Sunday, August 31, 2008

As my last blog indicated, my week started out on a frustrated note. The week didn’t improve much. It has been one of those weeks where I did more waiting around than doing anything productive which makes me wonder what I am doing here. I phoned the chairperson of the NCH committee on Monday and he said he’d call me back in the afternoon so we could talk. He didn’t so I called him Tuesday morning and he said he would call me around lunch to set a time. He didn’t call. Then he set up for us to have lunch on Thursday - no show again. Then he said Saturday after a church meeting in the morning. You guessed it, no show and no call. So basically I spent three days sitting in my little abode waiting for his call, not wanting to miss it because I know he is very busy, but I give up.

Wednesday was a great day. A friend from my Wednesday morning bible study and I escaped from Swaziland for the day and drove to Nelsprit, South Africa. We left early in the morning terrible fog and mist. The fog didn’t start to lift until we were almost to Nelsprit. The countryside we drive through to get to Nelsprit is absolutely beautiful even at this time of the year when everything is still brown from winter and the lack of rain. On the way back the clouds were very high and I could see why this area is called the African Alps. Our purpose for the day was to go to the mall, have a great cup of coffee, walk around the mall and then have lunch and head home. We lived up to that agenda and had a great time. It was just good to get away, have good girl take and great coffee and food.

Yesterday (Saturday), I woke up, did bible study for a couple of hours, then dusted, swept the floors and picked up my little abode. That took all of about an hour and a half. So I sat down, listened to some music and read a good mystery. As I was sitting all day reading the book without anything else to do, I thought how lucky I was to do this because there were so many times over the years when I would have given anything to do this. The wind started blowing very hard in the afternoon and evening. I could literally see the dust blow in through the cracks in the windows and around the door. Between the smoke from fires that the wind was fanning and the dust off of the soccer field and dirt roads around here, you could barely see 50 feet away from you. So much for cleaning.

I finished my book Saturday night. I could feel the dust on the cover as I was holding it. This morning I decided to drive to Ezulwini to attend the International Church. I went there for the first time last Sunday with Mary Beth and her husband. The praise band sings in English and the sermon is in English. I felt that after a frustrating week which has left me feeling very alone and isolated wondering why I am in Swaziland, I needed to worship in my native language. I just didn’t think I could sit through 2 ½ hours of service where I didn’t understand a word. However, I was a little apprehensive about driving to Ezulwini, the cultural and traditional home of Swaziland; because tomorrow is the annual reed dance and next Saturday is the King’s birthday and the 40th anniversary of Swaziland’s Independence. Thousands and thousands of girls between the ages of about 13 and 15 are transported in the back of vehicles that look like shallow dump trucks to Ezulwini so they can perform this dance before the King. Supposedly the King picks his next wife from those dancing. I didn’t know if there would be a lot of traffic in Ezulwini. The drive there was beautiful. The wind had died down a little and had cleared much of the smoke out of the air. As I got to Ezulwini I started seeing young girls walking everywhere – down the roads, through the fields, just everywhere. As I drove by the river that runs through that area you could see lots of girls bathing in the river.

The church service was good. I was glad I got out and drove up there. I missed the turn to get to the highway on the way back so I had to drive through the area where the girls will be staying. It wasn’t too bad traffic wise, but the thought of the practice of the dance, the King’s polygamy and all of the money (millions) that is being spent on his 40th birthday and the 40th anniversary of Independence while so much is needed in this country was foremost in my mind. So I’m back in my little abode. The wind has picked up again; it sounds like a freight train is running through the place and I can see the dust on everything and feel it in my nose and throat. The sky has taken on that yellowish-gray hue. The power went out for awhile but it is back on. I’ll have today and tomorrow to endure with nothing to do because everything is focused on the King and his celebrations. I’m thankful I have a laptop, some DVD’s and a few more mystery books that were given to me to pass the time of day. I think I’ll skip dusting again until the wind dies down. Next weekend will be more of the same.

Please pray for this country, its government and the very pagan practices that go on here. Also pray for Christianity to take more of a stronghold here. Pray for my strength to endure this time of the year. Schools will start back up on September 9th and I can’t wait.

God bless you all.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Today was one of those days. The way of life, the thinking of the Swazi’s and just the challenges of trying to figure out what one would purchase certain items was more than I could handle today. There are just some things I can’t figure out and I don’t understand.

