A homecoming and a collision of emotions. Well…once again as we stepped foot on the grounds of the Enaleni carepoint, in an instant a thousand images pass through my eyes as I focus towards the faces of the children and Gogo’s waiting to greet our team. Images of 10 years ago as we first drove up to the site with a small wood shack and a lean-to kitchen….images of a handful of young children gathered under a tree….images of a church being built….images of countless team members who have journeyed with us over the years….and suddenly we look out and see the sea of children who now call this place home….and who are now welcoming us home. What a privileged place to be. It continues to be an overwhelming experience to see the evidence of hope that has been created through this remarkable connection from one community to another. Joy on the faces of children. Healthy kids. Shepherds leading the carepoint who grew up as sponsored children. Hundreds of kids who find a place to belong….a place where their potential can be called out of them….and where they can be cared for on every level. Enaleni is truly a special place and we felt it today.
However, if we open the door up and let you into our team debrief today, you will also see some honest, difficult colliding emotions. While we witness tremendous hope and impact, we also come face to face with the impact of poverty and disease. Households managed by single grandmothers with many kids in their care because their parents have been stolen to a disease. Families being raised by siblings who should have the freedom to be children but have had to become caregivers. Young teen boys asking questions about how to navigate life without a father. One of the realities of joining in an experience like this is that you are welcomed into both the joy and the pain. We don’t attempt to avoid this collision. In fact, I think it is in this collision that we find something powerful and precious. The gift of brokenness. These experiences can make our hearts soft. They can confront our own poverty. They can expose our attitudes and entitlement. They can humble us and they have.
We are proud to watch our team walk right into these experiences. We pray that God would continue to deepen the work he is doing and to protect the vulnerabilities we are sharing together as we process these emotions.
Okay….now to give a few quick highlights from our day (a few with images)!
#1 The 80’s Karaoke bus ride this morning
#2 The sounds of Enaleni erupting in singing and echoing through the building
#3 Bubbles everywhere!
#4 Dolores and Jonathan being dragged into a skipping battle by their special friends….literally dragged
#5 Thomas’ pushup circle with all the boys
#6 The remarkable artistry of the school-aged kids doing their craft with such intention
#7 Watching our team pray over each small group of elementary aged kids
#8 Jordan arm-curling the children
Thanks for following along with us and for the comments we read together reminding us that this experience is far bigger than our own. Enjoy a couple reflections from our team. See ya tomorrow in Bhobokazi.
What a trip so far. Today was a little hard for me. I went for a home visit to one of our youngest cooks at Enaleni Carepoint. Her homestead is about an hour walk from the carepoint, She comes Monday to Friday with 10 children in tow. When we arrived at her homestead it was a very sad scene. There was one small building that was falling down. There was an additional building in dire need of repair and that was where they lived. Some how the door was locked and they could not get in. We sat on the step and I asked her how we could pray for her? She asked if we could pray for safety for her and the children. We asked if there was anything else we could pray for. In a very quiet voice she said “everything”. She seemed so discouraged and tired in this moment. I am so thankful that all of the kids attend the carepoint and are all of them are sponsored. I am also grateful that she cooks at the Enaleni Carepoint which ensures that they eat two meals a day. It made me so sad that she was in the situation of no fault of her own and there was nothing more I could do for her but pray. This is such a common situation here and all you can do is continue to reach out a helping hand and lift her and her situation up to the Father. – Cheryl
Today was our first Enaleni Carepoint day, which I was very excited for because that is where my special friend attends. I was fortunate enough to travel with the team last year, and got to meet her for the first time which was such and amazing moment. She was only 11 years old so when we first met she was quite shy, and that lasted most of the trip. I understood that meeting someone new from half way across the world could be difficult so I didn’t think much of it. I was just so excited to meet her. Today I really got so see more of her personality as she really started to open up to me. It was such an awesome moment as I was sitting with a group of kids and could see her walking towards me. Evidently I found out that she had been roaming the care point looking for me to ask me how I was. This time she was not nearly as shy as she was in the past. She then continued the conversation by asking me to come skip with her and her best friend. It was a really special moment because her friend’s special friend Dolores also happened to be on the trip this year. So there we were, two Canadians and two 11-year-old girls, skipping together in the sun and laughing the whole time. It was so touching to know that my special friend was excited to see me and wanted to hang out and play with me. Later in the day I met up with her and more of her friend group. This time as I approached they were singing and laughing and asking me ‘Hey do you remember the song?’ Right away this put a huge smile on my face. Last year this group of girls was helping me learn some siSwati words. Because of the nature of the language they were having a great time laughing at me because I was butchering and struggling with pronunciation and saying the wrong words for the wrong items. I decided that in order to help me learn properly I would turn the siSwati words into a song. So there I was singing my nonsense song that was really just random words with a bad tune. The song just turned into them laughing at me even more. Either way that moment seemed to stick because over a year later as I returned to that group this was the song they were singing and laughing about. I couldn’t believe they remembered those interactions, another moment that pulled at my heartstrings in such an amazing way. Seeing and listening to the stories of all our team members getting to meet their special friends is always so incredible, especially for those who get to for the first time. Seeing the kids faces light up as they see that their special friend is here to see them is simply amazing. You really get to see how much these kids appreciate and love their special friends. They want to be with them and they want to grow these special relationships. We often hear that most of the kid’s homes are filled with the pictures and messages sent from all of us Riverwooders. It truly shows how much they cherish these relationships. The moments here in Eswatini (Swaziland) will last lifetimes, both for us and the kids, and the impact that Riverwood as a whole has is truly transforming lives. We are all so blessed to be part of this amazing family half way across the world. – Jonathan