Monday, October 29, 2007

Piet Retief, South Africa

On Sunday I drove to a small town named Piet Retief in South Africa to attend church. The Minister, Rev. Douglas Lees had called and invited me to come worship with them and attend luncheon they were going to have afterwards. This was my first trip driving to an unknown location so far from Manzini or Mbabane by myself. It was also the first time I crossed the border by myself. Piet Retief is about 95 to 100 km from Manzini. It is about a 80 minute, not counting the time to cross the border. I was told it was easy to get there, just follow the signs on the road first to Malkerns (easy enough) and then to Mankayane or another town. Not so easy when I couldn’t remember the name of the towns and they weren’t always marked. But I just stayed on the road I was on and did not deviate. I made it to the boarder about 20 minutes before it opened. But guess what?! The border was very small and not set up like the border I have crossed 3 or 4 times since being here. I spent the 20 minutes sitting in my car trying to watch what the people were doing and where they seemed to be lining up so I would know where to go. It turned out to be easy.

A few hundred yards from the South Africa border post I came to a 4-way stop sign. Which way to go? The sign pointing to Piet Retief was half down on the ground and the arrows weren’t pointing in the direction of the choices of the road to drive on. I said a prayer and drove straight ahead. Less than 1km down the road, the road turned from tarred (paved) to dirt. Okay. I can do this. It actually was a good, mostly smooth absolutely straight road through Eucalyptus and pine trees. I was sailing and not encountering another human being or automobile.

I made it to Piet Retief, but either Rev. Lees gave me the wrong directions, or I wrote down to turn right instead of to turn left at the Pick n’ Pay grocery store. At any rate, I turned right and got that feeling about 5 km down the road that was headed in the wrong direction. I tried to call Rev. Lees and realized that I left my South Africa phone card in Manzini. You see, when travelling from one country to another, you have to either have an expensive phone or switch phone cards (and numbers) to have phone service in the various countries. I told myself “Okay, Chris, don’t panic. Ask the Lord for more guidance and go.” I turned around. Finally after a few more guesses and turning the wrong direction, I found a couple walking up to the Anglican Church. I asked them for directions and thankfully they were able to direct me.

The Piet Retief Methodist church was a pretty little church surrounded by a beautiful green lawn and yard. It has 30 members half of which are related to each other by birth or marriage. I would guess that if you put 60 people in the sanctuary it would be at a maximum capacity. We sang a couple of songs that were displayed on a screen using an overhead projector to get us started and then during the service we sang a couple of songs from the Methodist hymnal. Four scripture passages were read by someone who was requested to read on the spot and the sermon was preached directly from the scriptures. It was a very nice little service.

Lunch was a fundraiser. They served “bunny chow” which was really a beef curry stew served in a half a loaf of bread that had been hollowed out. You were supposed to eat it with your hands, although I noticed we all resorted to using a fork after the first couple of bites. No one knew why it was called bunny chow, but they said it was a “poor mans” lunch because it was so filling. Whatever it was called, it was very delicious.

After lunch I visited with Rev. Lees and his wife Esther. He told me about the HIV/AIDs projects that they had going in their little town and about the politics in South Africa and his concern that if the churches don’t integrate more with the blacks and work together with the other denominations, the old mainstream churches will slowly die. It was a wonderful day and I felt like I had an instant family in Piet Retief. Rev. Lees led me to the tarred road that I should have taken from the border. It went around the groves of Eucalyptus trees on a beautiful, windy, hilly road that went by several small homesteads.

There were parts of the drive that as I rounded the curve at a top of a hill the most breath-taking view was right before me. I guessed correctly where to turn to cross the border and made it back to Manzini before dark. (Whew!)

After I got home I realized that the day had been another confirmation of what it means to trust in the Lord, stay on the straight and narrow path when following him, and listening to his quiet voice that will guide us through life. I realized how much I have come to love the beautiful countryside that I am fortunate enough to drive through even with the chickens, goats and cows on the road. I also realized how far I had come since arriving in Swaziland. I had taken the trip with a level of confidence that a month ago I never would have guessed possible.

What a difference the tar road made!
Sorry, I couldn't drive and take a picture of the great views and there wasn't any place to pull over.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Retirement celebration

On Thursday I went to a retirement celebration for a teacher at Lutfotja (La-toe-cha) Primary School. The ceremony and handout of her credentials were in Siswati, but I can tell you that her name was Madam Khumalo, she was born in 1946 and that she taught first grade at Lutfotja Primary from 1977 through 2005. All together she taught for 34 years. I have no idea why it took them 2 years to have a retirement party for her.

