Friday, July 25, 2008

Likhaya Lemphilo Lensha – New Life Homes

Today I took a trip out to Likhaya Lemphilo Lensha – New Life Homes farm. It is about 30 km on a dirt road off of the highway to Nhlangano. This farm was started 5 years ago by Mary Jean and Peter Kopp. They purchased about 78 hectors (about 200 acres) of beautiful farm land and started a home for children 8 and under who have no where else to go. Most of the children come from a half-way house in Manzini by recommendation of social workers. Many have been severely abused; all are orphans without any family. A few of the children were abandoned babies and this farm is all they have known. Mary Jean and Peter started by hiring day laborers from the area and making bricks. From there they built their first house. From the day laborers they also found those people from the community who not only needed a job but who were trustworthy and leaders. Since 2003 they have built 4 homes. Each house has 8 children and a live in house mother who in each case is a widow with no where else to go and an Auntie who comes in to help out during the day. These houses, with the children and house mothers, have become family units in every sense of the way. There is a pre-school on site for the younger children and all of the school age children attend school.

In addition to the homes, they started the farm. They started by growing maize and vegetables to feed the children. They slowly expanded to a few chickens, pigs and cows. In addition to teaching family living skills and gardening/farming skills Peter has taught them financial and record keeping basics and financial planning. Each year the garden and the chicken population have grown so that now there is enough to not only sustain the families on the farm but to also sell to neighbors and stores in the community and in the major supermarket stores in Mbabane, Manzini and Ezulwini. Peter has now instituted a form of profit sharing between the house mothers and regular employees which has motivated them even more to work hard in the garden and the newly started seedling business. These house mothers and children who had no chance in life, no alternatives now live happy, healthy lives with the chance of a very good future but it did not come easy. It took a lot of prayer, effort, patience and education (learning and teaching) on the part of the Kopps. It also took a lot of determination on the part of the employees and house mothers to make this effort successful.

Once again it was a blessed day and one that was so overwhelming with all there was to take in and absorb. I am so amazed at the terrific work some of the people in Swaziland are doing, especially those who have the vision that in order to truly help the people of Swaziland we have to move out of the hand out role and into the development role and model for them a Christian, loving life style. God Bless Mary Jean and Peter Kopp and all of those involved in New Life Homes.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Visit to Siteki

Today Sphiwe and I drove to Siteki to see the Methodist Church and visit with Pastor France Mabuza and his wife Lundile. This was my first visit to Siteki and now I can truly say I’ve been to all corners of Swaziland and been to all of the major and semi-major towns. Siteki is in the high veld, about 2500 feet in elevation. It was beautiful (of course). The church is very beautiful. The manse needs work but the major issue is that there is no water at the church and the city water system in Siteki is not good. France said if they had water they would give the orphans little plots of land to grow vegetable gardens. After we talked for a while France said he was going to the hospital in Big Bend to visit with Rev. Margaret Dlamini’s husband, Nehemiah who had been admitted to the hospital the day before. Rev. Dlamini is the Superintendent for the Mahamba circuit but her homestead is near Siteki. Sphiwe and I decided to also go, however, I wasn’t sure I would make the trip and hospital visit without using a toilet. I had no idea how difficult that request was going to be to fulfill. They said there weren’t any decent toilets in town, but that we could go use the toilet at one of the society steward’s house. We ended up driving to a Steward’s house a few blocks away. They had to fill a water bucket for me to manually flush the toilet. If those facilities were better than what I would have found in town, I shutter to think what we would have discovered. I was so embarrassed and wished I had just tried to hold it for another three hours until we got back to Manzini.

After we left Siteki we stopped by France’s homestead – the home of his parents. There I met his mother who didn’t speak any English, but Sphiwe interpreted for me when I told her what a fine son she had raised. While there Lundile served us a Coke and refreshments which made them both feel so much better because it is the culture of Swazi’s to offer a guest something to drink when they come for a visit. France also needed to grab an official preacher’s shirt with collar before going onto the hospital. In Swaziland they frown upon a preacher showing up to perform his duties without his collar. I told him in the US Methodist preachers don’t wear collars and indeed in Texas during the summer, some don’t even wear a tie when they preach. France wants to come to Texas!

