Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Phophonyane Falls

Yesterday was the day after Easter Holiday. We quickly discovered nothing was open. So, on the spur of the moment, Dennis Little, VIM from Dallas, Texas, and a woman named Kitty who recently came to Swaziland to work with the HIV testing clinics and I decided to drive up towards Piggs Peak. It was a beautiful fall day. (Yes, it is fall time here.) The drive was absolutely beautiful. Swaziland is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It was nearing lunch time and a bio break was becoming a necessity so we started looking for the Casino that is supposed to be in the Piggs Peak area. We saw a sign that said 5 km to what we figured was the Casino and then another sign that said 4.5 km to Phophonyane Falls. The sign had the icons for food, toilets, falls, hotel, nature reserve, and more. My thought was it was closer than the Casino (which was becoming very important to me!) and the sign said there were falls. What a deal! We turned off on a dirt road that went through a large logging area. And then we came to a small one lane bridge without any sides that crossed over the top of the falls. We drove on to the reserve and down to the lodge. This place was a spot of heaven. It actually looked more like Disneyland than the real deal. They showed us the accommodations. They have permanent tents right next to the water/river. These were not your basic tent. It had electricity, heat, a fan and a double and single bed plus a deck patio that went right out over the rocks. They also had two story bungalows complete with kitchens and fireplaces on each floor. They have a restaurant and pool area that overlooks a view that seems to go on forever. We had a great relaxing lunch - the best hamburger and French fries that I have had since being in the States. It really was a perfect setting and the weather was perfect as well.

The best part though was after lunch. We walked down the path that sort of followed the falls all the way down to the bottom. It was beautiful. Now these aren’t falls like you would see in the high Sierra’s or at Niagara Falls, but they were beautiful. They were more like a very long expansion of Perdenales Falls in the hill country of Texas. It was a long way down to the bottom on a path that was not marked very well. It was an even harder walk back up but the view and just being out in God’s incredible creation was worth every step. I hope one day to go back with a picnic lunch and sit for awhile down by the water.

Enjoy the pictures…they don’t do it justice. Oh, by the way, we saw monkeys playing in a tree on the way out of the property. These monkeys were the first wild life any of us have seen in Swaziland except for cows, goats, pigs, dogs, a few cats and common birds!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Services

I hate to say it, but I missed the services all night Saturday night. I started getting a headache Friday night and by Saturday afternoon all I could do was lay in dark and quiet.

But I do know that they started services at 7:00 pm with a memorial service. Then at 8:30 pm they had a robing service for the Women’s Manyano and the Young Men’s Guild. The women’s Manyano is the women’s service organization of the church. Unlike in the United States, the women have to take classes and pass tests. When the requirements have been met, they are able to wear the Manyano uniform. They are presented their uniform during a robing ceremony where the uniform and the woman is blessed and prayed over. I saw a ceremony a few months ago and it was very moving.

The uniforms colors symbolize the darkness the world was in before Christ (black) followed by the blood of Christ which washed away our sins (red) and finally the light of the world in Christ because we are cleansed (white). The ladies in the pictures below are the wives of the Superintendent and two ministers in Central Circuit. From Left to Right they are: Mrs. Nyameka, Mrs. Gaolatlhe and Mrs. Mubuza.

After the Robing service, there was a revival that started at 10:30 pm. I was told the sanctuary was absolutely packed and that it was a very moving service with of course lots of singing, dancing and praying. It was followed by a prayer service at 4:45am which lead to Holy Communion at 5:30am. They broke for breakfast at 7:00am. Then at 9:00 they have a “Devine Service”. The scripture for this service was Luke 24:1-12. Of course the emphasis was on the resurrection because without the resurrection, all we would have been left with was the death of a very influential man. There were very few people left for this service. Most people had started heading back to their homesteads and some much needed rest. It was an awesome weekend, even with a horrible headache. I a so sorry I missed the revival

I hope you all had a very Happy Easter.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday Services

Good Friday / Easter Services are a very big event I the Methodist Church of Southern Africa in Swaziland. This year, services for the Central Swaziland Circuit are being held at St. Paul’s. The Central Circuit has 52 Societies. It is led by the Superintendent (Rev. Kanana Nyameka) assisted by four Circuit Stewards, two Ministers, one Evangelist, three Bible Women and two local Pastors. Each society has stewards who manage the day to day issues in the absence of the minister. They also generally preach on Sundays.

