Friday, August 31, 2007


On Thursday, 8-30, I drove almost two hours to Mahamba to meet with Rev. Margaret Dlamini. Rev. Margaret is the Superintendent of the Mahamba circuit. She is an amazing lady and the Mahamba area is an amazing place. It is home to the oldest Methodist church and mission in Swaziland which was dedicated in 1912. Rev. Margaret was instrumental in renovating it over the years and it continues to be the church home in Mahamba. It is now a national landmark.

Mahamba is the largest circuit of the three circuits in Swaziland, geographically speaking and the poorest because they don’t have a big town in the circuit. It is a very rural area, with the major industry being wood and wood pulp from the vast forests of tree farms. It is a very beautiful mountainous area. The Mahamba circuit has been hit very hard by the HIV/AIDs rate largely because of the extended length of time the men are away in South Africa earning a living in the mines. The extreme poverty and lack of health care are also contributing factors. The “town” (I didn’t see any evidence of a town) is situated in the Southern part of Swaziland next to the Mahamba border post.

The Mahamba circuit has fourteen Methodist schools with an enrollment of approximately 6200 students of which 12% are destitute, 18% are single orphans and 10% are double orphans.

Margaret’s top priorities (wish list) for projects are:

1. A proposed project for feeding HIV/AIDS infected and needy pupils in the Mahamba Circuit that will cost approximately E 60,000. (approximately $8600.)

2. A proposed vegetable garden project that would provide vegetables to all the schools in the circuit as well as the needy and elderly people of Mahamba. The total of this project is estimated at E 125,155. (approximately $18,000.) This is a very interesting proposal. The church owns a very large piece of property near the MKhondo river, which runs from South Africa through Swaziland and has water in it year around. This land is basically going unused. It is good farmland. The proposal is to plant a garden on 4 hectors employing local residents to maintain and harvest the garden. The harvested vegetables would be taken to each of the schools to supplement the proposed feeding project. This project would not only bring needed food to the schools, but employ some of the local residents, thereby providing them with a source of income.

The above two projects would need some amount of funds over the years to sustain the program. Those figures haven’t been determined.

3. Provide Assistance to Thembelihle Primary School. The head teacher’s priorities at this school are: 1) Provide an agriculture building enabling the 6th grade students to do the required 6th grade agriculture projects of growing a vegetable garden and raising chickens. 2) Provide razor wire for the fence to keep animals and people out of the school yard and vegetable garden. 3) Repair existing and build more teachers cottages.

4. Provide water for Nsongweni Primary and High Schools which are on the same property. Between the two schools, the enrollment is approximately 1,000 students. Currently, there is no water at the school. This will be one of the 2008 projects adopted by Dennis Little via his fund-raising efforts.

While we were there, she also took us to the Mahamba Gorge Lodge on the Mkhondo River, not far from the proposed vegetable garden site. The Lodge is also on the church’s property. A lodge was built by the community and includes 3 chalets, picnic areas, facilities for camping, hiking trails, mountain biking and swimming in the River. Each Chalet has two separate rooms which sleeps two people for a total capacity of twelve. Each room has its own kitchen, which contains all utilities needed to prepare meals, a bathroom complete with hot water. Lodgers must provide their own food. Proceeds from the lodge are split between the community (75%) and the church (25%). The lodge is operated by employees of the community.

They would like someone to help them build a stone conference room and help with marketing this facility to bring in more tourism and revenue to Mahamba and the church. This was a very beautiful facility in a beautiful setting. This was an exciting venture. The setting is very rural, and I’m sure it gets very hot in the summer, but what a concept! Check it out at

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Preschool Teacher Workshop held Aug. 27 & 28th

We held a teacher training workshop for the carepoints and preschools. It was held at St. Paul’s Methodist church. Keeping in good old teacher training tradition, the workshop was held while the children were on school holiday. Teachers weren’t paid or reimbursed for their travel. The Manyano ladies provided them with their meals and those who traveled far slept on the floor in one of the rooms at the church. Five out of the six teachers who were invited attended as did the grade one teacher for the new primary school that is being built at Lomngeletjane.

