A joyful welcome at Bhobokazi!

It is always a daunting task to put down in words the experiences of a first day at the carepoints on these trips. Tonight as we gathered together as a team to share our stories of the day, we were filled with so much gratitude and emotion over what we experienced. It never fails to be an overwhelming experience for both first timers and old timers as we experience the impact of the community to community connections we have forged over the past decade. Each year, it just gets more powerful, more meaningful, and more kindred.

How great it was to step foot on the Bhobokazi carepoint again! To take our first steps off the bus and be surrounded by children with beaming smiles, ready to tackle us with hugs and laughter. To watch the eyes and faces of our first-time participants as they were welcomed and embraced, stepping into the many footprints of relationship built by countless others. It really is something that can’t quite be explained….to meet these children and go-go’s for the first time but to be given the gift of feeling like you have years of history. We watched as some of our team met their special friends for the first time….moments they will be marked by for the rest of their lives. We also witnessed the privilege and joy found in those that have been before hearing their names called out with excited eyes and a child running to greet them.

As we shared together tonight, we couldn’t help but be moved to tears as we reflected on the remarkable story we are a part of. Looking out into the sea of children….and there were so many….we get to see potential and hope. These kids have the opportunity to grow up with enough food to eat, access to education, clean water, and to learn the incredible value they have to God. We get the privilege of looking them in the eye and telling them we….not just the 21 of us here now….or the 4 joining us in a few days….but the entire Riverwood community LOVE THEM ENOUGH to fly across the world to visit them and to keep investing in them year after year. We get the to not just help these kids but to know them.

Today was an awesome day. From the dance-off competition circle, to the joyous sounds of a sea of kids singing at the top of their lungs….from the loving embrace of Gracie the Go-Go, to the piggy backs and shoulder rides….from the meaningful opportunity to visit a homestead in need and bring help, to hearing one of the young ladies that grew up at the carepoint tell her story of graduating from university because of the investment that Bhobhokazi has made in her life….our hearts are beyond full and as always happens, we are two days in and feel like our arrival into Swaziland was a lifetime ago. Hopefully the pictures can give you a window into our day. Below are a few reflections from our team of the day. Thanks for joining in with us! – Jon


This is my first time in Swaziland and today was the team’s first day at the Bhobokazi Carepoint. From the moment we stepped out of the van, we were greeted by loving little children that were waiting eagerly to hold our hands and be with us. There was so much love and acceptance in the air. When the children were assembled with all of us and the shepherds, we were asked to each introduce ourselves by name and the children shouted “Hi! ______(our name)” for each of us. This really choked me up! I had the opportunity to stand facing the entire group, holding the cards with the song lyrics and demonstrating the actions. I was in awe with what I saw: excited children so eager to participate with eyes shining and faces glowing, praising Jesus. This moment filled me with such joy and it was a day I will always treasure. – Dolores


Today was an incredibly meaningful day for me. My family has had the privilege of sponsoring a young man at Bhobokazi for the last 9 years. I have vivid memories of tucking my kids in at night, joining them in prayer for a young boy that became so special to us. As a family we dreamed of one of us taking part in the Swazi trip one day. This year I was able to take the trip and today I met our special friend…it’s hard to put into words what the experience was like. I’m trying really hard not to get tears on Jon’s laptop. To see his face, to give him a hug and sit and talk about his life, well…it was pretty incredible. Rob, Olivia and Ryan, I wish you had been here with me! I miss you all so much and look forward to seeing you and filling you in on this incredible adventure I’ve had the privilege to be on. Before I go I want to say a big hello to all of my students! I miss seeing your smiling faces every morning and afternoon. I hope you are enjoying all of the pictures on the blog! I love knowing that I am just a little closer to where many of you used to live before you moved to Canada. See you soon! ☺ Krista


As I stood listening to Jon give the opening dialogue to our teen session my mind was trying to come up with something relevant that I could share. We were at Bhobokazi Care Point addressing the teens that once were kids when I first started traveling to Swaziland eight years ago. I shared from a time in my life when trying to make friends lead me to making some poor choices while trying to impress the crowd I wanted to so badly be a part of. Later as we were reflecting on the day I realized that our time is running out. These young adults are at a point where they will be making life choices that will take them to the next stage of life. What a gift to be able to give them tools that will help them navigate life’s roads. We can only pray that God will protect them from delusions the world will offer. The verse we shared with them today was from Romans 12:2 “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” – Bryan

13 thoughts on “A joyful welcome at Bhobokazi!