All 52 societies gather for the Easter Celebration. It begins on Thursday evening. Last night services were supposed to begin at 7:00 pm, however, due to the large crowd that had to be fed before the service began and some last minute electrical work that wasn’t completed before 7:00 the service didn’t begin until 8:00 pm. The service started with the Young Men’s Guild from all the societies coming in singing and dancing. The YMG led the singing last night. The singing is all acappella and at times is louder than a rock concert. The service and all of the sermons were in SiSwati, so I couldn’t understand much of what was said, but by the looks on the faces, the dancing, the passion when the speakers talked, it was clear they were praising and worshiping God for the events that were about to take place over 2000 years ago. One thing you have to understand is that they sing hymns and also just sing whenever the Minister or speaker feels moved or during any transition. If they aren’t singing a specific hymn, they are generally singing some type of song that focuses on having great faith, glorifying God, or thanking God for everything. That is A LOT of singing!

Thursday evening’s service centered on the gathering at the Upper Room, then Holy Communion, followed by the lesson of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. The Superintendent actually washed one of the steward’s feet as the Minister read the passage out of the Bible and then gave a sermon on it. At 10:00 pm the service focused on Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. At 11:00 pm, individual stewards began to preach on various passages of scripture. There were five different sermons. (John 18:17, Matthew 26:59, Luke 23:4, Luke 23:12, John 18:37) I left at 11:15 pm because they were all in SiSwati and it was way past my bedtime. I noticed a few others were starting to leave, so I just followed. I was told the service lasted until 12:30 am.

Most of the people who don’t live in close proximity to Manzini camp out for the weekend in the classrooms of the primary school. It is incredible.

This morning, services started at 9:00am. St. Paul’s sanctuary was packed. I arrived about 8:45 to the sounds of singing. I was ushered into the VIP section, which was good, because otherwise I wouldn’t have had a place to sit. The service opened with the church choir coming in singing and dancing followed by all the Ministers, Stewards and Superintendent. Rev. France Mabuza started with two scriptures: Isaiah 53:1-12 and John 19:1-16 followed by a very impassioned sermon. Then Rev. Nyameka gave a very passionate sermon which I gathered was centered on the “trial” and the handing over of Jesus to be crucified. Following that, seven Stewards gave sermons on the seven Stations of the Cross. The sermons were based off of the following seven passages: Luke 23:34, Luke 23:43, John 19:26, Mark 15:34, John 19:28, John 19:30 and Luke 23:46. Of course there was singing with each sermon. The service ended at 1:00pm. We were so crammed in the seating area, that one couldn’t get up and leave even to go to the restroom. There was no way to get out. I would have loved to understand many of the sermons because you could hear the passion in their voices and you could see it in the faces of those who were singing and dancing.

In the evening there was another service commencing at 7:30 pm. It was a short service - only an hour and a half! The scripture was John 19:38-42. One of the stewards brought a woman from the Mpofu area, to interpret for me. She wrote in English several of the points Rev. France Mabuza was preaching about. It was awesome. In two sentences, he reviewed the scripture with the congregation and told us we need to be like Joseph of Armathea when he asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. His point was that Joseph believed and was a "secret" disciple of Christ because he feared persecution. But with the crucifixion he had the courage to speak up and honor Christ. He said we need to stop keeping our faith private to ourselves but to share it with others and help each other on our spiritual walks.

Tomorrow, there will be different sessions and meetings all day long. Then services will start at 7:00pm. The main “revival” will start at 10:30pm I’m told it goes all night long with the true celebration for the risen Christ starting at 4:45 in the morning. More will follow on this on Sunday!

Even though I can’t understand most of what is being said, I find it so interesting and as a Christian so moving that they celebrate so vividly Christ’s crucifixion as well as his resurrection. I was told they don’t want to forget how much Christ suffered for us. I have been truly blessed again and I know it won’t stop here.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Mpofu Primary School

Mpofu Primary School is in the very Northern part of Swaziland. It has approximately 700 students. There is a community bore hole (well) in close proximity to the school. The issue is the electricity bill to pump the water to the community taps including the primary school. Mpofu is a rural community and there isn’t much money. People can’t afford to pay the electric bill. Therefore the chief has the electricity to the bore hole cut off when he deems it should be shut off. The pump only runs a few hours of the day. The chief won’t allow it to run during the day when school is in session. The chief recently required the head master to pay E2000 (approximately $285) so it could get water from the bore hole. However, then someone donated two water tanks to the school and the chief felt is was going to use too much electricity to fill the tanks and would not allow the school to fill the tanks. There is a stand off between the chief and the head teacher of the school. The situation is very tense.

