Grief, games and being present.

Today was a Bhobokazi carepoint day, but it began much differently than any other day in the history of team trips to Swaziland. Our team of 21 began this day squeezed into a tiny room on a homestead where a family was grieving the loss of a husband, father and grandfather who had suddenly passed away a few days earlier. We entered the dark room silently and sat down on the floor. In the corner sat a woman, now a widow, completely covered in a blanket with 2 relatives at her side. Our heart broke for this woman, whose face we could not see but whose heartbreak and cries we could hear! We sang, prayed, and read scripture, seeking to minister Christ’s compassion and care for her, while feeling very humbled that we had been invited into this home, during one of the most vulnerable times in the life of a woman and her family. As everyone got up to leave, a couple of us were asked to stay behind. The grieving widow took the blanket off her head. She looked much younger than I had imagined her to be when her face was still hidden. Her eyes were not only sad but had a look of longing and desperation. Life was hard before this loss and now in a matter of hours it had become even harder!

Riverwood – would you please join us in praying for this woman and her family? God says in Psalm 34:18 that He is close to the broken hearted and saves those whose spirits are crushed. Please pray that she and her family would feel that closeness, and experience His faithfulness in their lives in the days to come!

On every trip we are confronted with circumstances of deep sadness and also exuberant joy. Today this happened all in one day! An hour after our visit at the homestead, we were walking onto the grounds of Bhobokazi carepoint – some hearts still heavy but fully ready to engage in the activity and fun of a bunch of energetic kids, ready to play…

Here are some highlights from today…

#1 Our prayer time with the Bomake (ladies who cook at the CarePoint) the nurses and Elliot our bus driver; needs shared and brought before God’s throne of mercy and grace! Our Canadians did a great job praying Swazi style….everybody all at once
#2 So many games! Jenga, Twister, Perfection, Skip-Bo….so much fun

#3 Kelly, Mary & Allison climbing to the top of the trees with too many kids in tow!

#4 Some pretty fantastic lego masterpieces

#5 The emergence of the knitting crew (the kids love knitting!)….working on this years project – dishcloths
#6 Interactive Storytelling with the sounds of Angels and Sheep as the kids hear one of the greatest stories of Jesus birth!

#7 All of the older girls receiving “Days for Girls” kits for their “time of the month” so that they aren’t held back from going to school or taking part in activities

#8 And of course our excitement that Todd & his team (the “Weekenders”) have boarded their flight en route to join us on Friday afternoon!

Swazi Team 2018 are giving their all! We are so proud of the way each person is maximizing every moment; giving kids great experiences, sharing love, truth and prayers, while not holding back from also entering into people’s pain and difficulty! Thanks for your support, prayers and encouragement of this team! – Carolyn


Grief is Grief- Across the World Today as I sat with our team in the home of the widow, I experienced a myriad of thoughts and emotions. Memories of the loss of my dad and my husband flooded my mind and heart. As with the husband of the widow, my dad had died suddenly after being sick for just a few days. I had watched my mother as she grieved the loss of her life partner. I was struck by the similarities between the two widows and what they would have been feeling…what was their life going to look like? How would they be provided for? Would the pain ever go away? As the memories continued to swirl around in my head the parallels continued. As is the custom in Swazi culture the widow was sitting with her head and body entirely covered by a sheet. On either side of her sat a lady who faithfully waved the ends of the sheet to provide some relief from the extra heat that the covering would have caused. I felt that their sole thought was to just sit with their friend in the silence and share her pain and grief. Often there are no words; we are comforted by the PRESENCE. I know what it is to experience the love and comfort from friends and family in the early days of grief. My heart broke for the widow but I know where her help will come from! Psalm 121: 1-2 I lift my eyes up to the mountains, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. She will walk in grief and be held up by friends and loved ones AND she will experience the comfort that only the Father can provide. I pray that she feels the Lord’s peace and presence as He holds her hand on every step of the journey. One day she will be able to share that same comfort to another. – Brenda


