wait to hear about it.

  4. Mommy it was so cool to see you interacting with the kids and having fun.I was intrigued by one particular boy, how in one picture he was so relaxed and his form with the ball was very clean.I feel that when everybody on the trip gave those older/younger boys the shorts and jerseys and new footballs I felt you gave them and extra drive to run off.the drive of encouragement the drive to strive for whatever you want to do in life, may it be for fun,competitive,or gods will.Same with the girls you helped them have fun,there is a huge difference from the pictures before when you tried to get them to smile,and now when they have genuine smiles on there faces.So keep doing what your doing over there and keep showing them the way and be there guiding light.

  5. I have been commenting on Text and Facebook and not here, There is so much to say. I have been following your journey and I find myself tearing up as I can see the passion in your eyes, and the Joy. Its almost tangible. The love that you are sharing is something so needed in the eye of those beautiful children.
    So cool to see you show pride in being a girl and who God created her to be and how to be valued. Wow…
    And to see Josh Fast playing with the boys and just being free…. its all so beautiful.

  6. Hey Team!

    Did you miss me??? Sorry I missed commenting yesterday! Rest assured that I read the blog later and got the full update on your time at Bhobokazi.

    Wow, I cannot express how proud I am of how you continue to serve so faithfully. It’s Saturday night as I write this and today at church we saw the update sent by you. Carolyn, everyone awwed at your comment to Todd haha. And LeeAnn, it brought a smile to my face seeing you reunited with Busi. Glad to see you back with your girl.

    Cheryl, I loved reading about your princess-y day! What a beautiful opportunity for you and all the ladies on the team to place value on these girls and let them know that God has designed the feminine heart and that it is a reflection of his goodness (let’s not forget that Genesis tells us that he “created them in his image, male AND female he created them.”) Ladies, what you have done the last two days is more than streamers, cupcakes and nail polish, which will all fade away. You have told these girls that they are capable! You have encouraged them to be strong, courageous and vibrant, all qualities that Swaziland needs from it’s women. You go, girls!

    Jonathan, I love how this trip has impacted you and how the timing of this trip allowed this opportunity for you. If there’s one thing to be learned from our Swazi friends (and I’ll have the record state that I think there’s a lot more than just one) it’s how to be generous. So often we believe generosity is the gift of those with material wealth, but I believe our Swazi friends demonstrate a different generosity, one of joy. What a gift for all of you to witness!

    What a cool soccer day for the boys! I love it! Also, I’m proud to say that my little boy Nkosing’phile is on the winning side, not everyone gets to brag about that ;). Thank you gents for serving so well, for running hard in the hot Swazi sun and for getting your butts handed to you by the Swazis, as they no doubt were.

    Team, as I read your posts each day, I remember that all of this began because a few people (your fearless leaders Jon and Carolyn among them) chose to take a risk and be faithful with what God had entrusted to them. And look how it has grown! Dozens and dozens of kids being told they are loved, valued and capable. You are a part of that legacy. Let’s never become familiar with what God has entrusted to us.

    Well I need to sign off and head to bed so I’m ready to get up bright and early for church tomorrow! I look forward to reading the update from your time at Enaleni Church! Did you get your Swazi flags?

    Love you all!


    Oh and p.s. Cole, you looked very cute in your crown.

  7. Ok! One of our strong values for our Riverwood community is honesty…so here it is: i’m feeling a bit jealous! The experiences you are all having…the intense missional energy…the deepening relationships with our Swazi friends…and the live-on-life impact is AMAZING…rare…and so incredibly special!

    By the time you read this you will have enjoyed worshipping with our brothers and sisters at Enaleni Church…an after-church-party…and an afternoon at the markets! What a great day!

    i pray that you find some rest and the Lord restores your strength for the week that lies ahead!

    – t

    PS…thanks for the video that played during the offering! It was so inspiring and awesome to see you all in action and a message from Africa beamed right into the service!

    PSS…guys…you didn’t steal the bouquet i gave Carolyn and divy it up to all the girls, did you? (on the other hand i guess that means they become a ‘trip expense’ and i don’t have to pay for them! 🙂 But next time…buy your own flowers!

  8. What a wonderful caption – pure, genuine, untarnished happiness- that is what is captured in these prescious photos!! One cannot help but smile and wish this much happiness to continue on these lovely children!
    What a full impacting day the team has had! Then for the gents to turn around and bless the women in such a special and respectful way! How wonderful!
    I loved the soccer pictures and the joy the boys had , smiles from ear to ear and looking so professional in their jerseys!
    I loved the laughter in the pool as you unwound!!
    Have a terrific day tomorrow! Blessings to you all!!
    Love you Josh and Krista!