The teachers were very quiet and shy but listened and participated with what appeared to be great interest. Topics covered were: introduction to themes, classroom arrangement, teaching aids/charts, theme planning including understanding how to develop objectives for the lessons, an introduction to what is taught in grade 1 including how young children learn, welfare, administration books and record keeping, health concerns, games/rhymes. On Monday evening after the workshop officially ended for the day, the teachers who were spending the night made their own charts based on what they had learned during the day. I walked by the room they were working in on my way back from the church’s office at 10:00 at night and they were still up working!

The workshop didn’t begin to touch on what the teachers need to know. They are not trained and don’t have materials at their schools. It seems teachers everywhere are expected to provide materials for the students. However, in this case, they are given nothing and make one-tenth of what a primary school teacher earns per month. The teachers don’t have much of their own, and are already giving all they can. Teachers were even asked to help provide soap, clothing and other items for the orphans in their school that are in need. The crusader in me wanted to jump up and down screaming that it just isn’t fair. But, the calmer side of me reminded myself that I can’t take on the injustices of the world and I am here to listen, learn, understand, find donors to help and work with the teachers to find solutions to some of their issues. I’m not here to take on the Swaziland government, the Methodist church, or the attitude of the world at-large towards teachers!

Some of the things I did observe are:
1. Much prayer and thought is required to understand the situation and possible solutions.

2. The teachers need much more training in all areas of dealing with preschoolers ranging from subjects such as how young children learn to dealing with health and poverty issues of the students.

3. I certainly need to understand the structure and strategy of the Methodist preschools and preschools in general in Swaziland. If the children don’t have the required skills some schools won’t allow the child to attend grade one. In other cases, they are allowed to attend but don’t pass grade one. Although there are private, upscale preschools catering for the working or middle and upper class families, the Methodist preschools are for those who have nothing or next to nothing.

4. Basic materials need to be supplied to the preschools. This ranges from chairs, desks, cupboards or shelves to store materials to toys, books, food, soap, water, etc.

5. There needs to be a strategy or funding arrangements made so that the OVC’s and children living in poverty can attend the preschools.

6. The schools need health care.

7. Next to prayer, this is the most important thing I realized I need to remember. It’s something I’ve been asked and reminded of many times since being here: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Good visual.

One of my goals, with the help of Manyano and donations is to hold another workshop in January during the school holiday. The school year in Swaziland begins in January, not August/September. If we could hold a more in-depth workshop and have materials ready to be distributed to the schools by the start of the new term, it would be awesome. In the interim, I plan on visiting the preschools once or twice a month to get to understand the needs better and build relationships with the teachers. Hopefully, I’ll also be able to also provide them with some sort of tangible assistance that will be useful to them and especially the children.

Monday, August 27, 2007

St Paul's Carepoint

Each Saturday and Sunday St Paul's Methodist Church, also known as the mission, feeds the children who are served Monday through Friday in a carepoint in the area. The children start arriving at St. Pauls around 11:00 with lunch being served about 1:00. The youth from St. Paul's are the ones who have adopted this project with the support and assistance of the adult members of the congregation and Manyano. They feed between 75 -100 children each day. Some children take food home for other siblings or family members. Most children leave after they are served. Some of these children are very small. Many children are leading younger children. They seem to watch out for each other. The children bring their own bowl or container for the food.

These children are fortunate. St. Paul's feeds them on the weekend. The children that attend other carepoints or some of the children who attend one of the rural schools do not receive meals on the weekends when the carepoint or school is closed.
God bless the children and those who feed them. Please keep them in your prayers.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Thembelihle Primary School, Hlathikhulu, Swaziland

Thembelihle Primary School, Hlathikhulu, Swaziland

August 23, 2007

This morning, Vicki, my trusty guide and I drove out to Thembelihle Methodist Primary School. We, or I, thought we were going to meet with Rev. Margaret Dlamini, the superintendent of the Mahamba Circuit. The Mahamba circuit is in South Swaziland and is the most rural and hard to reach area. We didn’t realize we were also going to a prayer service for the school and that a school board/council meeting would also be happening.

Thembelihle was about a 70 minute drive from Manzini. The last 25 – 30 minutes was on a dirt road winding through the very hilly country side. As I was driving I felt like I was either on the set of “Out of Africa”, a John Wayne epic, in an Indiana Jones movie, or just plain camping out in the wilderness of the Texas, California or Idaho foothills. In reality, we only drove about 2 kilometers on the dirt road, but it seemed much further because of the condition of the road and the hills that were pretty steep in places. It didn’t help that we didn’t know for sure where we were going!