Once we arrived back at the guest house today I showered and went out to the balcony. The breeze was strong and no one was in sight. After a scorching hot day in very close quarters it was glorious, and it was exactly what I needed. I sat there revelling in my good fortune and took a few minutes to recharge. After a while another team member showed up and we started to chat. During our conversation he asked me, “What did you do today?” and I was startled to realize that I had no idea. What did I do? I didn’t play soccer or skip. I didn’t colour or paint. I didn’t do puzzles or play games or blow bubbles, although those things were happening all around me. I’ve done them all before and I’m sure I will again. But today I was just there. With the kids. We hugged and chatted and I wandered from place to place. I said bengikukhumbula (I missed you) and ngiyakutsandza (I love you). I built up existing relationships and formed new ones. Because my kids are growing up. My time with them is limited and I’m already missing some familiar faces this year. But although my friends will all move on from the care points eventually, I have confidence that I will not. Because eSwatini is in my soul. It is a part of me forever and I’m so grateful to have reached a place where I don’t feel a need to “do” or accomplish anything while I’m here. I can just be. I used to feel lost and stressed at any moment that I wasn’t actively engaging with the kids, and I feel like something finally clicked for me today. I will drink in every sight, and sound and smell. I will cherish the moments I have with the people that I love and store them up in my heart to carry me through until we meet again. – Allison


The Lord is so good and amazing!!! The moments our team has shared together cannot be explained in words. The Lord continues to amazes us daily. We have had so many highs and lows. The Lord continues provide the strength we need, the words to say, the love to share. I experienced an amazing moment this afternoon during my group session with 7 grade school children. They had been asked to journal what they where thankful to God for. One Grade 6 Student wrote the following that I would loved to share with you. It brought me to tears. “Dear God. Hello thank you God for protection and caring for me until this time. I thank God for protecting our friends in Canada. I also thank you God for supporting me in school and in times of sicknesses. Thank you my God for giving me friends that would teach me about you. I love you God and all the friends you have given me especially Kim and I Love him with Kailey and Jaret. I thank you God for sending your only son to die for our sins here on earth.” As you can see from this note this young girl is quite an amazing person. Thanks everyone for your love, prayers and words of encouragement to our 2018 Swaziteam. – Kim


10 thoughts on “Grief, games and being present.

  1. Carolyn – you amaze me. Your heart and your caring nature. You are an amazing leader. Thank you for thinking of me by sending an email about a teaching position while you are so busy in Swaziland. You didn’t wait. You forwarded it on to me and I believe this is a nudging from God. I’m going to pursue it and I will let you know what happens but I just wanted you to know how so very special you are to me. You build me up and I am so thankful for your friendship. I know that everyone sitting around the team debriefing reading this will agree too. You really are a force to be reckoned with. I pray for you to be fully filled up with all the love that you pour out into others. Thank you really doesnt say how much I appreciatse you. Xo

    Brenda – what a powerful moment it must have been to be there in their grieving. I remember last year I was invited into grief and it still remains with me. The brokenness, the beauty and the community that pulls together. I remember last year when I was broken by the grief that you just held me and let me cry. You are a beautiful leader too. I love your openness and your heart to share your story. You are so wonderful. I’m glad they were able to have you to comfort them.
    Alison…you look so at home there. It definitely is in your soul. I know your boys miss you and you miss them but it is so wonderful to See you in your element and just being there enjoying every moment.
    I love coming to Swaziland every night even if it’s only a glimpse. I search for pictures of my kids… But haven’t spotted them yet. I will continue looking safe in the knowledge that you are all loving them and telling them how much I miss them.

    Until tomorrow… Sleep well and be filled up to overflowing. – Keriann

  2. I just looked again and Cole you talked to my boy and Jon captured the moment. Oh he looks so healthy and so much bigger!! I’m so glad he talked to you Cole what a wonderful example you are for him. YEAH!! THIS MADE MY HEART HAPPY!!

  3. Hey Team!

    Is everyone comfy? Find a good spot, settle in, grab a snack or a drink (don’t worry, we’ll wait).

    Okay everyone ready? It’s gonna be a long one. 🙂

    Wow team. What a beautiful opportunity you had at Bhobokazi. To be there with a widow in her grief. Just another testament to how you (and the many teams that have gone before you) have paved the way to allow for such a precious opportunity. Remember that as you serve in these days, you are laying a foundation for the teams that will come after you, just as the teams that have gone before you have laid a foundation for you.

    Brenda, as I read your reflection I was reminded of a phrase that Mark always says, “Pain becomes platform.” While God never intends for bad things to happen to us, he is also not content to allow those things to be wasted. So he helps us heal and grow from the pain and it provides a platform of authority and qualification to speak about that kind of pain. You know more than most about the pain this woman was experiencing. And you are able to speak into that, even if simply to sit there with her.