The biggest source of my frustration centers around the thinking of volunteerism, or lack of it. The majority of people feel that volunteering means getting paid something or at least getting their transport reimbursed and additional money for food if it is something that lasts more than a couple of hours. They say it is because the people here are poor. Now I can thoroughly understand reimbursing for travel because the cost of taking kombi’s or buses everywhere is very expensive. But I don’t understand the reaction about getting the reimbursement for food, the amount they think they are entitled to or the way it is almost demanded. Not everyone who is volunteering is so poor they don’t have food to eat. Most of the people will say yes they want to volunteer to help with a project, but then the first thing after that is “are you going to pay my transport and what about money to buy lunch?” I just don’t know how to respond. There seems to be an attitude here that they deserve to be given something and you better not give more to one person than to another. In some ways I feel like I am dealing with toddlers making sure to cut a cookie in half so neither will get upset that the other has more.

So I went from a meeting with the volunteers to going with someone to price blankets and sponges (foam pads) to sleep on. We drove to a dozen different places and finally found two stores that carried sponges. It was just one of those days when it boggled my mind the types of things that are grouped together in the local stores. And everything seems to be made in India or China. It’s like being in a 99 cents store without organization and at prices much, much higher than 99 cents. I know the early hot weather we had today didn’t help my patience level, but by the time I came home I was completely worn out and brain dead.

My continual prayer is to help me understand the attitude of expecting to get paid something for “volunteering.” James 2:14 asks “What good is it my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?” Is it a cultural difference that makes this concept impossible in Swaziland or is it a lack of knowledge or understanding in what Christians are called to do?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Visits to Homesteads

Yesterday three volunteers and I made our first visits to homesteads of children who are sickly, known to be on ARTs (Anti-viral Treatment for AIDS) or have been identified by their teachers as needing help - maybe they live with gogo’s (granny’s) or maybe their parents are sick or extremely poor. These visits are the first step in implementing a grant from the National Children’s Home in the United Kingdom to identify, test and assist children that are at risk of being HIV+ or have AIDS. As a team we have also taken the stand that to help only the individual child is the wrong thing. We must look at the family, especially those who are living with uncles or aunties and look at the entir e “family.” So many programs give food to the person taking ARTs but they don’t provide food for the rest of the family. So, of course, the food gets shared with the entire family and the child who needs it for his medication doesn’t receive the nutrition he/she needs. It sounds horrible to us, but if a family of 5 is starving and you give food to only one person, you can’t expect the other 4 people to cook the food for the one person and then to sit and watch them eat that food.

We visited 4 children in their homesteads who attend Luftoja Methodist Primary School which is approximately 23 miles from St. Paul’s in Manzini. These children were identified with the help of Luftoja’s head teacher and guidance counselor (Albertinah). Albertinah is a very caring, dedicated teacher whose desire is to help the children who have nothing, are sick a lot or clearly need help. Albertinah gave up one of her days off (it is school vacation time between terms) to take us to visit these children. She also enlisted the assistance of the community’s rural health motivator. Each community / chiefdom has a rural health motivator who is appointed by the Chief. She receives some training by the government and her job is to know the health of all the families in the chiefdom. She is generally an older woman and she walks over the hills and through the streams to visit the various homes. This woman was amazing. She did make the remark that her job was easy yesterday because I was driving where she walks. Believe me, no transport other than Chris’s kombie would drive as far out as we went t o a few of these homes!

The first homestead was of a family of 4 children living alone. The mother and father have both deserted the children. There is a girl about 16 but she is no longer living in the homestead. She is living with a “boyfriend.” The children living in the homestead are a boy 14 years old and three girls, the youngest in 1st grade. These children basically survive on handouts from their neighbors and in fear of when their father does come home. The boy is not going to school because his school fees weren’t paid up las t year and so the school wouldn’t give him results for his final exams from 7th grade. These are required before the child can enroll in High School. He had a sponsor last year, but since he couldn’t get his grades, he couldn’t go to school. He sits at home all day. The three younger children seem to do above average in school. One of these children’s school fees is sponsored by World Vision.

