Thursday, March 18, 2010

Blog moved to new website

Per the announcement in my last update, my blog is now located on the new One Child At A Time, One Heart At A Time website.  I hope you will continue to follow what’s happening in Swaziland on the new website.

Click on the following url to access the new website or cut and paste it into your browser.  

Blessings to you all!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Changes for 2010!

After a busy and seemingly short time in the US, I am back on African soil! It is hard to believe that two and a half months passed so quickly. The time in the US was filled with precious memories of wonderful times spent with family, friends, and worshiping with my family in Christ not only in Round Rock, Texas, but in Idaho and California as well. Here’s a quick recap:
I was in Round Rock for most of the month of December. I was blessed to worship in my church home and attend the annual Christmas bell concert benefiting the Round Rock Serving Center. The Bell ministry at First United Methodist Church in Round Rock blessed us with the most beautiful music one can imagine. And then the following week I was able to be further blessed by the Christmas choral concert benefiting the Round Rock Caregivers. This concert consisted of choirs from 12 churches in Round Rock. Each church performed one or two songs and then at the end the choirs from all 12 churches came together to sing the Hallelujah Chorus. Words cannot describe how awesome it is. Christmas was spent at my house with my youngest son Scott and his girlfriend Tara, my niece and her family, my dear friend Mary and her family and then as a special surprise treat, my God daughter Denise and her three sons came to spend the evening and the following day with us. It was a very relaxed and wonderful time spent simply enjoying each other’s company.

On the 27th I flew to Seattle to spend a week with my oldest son Christopher, and his wife Jen. I had an awesome time catching up with them and Jen’s family. The area is so incredibly beautiful, though I must say I always freeze in that part of the country in December. From there I went to Idaho to spend a few days with my brother and his wife. There are so many memories there of mom and dad. While there we spent a few days up in the mountains in their “getaway” house. It snowed much of the time we were up there. Have you ever gone in a hot tub when it was snowing on you? When the cold snow would hit our skin it felt like little tingles covering our bodies. It was absolutely incredible.

It’s a good thing I got some rest in December because once I returned to Round Rock in January, things started getting real busy. The second week in January I spoke about Swaziland to the United Methodist Temple District United Methodist Women’s Epiphany gathering and at a soup luncheon at my own church. Both were awesome opportunities. It was at a Temple district UMW meeting in 2002 that I heard a missionary speak of her kids in Nepal that put the spark of wanting to be a mission in my heart. A few days later I joined other adults from our church on a mission trip to San Leon, Texas to help with the reconstruction efforts to some of the homes that were damaged by hurricane Ike 18 months earlier. San Leon is on a peninsula, surrounded on three sides by water. It took the brunt of hurricane’s force. Most people forgot about hurricane Ike many months ago, but many people in this small town can’t forget because they are still living in houses that haven’t been repaired. They are reminded daily of that disaster. Our team went to assist UMCOR’s (the United Methodist Committee on Relief) on-going relief efforts in that area. If you are not familiar with UMCOR, I encourage you to go to their website ( and see the work they do both in the United States and internationally. Their organization and compassion are outstanding. They have been hosting teams from all around the United States and from many different denominations since shortly after the hurricane. They work with the government and the local community to find the people who have the greatest need and the least amount of resources. Then they assess the damage, organize the building materials needed and the labor to repair the homes. Most of the people didn’t have insurance and the amount of relief they receive from FEMA is now where near adequate, but with the help of dedicated UMCOR volunteers and willing teams that provide the labor they are rebuilding people’s homes and their lives. Being in Africa is a humbling experience, but seeing the conditions in the United States that these people have had to live in was probably even more humbling. It certainly brings meaning to the phrase: “there but for the grace of God, go I.”