All of a sudden, in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, we were at the school. We were promptly met by the head teacher, a very nice and proper young man named Ndoda (means male young person) Zondo. We were ushered into the 7th grade classroom that also serves as the church and meeting hall. He informed us a prayer service was just starting so that Rev Margaret, church members and us could pray for the school and its teachers asking God for help in standing up to the evil that was trying to bring the school down. The school recently had two newly donated computers stolen and over time has had many things broken and stolen by “thugs”. (What I couldn’t figure out was where the “thugs” would go with these things and how they would get them away. I mean we are talking the middle of now where with houses spread far and few between.) It was a good service with lots of prayer and singing. The participants were asking for strength for the teachers as well so that they wouldn’t be discouraged. You see, the previous head teacher, was dismissed a year or so ago because it was found out that he had been embezzling funds from the school. The investigation is on-going. Mr. Zondo was hired and has worked very hard over the last year to try and make improvements to the school. This last burglary was quite a moral blow as well as a material one.

After the service, the school board, started their meeting. Mr. Zondo had a wonderful teacher, named Nelly Mathobela show us around the school. Nelly showed me everything except the library that is just being formed and only Mr. Zondo has the keys for it. Nelly is the 7th grade teacher. Each grade has two classes, each with their own teacher, but because of limited space, two classes share the same room, with the teachers alternating the subjects taught. Each grade has approximately 60 students, with the second grade having 74 students. Rev. Margaret said Thembelihle is a very old school. I don’t know how old, but it was definitely well-worn. There were big cracks and craters in the cement floors. Most of the desks were in a state of disrepair or non-existent. A few rooms had desks of wooden “planks” (boards, probably 10’ x 8”) propped up on cinder blocks. The same thing, only not so many cinder blocks, are also used as benches many cases. Nelly said the biggest problem with the planks is that it snags and tears the children’s uniforms.

The school has an enrollment of 423 students. Over half, 233 are Orphaned or Vulnerable Children (OVC’s). The government pays a set rate of tuition for all OVC’s (250 Emalangeni or Rand) per year, which is far less than the normal tuition which should be collected in order for the school to run. On the other hand, at least they are getting some sort of payment. The school is also starting to identify the HIV positive children and talk with their parents to try and provide them supplemental food and assistance. This program has just started. The are trying to also provide assistance to the child head of households.

There is not a preschool at this school. One was built in Hlathikhulu (wherever that is!) Mr. Zondo hasn’t asked for a preschool yet because he hasn’t evaluated the effectiveness of that preschool or the real need for a preschool. However, he did state that there is a very high rate of failure in first grade, probably attributed to the lack of proper readiness for 1st grade.

Mr. Zondo showed me where the teaching aids are in essence checked out from his office. The math cupboard had two yard sticks and a large rubber thing that looked like a compass. The social studies cupboard had a very, very old and worn globe and a picture of the King, the Queen Mother and a chart of the King’s lineage. The science cupboard had a bottle of some sort of solution.

Mr. Zondo’s dream for next year is to start a garden for agriculture. This garden would not only satisfy the government requirement for the 6th grade curriculum, but it would supplement the school’s lunches. To grow a garden, a fence has to be constructed to keep the cows, goats and people out of the school yard. One is in the process of being erected, but the person who donated the land has some objections. This was one of the things that would be resolved at today’s school board meeting. It is felt that until a fence can be completed, it is impossible to also keep people, including the “thugs” out of the school.

Mr. Zondo’s top three items needed at the schools are:
1) An agriculture building to house the tools needed for the garden in one half of the building and the other half would be used for the 6th graders to raise their chickens in.
2) Razor wire for the top and bottom of the fencing to keep animals and people from breaking through the fence.
3) Teachers Quarters. There are 4 single room teacher’s cottages and one two bedroom teacher’s cottage that has been severely damaged by thugs. Two teachers with children are sharing this cottage. Nelly is one of the teachers so she took me inside. Her 16 month old son was taking a nap on a mattress on the floor in the “living area/kitchen”. She showed me the real kitchen that had been torn apart by the vandals, leaving nothing usable in it and no way to lock the teacher’s cottage because of the damage done via this entrance. There is a bathroom, but no water to it. Simple math says that 6 of the 19 teachers of the school have a place to live on the school grounds. The rest have to commute via kombi and then foot. Nelly’s from a town near Manzini. She said the kombi fare is 30R a day. When she goes back to town for the school holiday she will have to take all of her belongings with so that they are not stolen or destroyed. She has a 14 year old daughter living in her home town. I assume with family.