The second homestead was that of grandparents who are taking care of 7 of their grandchildren. Two of them are double orphans. The grandmother must use crutches in order to walk. Grandparents are amazing everywhere, but especially in Swaziland. These grandparents do the best they can to care for these children and they are actually doing quite well considering the norm here. They have a vegetable garden, fruit trees, chickens and goats, etc. But the biggest thing they clearly have is love for their grandchildren and a desire to see that the children are educated and well taken care of.

The third homestead was that of two motherless families (one with 5 children and the other with 6) living on the same homestead. We actually went to visit the youngest child in one of the families who is sick a lot. He is in the first grade but hasn’t been attending school because he was hit by a car a few months ago and his leg was fractured in two places. The child started ARTs five months ago. The father is currently working at night as a security guard at a construction site in Manzini and comes home as he is able during the day. He wasn’t home yesterday. The father of the other family works in the tree farms near the South Africa border. He rarely comes home. However all of the children do attend school and seem to be doing a fairly good job of taking care of each other. The biggest need this family has, especially the one child, is food – especially vegetables and protein so his ARTs will be effective. We talked with the father this afternoon before he started work. He is trying to support his children. He made the wooden crutches his son is using to walk with. I couldn’t understand what he was saying to Thoko, but I could tell by the look in his eyes and his demeanor that he cares for his children very much and that he is doing the best he can to support them. In this country, indeed continent, where so many children are abandoned, he is doing an exceptional job under the circumstances.

The fourth homestead was that of a child who is living with his gogo. Both of his parents are deceased. You could see the love on her face for her child. In Swaziland the “aged” receive pensions from the government about every 6 months of 500 Emalangeni. (Approximately $66). The government doesn’t always pay this amount on time. But this gogo saves the little bit of cash she receives to top off her grandson’s school fees after the government pays it’s portion for the OVCs, to buy food she can’t grow, clothes and provide medical care and transport for herself and grandson. She has a beautiful garden and obviously a lot of love.

I got just a little bit of each of the families stories because most of the conversations where in SiSwait. The hardest part for me, indeed any missionary, is to resist the temptation to pull out my wallet and give each person a bundle of cash for one thing or another. But that is not the answer and for each homestead we visited there are thousands more just like these or even worse. When the population of the country is approximately 1 million and 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, you can imagine the level of need across the country. The volunteers have already started talking about how they can help the families emotionally and spiritually as well as take care of some of their physical needs. We will meet next week and discuss what the best course of care might be to assist and enable the families to meet their needs.

It was an overwhelming, long day. This first visit was just the start of future work. As always, we are going to learn as we go and take it one step at a time. But we all agree that we have to start somewhere and we have to assess what the different situations really are and what the best way to help might be. The family that takes care of 7 grandchildren, might only need some help providing shoes for their grandchildren, whereas another family might need help with food, school fees, medical care, etc. Our volunteers will visit the homesteads at least once a month to provide that emotional support, the gift of love and hope and assess if needs have changed. Even now, 24 hours after our visits, all I can really do is take a deep breath and pray for God’s help and guidance.

The pictures below are in the order of the homesteads we visited. The woman in all of the pictures that has the lavender dress on is the Rural Health Motivator. The woman in black is Albertinah. In the last picture, the three other ladies are the volunteers – Thoko, Phindile and Gladys.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Confirmation Sunday

Today was confirmation Sunday at St. Paul’s. It was confirmation for all students throughout the circuit. I thought it was a day that would be focused on children. (Silly me, there I go again anticipating something like it would be in the US.) Instead, about 80 adults were confirmed. Confirmation classes are for anyone, usually adults, who want to join the church. The confirmation classes started in February and were held once a week at 8:30 on Sunday morning. Yesterday the classes concluded with a test of what was covered. The service today was about 3 ½ hours long. About 18 or 20 of the confirmands were baptized, and then all were confirmed. As part of the confirmation service each confirmand was given a candle which was lit to remind them of the light of Christ. They were advised to light the candle each day, not because the electricity was out (a common Africa occurrence) but to remind them that the light of Christ is always with them. After the confirmation ritual, each confirmation teacher, the Pastors and main stewards individually shook each confirmand’s hand. It was a joy to see the hugs and smiles as each new member was welcomed into the church. Then after the sermon communion was served. Following the service lunch was served to the confirmands, teachers and Stewards.