From there I went to spend the last two weeks of January in California where I was spoiled by my dear friend Laura and her family. We spent time up in the mountains, played tourist in San Francisco having a wonderful meal at Fisherman’s wharf and simply enjoyed hanging out. I also had the opportunity to reconnect with my sisters-in-Christ that I shared a week with last summer in Bulembu. Afterwards I spent an awesome evening in Pacific Grove being spoiled by one of my newer dear friends from that Bulembu experience and then speaking at her church. The church was small but very beautiful, the organ music incredible, and the congregation very warm and welcoming. The following Sunday I was blessed to spend with Jeri and Gary driving up to a small but mighty church in Vacaville where we participated in a wonderful worship service complete with African drums. After the service we were treated to an African meal and then I shared my work and love of Swaziland with them. From there Jeri and Gary took me to their church in Los Gatos which was as large as the church in Vacaville was small. But it was also very warm and welcoming. Talk about open hearts, open minds, open doors. All three of these congregations don’t just say the words, it was clear that they truly believe in practicing these beliefs.

By then it was February and I flew back to Texas. The last 3 weeks of my time at home was very, very busy and just flew by. I had more speaking engagements and was blessed and warmly welcomed each place I went. Each of the three churches I visited were so special in their own way. I also spent as much time as I could with my family and friends.
During the last 3 – 4 weeks of my time in the US, the Lord ve me His answer on how long my commitment and stay in Swaziland would be. While He didn’t give me a specific date of when I would come back to the US, He did clearly guide me and two of my dear longtime friends and supporters of my ministry in Swaziland (Laura from California and Deb from Minnesota) to form a nonprofit. It took nothing short of a miracle to do all of the necessary planning and paper work in just a few weeks. But by the grace of God, we did it and have opened a nonprofit in the State of Texas. The name is: One Child At A Time – One Heart At A Time. We have applied for tax-exempt status with the IRS and waiting for their approval. Our heads are swimming and our hearts are full. We can’t believe this dream has actually come true and we are excited for the possibilities it opens up to continue the ministry in Swaziland.
This blog is moving to our new website: . The new website will allow us to have more communication with you, our faithful supporters and open up additional avenues for financial support. There will be an easier way for you to comment and respond to my blog. I look forward to another God filled and directed year in Swaziland and I pray that God richly blesses us all in 2010.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Dec 1st - A big day for Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu

Tuesday, December 1st was a big day for our Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu Project.  After many months of working towards our goal, we brought the kids from Lutfotja Methodist Primary school that are a part of this project, HIV+ and receiving monthly medication to the newly opened satellite Baylor-Bristol-Meyers Squibb Children's Clinical Center of Excellence in Manzini.  Let me explain what a milestone this is for our project and our kids.

Baylor College of Medicine in Houston has a Children’s foundation in Swaziland which is an international non-profit non-governmental organization founded as a partnership between Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative and the government of Swaziland.  In 2006 it opened the Baylor College of Medicine Bristol Myers-Squibb Children’s Clinical Centre of Excellence-Swaziland (COE) in Mbabane which is a state-of-the-art Pediatric AIDS facility that tests, treats and cares for children and their families that are HIV+.  It is very impressive but more importantly it provides the best care and treatment possible for those who attend their facility.  They also operate satellite clinics in two cities in Swaziland, one of which is at the RFM Hospital/Clinic in Manzini.  The clinic in Manzini was operating out of several of their existing rooms in the RFM’s pediatric clinic.  They did a phenomenal job, with the little space and resources they had in Manzini.  They were slated to open a new clinic on the grounds of the RFM in Manzini in February, 2009.  After funding and other delays, they finally opened the new clinic the last week of November, 2009.

