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.
We 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.
I 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.
On 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.
One 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.
At 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
What 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.
We 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