Today’s blog post has been hijacked!

We had a wonderful day at Enaleni with many significant experiences and enjoyed a very meaningful dinner prepared for us on a homestead near Enaleni. However….today’s blog post has been officially hijacked. We will let the photos tell the stories. Today, as a team, we wanted to take some time to honour our incredible leaders! Jon and Carolyn, you continue to amaze us in so many ways! You have set an example to each one of us as to what servant leadership looks like. We love you! We want to let you know how special and valued you are:

Carolyn – Your patience and grace know no bounds, and they are two off my favourite things about you! Jon – You truly embody the phrase “being a kid at heart” (that’s a compliment!). Thank you for showing me how to let loose and have fun. – Akosua

Carolyn – You are so caring, loving and kind. Always thinking of others before yourself. I feel so fortunate and so very thankful to be part of this amazing experience with you. May God continue to bless you and keep you in His care. Jon – I feel so safe in traveling through the airports and seeing sights in Paris, an incredible tour. You allow me to be me, feeling comfortable and happy. You have such a caring personality. I am so thankful for sharing this experience with you. – Mary

Jon & Carolyn – you are LINT!!! Best leaders EVER!! – Leigh

Jon & Carolyn – When someone needs something (like a bathroom in Paris, or superglue for their broken flip-flop), Jon goes above and beyond to make sure they get it. Carolyn, you lead with patience and kindness, making everyone on the team feel valued. – Krista

Jon & Carolyn – We could not ask for two more dedicated and caring people. They both put everyone else before themselves. They are always making sure every team member is ok and always engaged with what is going on with each member. You couldn’t find anyone else who could lead our Swazi Teams year after year and always make it a tremendous experience. – Kim

Jon & Carolyn – You are both so appreciated for all of your efforts put into the 2018 Swazi mission. You both have gone above and beyond as leaders and have shown us all patience, sincerity and love each day despite busy days with little to no sleep. I feel so encouraged by you both to continue building upon my relationship with Jesus. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making me feel so welcome to the Riverwood community. – Lindsay

Jon – You have been a great influence and presence this trip. From what I understand; he has had very little sleep this trip, which only makes me appreciate him more. He has demonstrated patience, kindness and a playful sense of humour that has kept spirits up high this week. Carolyn – You are very inspiring. The genuine love and tenacity for these kids at the carepoints has been encouraging to see. She makes me want to push myself to the best that I can do for these kids, and she does this by leading by example. Thank you Jon and Carolyn! – Thomas

Jon – You have been constantly working diligently this entire trip. Whether is has been through planning all of the logistics, capturing photos, updating the blog, handling the small inconveniences and everything in between, you have done so in a composed and joyful manner. We are lucky to have you leading us. Carolyn – The work you have put into planning all the special moments for the kids does not go unnoticed. From day 1 you have been so organized and efficient in your preparation and because of it you can see how smoothly everything has been going. Your kindness and passion exudes and pours out into both the children and the team. We are lucky to have you leading us. – Jonathan

Jon & Carolyn – Your leadership is just plain outstanding. I am amazed by how you can be on top of so many details but still be so present for everyone you are serving, leading and partnering with. And all of this never losing sight of the big picture. I recognize and appreciate all of the work and of your hearts that you pour year after year into these trips. Thank you for your servant leadership, and for all the fun sprinkled in along the way. – Dana

Jon – Thank you for being such an amazing leader. You’re patient, caring, and actually pretty funny (for being a “50 year old”, dad-joking, Turkish Delight lover *puke emoji face*)! It’s been amazing watching you navigate this week and how even when you’re sleep-deprived and probably a little hangry you always calmly respond and react in every situation. I’m sure you get the same questions multiple times from different people on the daily, but yet you still remain gentle and kind. Thanks for being fun! Thanks for buying us endless snacks. Thanks for trying to dance and taking song requests. It’s an honour to serve with you here where it is evident that a piece of your heart belongs to Swaziland and it’s a pleasure to work alongside you every day! Thanks for making this an absolutely incredible first mission trip experience. Carolyn – Thank you for being such a wonderful leader. Since being on staff with you and also having you as a mentor in my life, I’ve been able to see and feel firsthand just how loving you really are. Watching you prepare, plan, and execute what you have in the months prior to the trip and now while we’re in the midst of it has inspired me in so many ways. Your example of a determined, beautiful, gentle, warm-hearted, Godly woman is truly encouraging. I count myself so blessed to have you in my life and to be leading us all on this mission trip. Thank you for loving relentlessly in every aspect of your life. Your love and kindness overflows onto every person you encounter. You are so special – to me and to everyone around you. – Nicole

Jon – Thank you so much for your kindness and patience. Thank you for all you do on the ground and in the air. Carolyn – You are an amazing person!! Your organizational skills are second to none. And your story telling with the kids was incredible. You had them hanging on every word. – Cheryl