Since August, 2008, we have been paying the transport costs for 7 children and their primary caregiver to go to various clinics to receive their monthly medication.  Most went to the Baylor clinic at RFM but some went to outlying rural clinics to receive their medication.  The care and treatment at these rural clinics is not at the same level as the care and treatment at Baylor.  Doctors are usually not present at the rural clinics, sometimes they run out of medication and we had one child who received the wrong dosage over 6 months ago and has been ill ever since.  Thoko and I started talking about trying to get all of our kids to Baylor in RFM in the fall of 2008.  Baylor asked for us to wait until their new satellite clinic opened in 2009 because of the space limitation.  Thoko and I wanted all of our kids at Baylor in RFM for many reasons.  One is that the care is superior and if the child is ill with an HIV opportunistic disease, they also treat that disease.  Another reason is that it would be easier for us to communicate and coordinate with Baylor, the school, the parents and our volunteers.  In addition, it would save us (Thoko, the other volunteers and I) a lot of time, worry and transport money for us to make sure the school and the parents have the money for transport before the child’s visit.  We also hope that this will unite the children and families so they can support each other in living positively with HIV.  Thoko was the main driver of this initiative.  She talked to the Baylor nurses several times and of course she was the one who talked to the parents explaining what was required to make this happen.  My role, as always, is to be supportive, assist when possible and play my white American trump card if needed which I rarely need to do.  In addition, it was easier for the Baylor (American) Dr. to communicate with me just as it was easier for the Baylor nurses (Swazi), the parents, and the school counselor/head teacher to communicate with Thoko.  As part of this move, we also added 7 more children to our program.

This sounds like it should be a simple thing, but just trying to keep up with all the kid’s appointments and then get their medical cards and talk to the parents took a lot of perseverance.  Luckily, all of the parents of children who attended rural clinics agreed to the transfer and really did a super job of getting the information needed.  And those parents whose kids were already at Baylor agreed to work with us and Baylor to have their children come on the same day.

Finally, we had everything set.  We picked Tuesday, 12/1 to be the day of our first visit.  We picked that day because it was the first week that the new satellite clinic was open and the last day we could do this before I left and everyone involved felt it would be best if I was present to assist as needed.  We also had the school counselor and the Lutfotja Methodist Church CCS that is our voice, arms and legs in the community when Thoko and I can’t be there to come with the children.  So we hired a kombi (van) to pick everyone up at 8:00 from Lutfotja and bring them to Manzini.  Of course the kombi didn’t leave at 8:00 so things didn’t go quite as quick as we had hoped.  But considering everything, things went really well.  It was good all four of us were there to assist.  It was a little confusing for awhile.  It was a good thing that I was there because I could explain things quicker and easier to the Baylor receptionists, nurses and Dr. and Thoko could communicate with the parents and kids easier.

The nurses, Dr. and I decided that the second Tuesday of each month would be “Methodist day” at Baylor.  We will be working together to get all of our kids on the same schedule and keep them there.  I also promised that we would make sure that the parent or guardian of each child comes each time so that we will have been communication regarding the child’s care.  Our plan is that the Lutfotja CCS would come with the children and then our committee would meet them at Baylor.  Eventually we hope to get women from St. Paul’s to bring lunch to the children before they go back home.

Another benefit to this arrangement is that since (Thoko, the volunteers and I) will meet them at Baylor on our day.  If a child is also sick and needs medication that is not available in the RFM pharmacy, we will be able to quickly go to a local pharmacy to purchase the medication and send it home with the child.

The day went really well.  The parents, school counselor and the Lutfotja CCS were so appreciative.  Baylor was pleased that we will be there to help with communication and follow-thru with the children and their families.  We really couldn’t have asked for a bigger success.  It wasn’t until the next morning that I realized that December 1st was World AIDS Day (even though I knew it) and that we had commemorated that day by improving the treatment these children that are HIV+ will get.  How awesome is that?  It is one of those moments when it does feel good to be able to do something that will really improve a child’s situation and hopefully their life.  Praise God.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Nonjabulo and Ubuntu

The Sunday before I left to come back to the States (11-29) I went to visit Thini and see Nonjabulo and her mom Nonhlanhla. I almost didn't recognize Nonjabulo when I walked in the door!  She was so adorable sitting propped up on the couch with a cute frilly little dress on.  (I know they dressed her up just for my visit.)  She is the sweetest little girl.  I picked her up and she fussed a bit so her mom (who was hanging up the wash when I arrived) came right in to quickly nurse her for just a bit and then Nonjabulo was ready to play and smile.  Praise God this child is doing so well.  I can't remember how much she weighs now, but her weight had come up considerably (for her) and she was actually feeling a bit heavy.  I say it again, Praise God!