I must admit at about the 3 ¼ hour mark, I had to get up and leave. I would have st Pretty much the entire service was in SiSwati, and I can only handle sitting not understanding what is being said for so long before I start getting real fidgety. I was well past my normal 2 hours of patience. If I had known it would end so quickly, I would have stuck it out a few more minutes.

Eighty confirmands is an impressive number by any standards. However, you must realize that these people came from societies (congregations) covering about one third of Swaziland, the majority of it very rural. I would guess less than 4 or 5 of the people have automobiles, which means they have to take public transport and walk. It probably took most people over an hour to get to church. What dedication. I wonder how many Americans would attend church regularly if it took so long to get there and cost what it does here. Sadly, I’m thinking I would probably find many excuses not to attend very often.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A sad few days

Today I attended the funeral for the daughter of Eleanor, the woman who was the secretary at St. Paul’s when I arrived last year. Nonhlanhla, Eleanor’s daughter, was in an automobile accident about 4 weeks ago. Ironically, she was on her way to a funeral in Nelsprit, SA when the accident occurred. She was taken to a hospital in Johannesburg where she underwent surgery for injuries to her spleen and spinal cord. She was healing and was about to be released last Friday or Saturday when all of a sudden, she passed away. The autopsy showed no reason for her sudden death. She was 38 years old. She had lost her husband in 2004, and left two teenage children.

Evidently news of her accident had been announced during church services at St. Paul’s a few weeks ago but since the announcements are spoken in SiSwati, I didn’t know about it. I found out about it when I was talking with my dear friend, Thoko on Thursday morning. She took me to visit Eleanor in her daughter’s home so I could offer my condolences. We sat on straw mats on the floor of the very nice modern home not far from St. Paul’s. As we approached the house we could hear the singing of hymns and then prayers. This was followed by words of sorrow, joy for Nonhlanhla’s life, discussion of the accident and sudden death. All things you would expect to be discussed. Of course, most of it was spoken in their native tongue, so I mainly listened for the few words I could understand and felt what was being said by the heart felt looks on the people’s faces. Tea was served, and as is the custom here, a plate is passed for people to leave a few emalangeni as they are able to assist with the expenses of the funeral and burial. It was a sad time. People came and went the entire day and into the night. I’m told the order of the visit is repeated each time. Hymns are always sung and then prayers said.

This morning the funeral was at 7:00 am. Most funerals are held early in the morning, sometimes as early as 6:00 am. The sight of the pallbearers lifting the casket out of the van from the funeral home brought immediate tears to my eyes with such vivid memories of the recent funeral of my father. The actual service was very similar in content and length to what we would experience in the United States. The only thing that was different was that here they read the messages on each of the cards that accompany the flower arrangements and once again there was someone standing with an offering plate as we left for people to leave cash as they could. Following the funeral at the church, we all followed in a procession of sorts to the cemetery for the gravesite service. The difference here was that they actually lowered the casket into the ground. Some of the flower arrangements were then placed on the casket and then a few men proceeded to fill the hole up with the dirt as the son and daughter stood by the graveside and watched. Men would shovel some dirt on the casket and then others would get into the hole and stamp it down before more dirt would be added. It was a painfully long process. When I shared that we don’t do that in the US, the cemetery workers do it after we leave, my friends were very surprised. They wanted to know how we would know that someone hadn’t removed the body and stolen the casket. The cemetery also isn’t as manicured as most of ours are. Indeed, there wasn’t any grass and many of the graves were only marked my mounds of dirt without a headstone. In Manzini, this cemetery is next to the garbage dump. They finally put up a fence a few months ago between the dump and the cemetery. Following the service everyone who attends the funeral goes back to the family’s house and is served what I’ve come to know as a traditional meal – rice or semp, chicken or beef, coleslaw, potato salad, beets, greens, and salad.

