Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A day full of emotion

Today started out with me reminding myself that THIS IS AFRICA! Thoko and I had the day planned and were organized and ready to go. About 5:50 this morning there was a knock at my door which wasn’t a big surprise. (TIA) I was just lying in bed procrastinating about getting up and starting on the day. Sphiwe was returning something to me before he left for a Minister’s retreat. He also asked me to deliver something to the church’s secretary at 8:00. No big deal. I sat down at my computer to check my e-mail while I drank a cup of coffee. It was probably my first mistake, because I always end up being on the computer more than I plan and I put checking e-mail above doing my bible study which in the end meant I didn’t have time to do it this morning. Then about 6:50 there’s another know at my door. Dennis wanted the keys to a building up at the church which meant I had to go with him to show him what he was looking for. Ah, but I hadn’t showered yet. So I quickly showered and went up to help him. Then I spoke with Rev. Nyameka, came back to my place, quickly ate a little breakfast and left to make it to the bus rank in Manzini at 8:30. I made it right on time. Thoko was just arriving. Perfect. Then she got a phone call from Thini that she was delayed. First it was one thing and then another. Thoko and I went to get some estimates on fencing rather than just sit. About an hour and 45 minutes later, Thini calls again and says she can’t get transport so we have no choice but to drive about 10 minutes in each direction to get her. So we finally take off for the homesteads we planned on visiting in the Luve area. I get a few kilometers down the dirt road and realize that I forgot to put petrol in my car. We are going way out in the rural area. I couldn’t go without more petrol because there aren’t petrol stations were we were going. But it would probably cause another 20 or 30 minutes delay. I was very discouraged and so was Thoko. Our day’s plans were totally ruined.

On the way to the Petrol station, still angry at how the day was going and frustrated with it being an African day, I started singing to myself the song from youth “This is the day that the Lord hath made…” We got Petrol and I realized I didn’t have small bills to give to the people we had planned on giving money for transport to. The Petrol station also didn’t have change, but we were able to work that out.

So, we finally arrive at our first homestead. We were going to measure the garden area they had to determine what kind and how much fencing would be needed for an adequate fence the cheapest way possible. When we arrived we found out that the daughter, who is HIV+ was sick with “tummy” problems. She needed to go see the Dr. in Mbabane even though it is very far away because that is where she gets her ARV’s. People on “the medication” are supposed to go back to where they get their medication each month if illnesses arise in between the regular monthly visits. The round trip transport cost for the child and her mother is 120E.

There is also a 13 year old boy in this family, Sicelo, who should be in the 5th grade, but there isn’t money for his school fees so he stays home. He has the cutest smile. He eagerly helped me measure the garden and then when I took pictures of he and his mother, and showed him the pictures on my camera he just kept saying “how beautiful.” Our frustration of the morning was already starting to dissipate though we were aware of how late it was.

We traveled to the second homestead on our list where we wanted to talk to the gogo about the possibility of her raising chickens to provide them with eggs and meat and also as a way of earning a little bit of money. The gogo could hardly walk when we were there last week because of arthritis, osteoporosis and other ailments. No one was home. We were a bit concerned, but it looked like people where walking to a homestead down the road for some sort of service – possibly a death in the community. So we left.

Then we went to the homestead of the four children who have been abandoned by their parents. We wanted to see if the oldest child, a 14 year old boy named Mthokozisi, had actually planted the seedlings we brought to him a few weeks ago and we also wanted to take him to the High School to see about enrolling him in school next year. He is such a delightful boy; bright, hard working and his teachers said he was a good student. He had cleaned up the homestead since the last time we were there and his little garden was doing well, especially the tomato plants. He showed us the letter he had written to the head teacher at the high school asking to be considered for admittance to form 1 (8th grade) next year. He had done a great job, but the paper was torn and discolored as if something had spilled on it. My first thought is he wrote a great letter, but it was so messy and dirty it wasn’t going to make a very good impression. Thoko then told me that the reason it was torn and discolored is because he was writing the letter last Saturday when it was raining and the roof leaks. (Oh yes, just one example of life in Swaziland’s humbling moments.)

On the way to the high school we decided to stop by the primary school, Luftoja, to give a child a pair of shoes and leave transport money for two other children that will be going to get their monthly medication next week. We talked to the head teacher and counselor about our plan to talk to the head teacher of the high school and found out that they were there when we first arrived! The head teacher and counselor didn’t seem too excited about our plan, especially the part when we asked them to waive the outstanding fees from last year so he could his results to apply for high school. But they finally consented to our plan to go talk to the head teacher and said the counselor would go with us to the high school. At the last minute the counselor asked the deputy to go with us.

On the way to the car 4 of the children whose homesteads we have visited ran up to great us with huge smiles on their faces. One was the little boy, Mxolsi, who was on crutches and looking very sickly when we first met him. He now is running and looks very healthy! What a blessing.

So finally we made it to the high school. The five of us were granted a short meeting with the head teacher. By God’s perfect plan, the head of the school committee was also present and we found out he was the head of the school committee for the high school and the primary school! He was our stumbling block to get the unpaid fees waived from the primary school so he could be admitted to the high school. They wouldn’t let Mthokozisi go in with us and I felt so bad for him. But the counselor introduced us and told the story to the head teacher. The head teacher agreed to admit Mthokozisi if we could come up with the difference of what the government pays for vulnerable children to attend school and what the actual school fees are. He said he is in the business of children. They would find a way to admit him! I wanted to jump for joy, but I behaved. However, I couldn’t help but put my arm around Mthokozisi as we exited the office and tell him that he was going to school next year!

We returned to Manzini around 3:30, tired, hot, and thirsty. We had bought a couple of rounds of bananas so we weren’t really hungry. But we were so happy and grateful that God had planned for all the right people to be available to say they would admit Mthokozisi in form 1 next year that we were energized. It was so important to Thoko, Thini and I because he is such a bright, nice, responsible young man and we just couldn’t bear the thought of him sitting around the homestead doing nothing, with no food to eat, turning bitter, lazy, maybe even abusive or leave home. Now this child will have hope. He knows people love him and believe in him. Of course, we still have to come up with the money to pay for his fees, a school uniform and student stationary for the next 5 years, but we have faith this will happen. Thoko is going to try to get a 5 year grant from the district Manyano executive officers. If we don’t get the grant, the Lord will provide another way. I just know He will. He didn’t arrange this perfect day for this child to then leave him behind and have all his hopes and dreams taken away.

It’s all about one heart/child at a time.


Sicelo and his mother

Mthokozisi helping Thini through the barbed wire fence at his homestead.

Mthokozisi’s letter to head teacher

Mxolsi and Thephilile (Mthokozisi’s youngest sister)


Jen said...

How much is it in total for his 5 years at school, uniform and stationary?
I can do a small fundraiser here!

Harwick Family said...


I read your blog from time to time. I am also a member of FUMC RR, former Lay Leader and Admin Chair, but now Lay Delegate to Annual Conference. Your journey is inspiring and makes me wonder "Brad, what have you done to make the world a better place?". Well, with an 8 year old and 5 year old, I am hoping the Lord is pleased with what I am doing to raise them up in his light.

I hope your mission remains meaningful. Let us know if you need anything.

Brad Harwick