The other purpose for my visit was to deliver some "specially formulated" sorghum porridge I purchased to try with some of the kids who are having trouble getting well or are very underweight.  100% of the daily vitamins and minerals have been added to this porridge so if there is a problem with obtaining proper nutrition, one serving of this should be all they need, though it isn't enough to fill their stomachs for the day.  This is advertised as tasting very similar to the sour porridge or store bought porridge that would normally be eaten.  Nonjabulo and her mom are two of my "test" cases. The feed back I received is that it is "very nice."  I looked at another replacement option that was developed in the US and while it is a cheaper alternative than this sorgum porridge, the people don't like the taste because it isn't anything similar to what the people are used to eating and therefore they won't eat it or they take out the soy bits and eat only the rice which defeats the purpose.

The problem is making sure they people who I've given it to eat a single serving every day and that they don't give it away to someone else in their family or community who is in need.  The first time I gave Thini 3 bags of this porridge, she gave one away to a child in her community who was very sick with HIV and TB and was severely underweight.  I tried to tell her that the porridge was special for Nonjabulo and her mom, but realized Thini's action is what makes her Thini. This type of behavior is known as Ubuntu.  Ubuntu is the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality - Ubuntu - you are known for your generosity.  Ubuntu and love describe Thini.  So while I can't be sure this porridge will actually benefit Nonjabulo and her mom, I have to have faith that it will.  This is just one more situation where I have to let go and Let God handle it.

The other problem with feeding people in this way is that once you start, you have to continue feeding them.  I'm not sure if I will continue with this project when I return from the States. It's expensive and hard to manage with individual families and it isn't feasible to prepare and serve to an entire school.  I wanted to give it a try and see the affect on the three families I've given it to.  Generally speaking, giving people food is not the right answer.  I just felt I had to try something because malnutrition is such an issue.  The Swazi's eat a lot of maize - in sour porridge in the morning, at noon time a thicker version with a few sugar beans in a sauce over the maize, and then again in the evening.  Malnutrition is more of a result of what they eat rather than whether or not they get enough to eat each day.  A diet of mainly maize no matter how much they eat will result in malnutrition unless they can add a lot more protein and other vitamins and minerals.  I'm praying for guidance and wisdom in this matter.  

Friday, December 4, 2009

Siphiwe and Lwethu’s wedding on November 28

On Saturday, November 28th, Siphiwe and Lwethu got married.  For those of you who may not remember or who may be new to my blog, when I arrived in Swaziland Siphiwe was there on a two year assignment as a Pastor’s assistance and local preacher.  I think he was about 23 or 24 when I first arrived. He is very tall, kind of quiet but has a great sense of humor.  He is a wonderful young man.  He reminded me a lot of my sons.  He was my angel.  He went with me wherever I needed to go, showed me the ropes and introduced me to people.  He taught me a lot especially about the culture.  I call him my South African son.  I know that he has no idea how much his presence and help meant to me.  I’m not sure I could have made it through those first few months without him.  Over the year and a half that we were both in Swaziland, I also discovered that he has wisdom and spiritual insights way beyond his young years.  He left Swaziland last December to be an associate pastor in a church in South Africa.  He was taking correspondence courses during his assignment in Swaziland and during this past year in SA.  He passed all his courses and now will start a two year program at Seminary.

While in Swaziland, Siphiwe met a really nice young Swazi woman named Lwethu.  Even though he swore to me that he would never marry a Swazi woman because he was looking forward to going back to SA, love prevailed.  She is very sweet, pretty quiet but also has a great sense of humor.  She is going to make a very good pastor’s wife.