I was glad I went to show my love and appreciation of all Eleanor did for me when I came to Swaziland. Eleanor was very appreciative of my presence. Please keep the family, especially, Nonhlanhla’s children in your prayers.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Global Soles Donation

Monday, the founder and two officers of the non-government organization called Global Soles came to Swaziland to give 100 hundred s hoes to children. Global soles is based out of New York. The founder, Rotimi, said he went to South Africa on a mission trip with his church, last year and was so struck by the numbers of children without shoes that he got a vision of providing shoes to the orphans and vulnerable children. Somehow, I’m not really sure how, he found out about Swaziland and was put in touch with Rev. Nyameka and came to Swaziland or when he first tried to contact Rev. Nyameka. This was their first attempt to do this so it was a learning experience for all. In normal Africa tradition, it ended up being a last minute fire drill that wasn’t very organized because of the lack of communication from one or both parties. I’m not saying that any of this was on the part of Global Soles. Communication methods and standards are different in Swaziland than they are for us Americans. Communication and the Swazi way of planning and lack of attention to details take a lot of patience and getting used to for Americans. However, I must say thin gs always seem to work out in the end and though it was a hectic, in the end worked out fine and the children went home with shiny new shoes.

The secretary from St. Paul’s contacted the 10 schools in central circuit on Friday asking them for the names of 10 children and their shoe sizes. The school was also supposed to bring the children to St. Paul’s on Monday morning, no later than 9:30. On Friday, we thought if we got the shoe sizes we could buy the shoes and have them waiting at St. Paul’s Monday morning. What we didn’t know was how to pay for them and so as a result, we couldn’t get the shoes until the team arrived and of course they arrived much later than 9:30 due to no fault of theirs. So when they finally arrived around 11:00 we rushed to a shoe store in Manzini and purchased basically all of the shoes they had (81 pairs) We brought them back to St. Paul’s around 12:30. Then we started handing them out, having the children try them on. It took us about and hour and a half to distribute the shoes exchanging for different sizes if possible. Lucky for us, unlucky for the children, only about 60 children actually showed up. That cut the distribution time down and gave us a little wiggle room to fit the child with the appropriate size shoe instead of what they were signed up to get. I’ll try and exchange the shoes for appropriate sizes and deliver them to the children who we couldn’t fit with shoes and who weren’t able to come when the 3rd term starts in September.

The most memorable and in retrospect comical part of the day was my transport duty. I had to drive up to Lomngeletjane to pick the children up and bring them to St. Paul’s and then take them back at the end of the day. Picture 10 kids who have never ridden in a car plus Thembie, the woman who started the carepoint, stuffed into my automobile. Five k ids were on the back seat and 5 more were in the way back. I thought of taking a picture, but visions of possible liability kept me from doing so. Anyway, the ride started with quiet children, but by the time we were at St. Paul’s the kids, especially the boys were giggling loudly. Unfortunately when I opened the door in the way back I discovered that one of the girls had thrown up. Wonderful. Thembie cleaned up the car. When it was time to return home they anxiously got back in the car for the return trip. We were having a great time laughing and I was asking them, with the help of Thembie, to tell me in English the names of the animals we passed (a cow and a goat.) I’m sure they thought I was crazy, but I was very impressed that they could identify the animals in English. Unfortunately, I got half of the way up the road to Lomn geletjane and saw that I was on empty. There was no way I could run out of gas on that dirt road in the middle of now where by myself on the way home. So we had to turn around and drive to the nearest town. On the way there the little girl that threw up in the morning said she had to throw up again. So I quickly stopped the car by the side of the road, she got out and got sick. We took off again and just before we were at the Petrol station, another girl threw up all over without any warning. Great. So we pull over again. Luckily there was a hardware store where we stopped. I went in and asked if they had any paper towels or other kind of paper. They looked at me with blank stares and then finally shook their heads no, or maybe that they didn’t understand. So I asked if they had cloth. They did have some cloth which I bought, cut into strips, asked for a couple of plastic shopping bags and went back to the scene. By now most of th e kids were out of the car running around and the girls were still throwing up. Thembie got the kids cleaned up, their sweaters into the plastic bags and wiped up the back seat as best she could. I bet we were a scene by the side of the road.

The bad news is by the time we got back to Lomngeletjane it was almost 5:00 and it was very windy and getting cold and the kids had to walk home. Some of them had to walk a long way and I’m sure they didn’t get home before dark. If we had been in the States, parents would have been calling and going crazy. I wonder what th e mothers were thinking and feeling when their children were gone for so long and so late. I said a prayer for safe travel for them as they walked home.

If you want to find out more about Global Soles, go to their w ebsite: .

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A much needed new garage door!