Regarding water at this school: Technically, there is a bore hole that is owned by the school. However, there is not a local source of water, so the head teacher doesn’t feel he can keep the community from using it. Therefore, because of the wide community use, it often doesn’t work. Mr. Zondo said he couldn’t in good conscious tell the community they had to go to one of two streams, which are fairly far away to get water instead of sharing the bore hole. However, if a second bore hold could be drilled, he would then reserve the second one for the school but would still want to retain responsibility for the first one to ensure the community keeps it in working order.

The home economics teacher and the cook made us all a delicious lunch which included rice, a bean & mealie dish, chicken, salad, beets, cooked carrots and greens. How such delicious food, could be so pleasingly served with what they have is beyond my wildest imagination.

This school is known to be very poor, and indeed I would agree with that from everything I heard today. However, it is a school with pride and potential. It needs a lot of work, but it is a charming school in a beautiful country hillside setting. The people are some of the warmest and most welcoming that I have met since coming to Swaziland. I enjoyed my short amount of time there very much, even though hearing their story brought tears to my eyes. Mr. Zondo and the teachers want to know how I will be able to help the school. I am at a loss for words. How do I answer that question when I don’t have a clue? I don’t have the means. I wish I could just write a check and make everything better, but I can’t. My only answer is that I don’t know, but I am starting by learning what the needs are and then figuring out what can be done by whom to start filling those needs. Not a very good answer. It’s one that makes me realize that I don’t know what my purpose is here in Swaziland and I don’t know how I can help. The question is one I ask God each and every day and night, praying for guidance.

The Rev Margaret is a very bright, sensitive, Christ-filled woman. Her greeting to me was that she was so happy to learn that a woman was brought to Swaziland because a woman can understand the needs as no other can. My heart breaks and I am overwhelmed. I asked her to pray for God to help me learn the things the need to learn and to guide me in just how I can be of service. I am going to meet with Rev. Margaret again next Thursday, this time in the mission (what they call the home church) at Mahamba. I promised Mr. Zondo and the teachers I would be back even though I didn’t know when that would be.

My camera batteries were dead. I know that God is teaching me patience and to rely on my heart and mind when seeing all that I see. I recharged the batteries last night just to make sure they were good. I don’t know what happened. So I don’t have pictures to share. You have to use your God-given imaginations. But as Mr. Zondo pointed out – maybe this was God’s way of ensuring I will be back. I must get my photo’s!

Have a blessed day, one filled with thanksgiving for all that we in the US have and take for granted. When you take your shower this evening or in the morning, thank God for that luxury. I know I do each morning. My shower barely comes down on me, BUT it is warm (usually) and it is water.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

More on Schools - August 15

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A woman named Victoria drove me to three schools in the farthest north east part of the circuit. The farthest school was about 90 minutes away from Manzini. There is miles and miles of nothing but a few trees, a lot of dirt, a few cows and goats, with small groups of houses along the way between the few towns where the schools are located. This area has almost no water. There are a couple of rivers that wind through it. One was dried up. The other, the Black Mbulzi River still had water in it. The area is very hilly, hot, dusty and dry. People walk for miles to get to the few bore holes (wells) or the rivers each day to get their water. The cows and goats forage on their own looking for food. It amazes me anyone knows whose cow is whose but supposedly they go home at night.

The government provides desks for the schools when it is registered, but no chairs. It also provides basic books on the required subjects with the corresponding workbook each year. In the primary grades students are required to learn English, Siswati, Math, Science, Social Studies and Religious Education. In 6th grade students are required to take home economics and they must grow a simple vegetable garden and raise a chicken to maturity and then cook it. The students are allowed to eat the chicken after their home economics exam. I’m not so clear on who eats the vegetables from the garden if it is the school or the students.