Jon & Carolyn – I know I haven’t been attending Riverwood for long, but I really appreciate how you two have welcomed me in with open arms and made me feel like I’m part of the Riverwood family. – Jordan

Jon – I appreciate his willing to laugh in any and every situation, and his never ending patience with the team. *smiley face* Carolyn – I appreciate the way she genuinely cares for everyone she encounters – both the on team and at the carepoints. I also really appreciated her trying to learn to knit today, so that she could spend more time with her special friend, even though it was way over her head. – Kelly

Jon – Thanks for keeping the stars aligned so we can be where we need to be and do what we are called to do. Carolyn – Thanks for your huge heart and humble spirit. For you willingness to guide and encourage us to be and give our best. – Bryan

Jon & Carolyn – They lead so well, and still leave tons of room for each team member to have their own experience. They allow equal opportunity for everyone to contribute and feel valued. – Cole

Jon – without a doubt is one of my most favourite people in the world. He has an amazing ability to make each person in his path feel valuable. He adds humour to most situations but is able to pause – slow down- listen and provide wisdom, compassion and encouragement as needed!! He lives his faith!! I continue to be in awe each year at how well Jon navigates the various details and circumstances for each team. Carolyn – Quiet strength is one way I would describe her. Passionate about people- excellence- and eSwatini – just to name a few of her passions. She leads with such gentleness and confidence. Always ready to listen to whoever needs to speak with her. She shares her wisdom freely and lovingly! She is a shining reflection of our Lord as she leads each team!! – Brenda

Jon & Carolyn – Your experience and patience, as well as the care you take in preparing the team for the trip is outstanding! I felt confident in your leadership and the way you work together. Jon you make riding in the bus so much fun and the snacks are incredible! – Dolores

Carolyn – Your compassion, love, patience and kindness amaze me. I have felt so cared for and loved by you. Thank you so much for your example of leading with excellence, you truly inspire me! Jon – You are both fun and incredibly caring. You have been an amazing tour guide and navigator, and your ability to see and notice the needs of each member of our team is incredible! You make our bus rides SO much fun and thank you so much for the snacks! You lead us well! – Juanita

10 thoughts on “Today’s blog post has been hijacked!

  1. Yes. I completely agree that any team that has or ever will go with PJ & Carolyn is & always will be loved, blessed, encouraged, lift up & well served. They are beyond amazing. 10 years later & here they are still going STRONG. Jon & Carolyn. We are all so proud of you both.

  2. Loved this post! Jon and Carolyn you are Swazi Super Heroes! I’m not sure any one really knows how much sweat, tears, time, and probably even a little blood, you’ve put in over the years, perhaps Kelly and Todd have some idea 😉 You are an inspiration!

  3. Nicole is amazing. And really cute. Also your team is doing great things! Don’t become weary in doing good for at the proper time you will reap a harvest if you don’t give up!

  4. Hey Bryan! We miss you back here at St. Amant. It looks like you guys are doing amazing work. Lots of photos of genuine happiness. We wish you all the best!

  5. Yes this post really does give everyone a glimpse into what it takes to get 22 strangers essentially to become family in a very short amount of time. True leadership grows and flows from Jon and Carolyn. It is so authentic and genuine. It doesn’t end when you go home either. It continues to be felt. When I came home last year and my sister was in such a state the love and prayers from my swazi family and from my church family was tangible. I wouldn’t have been able to get through without you. I love this post because I don’t think they get to hear how much they mean to everyone. How integral they are. I know they have their supports and people who cheer them on and do life with them but it’s so nice to know there is a wider circle that love and cherish them too.
    You both truly are great examples of what it means to walk out your faith.
    Thank you Carolyn for sending me a picture of my girl. Oh she’s beautiful. I’m glad she was able to talk with you today. I have complete faith that I will again get to connect with her. Next summer prehaps 🙂
    The weekend is coming and it’s been a full week in swazi for you all. I know there are so many emotions but cherish the moments. Oh Sunday is coming again and it’s going to be another amazing experience. Another amazing leader is joining you and it’s going to something that will mark your hearts I can feel it. We are all celebrating the beautiful relationship we have with Africa. So it may only be 22 represented there but in spirit there are so many more standing with you all. Until tomorrow… Get filled up and love on our community there. – Keriann

  6. This weekend we’re celebrating 10 years of remarkable partnership with our friends, and ministry leaders and the precious people in eSwatini!…but there quite simply wouldn’t be much to celebrate this weekend with out you two! I know for a fact that you Jon…and you Carolyn put your whole hearts into everything you do…and have carried the load of this mission and the ‘boots-on-the-ground’ impact for these 10 years!

    Jon – I celebrate your even-keeled character! (You have so much weight and substance to your life…that it takes a lot to rock your boat or throw you off course!) Way to lead well, not only here in eSwatini and with this team, but every other day of the year as you serve and lead!