  9. dear keri-ann (mommmy)i love and miss you. this time i actually read the blog and i loved all the pictrues. i cant wait to see you. we love when you video chat us in your spare time and tell us about your day. today i beat kaitlyn in in twister. im going to write to you and video chat you every day i hope you and every body else are having the time of your lives. i am super exited to see you and hug you. i hope you all get a good rest tonight and be refreshed in the morning. i love you ill se you on friday night love you. xoxo -allegra

  10. Krista and Josh,
    God bless you wherever you are and be a blessing. Come home safe. Don’t bring no sickness and we love you, Oma

  11. Its truly amazing to see what a difference you are all making in these peoples lives. I agree with Elliot when he says ‘keep doing what your doing over there’ because you really are making a difference, if even for a short time, in the lives of everyone you are meeting and I couldn’t be prouder of the wife, mother and best friend that you are to me. I know your time grows short with every day but, and this may sound selfish, but its one day less until I get to hold onto you again and share my life with you. I love you and wish you and everyone there an amazing day!

  12. Krista and Josh those parties looked really really fun. I am so so happy,
    you must be having allot of fun love all the pictures.


  13. Hello Mommy and Joshee,

    There are no words that you can say that will explain how amazing you all are!!! It is such a amazing thing to be able to do what you are doing right now. You are all doing such an amazing job whether it is painting nails to playing hard core soccer,(or treating the ladies out to there own little princess party.) I am soo happy for you and can’t wait to hear all about it. I love you Mommy and Joshee and i miss you. Have a great time. Love you.

    Love Gracie;)

  14. Thank you, Jon, for your regular updates. They’re enjoyable to take in. Bravo to you and Carolyn for your outstanding leadership of the team. I pray for continued health, strength, grace and unity for the team.

  15. Hey team and Krista and josh. I’m starting to really look forward to 6pm our time due to the blog that comes in at that time.

    I am really looking forward to hear about the church service today. Josh you better have danced or raise your hand or something!

    Although you are having such a good time, I can’t wait to have you back. Penny has become a great support and friend to me and when that happens…. I think I need you guys.

    Out here loch and I went to Jeff and Sarah’s cottage and it really is beautiful. Loch is a great guy and we are having fun.

    Love you guys.

    (Called David Bissell to see if we could add another baby room…he says your crazy)

  16. This article brought tears to my eyes The joy and happiness definitely showed. Wow is all i can say. Keep up the work. The love of the lord through you all shows.

  17. Hey team,

    Congrats on another amazing day! I love that our female team members got to have their own princess party! Way to go guys! Russ must have been on the same page as you somehow, because he informed me yesterday that I was a princess (and that he was a princess too). I had to get my own chocolates though, once he was in bed.

    Cheryl, I loved your post. Party days can get so crazy and I just want to say how much I appreciate and respect that you took the time to really see each girl who passed through your station and encourage and pray for them all.

    Jonathan, thanks for sharing! It’s always a blessing to hear about Swaziland from someone who is experiencing it for the first time. And I’m so glad that you and your wife can be there together.

    Jordan, at breakfast this morning, Russ asked me “Where’s Dad?” He immediately corrected himself though, and asked “Where’s Poppa?” Because he has decided that Nana and Poppa are his parents, and that Grandma and Grandpa are mine. When I ask him who YOUR parents are, all I get is a blank stare. I’m pretty sure he still knows who you are…

  18. Tonight I have the privilege to act as the scribe for my lovely children who want to leave some thoughts for their mom 🙂

    Charlie – Hi mom! It’s Charlie (obviously). I just want to say that I really miss you and that I can’t wait for you to come home. Also, I hope that you do not get poisoned by a snake or eaten by a lion (her actual words). And please say to Busi for me! I love you!! Bye!! See you on Friday 🙂

    Rylie – Hi mom, I miss you!! And if the boys are reading this, throw her in the pool!! Hee, hee!! I can’t wait for you to come home!! Bye for now, see you on Friday!! I love you 🙂

    Jordan – I have to direct quote here, “Mommy, don’t get bitten by a snake or eat a lion. Also, don’t go into the jungle and get eaten by a giant gorilla. And, I love you, and I miss you, and I will give you a good night kiss. And Charlie wants to watch Phantom of the opera.

    Adam – For the record I had nothing to do with Rylie’s pool idea. Also, I think I need to cut back on the amount of Animal Planet these kids are watching. Have a great night Sweets! We love you and all miss you! As a side note, Rylie wanted to let you know that she learned how to ride a two-wheeler at your uncle Paul’s (even I missed that!) Enjoy your last few days, finish strong and then just relax and lean into God’s rest 🙂 See you soon!

  19. Thank you team for the great work you are doing in serving and ministering to the kids at both Enaleni & Bhobokazi. You are such an inspiration to those of us here at home. Sounds like you had a great day with both the Princess party and Soccer game. Thank you both Cheryl & Jonathan for sharing. We are so proud of you Jonathan and Amy for what you are doing and how you have fully given of yourselves to serve. We will continue to pray for you and the whole team as you finish strong!

    Take care,
    -Eric & Helene-

  20. I am really enjoying all the photo’s, and stories of everything that is being done with your Swaziland friends!! What a truly great experience for both of you, Josh and Krista! It looks like you are having a fun time meeting and getting to know so many Swazi people–have a wonderful time and stay safe. Art and I are praying for you all.
    Heather and Art Regier

  21. Mom, I know you were so looking forward to the princess party day and it sounds like it went extremely well. I can see from the pictures that you were 100% in your element. Love you!

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