Leaving it all on the field…

Well….as I write this our team has settled into the fact that we have completed all the planned days at our carepoints and are left with the anticipation of one final day together here in eSwatini (Swaziland) with the much anticipated 10-year celebration at Enaleni church tomorrow. It really is remarkable the simultaneous feeling of both how quick our time has gone and the feeling that the day we boarded the plane feels like a lifetime ago. Even our “Weekend Warriors” feel that in a short day and a half, their arrival is a distant memory.

I think it has something to do with the fact that every day is so packed with experiences, emotions, and connections. The work God is doing within our team, shaping our hearts, has been significant for all of us. We are weary from carrying such full hearts but ready to open them again for a pretty special day tomorrow.

Our “Fun Day” at Enaleni lived up to its title….we had a blast today watching the kids and our team enjoy a great party. The streamers were set, balloons hung, bouncer plugged in, and cupcakes set for our Christmas party as we welcomed all the children to the event. All the kids were divided into small groups and led by one of our team members as they made their way through the various stations we had planned. Lots of laughter, smiles, and singing was seen an heard all over the carepoint grounds. How fun and what a privilege it was to share with these treasured friends. Shout out to our pre-school team as we watched them herd 40 little ones all day from cupcakes, to bouncy castles, to water breaks. They had their hands full!

We loved watching Todd and his “weekend warriors” integrate into our team seamlessly and just hit the ground running at Enaleni. They had a great day meeting kids, enjoying the new experiences, and just taking it all in. We are thrilled to have them here. We had a fun moment as we were singing together. We were singing the Christmas song we had taught them, and as I tried to end it, the kids basically took it over and carried on singing on their own….almost in defiance as they refused to bring an end to the moment. So many highlights this week singing and dancing with these kids. It was pretty cool to hear the carepoint choir perform for us! So amazing and we are so proud of these kids.

Today also presented a few difficult moments as Carolyn woke up feeling pretty sick and it worsened through the day. Just past midday, she ended up having to leave to lay down and get out of the heat. For anyone that knows Carolyn, this was a sign that something certainly wasn’t right as it would take more than a significant occasion to remove her from being with these kids. At the end of the day, as the team settled in for supper, we ended up taking her into the clinic and the doctor is now treating her for South African tick fever. We are praying that the medications can take shape quickly and that she would be given the strength and ability to enjoy the day fully tomorrow at the celebration. God would you meet us in these prayers. For now….we head to bed knowing we have the gift of one more day in front of us before beginning the journey home. We are SO proud of this team….all 25 of us….these folks have held nothing back and invested themselves fully. Such a remarkable group of people! Lala Kahle (sleep nice). We will see you after the big celebration!

TEAM REFLECTIONS:

Wow. I am at loss for words as I reflect on my days in Swaziland. As a first timer, my experiences have completely overwhelmed me and I have been amazed by the love, generosity and grace shown to me by the Swazi people. From the time I step out of the bus, I am greeted by many smiling children running up to me and eager to begin our day together. A great memory was made for me at Enaleni. I set-up a spontaneous bowling station from empty water bottles and balls of homemade play-dough. I was surprised when this became a popular activity among the younger children and I quickly became teary as I observed the excitement in their eyes. A few older girls quickly stepped in to coordinate turn taking of the match and cheered as the bottles were knocked down one-by-one. I will always be grateful for the daily reminders these children have given to me, and today this was illustrated by the incredible joy found in simplicity. – Lindsay

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This is the time of the trip I tend to dread. All the lessons are done and singing is over. The Fun days are behind us and we can take a breath. We have given it all we had and then some. Our daily water consumption is beyond belief and sweat has become the new norm. We have laughed and cried, hugged and held, sang and danced so hard that the hills and valleys echo with the sound.

Now for the downer. Saying good-bye. This is not my first trip and in fact this has been trip eight. Over the years I have had the pleasure of making a lot of friends and growing many good relationships. I would consider many of our Swazi friends to be my family. I truly wish that I could say “see you next year” or “I’ll be back”. Over the years we have been taught to avoid saying anything that could be taken as a promise or a commitment. So how do we tell our new friends that we do want to return or even that we will miss them terribly? How do we keep it together when they beg us to stay and tell us that they will be so sad that sleep will not come and hunger will cease?