The hospital in Big Bend where Nehemiah is at is a private hospital. It was very clean and orderly, however it was like something out of the 1930’s. The beds were simple metal frames painted white with a sponge (mattress) on top. To sit the patient up in bed the nurse hung a metal tray type of thing from the frame near the head and then laid the pillows on that. Then they had to manually lift the patient into a sitting position. There were about 12 of us who came to visit. Seven of them came in one pickup truck! A few songs were sung, everyone offered up a prayer, France prayed and preached for a few minutes and then those who wanted to also spoke. Then communion was served to Nehemiah, Margaret and 4 others. I didn’t understand what was being said, but I heard “Syabonga Unkulunkulu” a lot which means “we thank you God” and a few other words associated with God, Christ and the Holy Spirit. My mind kept going back to when my father was in the hospital and I said “ngibonga Unkulunkulu (I thank you God) for the hospitals, medical equipment and staff that we have in the US. I thought of the last time we celebrated Holy Communion with my father at home just days before he passed away. It was a bittersweet experience for me but I felt very comforted being in the company of fellow Christians even though we didn’t speak the same language. When we left, France came up to me and thanked me for the ministry of my presence which he said is so important. I thank him for that and I thank Unkulunkulu for the opportunity and the ministry of France’s presence. By the way, Nehemiah is expected to recover and be released from the hospital in the next day or two.

Monday, July 21, 2008

July 21, 2008 - last RR team update

We had a fantastic weekend. We left Manzini at 8:00 am on Friday morning – right on schedule! We drove through Swaziland and entered the Matsamo border gate which is right new the Malelane Gate of Kruger Park. It is 170 km from Manzini. From there we drove straight up through the middle of the park to a camp called Skukuza where we spent the night. Saturday we drove through the park, down by the Sabie river and then over to the west side of the park to Pretoriuskop where we spent both Saturday and Sunday nights. We got up early Sunday morning and went on a morning walk with two of the park rangers (who of course were both armed with shotguns). On the hike we got very close to a heard of rhinoceros. It was awesome. Sunday evening we took an evening ride. It was COLD when the vehicle was moving. We were very lucky Sunday evening and saw two lioness’ walking right down the street, we followed a rhino and her baby up the road a bit until it got irritated and then we backed off and it ran away, we saw a couple of hyenas and hyena cubs, a couple of rare wild cats, elephants, cape buffalo, giraffe, hares (not rabbits!), impalas, kudos, and the tiniest antelope at Kruger. During the day drives we also saw lots of hippos, baboons, monkeys, zebras, giraffes, elephants, rhinoceros and we saw a cheetah walking down the road and a lioness. There are only 200 cheetahs in the park so they are a rare find. Kruger is one of the most beautiful, peaceful places on earth. It is hard to believe so many big and rare animals live there in the wild and it was even harder to believe we were so close to so many. After a fun weekend, it was finally time to say goodbye to the team. It was bittersweet, but they were very anxious to get home to their loved ones. Richard took them out the gate nearest where we stayed which is the shortest route back to Johannesburg and Sphiwe and I went back the way we came. I received a SMS from Richard that they were near the airport so I’m sure they all got on the plane okay.

It was great to have them here. They touched the hearts of so many people who will never forget them, including me. I wish them God speed and a safe journey back home. I pray they will find the words and the opportunity to share their stories and pictures with many so that more people will understand more about what Africa is really like, instead of many of the myths that seem to float around among many who don’t know. It’s the same here about Americans. Their visit helped Swazi’s see that black or white, African or American we are all the same and that we are connected by the blood of Christ.

Below, find some pictures from Kruger. My pictures don’t do the animals or weekend justice. Wait to you see the 800 pictures and countless videos Steve took, or the countless rolls of film Kelly took and who knows how many pictures and video Anthony took. With their big zoom lens, you will see a slide show of your life. Don’t miss it!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

