As we sat down in the bus today on our way out, we were keenly aware that this would be the last day we have with our friends at Bhobokazi. We were thrilled to have another day with these kids and the Gogo’s there but just so surprised that our time has gone by so fast. We wanted to take in every moment. Our day began by joining the staff team here for their once a week staff meeting. What a great experience as we watched this large team of Swazi staff gathering together to worship and to share in devotions together. We are grateful for the way they invited us in.
Today at Bhobokazi we played extra hard, we sang extra loud, and hugged a little longer. Everywhere you would look, our team had children either laughing with them, hanging off of them, or being held in their arms.
We also had the opportunity to share in something pretty significant together. We have mentioned before that this trip we have planned some very intentional time with the older kids. We desired to let them know that they were significant and valued and also to have the opportunity to mentor and encourage them as the leaders at their carepoint. Today we split the girls and boys into separate groups and talked very openly and candidly on the topic of sexual health and wholeness. This topic was at the request of the staff here and is such an important one with all of the issues that face this culture. We certainly felt nervous about this and we were not sure what the response would be.
Our team of leaders for this group did such an amazing job working hard to prepare for today and they courageously stood in front of these young men and women (aged 12 & up) and spoke clearly and openly about how their bodies work and how they can honour God with them. There are many misconceptions in this culture about these things and there can certainly be a lot of hurt and fear attached to this topic for them. We spoke directly about the HIV/Aids issues and about the issues of teen pregnancy. We shared with them what God’s intent for them was and that regardless of what they have experienced, his healing and/or his forgiveness and grace was readily available to them. At the end, we gave the opportunity for them to write down any questions they would like answered and we were quite taken back by the level of participation and by the honesty of the questions that came forward. We answered as many as we could and then left the questions with the Shepherds so that they would know what the kids were wanting to learn more about. This was truly a significant time as we took the opportunity to speak directly to an issue that is so often ignored here. We are hopeful that this will create the opportunity for them to feel more free to ask questions and that more than anything they heard today that they were precious gifts of God.
At the end of our day, after all the goodbyes were had, we loaded the bus with most of our team and sent them on back for supper. I remained at the carepoint as a few of our team members were still on a home visit and by this point all the kids had gone home and I was the only one on site. What a surreal experience. It was so strange to experience the carepoint so silent. For a moment my head was cleared of any responsibilities and I had a chance to simply be present. As I stood there, surrounded by these buildings we have created so many experiences in together and just looking over the valley into the hills and mountains off in the distance, I had a moment that felt a bit sacred. I was remembering all the years of memories we have created…all of the once children that had become young men and women…and I was struck by how much God has done through this place. Just then, I heard something arise from the valley I was looking out on. Children’s voices began singing. Though they were quite far away, they rang loudly through the hills, the homesteads, and the dirt paths I was staring out at. They had nothing to compete with and just rang out for all to hear. I heard them singing, “my lighthouse, my lighthouse, shining in the darkness I will follow you…I will trust the promise, you will carry me safe to shore.”
This was a song we had been teaching them all week. A song they had learnt to sing so well already. But to hear it arise from these children as they journeyed home was something that pierced right into my heart. As I said my goodbyes in the silence, I was reminded that our presence there has had an impact. That what these children have gained over these past two weeks will not stay contained but that it will be found ringing out throughout the homesteads and the mountains. What a gift this was in that moment. We love Bhobokazi so deeply and pray that God would continue to shine his light into the lives of these precious children and that it would carry out into the community through them. – Jon
Until today the sacrifices required of me to be a part of this extraordinary adventure have seemed somewhat small. Do not misunderstand there have been sacrifices made. Especially by family and others who have supported me in different ways along the way. However, considering all that I have received ,what I have given has seemed small. To be welcomed with such warmness, to see abundant resilience, and such steady faithfulness. My worn and tired soul has been enriched, comforted, and refreshed. My faith has been reignited. My worship of God has been shown new ways to celebrate His greatness. I have experienced the joy of being reunited with those Allison and I now consider family. I have met new friends and witnessed God raising up young men and women as leaders who transform brokenness into beauty. For all that I’ve given, much more has been returned to me. However, today I gave something that truly hurt. I have learned that to love unreservedly and to give all of myself will inevitably lead to certain wounds that cut deep and leave scars that will not fully heal while on this earth. I know it will happen, but I can never quite anticipate when.
When all of us left for Swaziland we knew one obvious fact, but I’m not sure we quite understood its significance. To leave to Swaziland inevitably means that we will need to leave from Swaziland. To fall in love means that there will be a heartbreaking time to say goodbye. For those we love so dearly at Bhobokazi today was that day. For every gift and memory that I get to take home I am so thankful, but what I must leave behind hurts. Every smile and every hug. The thunderous sound of kids praising God and dancing. The smell of lunch being cooked by the faithful Gogos. The joy of infectious laughter. The sight of friends whose warm welcome reminds me that I am in a place where I am loved. Many of those things I experience elsewhere, but at Bhobokazi the experiences are unique. The friends are one of a kind. These are friends I do not get to see tomorrow or next week or next month. I am uncertain when I will see them again. This realization breaks my heart. It is the greatest sacrifice I have had to make in order to have the experiences I’ve had. As much as I have given, as much as I loved, as much as I sang, played, danced, and rejoiced, that is what I have left behind. All for a short glimpse of God’s love and hope.
Tomorrow I will lean in just as hard at Enalani knowing exactly what it will cost me at the end of the day. My heart will break again as I say goodbye. But this is what we do for the ones we love. Even this sacrifice begins to seem small as I continue to better understand all that God has given me through my friends and family here in Swaziland. Thank you church for the opportunity to be here. I look forward to coming home and sharing with you the love and warm embraces our friends here have asked me to send back to you. – Jordan