A lighthouse in the hills of Bhobokazi

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.

day7bhobo-20Today 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.day7bhobophone-4

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. day7bhobo-24I 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

Jordan
day7bhobo-33Until 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

15 thoughts on “A lighthouse in the hills of Bhobokazi

  1. Riverwood Team in Swazi….This is what Jesus was promising (us) (you)….. “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” … John 10:10

  2. Wha a day packed full of love and laughter. Thanks for being the hearts and hands of Jesus to “our” kids. Blessings to you tomorrow as you pour it all out one last day. Xoxox Ps Kailey and jaret – you guys look great hugging a Bunch of kids 😉

  3. Ohhhh Swazi Team. Love you all. I know right now your emotions are potentially mixed. You’ve had an incredible experience, and now it’s come to the hardest part, to say goodbye. And remember that not all tears are an evil. Allow yourself to feel and process. I’ll tell you that I ugly cried on my last day at Enaleni. Like snot and sobbing and gross. So if that wasn’t you, feel free to go for it, and I won’t judge you at all. And if that was you, then you’re in good company 😉

    Remember that the sorrow you feel is because this experience has impacted you! The relationships and bonds you’ve made with our Swazi friends and with each other have been rooted deep inside you, and so that’s why it’s sad to say goodbye. But there is also so much joy! Look over these last number of days, how incredible have they been? You’ve seen incredible and sometimes difficult things. You’ve played and worked and laughed and cried. How beautiful has that all been eh?

    Know that the journey home could be hard. As you leave Swazi soil and make your trip back home reflect on all you’ve experienced. How can what you’ve experienced here changed you? What can you take home and apply to your day to day life? Could what you’ve experienced here continue to have a lasting impact?

    Please know that the seeds you have sown these past days will grow into an incredible harvest. Your team more than many before you have seen the fruits of this almost decade long relationship between Riverwood and these care points. And that fruit is the result of the sowing by previous teams. So consider the fruit you’ve seen and realize that the seeds you’ve sown on this trip will produce incredible fruit in the future!

    Proud of you team. Well done. Allow the hours and days of your journey home to be a time to process and know that there is a whole church family standing with you.

    Love you team,

    Zach

  4. Amen!! Just as parents to see their children grow and head off to school to learn of this wonderful and magical life. We must allow them to grow. As parents to see our children grow into young adults ready to meet the challenges that life has to offer.
    We must always remain faithful that a small seed has been planted within them to help guide their path and help prepare for the journey ahead. We must remain vigilant and steadfast that the message is ringing strong and true within their hearts mind body and soul. Just as we as parents have been given the tools and faith to navigate this life. So we must pass on to our children whether they be of blood or through a faith mission such as Team Swazi 2017 or past Swazi teams as well as future Swazi teams to come. Each will have instilled a good measure of love faith and guidance for each of the special souls to cherish and pass on for lifetimes to come.
    It always hurts to say goodbye to our loved ones. God Knows I hurt each and every time I have to do it. But I am always reminded that God has their back because of a little something I may have instilled within them.
    All of you have done an amazing job of connecting with everyone there. You can hold your heads up high and give thanks to Our Great and Glorious Father for guiding our thoughts speech and actions to help those who are in desperate need. You can also be assured that your messages were heard as the song in the quiet care point was. Keep the faith and know that God has your back and their backs always. May God grant you peace and happiness and abundant love.

  5. Please hug my girl Nomphilo extra tight for me tomorrow at Enalani. Praying for you all. I was so happy, excited but not too quiet in church when i seen you all on the video yesterday. Wow. way to give, sacrifice, love and pour out of yourselves all over our swazi families. Thanks for the journey team. My heart is full but also broken seeing all of the pictures and reading the daily posts. ( Riverwood News, hot off the press) and also for each and everyone of you guys as I’ve also have had to say a few good- byes in swazi in previous years. With lots of love, thoughts and prayers. Bonnie.( P.S. Kailey and Jarret,) yes i completely agree with MOMMA H, it really does suit you 2 with kids hanging off of you 2.

  6. Swazi Team…I wish you could have seen the HUGE smiles on the faces of your Riverwood family here when your faces and the care point community voices of singing appeared on the screen during services this weekend….joy! It was a testament to see that your church here is loving on you despite the distance between us. As Service Director, I watched our Riverwood family (in 3 separate services) wipe tears, laugh, sway in their seats with the singing and soak up all they could in those brief clips…you are loved and we can’t wait to welcome you home. We know it is bitter-sweet to leave but you have filled those hearts with memories and moments that will long linger after the very last hug. Blessings on you as share goodbyes and begin home soon.

  7. Missions always change you. The blessings you pour out seem to return 10-fold. If I had been in Jon’s position to hear the children sing ‘My Lighthouse ‘ on the road home, I would have done a Zach-approved ugly cry! Enjoy your last days in your new home-away-from-home. We miss you, we love you, and we continue to lift you in prayer.