Unfortunately, it was a cold, rainy day. As many people as possible sat under a tent and under the awnings of the school buildings, but many children sat in chairs or on the ground without any covering. I was cold so I know they had to be freezing. The celebration consisted of the usual speeches and performances from the school choir, the preschool children (who of course were the cutest!), and various other grade levels and groups in the school. The older girls did a traditional Swazi dance and the boys did one as well. A few of the older boys did a couple of dances to the beat of two cow hide drums. The drummers used branches to beat the drum. It was pretty amazing to watch.

At one point during the celebration it was time for the various groups to say thank you to Madam Khumalo. In Swaziland, people say thank you with gifts of presents and money. The individuals giving the gifts come up and put them on the table in front of the honouree, many times making a short speech and singing and dancing while they are presenting the gift of thanksgiving. The money is laid on the table in a pile. If a person wants to give a certain amount of money, say 10 rand, but all they have is a 20 rand bill, then they put down the twenty and take 10 rand in change!

The ceremony was supposed to start at 10:00, but didn’t start until after 11:00, because Rev. Ngema and I didn’t arrive there until after 11:00 and they said it was pouring down rain at 10:00. The celebration didn’t finish until after 1:30. Afterwards, lunch was served for all. They served a pretty typical menu consisting of fried chicken, beef, salad, rice, a “soup” which is really a gravy for the rice, green cabbage, cooked greens or spinach, beet root and potato salad. There are over 550 children at this school, about 15 teachers, several teachers from other schools and many parents and community members. The lunch was all cooked over open fire in big cast iron pots. Can you imagine how many mothers were needed to cook the meal and how long it must have taken them? And don’t forget, it was raining off and on all morning. Where is Pok-e-jo’s when you need them?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Khalakahle Primary School

Meet Khalakahle Methodist Primary School. Khalakahle is on the Eastern side of Swaziland, very near the Mozambique boarder. Khalakahle is a smaller school. It only has 402 students. It is on the top of a plateau which means it is generally windy at the school and it has a beautiful view of the rolling hills and country sides all around it.

If Swaziland had a “Bluebonnet School” award, I would give it to Khalakahle without hesitation. The school is old just like the rest of the Methodist schools in Swaziland. However, it is clear that this school has been given some tender loving care. Everything was neat, clean and tidy. The teaching charts on the wall of the home economics room and the few other rooms I visited were very well done, They had been carefully wrapped in plastic before being hung on the wall to preserve them. The Swazi version of laminating! I only went into a few rooms, but each of the desks were in good repair, and they had been working and saving money to buy new plastic chairs for the students, one grade level at a time. This school obviously had great church and community support and the head teacher was a very good steward of her resources.

Rev. Ngema and I went for a parent/teacher meeting to discuss the community resources and needs regarding children and families infected or affected by HIV /AIDS. This is a very, very sensitive subject in Swaziland, just as it is in the United States. There is such a stigma attached to HIV/AIDs that people are very reluctant to talk about it. There are also privacy laws and respect for the individual and family. But the need for education, about the disease and the need for testing as well as pre and post testing counselling was voiced as a common concern. Another concern was the nutrition of the students. Most students, and not just single or double orphans, don’t eat anything before coming to school. The teachers said they notice the children are sleepy, lethargic and aren’t interested in doing school work. (Sound familiar?) Then at the break usually somewhere between 10:00 and 11:00 when the children are given maize meal or rice and beans the children have more energy and can concentrate better. Most schools have some sort of what they call a feeding scheme for 10:00 – 11:00 time period which is generally at least partially supported through various non profit organizations such as World Vision, USAID or World Food Program. Very few if any schools provide any type of breakfast to the children because there isn’t a program to supplement that type of a feeding scheme.

At Khalakahle, approximately 22% of the children are double or single orphans. I want to make it clear that this does not necessarily mean 22% of the children have one or both parents who died from AIDS. That statistic is confidential and is not available. But whatever the causes of death, 89 of these children have been orphaned once or twice which puts a financial burden on the community and the school. In addition, this number does not represent the children who come from destitute families nor does it reflect the number of children who come from families who may not destitute but still can not make ends meet.