  1. Oh Krista I am so very glad you were able to connect with your special friend. What an emotional life giving experience for you and for him. 9 years of praying for him and loving him and finally getting to meet him. Wow!! I pray that your time together is blessed and that your bond with him is strengthened.
    Akosua I hope you are feeling better my friend!! I’m praying for supernatural healing for this trip.
    I am loving the blog but it really is just a small glimpse into the experience that is Swaziland. You all do a wonderful job of bringing us there with you but after going and knowing just how rich everything is… From dinner, lunch, the bus rides, the reading of the blog, the debriefing and the prayer and songs. Oh how I wish you could just do a full day vlog to really show what the experience is like. As I read and look at the pictures I see the smiles and I remember the way it felt to have those little hands reaching up. I’m there with you all in spirit. Praying for your each day and I read the blog each night.
    Have a wonderful day in Enalani tomorrow. Give Peter and Precious and all of our Shephards my love! Sleep well swazi team 2018 and know that you are all loved. Missing you all!! – Keriann

  2. Oh, my heart. To see my friends whom I have given hugs and handshakes to over the years united or reunited with these wonderful kids just breaks and thrills me. Dolores, I could be wrong but when you say that ‘this choked you up’ I think I know that what you mean is you were blubbering inside. Blubbering is cool. Just do what I do and go to the outhouse and quietly let it go then come back and pour on the joy. 😊
    To all my past and future Swazi crew mates God bless you guys and if anybody spots a nine year old at Bhobokazi named Angel could you take note of her for me? I’m hoping she’s there this time around. Love you guys.

  3. Wow my tears welled up to see this amazing day two you have had. To see Thomas meet our special boy Ndondini. We continue to pray for each one of you as you shine the light of Jesus into these precious lives. I would also suspect that the light of Jesus is being shone into your lives as well.

  4. Wow, such beautiful pictures and stories. Seeing Cole with a kid on his back and Akosua with a child asleep in her lap were probably the two least surprising things I saw today! Bryan it’s great to hear about how the relationship with the teens continues to be built.

    Allison, I’m assuming Jon just missed the picture of you in the middle of the dancing circle?! All of us here at home miss you tons. Here’s a little message from Russ. “I had a great time with Nana and Papa today. I love you and I like you so, so much! 🐫🦍🐬

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your hearts with us and taking us along on this amazing trip. We carry you in prayer as you pour out the Love of Jesus . May each of you sense our prayer support daily . Sending big hugs and much Love. Cheryl McMillan

  5. Kim… give Siyabonga Dlamini a huge hug from George and myself when you get to Enalani. I’m enjoying reading the blog and enjoying the pictures. Sounds like everyone’s time there is just amazing!!! Sounds like these kids are teaching the team as much or more as the team is teaching them 😊 What an experience!
    Love and prayers to all!

  6. Krista, I’m so glad for you that you were able to meet Manqoba!! What an amazing experience for you to meet him after praying for him for all these years! And you were able to meet our little girl as well! I can’t wait to hear all about the trip!! Praying for you, and the entire team, every day!

  7. The pictures are wonderful and really bring the experience back to us here in Canada!! I am soooooo thrilled to be sharing this trip with all of you.

    And Leigh Mae, I saw a picture of you with your mouth closed!!

    Love to you all. We miss you tons, Leigh Mae!!