I no longer wonder if our presence has a lingering affect on those we meet. Smiles on the faces of the kids as they pass, a hand slide in passing. A glance and smile across a room. All are worth many words because of a history that words fail to describe. Quiet talks with older teens who are looking for guidance through life stuff. Group talks about the facts of growing up and how to treat each other and the opposite gender. A burst of laughter when we talk about those uncomfortable topics. These are the building moments, the very foundation of lasting relationships. These are the reasons I keep coming back to continue the work that consumes my mind and heart throughout the year.

One last note: Thanks to all those who made an effort to find me while I was here in Eswatini this year. I will cherish the moments that we had and continue pay that God will bring us together again. – Bryan

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God has blessed me so abundantly in eSwatini. I can’t understand why, but I am more grateful than I can express. I have a family here. A real family who loves me and calls me daughter and sister. Who welcomes me into their home and into their lives. A mother who asks me when I am bringing her grandsons to visit. And even in the few days that we’ve been on the ground here I’ve had multiple opportunities to connect with them in deep and meaningful (and spontaneous and unexpected) ways.

I can’t wait to see them again tomorrow at the ten year celebration. It’s going to be INSANE. I don’t think any of us really comprehend the enormity of what tomorrow will be. I’m somewhat terrified actually, and deeply deeply honoured. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you who have paved the way over the past decade for us to be here now at this place in time. – Allison

5 thoughts on “Leaving it all on the field…

  1. Bryan- I know how deeply you mourn when you have to leave those beautiful people and the beauty’s country but know that you have given your all. You don’t truly leave there. You are connected and bonded beyond the physical realm. It is at this point that I start to pray more for you all to be filled up.

    Carolyn – I hope you are ok!! I remember Cheryl had that one year. I am praying for supernatural healing so that you can make the trip home.

    Jon-thank you for giving me a glimpse into the days. I told Scott that I was visiting eswatini every night. I miss it though. Maybe next year!!

    Krista-I hope it was everything you wanted I can’t wait to hear the stories. I’m praying as you work through the emotions and the experiences.

    Alison – I know that one day you will have your family there. Russ, ready and Jordan will meet all your swazi family. I pray this to come to fruition. I just love seeing how at home you are there!

    Church day is amazing but 10 years oh boy… Buckle up because God is showing up to that celebration.

    Sending my love and prayers
    Keriann xo

  2. Praying for you Carolyn – i hope that you are feeling better and can enjoy the epic celebration at the end. Thank you again to you and Jon for the amazing job you have done pouring your hearts into this amazing annual trip. The deep connection across the many miles is so evident.
    I pray that you have all rested well and recharged for the amazing day of celebration as your time in eSwatini wraps up.
    Sending you all lots of love and prayers for safe travels.

  3. Way to go Team!
    It is always a sad day when it is the end. But you all put your hearts on the line and did an amazing job! Thank you so much everyone for putting everything you had into Eswatini! It has been so amazing to hear all the stories. I can’t wait to hear about the celebration. It been cool to see the weekend warriors fitting in like a puzzle piece… I still think all 4 of you are crazy! But a good crazy.
    Carolyn.. I hope the meds helped enough so you could enjoy the celebration.
    Thank you (again) everyone who has shared and for loving on our communities! And I know the team has thanked you but Thank you Jon and Carolyn for following God’s heart to lead this team and many before.
    Enjoy the much needed rest.. you deserve it! Praying for you all!

  4. Praying for you Carolyn. Wow. God’s amazing timing is perfect knowing that you would of needed Todd there to help you feel a bit better. Thank you Lord. Also do I still have my small group leader ? What have you done to poor Dana? Dana, if you get this message at all, make contact ASAP. LOL. I did not see any pictures of her today! PJ. Remember you you are coming home. ( wait a minute, are you ok also PJ.? No pictures of you either. LOL. Rest well team. Safe travels home & since you guys are all out there living it up & partying you know what they say, RAISE A LITTLE — — — — (.RUCKES) SEE you all whenever.

  5. Hey all! I’m slow to post but Carolyn I’ve been praying for you since I heard on Sunday what happened with you. I’m trusting you’re feeling much better now as you journey home! To you all…. I have been so so moved reading your comments and hearing your hearts of compassion, of connection and great love for all our friends there! Carolyn!! Thank you so much for sending us pics of our special friend! What a handsome boy! Continuing to pray for you all as you journey home! Love you guys!

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