So, Saturday was the first part of their wedding.  It held in Swaziland.  The wedding was beautiful.  I cried. What more can I say?  Ok, so there is a bit more.  The wedding was very western and similar to what you might expect to see in the states.  The wedding was supposed to start at 9:30.  I arrived at 9:35 a bit upset I was late.  There was only one other person and the Bishop there.  About an hour later people started arriving and at 11:30, the wedding finally began.  The wedding was held at a hotel.  I don’t really know why, but I’m told weddings don’t necessarily happen in churches, evidently not even for Pastors.  The room was decorated in their colors: silver and hot pink.  They announce what their wedding colors are on the invitation.  It is amazing how many people came dressed in silver and hot pink.  The wedding program was very similar to the wedding I attended last September. (I wrote a blog on that wedding also.) I love how the bride’s attendants and the groomsmen dance down the isle.  Then the groom came in from the front of the accompanied by a female member of his family (I think a cousin).  He had his own music playing for his dance from the front of the room to about halfway down the isle.  His music was “How Great Thou Art”. (Yep, I cried for that too.)  His cousin sat down in the audience.  Then Lwethu walked down the isle on the arm of her very proud Uncle. (I didn’t realize until then that both of her parents had passed away.  Her Uncle raised her.)  They walk down the isle very, very slowly.  One thing I’ve noticed is that they leave the brides dress so long that some one has to move it each time she takes a step so she doesn’t trip on it.  Lwethu looked very, very nervous and I could tell she was crying.  I was so worried for her.  When they reached Siphiwe, the Minister performing the service asked who would give the bride away.  Her uncle responded and then Siphiwe and Lwethu walked the rest of the way to the front together.  I think that is real sweet.

The service was a bit different because so many ministers were involved.  Rev. France Mabuvso, a newly ordained full Reverend in Central Swaziland Circuit was the Master of Ceremonies.  Rev. Sikumbuzo Ngama, the former superintendent gave the opening prayer.  The Bishop, Rev. Sizwa, performed the service and signed the marriage certificate.  Rev. Kanana Nyamaka, the current superintendent for Central Swaziland Circuit gave the beneficiation.  Just before the benediction, all of the reverends and pastors who were attending circled the couple and prayed for them.  That was awesome.

After the vows were said and the rings exchanged, the Bishop had two chairs brought down from the table where the wedding party sits during the service.  This table is located where we would normally have an altar.  Siphiwe and Lwethu sat in front of the audience facing the Bishop.  The Bishop said he was going to speak to the Siphiwe and Lwethu but we would be able to hear what he had to say.  He also said he was going to speak in English because he “looses too many words when he has to speak in Siswati.”  I was so happy.  The Bishop spoke about colors and paint brushes.  Basically saying they can paint their marriage any color they choose.  They can paint it happy or paint it miserable.  It is their choice which they must make every day and they must paint it together.  He also told Siphiwe it was his job to totally love Lwethu.  And he told Lwethu it was her job to totally respect Siphiwe in all he does.  The Bishop went on to say that Siphiwe has to love Lwethu so much that she has no choice but to love him back and that she has to respect Siphiwe so much that he has no choice but to respect her back.  It was an interesting way to put it, but considering the culture it was the perfect way to make his point.  As the Bishop spoke, he required responses from both of them, and if he didn’t get an answer he asked the question again and didn’t move on until he got answer.  What pressure!

Just before the benediction, all of the reverends and pastors who were attending circled the couple and prayed for them.  That was awesome.  After the wedding a meal was served and just like in the US, Siphiwe and Lwethu went around to each guest and gave them a little box of mints.  There wasn’t a cake cutting ceremony because the cake is cut with the explanation of why they are cutting the cake as one during the wedding ceremony.  There also wasn’t dancing, but that may have been because shortly after the wedding and reception all of the family and certain “family representatives” headed to South Africa to where Siphiwe’s family lives.  Sunday morning there was another ceremony during which and they both wore their wedding clothes.  Then everyone changed into traditional clothing and the bride was taken to the groom’s family’s home.  She presented traditional gifts to the family and then there was a celebration meal which included a braai (cookout).

The only down point of the wedding, is the same thing that detracts from every service here.  Everyone takes pictures.  They just get up and walk right down in front no matter what is going on and take pictures.   I kept thinking that in the US, the bride and the photographer would be furious that this was happening.  I couldn’t get very many pictures, in part because there was always someone taking a picture in the way.

It was a great day. And I pray the young couple will be very happy and find a way to grow in their marriage to each other and their love of the Lord even though for part of the time they will be separated because of his studies and then possibly because of where he will be assigned as a minister.  Their life won’t be easy, but I am sure it will be very blessed.