Most of the Methodist schools such as Khalakahle are in very rural areas. As I have mentioned in many of my blogs, Swaziland is in a drought and there is very little water available through rivers or bore holes. Therefore, there isn’t enough water to irrigate crops. Khalakahle actually does have a bore hole, but for some unknown reason, some men posing as government officials came and took out all of the piping inside the bore hole so it is not functional. They now have to buy their water which is brought in and stored in a 5,000 Liter container. The water is for the entire community even though it is on the school grounds. The water is only to drink and cook with. There is not enough to water a garden.

Khalakahle Methodist Primary School is a Bluebonnet Award winning school in my book. The fact that it is faced with so many challenges makes this charming little school all the more precious and impressive. One little tidbit about Khalakahle. The Superintendent of the Mahamba District of the Southern Africa Methodist Church in Swaziland was the head teacher at Khalakahle before going into full time ministry! She will be retiring next year and will return to her homestead on one of the hills that surrounds the school. Her name is Rev. Margaret Dlamini. The current Head Teacher's name is also Margaret Dlamini! What a coincidence.

Home Economics Room Bulletin Board

Sunday, October 21, 2007

This is the day the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!

I woke up this morning to bright, beautiful sunshine and the birds singing ever so sweetly. I must confess, I don’t always think the birds sing so sweetly when I start hearing them sing about 5:00 in the morning. Sleeping “in” to 6:30 is a rare occasion between the roosters, birds, Kombi’s (vans that are taxi’s) beeping their horns in a language all their own and the sound of whatever it is that scampers across my corrugated iron roof every morning. (No, I don’t know what it is, and I’m not real sure I want to know.) But this morning, the beautiful sunshine and the birds were oh so sweet.

As I sipped my instant coffee while reading my morning devotional I was filled with the joy and peace of knowing that the Holy Spirit is always with us and that even though life or my moods aren’t always joyous, energetic and optimistic or even though I get so frustrated at not being able to connect with people because of the language barrier, that God is always in control, even in the most confusing or depressing times of my life. He brings a new beginning each day and some times from one moment to the next. He reminds me of that in so many ways. Today, he took pity on me and put it right in front of me so I would be sure not to miss it!

When I walked over to the early “English” church service, the lay speaker of the day actually did about 50% of it in English! For the first time I was able to understand when the Lord’s Prayer was being sung and understand when the Apostle’s Creed was recited. She said a corporate prayer in English praying for the people and government of Swaziland and the entire world. The scripture was Luke 18: 1-8, the parable of the persistent widow. Her message was to remind us to take all of our concerns, desires and needs to God in prayer. For once I could sing “AMEN” and mean it because I understood the jest of what was being said and because I have had so many first hand experiences of this in my life, let alone just the amount of time I have been in Swaziland.

So as Paul said to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: REJOICE!” (Philippians 4:4)

Make it a Christ filled day!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Panic, frustration and God

This week started in pure frustration and panic over the thought of going to Cashbuild, Swaziland’s version of Home Depot, to order building materials for the repair work at Lomngeletjane and then to hire the driver of a green truck to “transport” them to the school site. Oh yes. I was really outside my comfort zone on this one and a bit testy at the thought of it. How in the world was I going to find a guy with a green pickup that I knew wouldn’t be able to speak English and get this done? To make matters worse, when Siphiwe, my trusty pastor’s assistant who often accompanies me, and I pull up to Cashbuild there is a blue-green truck of a fair size and a pure green truck that is an old, small Hi-Lux Toyota pick-up. As usual, God took pity on me and the person who asked me to do this task happened to be there to tell the driver to keep an eye out for me. It took an hour for them to pull the materials together – 18 corrugated iron sheets 4.2 meters long, 18 “beams” some 6 meters long, some 4.2 meters long, 8 bags of cement, plastic and wire for the inside walls and nails. Not a lot. But remember, this is Africa. I know the guy couldn’t have moved any slower. I wanted to grab a cart and go get the stuff myself, but of course that isn’t acceptable – especially for a woman to do that. And yes, you guessed it. All of this stuff went onto the small, old green Toyota pickup. It was another one of those times that I wished I had my camera.