  8. I am so deeply touched as I see your wonderful smiling faces!! You know that feeling when your nose starts to tingle cuz you’re on the verge of crying?! Well that’s what I’m feeling now as I see you and hear you!! I am praying for you every day! I love you guys! Krista…. what a joy to meet your special friend!! So happy for you! Rhoda

  9. Hey Team!

    I’m back again! Honestly I’m so overwhelmed seeing the photos of you at Bhobokazi. It is such a dear place to me and even after years of not being there I can still picture it, the sounds and sights and smells burned into my brain. I hope to one day get back there but it’s great getting to live through your experience for now.

    Dolores! I’m so glad that you got to experience this trip and witness the beautiful community at Bhobokazi. What an example they are of the beauty and wonder we can experience when we surrender our lives to Jesus and choose to worship him. And it can be pretty fun too!

    Krista! You have modelled so well to your kids. Reading your reflection and seeing you in the photos reminded me of being in LA with your kids this summer and I now know that they were such servants because of the example that you provided. As it says in Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Can’t wait to see more photos of your adventure!

    Bryan! I’m so glad to see that you and Cheryl are back on Swazi soil and jumping right back in. I miss it and I’m glad that our church has people like you representing us. What a great opportunity to take what you experienced in your life and be able to share that with children on the other side of the world! God truly does not waste anything!

    A couple quick shoutouts!

    Leigh! Love seeing you back at Bhobokazi! Nothing quite like it eh? How many times have you cried so far?

    Nicole! Love seeing you there! We’re holding down the fort here and I can’t wait to hear all about your experience! Proud of you!

    Cole! Miss you so much buddy! Carley and I told each other at The Ascent that we’ll keep encouraging each other so that we can make it through your absence. Thanks for the photo of my boy. Love you!

    Fearless Leaders, Jon and Carolyn! I’m so honoured to have you two as my pastors (and friends!) Praying for you as you serve and lead. Glad to see you back with your Swazi friends.

    Team, I’m endlessly proud of you! I hope that your day at Enaleni was incredible. We prayed for all of you at Staff Meeting (6pm on Tuesday for you). Keep giving it everything you’ve got! Can’t wait to read about your adventures tomorrow and I’m praying for all of you!


  10. Hey SwaziTeam 2018! I’m just trying to squeeze this comment in before you finish supper and go to your debrief time! RELATIONSHIP! RELATIONSHIP! RELATIONSHIP! It’s all about ‘relationship’! Delores, Krista and Bryan…thanks for reminding us of that today… and each of you…for pressing in to deepen your own personal relationship with your special friend or someone at Enaleni or Bhobhokazi! The easy thing to do would be to sign up and sponsor a kids with some money that comes out of your account automatically! That would leave you feeling good about yourself and hopefully help a kid someplace! But you said ‘No way!’ ‘Not good enough!’ ‘I’m called to do more!’…and you’re doing it! You risked, you sacrificed, you stretched your faith and language skills! Some of you faced the fear of travel! Others left the safety of family and routine…and now you are there, weaving a beautiful and strong tapestry made of the threads of relationship…that run half way around the world and join all of us at Riverwood to all the precious people at Enaleni and Swaziland! Thank you for weaving those threads masterfully! We are indebted to you! Much love! – t

  11. What an amazing journey this is! I am so thankful for technology that allows us to live it through you all. Dolores, you had me all choked up reading your words, what an incredible experience this must be.

    I can’t wait to read what comes next and to follow along and witness all the wonderful things you guys will bring to these people. God bless you all.

    Dolores, please keep Leigh out of trouble!!! 😉


  12. Hi team,
    Looks like you got off to a Big Bang yet again. I’ve been following this blog for 10 years. No wonder the children are excited, look what’s getting off the bus?
    Love is getting off the bus.
    Trust is getting off the bus.
    Hope is getting off the bus.
    Joy is getting off the bus.
    Goodness is getting off the bus.
    Kindness is getting off the bus.
    Faithfulness is getting off the bus, followed by a fair bunch of nuts to go along with the fruit.
    As usual, great job team.

    Jon would you please take a great picture of my best friend, for me thank you.
    Missing you Bren.

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