The first school, Black Mbulzi Methodist Primary and Pre-school is quite a distance off the road. There are 450 students with 13 teachers. There are no teachers quarters here so teachers must travel quite a distance by some sort of “public” transportation: a kombi (a van for hire) or bus and then finish on foot. None have vehicles. Teachers have to buy whatever they use or make for the classroom. The home economics room at this school doesn’t have pots to cook in or food to cook. The students are required to bring their own pot and firewood. The stove doesn’t work. But somehow the very sweet home econ teacher does her best. She has 62 students at a time and her course is a required one for the students to pass.

The school gets it water from the Black Mbulzi River which is way down the hill. There is a pump house at the top of the hill to pump up the water into a tank so they can use it. However the pump isn’t big enough to do the job and it is broken anyway. Therefore, students have to take containers down to the river each day and carry up water to cook the beans and rice or mealie for lunch; for washing and to drink. From where I was standing, looking down at the river, the cow that was standing in the river looked so small I can’t imagine making that hike in an entire day, let alone in time to have water to cook the lunch. They eat about 10:00 as children don’t eat breakfast. Keep in mind that the beans are dried and they can’t be soaking the day before or they would be gone.

The little Black Mbulzi Methodist church, which “owns” the property the school is on, is currently housing a preschool of 15 children. There is nothing in the church for the children except a rug to sleep on. A new preschool is being built. It is a very nice, small concrete brick building on a concrete slab with two rooms and a storage room. However, the furniture, materials, food, water situation will remain the same.

Tuition is charged for the schools, and uniforms are required. I noticed several of the children had very tattered and torn uniforms or wore only partial uniforms. Many didn’t have shoes. Tuition rates depend on the grade and the school. A child is not kept from going to school if their parents cannot pay tuition. Plans are made for the parents, if there are any, to pay as they can. Most parents are seriously behind on tuition. The government is supposed to pay the tuition for the orphaned children, however, I understand that comes several months late and takes a lot of work to make sure the child is registered as an orphan.

Tuition rates for Black Mbulzi Methodist School range from R244 for grades 1 & 2 up to R317 for 6th grade and R502 for 7th grade. It appears as if the very rural Methodist schools also provide a 7th grade class. Preschool tuition (ages 3 – 6) is R345 a year, which didn’t make any sense to me. I’m hoping I heard incorrectly, but I don’t think so. I’ve been told that parliament passed a law that children cannot go to primary school unless they have attended a preschool. Children in grade 1 range from 6 to 12. It all depends on the child’s circumstance.

What are the directions to get to the school? Take the road to Sitkei until I pass the (small) sign for Croyden Manufacture and turn left at the sign. (no warning) There is little store there. Follow the dirt road down over the dry creek then up the hill, going towards the school once I can see it. I’m hoping someone will come with me a few more times! If I miss the Croyden sign and come to the Black Mbulzi River, I’ve gone too far. Piece of cake!

After Black Mbulzi, we drove about 30 minutes until we found the newest Methodist carepoint in a “town” called Nkambini. The Nkambini carepoint was just dedicated in November, 2006. It serves about 45 children: about twenty-five 3 to 5 year olds and about twenty 5 – 10 year olds. These children receive nourishment and some sort of preschool “education”, although this isn’t categorized as a pre-school. Nkambini doesn’t have water. They have to fetch it from the government primary school which is nearby. However, they are the proud owner of new pit toilets, and a kitchen. Two new eco brick stoves with a shelter will be built. In the mean time, they cook the meal over an open fire outside and then bring it into the kitchen to serve. The kitchen is about 8’ by 8’ so it is mainly used to serve the food and store the pot when it isn’t being used.

Many of the homes in this area of Swaziland are mud and stick structures. Most people are unemployed and the land is so dry growing a garden or crops is not feasible.

From the carepoint, a local Manyano lady showed us the way to the home of a handicapped student’s home that the Young Men’s Guild at St Paul’s in Manzini pays to go to the Catholic school for the handicapped. The young man was home on school holiday. His family lives in a very small round mud and stick structure. There is no water, no garden and I doubt much food. His mother and father don’t work. The boy, in his wheelchair, and his family were sitting outside. The family insisted I sit in the prime spot in the lone chair in the shade. No one spoke English. I fought back the tears and prayed silently for them. Thank God that the Young Men’s Guild has adopted this young man, but I couldn’t help wonder what the next three weeks of holiday were going to be like for him, or what awaits him when he is too old for the handicapped school.

