A homecoming and a collision of emotions.

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.

TEAM REFLECTIONS.

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

13 thoughts on “A homecoming and a collision of emotions.

  1. Yes Jon yes!! You opened the door a little and I truly felt like I was there. Oh I loved the caption at the end. Enalani is such a beautiful special place. They both have their own vibe but it was wonderful seeing the pictures and hearing about your days. Jonathan I’m so glad that you were able to connect with your girl this time. I do remember you trying to learn the language and the girls laughing. What a great memory that she obviously cherished all year long. Cheryl.. I’m so glad that you were able to pray for that wonderful gogo. I know that she felt your love. It’s hard to not feel your love though. You exude it.
    I remember the moment of stepping off the bus in Enalani and the love that greeted me there. I don’t think that Swaziland is ever far from the hearts of those who have been there. I also know how fast the time goes and how much you want time to stand still. Please give my love to my kids there. Swihwakile in bhobo and Cebsile in enalani. Hug them extra big from me. I love them so.
    Cohl I’m still in awe from your reflection. It is everything that I have believed. Jesus is all we need. You all are showing the love that Jesus taught about. You my friend have always been someone that I looked up to. You may be younger than I am but you have this light inside of you that shines so brightly. I often pray for you and watch in awe what God has in store for you. What a beautiful example of what faith looks like. I’m definitely a fan 🙂
    Krista – I’m praying that you are being lifted up and that this experience is everything you’ve wanted it to be and more. I look for pictures of you all and rejoice in knowing that you are all exactly where you are supposed to be. The moments of brokenness, the collision with emotions and the debriefing will be the moments that are in your heart forever. They are moments that are hard to explain to those who have never been but are moments that never leave you. They change you. They make you better and those tears help to heal you. The community you are experiencing right now is something that will be with you forever. Cherish it. You are missed back home. You are loved back home and we will all be there to welcome you when you arrive. Until then, leave it all out in the field. Love those people and let them love you. Praying always – Keriann

  2. Now please tell me that, that honestly cannot be my little Nomphilo in that dress with the big smile. If it is I am going to have to introduce her to a nice looking pair of Levi’s jeans. Way to go team. Keep on loving, serving, hugging & blessing our family members ( kids & go,go’s/ mage’s) PJ that picture of you holding that baby is so precious. Leigh hopefully ( but highly doubt) it that you are behaving yourself. Who is your poor roommate this year? Poor sucker, tell them that I am really praying for them. ( & yes of course you also) Dana. I absolutely love your hat. I am so sorry but I’ve been meaning to check in with Andrew to see if you still have kids alive back here in the PEG. I am so proud of you all but especially my favourite 1 who is Dana. You ROCK Girl. That picture of you yesterday Dana holding that child really tore me to pieces, you are honestly in your element. & Now for Krista. Every time that I think & remember your story & heart’s compassion & you sharing such deep emotion of having to wait 9 long years to meet your precious special little guy I just can’t imagine & yes that really struck my heart strings way to blooming hard, why do you think that I couldn’t even begin to say a word any sooner than this & thanks , even now I’m a mess still 24 hours later. If anyone sees my little Nomphilo please hug her for me & let her know how much I love, & miss her & that I’m thinking of her & praying for her & her family even though I’m a horrible redhead that never ever writes her. The love, thoughts & prayers are always there. Blessings to you all.

  3. Way to Go Team!

    Cheryl.. your home visit at Enaleni brought me to tears with the whisper of “everything”. Jaret almost had to finish reading for me. It’s a stark reminder of how things can be in Eswatini, but there is so much that prayer can do.

    Jonathan… I love that you made a song of Siswati words with the Enaleni kids and they remembered it. How fun is that.

    I love seeing all the pictures and smiles! Praying for you all!

  4. Jonathan/Jonathon. It is awesome to see you back there again so soon. Your energy, enthusiasm and creativity are shining through. I have strong memories of you flying around on the playground equipment like some giant yard ape. Small wonder that you are remembered so well. Dolores. Picture after picture of you there and displaying your heart of a mother. You are truly in your element. Cole and Brenda. That ‘caption this picture’ sheet is priceless. I laughed out loud. Cole, I will be there soon to turn Brenda’s eye rolls and head shakes off you a little bit. You’re welcome.
    God bless you, team. We are all so very proud of you. Continue to have fun and be blessed.
    Jos

  5. I had so many emotions washing over me as I read and took in this post. Not even Russ with his liberal use of the emoji keyboard could express them. (And he is asleep and so not available anyway) The prevalence of sorrow and brokenness seemingly holding hands with joy and wholeness is overwhelming. Mixed together they create an unique emotion that I do not have a word for. For me it is inseparable from Swaziland. I immediately can hear, smell, touch, taste, and see Swaziland as I feel it. I am so grateful for all of you being there. Singing , dancing, crying, and piggy back riding. Thank you!