About a month ago I made mention in my blog of the garage door at the manse (parsonage) that fell on my head as I tried to open it. There are two doors on the garage. The one where I park my car is the worst. It is dented, it’s track is bent out of shape and it’s lost so many bolts I’m amazed it is even up there at all. Both doors have to be secured with wire when they are shut so they don’t bang against the cars in the wind. Well, today I’m getting a new one, thanks to the FUMC-RR team! But as with anything in Swaziland, replacing the doors is an experience.

The experience started with the trip to Cash Build with the person who is going actually replace the doors. He’s a plumber, but oh well. The trip there in his bakkie (pick up truck) was an exercise in constant breath prayers. I’m sure it didn’t have one ounce of transmission fluid in the transmission. I thought the gears would grind themselves right off every time he shifted. But that didn’t seem to slow him down one bit.

We buy the doors and some bolts to secure it after a conversation I don’t quite understand but something about the doors may not be an exact fit and so he’ll organize a welder for the frame. (I don’t even want to go there. Once again, some things I’m better not knowing.) After purchasing the doors, they loaded them on his bakkie. Amazing. Then he drove just as fast back to St. Paul’s. I guess having a tentative load is a challenge, not something to be careful of.

Typical Swazi style, we bought the doors on August 5th, they started to install them on August 6th, finished on August 7th but oh, guess what? There was a problem. The door that Rev. Nyameka uses for his car worked fine. (It was the first one they finished.) However, they didn’t cut the grove out of the side tracks for the locking mechanism to move properly. It was binding so that you had to be inside the garage pushing and pulling on a certain spot while unlocking the door. Oki-doki. (At least it wasn’t falling on my head!) It took until yesterday (August 11th) to get it fixed. But the good news is, they look great and they work great. No more falling down. The wait was worth it. Rev. Nyameka is so happy and so are many of the Society stewards that keep thanking me for that gift. Thank you to the RR team for the funds to make this happen!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

One year in Swaziland!!

This is the day the Lord hath made. Let us be Glad and Rejoice!

A year ago I arrived in Swaziland. For the last week or so I have been reminiscing about leaving my family and friends in the States and the journey to Swaziland. I look back on many great memories, granted some of them bittersweet. Looking back the time has gone so quickly, but I remember those painful, emotional and lonely times especially during those first months when time seemed to stand still. But I was blessed even during those times to know personally what it is like to have the arms of Christ carry me and to feel the life of the Holy Spirit fill my empty, drained, overwhelmed body and mind. God does tend to strip us down so he can grow us up again all for his glory. I am so blessed to be here. I still ask myself almost everyday and certainly every time I am thanked “for all I do,” why I am here, what I did to deserve such a blessing and what God’s plans are for me. I haven’t done anything overwhelming. I haven’t accomplished great things. I am one person representing Christ and the United Methodist Church from the US in a small, very beautiful yet impoverished country with overwhelming needs and problems. But then I hear God’s whisper that I am where I belong and that His work isn’t about greatness, it’s about sharing His love one heart at a time, one child at a time, one person at time. I can do that with God’s help.

The following is a list of ramblings about this past year. It doesn’t by any stretch of the imagination begin to describe this past year and all the blessings I received and lessons I’ve learned. There is more in my heart than I can possibly put down on paper, but I have such joy and thanksgiving in my heart for the privilege of serving the Lord and for all of you who have supported me financially, spiritually and emotionally that I felt I had to try.

I'm sorry it is long. God Bless you!

· I arrived in Swaziland on the anniversary of my mother’s death the previous year. I missed her terribly but felt her strong presence with me those first few months. Then in May I abruptly flew home before my father passed away in June. I had no idea before I left the US the first hand experience I would have in dealing with death and grief and the impact my parents death would have on me. I also had no idea how much this experience would fill me with even more love for our heavenly Father.

· The Lord blessed me by putting wonderful women from the States serving in Swaziland with various mission organizations in my live. They have offered me Christian fellowship, study and support.

· I’ve been on every main tarred road in Swaziland and on more dirt roads than most Swazi’s. I’ve learned to drive on the opposite side of the road in a car that must perform as a 4-wheel drive even though it isn’t. I’ve forded rivers in the dark and found my way back from places using highly technical techniques such as counting the number of right versus left turns or looking at the configuration of trees, rocks or where the fence might end. Yes, the Lord answers all of our prayers.