One little side note on Cashbuild (some one make sure David Atkins hears about this). When I first walked in it, I saw the bath tubs, and toilets lined up and rows of timber. I thought I was going to cry. Siphiwe thought I was crazy. He could care less about the contents of that store, but it reminded me of Home Depot. HOME DEPOT! But I must say it was about a tenth the size of our Home Depots and doesn’t have near the items. Toilets, bath tubs, sinks, faucets, lumber, wire, nails, doors, a few electrical items and tools, wheelbarrows and out houses made out of corrugated iron. That’s about the extent of their inventory. Did I go up and down the isles? Yep.

Typical of all of the weeks so far, it was filled with ups and downs. There were frustrating moments that put me way outside of my comfort zone and times when western way of wanting to do things just didn’t fit with the pace or thinking of Swaziland. There were times when I was probably a bit more direct than I should have been such as when I laughed when Rev. Ngema told me that in Swaziland “no” doesn’t necessarily mean “no.” At least I kept my mouth shut and didn’t say out loud “great, and ‘yes’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘yes.’ It usually means “I don’t have a clue what you are saying” or ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’” There were times I wondered why I am here especially since the language is such a barrier. (They can’t understand my English any better than I can understand theirs!)

But, God always steps in and pulls me out. He gives me my sense of humor. He puts that person who lights up with a beautiful smile when I say “hi” to them in my path. He makes the lavender on the Jacaranda trees that are blooming so brilliant it takes my breath away. He brings the sweet music of the children’s voices saying “Hi Chris” as I walk through the school yard. He sends an encouraging e-mail or phone call my way. Or He blesses me with caring women in bible study. He has put that love of Swaziland in my heart. I could go on and on about all the ways He truly blesses me and reminds me that I am not here by chance nor am I alone, but that I do have to be patient, faithful and seek him in all that I do.

“From one man, he made every nation of men that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us." Acts 17:26-27

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Saturday in Swaziland

Today I went to a HIV & AIDs training workshop in Ermelo, South Africa on how to set up a good project. It was delivered by a Deacon, Dr. Vernon van Wyk who was one of the original people who started Amcare, A Center of Faith, Hope & Love in Alberton, South Africa. Amcare stands for Alberton Methodist Care and Relief Enterprise. I have driven by Amcare on my previous mission trips to South Africa, but this is the first I was able to hear about it. What an impressive, God-filled story. This organization provides care on so many levels from testing, counselling to feeding schemes and training so people can earn a living to crisis disaster help for neighbouring communities. The workshop was very good and also very motivating. I attended with one of the Pastors from the Central Circuit and the woman that I am working with to implement a grant from the National Children’s Home in the UK to assist and improve the quality of life for HIV+ and orphaned and vulnerable children. The cart was put before the horse on this grant, meaning the funding was obtained before the project was clearly defined and planned so the timing of this workshop was fantastic.

Ermelo is about a 2 hour drive if you don’t get behind too many slow trucks and if the border crossing isn’t crowded. Once again, we drove into Ermelo and it was like driving into another world. The workshop was held at the charming little Methodist Church. I realize I stick out in a crowd, but when the Pastor of the church and the presenter come up to great me and tell me they have heard of me, I get a little worried! I never know whether to be grateful or worried at the offers hospitality if I need to get away!

The ladies of the church served us a wonderful morning tea (complete with sandwiches), then two hours later it was a fantastic lunch complete with an apple cobbler with ice cream, followed by tea with cake two hours later before we left for home. These ladies were awesome cooks. I couldn’t believe the amount of food that was consumed in such a short period of time. Methodists really do love to eat!

On the trip back, the young Pastor, France, and I had an opportunity to chat about various things. France was a teacher “by profession” before becoming a Pastor. He is a Swazi and attended one of the Methodist schools in the Central circuit and taught at another one. We talked about several things including some of the needs of the schools and how we have to be so careful not to create a counter culture of children and communities who will just sit back and expect to have things handed to them. This is becoming a real problem in Swaziland as so many organizations and people are coming in and putting up carepoints, and providing food and other items without requiring anything or teaching the person how to do something differently. This is something I have been really struggling with since coming to Swaziland. I walk into a school and the first thing I am asked is “what can you give me?” or “Our school needs ____, can you get this for us?” While the needs are so great here, I am also very concerned about how to provide assistance without providing a hand out that in the long run either doesn’t really make a difference or isn’t some sort of a partnership with the receiver. I don’t want to hand them a fish, I want to teach them how to fish so they can fish for a life time. There is also the issue of what they think they might need versus what they can really use without having other more basic needs met. For example, the head teacher at one school told me they really need stoves and equipment for their home economics classroom. Home Economics is a required course for 6th and 7th graders. When she showed me the home economics classroom, it was being used to teach a class of 50 or 60 students because there wasn’t anywhere else to put these students. This school doesn’t need stoves and pots and pans right now, it needs another classroom or a new home economics classroom to put the equipment in!