  8. Swazi team,

    As I have read the blogs and looked at the photos journeying along with you these past few days, there has not been one post that hasn’t brought tears to my eyes. The photos are simply dripping with joy and show a glimpse into His kingdom… the way He intended- His people coming together from the ends of the earth, proclaiming His name and lavishing each other with His love. Speaking hope and a future into the souls of generations to come. Team, you are the hands and the feet and He is so SO proud.

    I know as you begin to say goodbye to these kids and savour the last few moments- your hearts may be feeling a mixture of feelings. Feel them, let them sink in. For these moments that you have experienced will begin to shape your worldview even more- if you let them. These are sacred, life-changing moments, that are undoubtedly a gift from the Lord.

    I pray for peace, rest, debrief and joy as you wrap up the last few days away from home.

    Dave. There is nothing that makes my heart happier than seeing you loving God and loving His people. My brother, I am so very proud of you! You have grown into a man of wisdom and faith- I am inspired by the way you have followed His nudging to return to Swazi this year.

    Kale and Jaret. I pray that experiencing Swazi together has bonded you even further together. Kale, I see joy and peace in your face as you return to a place that is so so dear to your heart- enjoy these moments! Know that your Sarah is well sleeping at my feet as I write this.

    Team, be blessed. Know that you have a team of people cheering you on back home. Take heart in the work you are doing for His kingdom!

    Much love,

    Jo

  9. Love all the pictures so much!! Each day looking at the blog is such a highlight for me, hearing and seeing your experiences is so amazing! I love seeing the kids smiles and seeing how much they love all of you! You all are making such an incredible impact on their lives and I know they are making huge impacts on yours!
    Mom- I’m so proud to have a mom like you who has such a huge heart to serve God in Swazi and love on those kids like your own! I wish I was there with you again! I’m missing you more and more each day! I love you so much! And oh my goodness how do I have the most beautiful mom on this planet, I love the picture of you and Nkos!
    Cole- I’m so happy you are having this experience! You look like you are having such a blast! God is doing some amazing things through you! I’m so glad you have made some great connections with those kids! I can tell you are totally in your element there!

    Praying for you all!

  10. Know in your hearts that you will be continuing to help them even when you are here at home. Your prayers will always be heard and God answers prayer. He works through people, people like you. God is sending you home with that job to do, and with their faces to remember as you lift them up in prayer. God bless your trip home.
    Karen

  11. Wow! A touching and truly awakening goodbye. So many of us here at home think that the Swazi team has empowered people in need. But I think the real need was those that perhaps some of us whom have strayed from faith, those that that have been tormented by their need for faith but living far form it, those of us perhaps that want to live in faith but may perhaps be facing fears of our own, inner fears, health fears, in my case just leaning and pressing into God I thank you all Swazi team 2017 for showing me that in the desperation, grief, and hunger for God If I sit in silence and just listen, I too can hear his voice, his loving voice, his hands and arms wanting to press into all of us as God loves so hard and with such conviction and I want more of that. These stories have truly opened up my heart and hunger for God. I envisioned God, in the center of these care points. I see that all the hugs that you are given out can also be freely given by our Father. He is there, with arms wide open, and how saddened goodbyes are so hard for God as we do life at times on our own. I love the pictures that have been captured and the laughter, and the connections, and most importantly the community. Perhaps I am babbling now, as it is 1208am Winnipeg time, but it does make sense in my head. LOL. and I look forward to reflecting on this blog. I am cheering you all on as I have been changed just byreading the posts. thank you for sharing and being so vulnerable and transparent on your feelings. I know you all have a lot to report but I also know that you have work to do and so little time to get it done. More hugs, more connections and more ” see ya laters” not goodbyes. Riverwooders 2018 will be up and coming and the beauty in all of this is that it will continue, more love and more connections. Thank you Team swazi, God bless and may God fill you all up and create more unique connections and conversations and memories as you venture into your last day… hugs and love from the ‘Peg team! xox

  12. Thanks so much Jordan for your vulnerability in sharing about loving without reservation! I love how these songs you’ve taught will keep on “ringing” in the hearts and communities of our precious friends in Swazi. Praying for you all on the last leg of your journey, that you will know even more refreshment in the core of your beings. We love you guys!

  13. Dear team,

    Well done! By now you’ve wrapped up your last day at Enaleni, and my thoughts and prayers are with you as you process evertything that you’ve experienced and prepare to head home.

    Jordan… I love you. You’re the greatest and I can’t wait to have you back. Russ says:
    “I’m a blueberry and eat me! Mmmmmm, I’m delicious!”

    Hope you all have a wonderful time on Safari and a smooth trip home.

  14. Nooooo! I was late in reading and lost an opportunity to encourage you team! I am so sorry to have missed a day in your lives of adventure. You have really swept us along with you and God stories are shining like beacons because of your willingness to serve. (((HUGS)))

    Praying for good rest and safe travel.

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