    Allison, I love how you are feeling so at home at the Carepoints. Because that what that feeling is. You know when you move somewhere and for a while you come home and you’re so aware of all the newness. But then suddenly, one day, you come home and it just feels right. And you realize “oh! I guess this is home now.” I think that’s what you experienced, and what a cool thing to experience! Also, as you say goodbye to familiar faces, remember that they’ve been set up to succeed. Because of the love and support of the care point they have been given opportunities and skills that will allow them to go on to do great things! And perhaps, even come back and lead at the Carepoints.

    Kim, what a beautiful glimpse into the heart of one of our swazi friends! And a heart that is such an example to all of us. That there is always lots to be thankful for, and that our thankfulness reminds us how incredibly loved we are. God is always placing good things in our path, and sometimes all we need to do is pause, look up, and take a moment to notice them. Thank you so much for sharing. 🙂

    A couple shout outs!

    Dana! I love seeing all the photos of you serving! Proud to have you as one of our church’s elders and I’m honoured to serve under your leadership. Your example just goes to show that in the Kingdom of God, everyone needs to put on the serving towel.

    Nicole! Love the pic of you and Gracie! Isn’t she just the best???

    Carolyn! Love the pic of you surrounded by little ones. I’m sure your grandma (or should I say gogo) heart was bursting as it was taken. Also thanks for the picture of my boy! Don’t worry, you didn’t wake me up 🙂

    Well team, I should probably give some others a chance to share! I think my comments are getting longer each day haha

    Well done serving. Can’t wait to read about your adventures at Enaleni today. Continuing to pray for all of you!


  4. WOW!
    Looks like another great day! And I am sure that will never change.

    I love hearing how the days have gone for the team members. But I want to especially thank Kim who shared about our truly amazing special friend. I am glad that you were able to meet Nonhle. It brought tears to both our eyes.

    Carolyn, I am starting to think your girl at Bhobo doesn’t know how to smile properly. haha She always makes me laugh with her goofy faces.

    Thank you all for loving on all these special kids, we wish we were there with you. We are praying for you all… and for the crazy “weekenders” that will be joining you.
    You guys are doing awesome!

  5. This is a new experience for our family. Amazing, touching, moving, inspiring, motivational, renewing, and hopeful stories with beautiful pictures to bring the stories to life. We admire the work being done. To our son Jordan, we are proud of you. Stepping out of your comfort zone, exploring life, opening your heart to new people, opening your mind to the reality that there are people who are suffering and recognizing the fact that you have the ability to help. To Tom, many thanks for inviting Jordan on this journey. We love hearing the stories and look for the smiles and joy on your faces. We are praying for the team and for the the families involved.

  6. Thank you Carolyn, Brenda, Allison, and Kim for sharing today. Your willingness to be vulnerable and share your experiences is so valuable to me. That said Allison’s story was my favorite! 😉 And now for some quotes from Russ, with absolutely no context, because that makes them funnier. (Don’t worry he’s 4 there wasn’t a whole lot of context to begin with)

    “I’m the mommy bear you’re the daddy bear”

    “We’re polar bears fighting”

    “We’re wolves fighting “

    “This zoo is open late”

    “These polar bears are not mammals in the summer. Their fur falls off and they lay eggs.”

  7. Every day I am praying for you all! Jon thank you so much for taking us all on the journey with your absolutely stunning photos! I feel like I’m getting to know each one of you a whole lot more thru your words and your faces! How is that possible from a distance?! There’s a lump in my throat as I read your stories. Thank you all for your vulnerability! I am joining you in prayer for this beautiful woman who has lost her dear husband. I love it that as all of you take care of what’s important to our God over there, He truly is taking care of what’s important to you here at home! So much love xo Rhoda

  8. I love that you are enpowering the young women there!! Turning ‘periods into pathways’ as Days for Girls say. By your group bringing and distributing quality menstrual care solutions you are striving to shatter the stigmas and limitations that have been imposed on women!! Good on you, Leigh Mae!! I am sooooooo proud of your work….. You move me to tears.

  9. He I in joy the blog ,I praise God for you all and pray Gods blessing on you bring me some pictures from my friends and Anele .I miss too be there .Love Agnes

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