RR Team Update, Thursday, July 17th

Thursday was a day to do errands, finish up little things, pack and it was “mission day at Chris’s place.” Several things needed to be fixed in my house and in my “office” aka storage room/sewing room at St. Paul’s. The team’s goal was to fix those things for me. The week before they came, the lock in the door that I use the most broke. All the little pins that are in the lock fell out onto the floor. The door was locked shut. That was the first thing Richard and Anthony fixed. Then last week I leaned against the sink in my bathroom and it came loose from the wall. Now we have item #2. The bluebonnet curtains that hang in my kitchen were too short and too narrow for the window and so everyone that walked or drove by my place could see in my kitchen window which was a direct line of sight into my living room and desk. I finally found some lace to trim the curtains with but hadn’t had time to sew the lace on – partly because I would have to learn how to use the sewing machine again! One of the first things Leigh said when she got here was “I’m going to fix those for you. It won’t take long.” She did. They look great and I don’t feel like I am being watched now when I am in my place. The other item in my house was a big surprise and treat! They generally use plastic toilet seats here, and as you can imagine they aren’t real stable. To my surprise, Anthony put a new “real” toilet seat on my toilet. You can imagine my surprise when I sat down on it the first time, not realizing what they had done! Yeabo! Then the team moved up to my little “office” aka sewing room and storage room. The door from the outside into the church was very hard to unlock. You had to basically lift the door up to unlock it. Richard fixed that in a heartbeat with a few chisels with a screw driver using a wrench for a hammer (This is Africa and he is the African MacGyver). Then Anthony and Steve installed a hasp and lock on the cabinet where we keep the sewing supplies and another one on a file cabinet t hat was donated to me so that items could be kept secure and not disappear. While they were doing that Leigh and Kelly were sewing the lace on my curtains. I was thrilled and when I told the two ladies who do the most sewing about the door being fixed I thought they were going to break out in song and dance! I know that the team has no idea how much their mission to me has helped. When they came, I was still very deep in my grief over having to let my father go back to our heavenly father. I was feeling very much alone. Their energy, laughter and spoiling me has warmed my heart in a way I didn’t would be possible for a long time. I t hank God for their presence, love and energy.

This morning we leave for Kruger park for 3 days and then it will be off to Johannesburg and home for the team and back to Swaziland for me. Siphiwe is coming with us as he has never had the opportunity to see Kruger Park. I am excited to see what he thinks when he sees all the animals that are native to his country. I am also glad that I won’t be making the drive back to Swaziland alone when we all part ways and not for safety reasons this time.

Now if we could only fix the water situation……..

God is good! All the time! God is good!

RR team Update - Tuesday & Wednesday 7/15 & 16

The last two days we have been painting the interior and exterior of Black Mbulzi preschool. It is a new preschool that was finished about 6 months ago, except that it was never painted. It is a small preschool. There are 16 children enrolled. The teacher is the most creative and best teacher of all of the Methodist preschools I have seen so far which is why we chose to paint the preschool. She is a widow, her husband died of AIDs a few years ago. Teaching these children is what gives her life purpose.

The team worked hard but as usual had a lot of fun. We had 3 people from St. Paul’s come to help us paint plus Siphiwe on Tuesday. Wednesday, two of them returned. We would not have finished without their help. The team also found a bit of time to play with the preschoolers and also with some of the kids from the primary school. On Wednesday we introduced them to our traditional PB&J sandwiches and a cookie for lunch. The only disheartening part was that no one from the community came to help us, but that’s the way it is sometimes. The church steward and head of the parent’s committee, Elijah (pictured in blue in some of the pictures), just sat most of the time, but Kelly did get a smile out of him at the end of the first day and he did tell us how grateful he was when we left the second day.

Tuesday evening we were invited to a Braai for Rev. Nyameka’s birthday. It was at a beautiful home in Manzini. It was a lot of fun and the food was delicious and quite a change from the scenery and conditions we have been seeing for the last week and a half. Wednesday night Richard made us his famous enchilada casserole (Swazi style – no tortilla chips) and Kelly whipped up some more guacamole and we invited Rev. Nyameka for dinner so he could taste some “Mexican” food. I don’t know what he really thought about our very different type of dinner, but we (especially me) loved it.

Enjoy the pics!

Monday, July 14, 2008

RR team Update - Monday, July 14th

This is a quick update because it is late and I’m tired. Sunday after church we drove to Mahamba and spent the night at the Mahamba Gorge. Mahamba is a city on the border of South Africa about an hour and a half southwest from Manzini. It is where the first Methodist Church, or any church for that matter, was built in Swaziland in the 1800’s. The first school in Swaziland, which is a Methodist school, was built near the Methodist church. The land in that area was given to the Methodist church. On the property is an area called the Gorge. It is very rustic and very beautiful. The Methodist church allowed the community to build chalets on the land. The community manages the gorge area and 25% of the profits come back to the Methodist church. To quote Richard Bosart: “It is Gorgeous!”