When the school can’t get its water from the bore hole, they purchase water from the government and it is brought in by a tanker truck. The cost of the water is E59 per truck. The truck holds about 8,000 liters of water. The tanks hold 10,000 liters of water. The always ask for the truck to deliver two loads, but it never does. They have to wait for deliveries of the water and typically they only get a delivery every two to three weeks. When the school doesn’t have water from the community bore hole or the tanker truck, the children have to walk to the river which is only about 5 minutes away to fill containers with river water for cooking, drinking, cleaning and for the teachers who live in teacher’s housing on the school site to use. The Swaziland Health Department has told them that they can get the parasite that causes Bilharzia (see my blog on 9-30-07 for an explanation of Bilharzia) and Typhoid from the river water. We asked the deputy teacher (full time teacher and vice principle) if they boil the water before using it. She said no. They really do not have a way to boil the amount of water they use. They cook over a wood fire and the only pots they have are used to cook the mealy meal and beans for the children’s lunch.

This is one of those stories that just breaks your heart and makes one feel so inadequate. I can’t imagine using water and drinking it when you know you could get very sick and possibly even die from it. And yet, what is the choice? As I gather the needs, Mpofu is obviously on the list of schools that need water. So far, 18 out of the 33 Methodist schools in Swaziland don’t have water. I know that number will increase as I learn about the nine schools in the Hhoho circuit that I haven’t visited yet. I left somewhat in shock, just shaking my head, not knowing what to say or do. If I could have a well drilled tomorrow, I would, but I know things just don’t work that way or that fast. So I will continue to pray for guidance, patience and for the children and teachers at Mpofu.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Severe Thunderstorms in Manzini

Last night we had several severe thunderstorms in Manzini that were as bad or worse than any thunderstorm I have seen in Texas. They started around 5:30 or 6:00 pm. The first one was severe enough that I was prompted to unplug everything and I lost power. A little river suddenly flowed down from the primary school, through the teacher's quarters, down through the high school and then who knows where. It was over in about 30 minutes. The lights came back on, I plugged things back in and life was good. Then about 7:15 I heard what sounded like a click right outside my door (about 5 feet from where I was sitting) immediately followed by the loudest clap of thunder I have ever heard. It thundered continually for almost an hour. I had a couple more of those "clicks" immediately followed by thunder. It was also raining so hard that it was coming in the front door and since my floor is uneven it was running down the wall into my bedroom. I looked up and my fan and the extension cord it was plugged into was all of a sudden sitting in water. After quickly unplugging it and everything else, the power went out again. Using a flashlight for light, I was trying to keep the water out by mopping it up as fast as it was coming in and then putting a couple of small towels at the door to try and keep it out. Exciting times. It is almost 2:00 in the morning now and it is still raining. Not as hard as it was, but it's a pretty good steady rain.

As I laid in bed thinking back on the storm and why I felt I had to tell the story, I realized that the amazing intensity of the storm was one thing. But the real reason is I remember back to when I was a little girl. I must have been in 3rd grade. My mother and I went to Antioch, Ill to take care of my grandmother for 6 weeks. I was a Sunny Southern California girl. This was back before global warming started playing havoc on the weather. One night there was a thunderstorm. I didn’t know what it was, all I knew was it started raining real hard and my mother told me to run outside quick to my grandmother’s car and roll up the windows. Now, I was always deathly afraid of the dark. I ran out to the car, and as soon as I got inside it started lightening and thundering. I was so scared all I could do was crouch down on the seats crying in fear. I don’t’ remember how I ever came out of the car and went back inside. I’m sure my mother had to come get me and I’m sure she wasn’t pleased. I just remember the dark, the noise and the fear. There is still a bit of that fear inside of me in the dark and in thunderstorms, but I’ve come along way. I acknowledge it and move on. I now know that with the help of Jesus Christ, I can do all things because he is with me and gives me strength. I drew on that strength last night when during the loud thunder, in the dark, I was not crouched in fear but doing what I could to keep the water at bay, and then I sat down and by the light of my flashlight caught up on some of my bible reading feeling absolutely at peace. Praise God!