Please pray for the dedicated teachers. They are doing an amazing job with what little they have. And always, pray for the children and people who are living in such extreme poverty under such extreme conditions. My camera batteries died (I did have spares) and then the memory stick was full so I couldn’t take all the pictures I would have liked to, which is a good thing. Taking pictures of some of what I saw today just wouldn’t have been right.

August 14th


Requests for funds for projects are already coming in. Rev. Sikhumbuzo Ngema, working with a 1 st grade teacher named Juliet, who has taught 1st grade for 32 years and is also an evangelist and Thoko, the Manyano's (equivalent to UMW) officer for social justice wants to put on a training workshop for the preschool teachers in the central circuit. Most are basically volunteers who have been "selected" to do the job. They have no training. They've decided to do this workshop the 27 th & 28th of August when the children and schools are still on holiday. (Sound familiar?!?) One problem: they don't have funds to get supplies for the workshop to create teaching aids to be used at the workshop and for the teachers to create "teaching aids" for what they should be teaching in preschool. The preschools and carepoints aren't recognized by the government and therefore, not entitled to receive funds. I don't quite know how long after or if they are able to be recognized by the government it would take to get basic teaching materials.

The teachers who are attending won't be paid to attend this workshop and will have to pay for a Kombi (bus ride) from their home to St Paul 's church in Manzini. They will spend the night sleeping on the floor where the preschool at St Paul's is held without mattresses or water/bathroom facilities. Manyano will be called on (of course) to try and donate food for them to eat.

The new teacher, Celangiphiew, for the Lomgeletjane Carepoint, where they are building a new carepoint and school) has no materials for the students. She borrowed a workbook from a friend who teaches at another school and will have to make copies of the pages, for the students. However, the church doesn't have a copier so she will have to try to find the money to copy them out of her own money. The government won't let her order the workbooks because the school at Lomgeletjane isn't built yet and not recognized by the government. She's hoping by next year it will be recognized. Celangiphiwe has twenty-eight 1st grade students of varying ages in her class. None have ever been to school before because there hasn't been a school or pre-school in the area. She is a first year teacher right out of college. Rev. Ngema has managed to find 11 desks which he had repaired for her, only to find out the room is so small only 6 or 7 of them will fit into the room. There are no chairs because there is no money to buy them and surplus chairs haven't been identified. Until the new school is built, they will not have room for all of the students to have desks, and especially not chairs.

Uniforms are also needed. Uniforms seem to be as much of an encouraging, unifying thing as it is useful. Through donations, material will be bought and Thoko will enlist Manyano ladies to volunteer to sew them to save costs. I shared with them how Khanysilie (the HIV childhood development center in Katlehong) kept track of the uniforms and passed them down from student to student as the students outgrew them.

Ongoing funds for food at the carepoints and some of the schools, uniforms in the rural schools, books to fill the gap between what and when the Government supplies, basic materials such as desks, chairs, pencils and paper, school uniforms for the start up schools and those children who can't afford them are just some of the needs that have been identified so far. I am working to get specific costs. In the mean time, please prayerfully consider starting a "back to school" drive that would provide funds I could distribute on a priority basis. Their new term starts about the second week in September.

Blessings to each of you.

August 11

As I mentioned in my previous note, on Sunday afternoon, 8/5 we went out to visit the site of one of the carepoints which I came to know from the pictures sent by Dennis Little. You have also seen them on the DVDs that were shown. This is the site is called Lomngeletjane (longkellejon) of a carepoint that is being held in what is the current church. On this site a bore hole has been drilled for water, the beginnings of a new church which will be a carepoint during the week is being started, and work will begin soon on a primary school. As you can see from the pictures, this is a very rural site and it was a very cold and windy afternoon on Sunday. A teacher was just hired and started on 8/6. I believe there will be 30+ kids starting school in the old building. None of them have ever attended school before. The ages range from age 6 to about 12. The teacher doesn't have any supplies and has to drive about 60 km to get to the school (via dirt roads and cows) each day. This is one site that has a lot of potential to help the community. It is a very beautiful setting and it was so exciting to see in person what I have only read about and seen pictures of.