France and I also talked about the challenges of the Methodist Church in Swaziland. The Central circuit has 54 societies (churches). Each pastor has many churches he has to attend to. France has 18 societies he is responsible for. He says he is really becoming a “communion” pastor. He has so many societies that he can’t give Pastoral care. The Methodist Church in Swaziland is loosing members to the new, larger “charismatic” churches that are springing up. We talked about how hard it is to combat that when a Pastor is responsible for so many societies. Society Stewards are left to do the services and preaching on Sundays. This also impedes the ability of the church to preach from the pulpit on topics the Methodist Church wants known such as its scriptural stand on HIV & AIDS, the care, love and acceptance of people who have HIV and AIDS, the need to live a Christian lifestyle, and the importance of HIV testing. We also talked about how in Swaziland, as in many of the congregations in the United States, the Methodist Church seems to have forgotten John Wesley’s passion for Christ, evangelism, the scriptures, singing, worshiping, and especially serving others.

Here is another little tidbit about the day. At 6:00 AM (yes, 6:00 in the morning) my phone rings. It is the secretary of the church asking me to come and move my car because they needed to use the space. I was almost ready to leave for Ermelo so I said I’d be over in a few minutes. Imagine my surprise when I walked across the primary school yard and onto the church property and saw that it was filled with cars. I then heard singing and then the Pastor’s voice coming from the sanctuary! A funeral was underway. At 6:00 in the morning! Funerals start early in the morning in Swaziland.

This person had died in a traffic accident. I really wonder what the rate of automobile related deaths are in this country but the way people drive and with all the obstacles on the road including everything from cows to people to stalled or extremely slow vehicles, I am sure it is very high.

So another day in Swaziland comes to an end. My mind is boggled again. Please pray for the people, the Pastors and the Methodist Church in Swaziland.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Lomngeletjane Storm Damage

Water, Water, Water. It is such a basic element to our lives. It seems as if we are always dealing with problems of not having enough or having too much. The good news for Swaziland is that the spring rains have started. For the last couple of weeks it has been raining in the highveld. The hills are a beautiful green. The air has the clean scent of rain. Unfortunately, the lowveld needs the rain even more and yet has received very little rain if any rain.

Last Sunday night, there was a series of thunderstorms that came through the highveld complete with high wind and heavy rain. The high winds tore off the roof of Lomngeletjane carepoint and primary school damaging the insides of the facility and the few teaching and student materials they had. (See pictures at the bottom of this post.)

If you will recall from previous posts, Lomngeletjane is the little community at the top of a hill not far from Manzini. They have a wooden structure for a carepoint which was upgraded to be minimally suitable for a first grade classroom – the start of Lomngeletjane Memorial Primary School. This is the little school that we (One heart at a time, One Child at a time) provided some minimal student and teacher materials because the teacher had absolutely nothing for the classroom. This is also the school that about a month ago Bishop Jennings officiated over the ground breaking ceremony for the new permanent classrooms.

Now this little school and carepoint is back to nothing. They are not able to hold school because they have no shelter or materials for the children. The little church that is next to the carepoint also sustained damage, but is still usable for storage of the desks, chairs and anything they were able to salvage.

The teacher, Celangiphiwe, and I braved the light rain and muddy roads to drive up there on Thursday to survey the damage. Rev. Ngema wasn’t too sure we could make it and was too busy to accompany us. Celangiphiwe was a little nervous but was willing to go with me when I said “Ah, I think we can make it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!” I felt a little like a FEMA official. The roads weren’t too bad, although there were a couple of areas that I let a “oh my” escape from my lips. Celangiphiwe didn’t like hearing those words. The hill top is so beautiful and it was so sad to see the damage. The builder walked to Lomngeletjane in the slight drizzle to give me an estimate of what materials he would need to repair the building. He said he would gather up some boys to help him and it would take about a day to do the repairs.