    Carolyn – I loved reading your team’s observations and experiences of being lead by you…but they quite literally don’t-know-the-half-of-it! Like a super-hero who allows the life and power to get drained out of them for the sake of another, you allow yourself to be drained and wrung out…daily! Leading this week, caring for all the sponsors and children, planning each day, organizing and executing leaves you with one little flickering ‘life-bar’ at the end of each day! You hold nothing back! But then, because of your reliance and connection to God, the next day…you’re filled up and ready to do it again! I watch you do that almost 365 days a year! It’s both awesome to watch…and humbling to be in the presence of someone with so much passion and impact!

    Everything this team said about you two…and your leadership and pastoring this week…I would say about you both…the other 51 weeks of the year!

    Thanks for leading us all!

    – t

  7. I love these expressions of love and statements of truth about Jon and Carolyn! We see you guys that way here in Winnipeg too, but to know that’s how you are when the rubber hits the road there…..adds even more weight to the comments above! Wherever you are…. you radiant Jesus…. both of you!! May all of you know fresh energy as you celebrate this week-end with the “week-end warriors”. We love you guys and can’t wait to hear more! Praying daily!

  8. Wow team. Honestly reading this and looking through he pictures brought tears to my eyes. It is clear that you are having an incredible experience. And more than that, you are growing together. I am so so so proud of you. The work that you are doing cannot go unnoticed. The fact that you are giving so much that you need naps during your lunch break is a testament to how much you are giving and pouring out. Honoured to be a part of a church with servants like you.

    Also, I believe that honouring our leaders is incredibly important. And honestly? Canadians are pretty terrible at it. We are usually quick to critique and criticize. And I often see first hand how our pastors are criticized and the grace that they receive it with and extend back to those that are criticizing them. What you have chosen to done is incredible. Not only is it incredibly life-giving for Jon and Carolyn, but it is also a great posture for you to carry in every day life. To honour those that lead you. Leadership can be lonely and you have reminded these two that they are not alone.

    Jon, where do I even begin. You have been an incredibly valuable voice in my life. I’m constantly saying, “Jon once told me…” or “I was talking to Jon about this and he said…” Your wisdom, character, attitude and posture are unrivalled and I consider it a privilege to serve with you and under your leadership. Our church is better because of your leadership. Having seen firsthand the level of dedication that you bring to the Swazi Trip, I can only imagine how many times you have stepped in to solve a complex situation, to offer a helping hand, to encourage someone, and to take thousands of photos, wade through them all and fall asleep countless times while updating the blog so that we can all follow along on the journey. You’re one in a million.

    Carolyn, or Mother Dove as I like to say. You are truly the mother of our church. Brenda nailed it. You possess a quiet strength. You are not domineering or loud, but man are you a powerhouse. Your sensitivity to the Spirit of God is incredible. Your caring and nurturing spirit is coupled with a fiery passion to see lives transformed. I’m constantly in awe of your leadership. Few people teach with such a stickiness. I feel like your words always stick and are continuously reminding me to go further. I can only hope that I will be half the leader that you are. Thank you for pioneering with Todd all those years ago, and thank you for being so faithful in the many years since.

    and I know you’re in the room now too so I need to say it.

    Todd, everyone look at him! Y’all this man is my PASTOR. Yes he is my boss, but more than that he is my pastor, my leader, the shepherd herding this sometimes unruly sheep. I can’t imagine what my life would look like if it were not for your trust, your releasing spirit, your gentle guidance, and your incredible love. No one has given me opportunities like you have. I was a lucky kid to walk into your office all those years ago. I’m constantly humbled and in awe of what you have entrusted to me, and I am continuously thankful for the opportunity to serve with and lead under your leadership. I see the weight that you carry (if even just in glimpses). I see the humble attitude with which you lead, never seeking to place yourself at the top but always seeking to elevate others. I see your love for the people. Few pastors would make it such a priority to run between buildings on a Sunday so that they could shake as many hands as possible, but this man does it. And you want to know why? Because above all else he loves people. He has dedicated everything to making people feel welcomed and special and loved, as a father, husband, and pastor. And I consider it an honour and a privilege to be one of those people. LOVE YOU BISHOP!

    So leaders, THANK YOU for the many YEARS that you have put into leading not just our connection with Swaziland, but also our church. Blessed by each of you and I’m with you heart and soul.

    And team, thank you for leading our church. Thank you for stepping out to serve the least of these. Couldn’t ask for a better bunch to serve in Eswatini.

    Love you ALL! Praying for you!

    Zach

  9. Thank you for continuing to share your amazing stories with us each day. Thank you Jon and Carolyn for your leadership in this journey and inspiring those in the group to follow the lead. Thank you for bringing Thomas into this experience. This week seems to have gone by very quickly. You have all done such an amazing job of shining the light of Jesus into the lives of the children of eSwatini. A couple more days of pushing hard with your love and energy. We continue to pray for each one of you on this journey.

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