My thoughts and prayers can't help but go out to those who live in the little mud shacks surrounded by dirt yards, roads, everything dirt and now I'm sure a sea of mud. I just can't imagine what it must be like for them. I also think of all the corn that is ripe in the fields. Corn is their main food source. I wonder if it will be ruined. I am also wondering if this rain made it down to the lower part of the country and if the rivers will flood downstream. They don't have Doppler radar here, or weather warnings and updates. You take what you get and wait to see what happens next.

So maybe this thunderstorm means a start of change in the weather from this oppressive heat to fall and cooler weather.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Angels are alive and well in Swaziland!

There is much talk about the dark spiritual forces at work in Swaziland and the constant spiritual battle between the witch craft /voodoo practices and Christianity. It has also been said that the King is done with the West (US & UK) because he is tired of the strings they attach and that he’s opening an embassy in Kuwait and Libya which are Muslim countries. In addition, there is a big mosque being built in downtown Manzini. I could certainly be easy to get discouraged about the impact of Christianity in this country. But I am here to tell you that God is alive and well in Swaziland and that His angels are in Swaziland. As always, they come in different forms.

Friday morning was a beautiful relatively cool morning and I was getting a lot of work done organizing and documenting status on some of the projects that are going on in the Central Circuit. I was listening to my Christian music and life just couldn’t get any better. Around noon I went to go help a friend, Jacci, from Bible Study pack up her things to move from Manzini to Mbabane. I walked across the primary school to the mission to get my car. When Mr. Mambo opened the garage I could see that my right rear tire was flat. (The left one was flat on Monday.) I said to myself “Great.” I knew there was no way I could get it changed at the church because no one was around and I don’t have a jack. So, since I now know where to go have a flat fixed, I thought I might as well just drive there again. (I know, it’s horrible for the rim, but this is Swaziland and there isn’t AAA.) I tried to start the car and the battery was dead. It was the second time in a week that I had a dead battery and a flat tire. I took a deep breath, told myself not to panic and said a little prayer for peace and guidance. Then I called my friend to tell her I wouldn’t be coming to help her. My mind immediately started going down the road that it was a Friday, no one was around, I needed cash and groceries, etc. Jacci said “What just a minute. I’ll call you right back.”

As it turned out, another friend Karen and her husband, Randy, had just arrived to help her. It was a last minute decision for them to come help. She asked if I had a jack, which of course I didn’t. Randy came right over. As it turned out the woman Jacci was living with had a very nice jack. Randy brought it along. He changed the tire for me and then we took the battery out of the car and went to find a place to buy a new battery in Manzini. We found an auto part store, bought a new battery, Randy put it in and I am back in business.

Was this a coincidence? I don’t think so. I firmly believe that Karen and Randy’s last minute decision to help Jacci pack was part of God’s plan. God knew I was going to need help and wouldn’t be able to Help Jacci. Once again He knew my needs before I did. He wanted me to know I am not alone even when it seems as if I am. Randy was my angel. When we were finished we went over to Jacci’s and helped her finish the packing, and then I was able to go to the bank and get food for the weekend. Oh, and where did I get the money to pay for the battery (few places take a charge card here.)? Jacci had paid me in Rand on Wednesday for a computer battery I bought for her while I was in the US. I forgot I had the cash on me until Randy asked if I had money to buy a battery!

So, yes, I firmly believe that no matter how strong the evil spirits are in Swaziland, God and his army of angels are with me every step of the way. All I have to do is depend on Him. Have a blessed day and keep an eye and ear out for your angel.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The day started hot, sunny, no wind and no water. Today was the start of day 2 without any water and low temperatures in the 70’s and high temperatures in the 90’s. My neighbour, w ho is on the city water line, had water, so he graciously let me and several others use some of his water. I filled up my water bottles, a 5 liter empty water jug and a small bucket. I was so hot and sweaty I had to find some way to clean up. I managed on 5 liters of water to take a warm shower and reuse the water so I could flush my toilet. The picture below shows how I managed to do it. I warmed up some of the water in the electric tea kettle. Then mixed a little of it with cold water in the small bucket so I could wash up and then mixed the remainder of it with the remainder of the cold water in the round red dish pan and poured it over me to rinse me off. I stood in the purple laundry tub so that I could reuse the water to flush my toilet. I didn’t try to wash my hair, but the Swazi-Navy shower was great. I did feel like a different person. The exercise left me thankful that I had endured the water shortage and subsequent water rationing during the 70’s in California. I was also thankful that my Navy father who was used to taking showers with little water while on board ships and my thrifty mother complied with the water rationing and found ways to keep her beautiful roses, fuchsias blooming and their lawn green and growing all using recycled water. I think Dad would be proud of me.