We had a Braai (barbeque) for dinner of hamburgers topped off by sa’mores – Swazi style (no graham crackers, so we used cookies). There is no electricity at the Gorge, but there is plenty of water and they have propane hot water heaters. Bedtime came early because of the cold and darkness. Then we got up early and hiked the mountain. The path was marked by rock piles. We didn’t follow them on the way up and blazed our own trail. (Yes, it was a little scary at times.) But we found them near the top and made sure to follow them very carefully down the hill.

About 10:30, Rev. Margaret Dlamini, superintendent of the Mahamba circuit met us and showed us some of the projects in her circuit. I think the group had a good time and learned a lot.


  1. Braai – Leigh, Kelly, and Steve with Karyen a volunteer from the Order of Christian Services who manages the Gorge.
  2. One of our Chalets.
  3. Leigh and Anthony hiking up the mountain/hill that eventually overlooks the river that runs through the Gorge and over into South Africa.
  4. A view looking back towards the chalets about halfway up the hill.
  5. A view looking back towards the top of the hill.
  6. The rock path markers – our Ebenezer’s for the day reminding us to always look to our Rock, our savior and our redeemer for the right path.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Today was a great day of rest and relaxation. Personally, I slept late (until 7:00!) and had a great hot shower which was wonderful. We started the day with Richard making fantastic breakfast tacos. Of course we don’t have salsa in Swaziland, but a little Peri Peri sauce was an acceptable substitute. Then we drove to the outdoor market in Manzini for a little shopping where the local vendors sell their wares. After that we drove almost to the border of South Africa to go to the Ngwenya Glass factory. They workers work as a team to blow the hot glass into different objects. It was really amazing to watch them blow the glass. From Ngwenya Glass we drove back down the hill to the town of Ezulwini and went to the Swaziland Cultural Center where we all learned a little about the Swazi culture. From there we walked 700 meters to Mantenga Falls. Afterwards we enjoyed a relaxing dinner out on the deck at Mantenga Lodge.

Tomorrow, we will attend church at St. Paul’s in Manzini and then head out to the Mahamba Gorge to spend the night and visit with Rev. Margaret Dlamini, the superintendent of the Mahamba circuit on Monday. We won’t have access to a phone line while we are there so there won’t be another update until Monday evening.

RR Mission - Day 5 (July 11th)

Today was cold and overcast. Our last day at Lomngeletjane was the kind of day that on one hand was mixed with too many people to do what needed to be done but on the other hand there was too much work to do and still finish early enough so we could kick back and relax. We ended up working until 4:00. The main task, which unfortunately got left for the last day, was to build three removable partitions for the wall between two classrooms. The walls weren’t finished between two of the classrooms so that if the community or society (church congregation) needed some place to meet they could use the two classrooms. We were to build wooden panels to separate the two classr ooms. That would be challenge enough considering the floors aren’t especially even and neither were the openings. However, we were using donated used plywood. Each piece was a little bit different. So the task which was challenging enough to start with was even more of a challenge. The community members finished up the fencing around the gates while we were working on the panels and then they waited for us to finish our work. We were very surprised when they had organized a little goodbye for us including speeches (of course) and a meal. The most touching part was the gifts of food parcels which several of the children who are attending the school brought us to thank us for the work and their almost completed new classrooms. This past week we have been given avocados, sweet potatoes, onions, carrots, lemons, oranges, apples, broccoli and more avocados. These are all thank you gifts from various people in the co mmunity and the church. It is very overwhelming to receive these gifts.

Friday night Anthony and Steve baked a chocolate cake. They figured out how to estimate the ingredients that were in metric measurements. The cake had just finished baking when we lost power (again. We also lost power for several hours on Thursday evening.) The cake was absolutely delicious and a very big treat espec ially for Siphiwe and I. We both gave it two thumbs up.

The following are a few pics of the day’s highlights:
Notice the cows are on the OUTSIDE of the fence – not the inside! YEABO!
The wooden partitions being constructed.
The thank you just before we left.
The infamous, delicious chocolate cake.