Inside Lomngeletjane

Site of new Lomngeletjane School
On Monday, 8/6 Rev. Ngema drove us out to Ebholi Primary School in Big Bend. It is on the farthest east side of Swaziland; due east of Manzini. It is about an hour to an hour and a half away from St. Paul's in Manzini. There is only one road leading to Big Bend, part of which was paved. Big Bend is the site of one of the three sugar cane factories in Swaziland. Sugar cane is the prime export of Swaziland. Ebholi is a school mainly for the children who are not from families employed by the Sugar Cane factory and for the children of the workers in the sugar cane fields. This is the school where a boarding facility is being built because many children have to walk so far to come to school. The new showers, toilets and sleeping rooms are about 85-90% completed. Children are already staying here. They stay during the weekend as well, IF there is food for them to eat. If not, they send them home, even though there may not be food to eat at home. The consistency of food supplies is a real issue. There is also a government clinic on this site, however the government is moving it about 5 km away which is of a big concern to the families in the area as well as the school. A new kitchen will be built when possible--hopefully soon. The European Union has donated money to build a Home economics classroom which is also about 80 - 90% completed. Harriet, the head school master, was very glad to see us and to talk to someone about all of the needs. This school is of vital importance to the city and this part of Swaziland. It has a huge potential to serve a lot of needs, however, as with most things in Swaziland, on-going resources will be needed. Great things are being accomplished here thanks to the hard work and dedication of the people involved.

Obviously, these pictures and my note just scratch the surface of all we saw and experienced on the way and at these two sites. Work is being done in Swaziland. We also passed projects being funded by the World Food Bank and even World Vision. The cooperation between those two organizations and the Methodist church was a promising thing to see. In many cases, the Methodist church has been granted the land from the local chiefs (representatives of the King) and therefore the church is donating the land that WFB and WV can build a carepoint on and/or feed the children at. The people and children were all so very gracious and beautiful.

Please continue to pray for the people of Swaziland, especially the children and caregivers, and for those who are dedicated to improving the conditions in this country.
In Christ,
P.S I'm sorry, but I can't update the pictures to the blog at this point.
Sawubona! (Hi; Hello; a basic greeting.)

The journey from Round Rock to Swaziland was long but we (my long time best friend Laura and I) arrived safely. After arriving in Johannesburg Thursday night (8/2) we spent the day on Friday resting from the trip and took the opportunity to go to the Rotary International Book Repository in Johannesburg to pick out some books for Swaziland and then made a visit to Khanysilie Child Development Center where we had spent time working with the children in June of 2006. On Saturday we made the 4 ½ hour drive from Johannesburg to Manzini. The countryside varied between coal mines and power plants in South Africa to pine tree farms (for lumber), eucalyptus tree farms (for paper pulp) and lumber mills closer to Swaziland. Once in Swaziland, the countryside is very hilly. Manzini is about 45 minutes from the Swazi border. The major highway in Swaziland runs between Mbabane the administrative capital of Swaziland about 10 minutes from the border to Manzini. The road is a fairly steep decline in elevation to Manzini. Cars and trucks travel very fast on the highway, not particularly staying in their lanes and drivers must also be very watchful for pedestrians and live stock walking along the edge of the road.

Once arriving at St Paul's Methodist Church in Manzini, my new home, we were graciously met by Rev. Sikhumbuzo Ngema who is the circuit superintendent, his wife and a few key members of the church. We were served a delicious meal and I was delivered to my new home, one of the teacher's cottages on the grounds of the St Paul's Methodist schools.

The teacher's cottages are next to the soccer field between the primary school and high school. My "cottage" is on the end of a building that has 4 "cottages" in it, all side by side. It is basically a one level cinder block building. They painted the inside walls a gold-yellow with burnt orange-brownish doors. It looks very nice. They put up nice drapes in the living room and bedroom. It took me a bit to realize that I can't hang much on the walls because they are all cement block. I'm working on getting some bookshelves or something to put things on or in as well as other basic furniture. I have a bed, so I'm set for the time being! The windows open out but all close as tight as can be expected which is a big improvement over Epworth Childrens Home where I stayed on the last two mission trips! There are no screens on the doors or windows and all have bars on them for security and of course there is no heat or air conditioning. The water pressure is very low because we are on a well. When water usage is high, the water barely trickles out, but at least I have water and I have hot water! It puts water conservation into a whole different light! Once I can get a few basic pieces of furniture for the cottage, I know it will be very adequate, and I am very grateful to have it.