  6. Wow another amazing day for our Riverwood team. Thomas and Jordan we love seeing the huge smiles on your faces as you share the love of Jesus with these precious children. We are praying for this team each day. Keep up the amazing work!

  7. I feel like there’s this heart explosion every time (and teary feeling), as I read your stories and see your pics! Jon and Carolyn…. you are leading so well (“well done good and faithful servants!”) To all of you…. I don’t think I’ve ever seen bigger smiles on you as when you’re there! It seems like the radiance of Christ literally explodes out of you as you give and give and it’s awesome to see on every pic! We love you here and pray for you every day! My prayer today has been for health & strength for each of you…. and also I’m praying for each of your precious families that you’ve left behind. Our God cares for you and cares for your families here! Big hug to each of you!! Rhoda

  8. Hey Team! It seems that I’ve got some competition for longest comment haha!

    As you sit in the team room after a long day back at Bhobokazi I am praying for each of you. Continue to give it all you’ve got. Isn’t it weird how the days somehow seem so full and so long, but they’re also going by so quickly? Weird eh? Who’s falling asleep, give them a gentle nudge awake. Have you been enjoying the team room snacks or has Jon bought too many of the weirdest chocolate that is now half melted? One time I got locked in my room and had to shout out of the bathroom window for someone to come rescue me. Anyone else had a similarly panic-inducing but also funny experience? Can’t wait to hear about it!

    What a beautiful first day at Enaleni! And how incredible to see how the partnership of 10 years has created lasting impact not just physically, with buildings and infrastructure, but also with new leaders and relationships being built. We have been given such a privilege to be part of the Enaleni and Bhobokazi stories. Well done continuing the relationship, I’m honoured to have been part of the story and I’m glad that each of you is also getting to be part of the story.

    Cheryl, my heart was broken with yours as I read your reflection on your home visit. I’m reminded of a song that says, “Break my heart for what breaks yours.” God is also heart-broken over the plight of his Swazi children. Allow yourself to feel that heart-brokenness (is that a word? haha). We never want to become desensitized or hardened to this hardship, because when we allow our hearts to remain soft to the pain it pushes us to continue to fight for the least of these. Pretty sure that was a run-on sentence… oh well!

    Jonathan! I’m so glad that you got to return to Enaleni again this year. And your story is really evidence of the much larger story of Enaleni and Bhobokazi. That the continued returning of our team builds trust and love between our two communities. Your little girl is able to grow in her trust of you and chooses to open up. What a blessing that you got to be there to witness it!

    Some quick shout outs!

    Kelly! Love the photos of you and Busisiwe playing together! She looks so full of joy and sass (is she ever not?)

    Brenda! Love seeing you back with all your friends in Swaziland (excuse me, Eswatini). Have you forgiven me yet for getting my care package in so late?

    Cole! I have a caption for the photo of you and Brenda: “I’m right, you’re wrong, shut up.” (A little harsh but I heard it once in a movie or something and laughed so much so I figured you could read it in the most loving way possible? Maybe not haha

    Well team, have a good night preparing for your next day! Get some rest, journal about what you’ve experience so far, and I’ll write to you tomorrow!

    Zach

  9. I am filled with many different emotions as I pour over the posts and look at the pictures, over and over. I am so happy for the team and thankful for all of the amazing work you are doing out there. I know it can be challenging and tiring but keep pushing on. You are making immense impacts and creating life-changing relationships that will positively effect these kids lives forever, as well as your own. The eSwatini culture continues to inspire me 14 000 km away. In times of stress and deadlines I find myself trying to slow down, stop and try to connect and enjoy conversations and relationships more. So keep slowing down, connecting and building lasting relationships. You are doing amazing things.
    Jonathan, thank you for sharing your story, it moved me to tears. Happy tears.Tell Lindo I miss her and play catch with Bahke for me. I am so proud of you.
    – Amy Janzen

  10. Cheryl and Jonathon, your comments had me in tears and then I saw the picture of Cole and Brenda. Thanks for the roller coaster ride. – Deb Schwartz

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