· I have been to 25 out of the 36 Methodist schools and carepoints in Swaziland. I have no problem finding my way to 16 of them which is probably more than anyone else in Swaziland except for possibly Rev. Margaret Dlamini. I know the head teacher’s name at all 10 schools in Central circuit and can even recognize them when they are not at their school. This may not sound like much of an accomplishment, but believe me, I never thought I would be able to do this.

· I’ve experienced what it means to be flat on your face before God and also experienced His grace and comfort as he has reminded me that he is always with me.

· I’ve learned that at least 33% of the children attending Methodist schools are Orphaned or Vulnerable (severely destitute). Extended families, communities and schools are stretched thin trying to care for these children. I’ve also learned that most families who are trying to care for the children of relatives that have died do not receive any type of support for their efforts which often adds to the resentment. I’ve also heard, via an interpreter, many stories of children living on their own because parents have either died or abandoned them and of families or community members taking advantage of these children because they feel they are entitled to what is being given to them or because they want the land they are living on. I’m told of many, many children whose only food is what they receive at school or a carepoint. I can’t fathom how they survive during school vacations.

· I’ve become accustomed to seeing children who appear to be no older than 2 or 3 years old walking alone along a road in the middle of what seems like no where. Often these children don’t have any shoes on their feet even when they are walking on the hot pavement of the high ways in temperatures in excess of 90 degrees. Sometimes they may be wheelbarrows with water containers or carrying containers that are almost as big as they are. Sometimes they just seem to be walking.

· I’ve been thoroughly amazed and in awe of how the women quietly carry the burdens of life around with them including children on their backs and bundles on their heads. I look at some of these beautiful faces and wonder how they survive and wonder about their personal life stories.

· God has given me the patience to learn more about building structures and fences than I really cared to know. I’ve grown accustomed to going into the Swaziland version of Home Depot (about 1 10th the size, variety and number of items) and asking for a quotation of building supplies and converse with (male) builders regarding how something should or could be built. I still can’t get the metric thing, but at least I understand the lingo and am beginning to understand how they do things here, i.e. without fancy tools and machines, and what needs to be done first, second and third. I’m even getting pretty good at reading blueprints!

· I’ve learned much about the Swazi culture and continue to learn more each day. I’ve come to love greeting people by shaking hands. It is not in their culture to say hello from a far. They come and personally shake hands of those they are greeting. It is also their culture that when someone comes to visit, you provide them a drink of water before they leave. A big meal is always served at a celebration and their opinion of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is that it is breakfast food not lunch.

· I’ve learned much patience as I wait for my e-mail to load over a very slow phone line, or wait for things to be done in Swazi time. I’ve noticed I can finally stop saying to myself “patience is a virtue.”

· I’ve learned to always have a supply of water on hand to drink and to wash myself or use to flush the toilet. I’ve also learned that you schedule many things based on water availability. For example, if there’s no water, you dirty the least amount of dishes possible when cooking or eating. On the flip side, if there is water, you better do the dishes or wash some clothes (by hand of course, hanging them out on a clothesline to dry) because you may not have water the next day.

· I’ve grown accustomed to not going out after dark and planning ahead on groceries because the grocery store closes at dark. Most stores are closed on Saturday afternoon and Sunday. There are a few restaurants in Manzini, but most of the decent ones require that I drive 20 to 30 minutes which isn’t something that I do alone at night. The amazing thing is that there are four Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in Swaziland, two of which are in Manzini. And even more amazing is that you can buy a soft serve ice cream cone for R2.75 (about 30 cents US). I never though KFC would look or taste so good!

· I’ve experienced lightening strikes on my front porch, rain so hard it comes in under my front door, and wind blowing so hard I can see the dust blowing inside the house with all doors and windows shut. I’ve also seen the beauty of the mountains green from rain and the beautiful blooms that come with spring and summer. Swaziland is such a beautiful country.

· I’ve had a few uncomfortable encounters with beggars or people on the streets, but for the most part people have been warm and even protective. Those I’ve come to know greet me with genuine friendship and even love. The children at St. Paul’s Primary call out “Hi Chris” or “how are you?” as I walk through the school yard. When I go up to Lomngeletjane the people on the streets wave and the children in the classrooms get giggly. Some have even started to hug me. It is so amazing. And yet when I go to some of the schools that I don’t visit as often or see small children on the street I’ve also gotten used to being stared at and pray that over time my smile and hello will be responded to with a smile or hello back.