Materials for the repairs comes to R2844. A little something for the boys would probably be another R500. Replacement copies and materials for the teacher to make new teaching charts approximately another R200, bringing the total repair costs to approximately R3544 or $590.00. The good news is, I was going to take some additional teaching and student supplies up to the teacher last week, but the day I was schedule to go, she wasn’t going to be there so I didn’t take them. Thank God or they would have been ruined as well. The bad news is, there is no guarantee that this won’t happen again before the new school building can be built. However, the only other choice is to not provide education or shelter for these children until the new permanent buildings can be built. Not an option worth considering.

My plan is to work with Celangiphiwe over the next week or so to replenish the student and teaching materials; to work with Rev. Ngema regarding the materials to rebuild the school, get the materials on order and the builder and his boys scheduled; and finally to try and get the building of the school moving so the structure can be completed in the very near future.

Prayers, as always, are very much needed. Please pray for strength and guidance for me as I try to navigate the bureaucracy and individual schedules of those involved in this process. Pray I can identify and communicate with those that need to be involved in this work effort. Pray for patience as things will inevitably take much longer than I would like. (This IS Africa!) And please pray for the children, adults and community to have patience and hope as the temporary school is rebuilt and construction on the new school starts. Is it asking too much to pray for continuing rain, especially in the lowveld, but without the strong, damaging winds?

Lomngeletjane temporary school building. Note, no roof!

Window of 1st grade "classroom"

back of building without roof

Window of "preschool" room


inside of 1st grade classroom

Roof blew across the top of the hill and down this ravine. It is the white spot in the to the center of the picture.

damage to Lomngeletjane church.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Swaziland Missionaries Retreat

Last weekend, October 5th – 7th, I attended a women’s retreat in Nelsprit, South Africa along with 30 other missionary women in Swaziland. Nelsprit is about 3 hours from Manzini. The women’s bible study I have started attending on Wednesday mornings organized this retreat as a chance for other women serving in Swaziland to fill their cup, meet each other, and get away for a bit of fun and fellowship. We did the Beth Moore retreat study “Loving Well” based on 1John 4:7-8, but continuing through the end of the chapter.

How ironic that I had to go to Africa to finally fit a Beth Moore study into my schedule!!!

I was lucky that one of the original attendees dropped out, so there was room for a newcomer. The weekend came at the perfect time for me. I know this was all part of God’s plan and his perfect timing. The weekend came after going through a week without hot water. Part of that week I had no water at all in the bathroom of my cottage. That was a true test of my perseverance and faith. I had to confess to God that even though there are so many in Swaziland that don’t have water, I wasn’t sure I could last much longer here without water and a shower. The morning before I left for the retreat, water was finally restored.

The road to Nelsprit was beautiful. Nelsprit is not only a different country, but a different world. My travelling partner in the back seat of a SUV was a lovely young woman from Youth With a Mission (YWAM). It was such a pleasure to get to know her. Friday night after we arrived in Nelsprit, we went out to a restaurant for Chinese food. It was the best meal I had eaten in two months! I thought I was going to cry. Saturday afternoon during free time we went to the mall in Nelsprit. I needed to get an anti-virus software package so I could be that much closer to getting my laptop functional. I also needed a few other things. Those of you who know me know that I HATE to go to the mall and go shopping. Not Saturday. I was never so happy in my life to go to the mall, actually get the things I was looking for, visit with my new friends, have lunch in a restaurant and actually order a Café Mocha! The ladies I was with laughed at me because I was so excited to buy a anti-virus package for my laptop! But they truly understood.

Those were the fun material treats of the weekend. The real joy was in getting to know so many of the wonderful Christian women, learning about their ministries, listening to the Beth Moore DVD’s and sharing during the small groups. There were women from Children’s Cup, Adventures in Missions, The Baptist Church, Trans World Radio, YWAM, Missions in Africa, Inc. and more. The women were from the United States, South Africa, the UK, Holland and Zambia. I learned that the struggles I have been going through since being here are very normal and probably won’t go away soon. But it was also affirming to know that others had experienced similar things and also that their observations about the needs of this country were very close to mine. This was probably the biggest blessing of the weekend.

I came back renewed, refreshed and rejoicing in the love that God has for me. I want to keep that renewed focus so that I can keep dipping into the loving well to love (others) well.

1John 4: 7 – 12:

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also out to love one another. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”