Sunday morning we attended both the 8:00 and 10:00 service where we were introduced. The 8:00 service is quite small and is conducted in Xhosa (a derivative of the Zulu language which is spoken in South Africa) and English. The 10:00 service is more widely attended and is conducted solely in Siswati (the Swaziland language which is also a derivative of Zulu.)". An interesting note about the services: One: those who tithe come up to the front of the sanctuary where a steward is sitting at a desk to record their tithe. There is an option for people to put their tithe into an envelope and put it into the collection plate, but most prefer to hand deliver it to the steward and get their payment book stamped. Two: Every three months the stewards are required to report to the congregation details of the financial status, income and expenditures of the church. Financial statements were handed out, explained and questions answered.

A wonderful afternoon was spent getting to know people, the area, and one of the care point sights where a school will be built. The country side is beautiful and very rural complete with dirt roads which have as many cows and goats on them as people or cars. It was a long, but wonderful day.

Swaziland Bureaucracy Aug 7 & 8

On Tuesday and Wednesday (8/7 & 8/8) I experienced a bit of Swaziland Bureaucracy. The automobile I purchased was available for me to pick up in Mbabane. Mbabane is the administrative capital of Swaziland and at least the downtown area has a much different look and feel than Manzini does. The second steward, Absalom, drove me to the immigration office to start the process of getting a work visa. The government buildings are big, old, and crowded. There are people waiting in lines everywhere and there are stacks and stacks of paper work everywhere, including in the hallways. In someways it wasn't much different than the US, except I couldn't get over feeling how easy it would be for someone to get "lost" in the system with all the stacks of paper. There aren't computers in the government offices or the police stations. We then went to the American Embassy to try and get help with the visa and pick up my automobile. Absalom was impressed and irritated at the same time with all the security we Americans have. He tried to object to some of the screening and taking away of cell phones, cameras, etc. I told him I was used to it and he was amazed.

After a second trip to Mbabane and the embassy I was able to take possession of the automobile. Then the registration process began on Wednesday. I can't really say it was more than it would be in Texas or California, except that you go from one place to another to get all the different pieces accomplished. The car has been donated (so to speak) to SAMVIM-St Paul's Methodist church. That was the best and only way to attempt to register it (since I don't have Swazi papers). In reality, I would be donating it when I leave anyway, because I'm sure it can be used for travel to and from the schools.

After paying a fee to get the proper forms at the revenue office, I had to take it to the police station to verify that the chassis number matched the documentation from the previous owner. This step is to prevent theft. The interesting thing was that someone wrote the chassis number incorrectly for the previous owners so we had to drive to another government office in Mbabane where they just gave us a form with the corrected number on it - per our word. Amazing. I did suggest we try taking it to the Mbabane police dept instead of driving all the way back to Manzini just to drive back to Mbabane. We were told we could do that, although the thought of asking the question seemed to be a bit bold for our young assistant/guide.

The auto wouldn't pass inspection though until I got two front tires and a wheel alignment. They really test cars being registered in Swaziland. There was a machine to test the tires, the brakes and the alignment. I doubt most of the automobiles on Texas roads would pass this inspection. The wheel alignment can't be done until I replace the tire rods (done) and the tire end racks which have to be ordered from Honda in Japan because evidently the car is a direct import from Japan. It will probably take at least 3 - 4 weeks just to get the parts. So I am probably at a standstill in this process and will be without a vehicle for who knows how long.

Thank God that the church (really the secretary) sent a young man named Fanele (I kept thinking of him as the "Fonz") to guide me through all this. He even knew some about cars so was very helpful.

Everyone we encountered (except the people in the Manzini police station) was very helpful and gracious. It really turned out to be a great day even though we will have to do it all again. I am now very comfortable driving from Manzini to Mbabane and around the government offices. I know where two police stations are and I didn't run a single person, auto or cow off the road! Glory hallelujah!

Today was definitely a day where we experienced God's presence through his many angels that helped us throughout the day. There were many blessings today for which I am very grateful.