· God has blessed me with the means of transportation to enable the Manyano women to visit homesteads of people who are in need. A few of them also enjoy visiting the schools with me and will talk to children who they see who look in need to see what their needs really are. My heart is always deeply touched and I am amazed at the determination and fortitude of people who have such a hard life compared to virtually anyone in the US.

· We’ve got a small sewing circle started, with the same few ladies sewing school uniforms for the children on Lomngeletjane and then for other children in need. It is a blessing to visit with these very Christian and dedicated ladies.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalms 46:10

Visualize an animated Pastor speaking with emotion, sometimes almost shouting in English and sometimes in SiSwati. The languages seem to intertwine especially in the height of emotion. Since English is my only language, I have to listen very carefully to try and understand what the message is. Luckily, Rev Nyameka is kind enough to speak enough English so that if I listen carefully I can generally follow along.

This morning he said he was going to focus on Hebrews 8:6 (“The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.”) and Colossians 3:15 (“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you are called to peace. Be thankful.”) Then all of a sudden, as I am listening for the English mixed in with the SiSwati I hear him say “Be still and know that I am ____?” I could answer that question because that has always been one of my favorite and most meaningful verses! Rev. Nyameka went on to say how we need to focus on Christ. We need to talk to Christ about everything, even the “small talks.” We have no power to solve our problems. We need to “be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10) His perspective was that stress is God’s way to tell us we are not focusing on on Jesus. Our problems come from our own inability to be still. When I was still working in the States, I would constantly remind myself to be still, take a deep breath and know that God is with me and in control. Since coming to Swaziland there is not as much to distract me, but I still need to be still and know that God is with me. Many times I have to close my eyes, even for a moment, take a deep breath, and know that in the stillness is God. He is with me. Then I can let the breath out and go in peace knowing that I am not alone and that He is in control.

I had visitors from Houston with me today. Roxanne Richter and Dr. Tom Flowers of World Missions Possible from Houston, Texas drove through Swaziland on their way to Kruger Park. After church I drove them up to Lomngeletjane so they could see our newest Methodist school. As I started to drive away from Lomngeletjane, I noticed beautiful red flowers coming out on one of the trees by the side of the road. What a beautiful sign that spring is coming and another reminder that if I focus and be still, I will know that God is all around me.

Have a blessed day.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Black Mbulzi Homestead

Today was another day in paradise – serving the Lord in a beautiful country with beautiful, humble women. Yes, today I was blessed to be the transport again for the Manyano ladies. (I’ve decided this is my TRUE ministry – enabling the ladies to do their outreach.) A few weeks ago there was a fire near the Black Mbulzi church, primary school and preschool where the RR team painted while they were here. Thoko, the social concerns Manyano woman had joined us to paint and while there she went to visit the homestead. There were three women and their small children living in a small house on the homestead and it caught fire from a candle. Everything was destroyed. Thoko came back to Manzini and started collecting clothes and blankets for the family. Today Thoko and Thini and I took the things out to Black Mbulzi where we were met by some of the Manyano women from the local society. There’s lots of pictures, but you will get the idea of what went on. The ladies carried the things into the homestead, singing songs of praise. Then Thoko led a small service while we were all sitting on mats under the tree. She said used Psalms 23 as the basis for her little talk. They sang a few songs, prayed, Mr. Mthethwa, the Society Steward, also prayed and said a few words. Then they presented the items to the ladies. I had brought a few balls and stuffed animals for the children and was privileged to present them to the children. After the presentation and pictures were taken, the ladies sang a few songs of thanks, said a few words and prayed. Of course I don’t know what was said but picked out a few words of thanks to God. Mr. Mthethwa came up to me afterwards and said that he knew I didn’t understand the different language but they were also thanking me for the transport. That is the most Mr. Mthethwa has said to me at one time! I was very honored.

Once again, as I sat on the mat, in the shade of a tree feeling the light, warm breeze on my face and not understanding the spoken word I was thanking God for the opportunity to play such a small part in this sharing of faith, caring, love and concern. It was a beautiful day.