Come to find out there was something wrong with the pump. Bethuel, a member of St. Paul’s and the buildings steward, came and talked about putting my apartment/cottage on city water so that when the bore hole failed, I could switch a lever over to city water and continue to have water. (You see, no water source in Swaziland is fail safe.) It is a great idea and I am so grateful, however, that isn’t a solution for the others who lived here or for the primary school, high school or the church and parsonage. And I couldn’t be happy about that. I asked Bethuel what it would take to resolve the water situation so that it is more reliable and equitable for everyone. We talked about various solutions such as drilling one or two additional bore holes and/or putting the other residents of the teacher’s housing on city water. He is going to bring it up at the Steward’s meeting and pull together the resources to identify and then cost a better solution for all. I will be looking for funds to accomplish this task and will update the blog when we have a cost projection. Funds towards this project can be sent through FUMC, P.O. Box 1448; Round Rock, Texas 78680. Write Swaziland Water on the memo line of the check.

After discussing the water situation with Bethuel, Siphiwe and I went to town to run some errands. On the way we discovered my car had a very flat tire. Great. I have a spare tire, but of course I don’t have a jack. So we had no choice but to drive the car to town to a place that fixes flat tires. This ended up being a very busy place. You basically pull up under an overhang to a garage and someone comes out takes off the tires, inspects it, fixes it and puts it back on the car. No waiting room. Waiting, my turn took the most time – maybe 10 minutes. Within 20 minutes the tire was back on the vehicle and we were on or way. (I hope it lasts!) And the price was amazing – R10 which is equal to about $1.45! What a deal.

I had a couple of meetings at the church in the afternoon and evening. When I got back I have water. I am praying it lasts for awhile but keeping very mindful that even though I have water again, I still need to stay focused on conserving as much as I can. The Swazi-Navy shower will go away until the next time though. I’m not that good a steward of this precious resource.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Need Prayers

This is my 10th day back in Swaziland. I had good water for 9 of those days. The water started running slow last night and today there hasn’t been any water. That means no water to wash hands, flush the toilet, wash the vegetables I am going to eat, or of course take a shower. Luckily I have enough drinking water and I filled up a 5 L container of tap water to have on hand. I quickly learned that it doesn’t go far. It isn’t even enough to flush the toilet, but it is better than nothing. I’m praying it will come back on sometime today. In this heat I will really need to wash up and preferably take a shower by tomorrow morning!

I hope when Dennis Little (a short term volunteer from Central Texas Conference) arrives he and I can meet with the various parties that can determine a solution to this problem and with the support and help of Rev. Nyameka and Richard Bosart from SAMVIM we can bring in teams or whatever it takes to resolve the issue. This isn’t just for my sake but for Rev. Nyameka and all of the others who live in the teachers cottages and are also out of water when I don’t have any. Please pray for this situation to be successfully resolved.

Yesterday was a beautiful day. It was hot, but there was a nice breeze all day and into the later evening to keep things a little more tolerable. I was even able to keep my fan off most of the day and evening. I happened to turn on my TV and there was a taping of Louie Giglio speaking on John 16:33 which is Christ’s promise on his way to the cross that even though we will troubles in this world, that in him we will have peace because he overcame this world. Louie reminded us to always keep focused on the cross as our anchor because everything we go through, Christ went through and he paid the price. It was a perfect message for all of us, but especially in light of the issues I go through here in Swaziland. I think I Lord knew I would need this reminder in light of the challenges that are before me.

Please also keep the project at Lomngeletjane. Things are not going well there. The volunteer construction coordinator, Bethuel, is very frustrated with this project and is ready to quit. Dennis funded the start of this project which included building a temporary structure and now the start of the first permanent structure for the school. There have been many issues and set backs. I am praying that when Dennis comes we can almost start over, and perhaps bring in some work teams from South Africa to complete this work. Communications, follow-through and a sense of ownership to get the project completed by the community are the biggest issues that have to be overcome. This permanent school is needed, and it weighs heavy on my heart. Please pray that somehow I can be a catalyst to get the communications in-line and to bring the various parties together so we can complete this project and have the school opened with all that it needs to be registered in the near future.