Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Making Vaseline in Siteki

Today we had an awesome time visiting some of the ladies at the Emmanuel Society (congregation) in Siteki which is on the eastern side of Swaziland. On Tuesdays, some of the ladies of this Society get together and make things to sell in order to make money for their projects or to buy parcels to give to the elderly and OVCs at Christmas time. They make things such as Vaseline and a soup mix called "archer." Soon they are going to learn to make floor polish. Who would ever guess a few ladies could make Vaseline in their church kitchen? Not me. Here's how it's done:

The ladies cut leaves from the sisal plant which is a cactus type plant with long pointed leaves. They look very similar to some of the sturdier Yucca's that grow everywhere in Texas. Then they cut up the leaves and the fibers are pulled out of the leaf and discarded.


The pieces of sisal are then boiled in Hydraulic oil to extract the juice:
The juice and oil mixture is then strained.

Pure white Petroleum Jelly is melted.

Then a the sisal juice/oil mixture is added to the petroleum jelly and stirred until it is a very clear liquid.

A little bit of lemon scent is added and then the liquid is poured into containers to cool.
Once the containers are cool, it is ready to be sold.

Stripping the leaves of all of the fibers takes the most amount of time. But it was the most precious time because we could sit and listen to the ladies talking while they worked. I understood a very few words scattered throughout their conversations but it was music to my ears.

The amazing thing about these ladies is that they have a heart for mission. They are few in numbers but joined together to initially buy the supplies to start this venture and then work together to make the product and sell it. The profits are used to help those in need. The spirit these ladies have and the dedication is contagious and very inspiring. These ladies truly have a servant's heart and know how to use it. Every Tuesday they gather together to do their projects. They were so excited that we joined them today because as they said: "many hands make the work small." Please say a prayer of thanksgiving for these wonderful Christian ladies who are a shinging example for us all. They are (from left to right): Fikile, Dinah, thoko, Yvone, Mirriam, Lettie and Margaret.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Fallen House

We went to Lutfotja Methodist Primary School today to check on the OVC’s (Orphaned & Vulnerable Children) that are being helped by a program we’re calling “Lutsandvo LwaKrestu” (for the love of Jesus in Siswati.) We started this program in August, 2008 with 4 children at this school and are now up to 16 children. Three or four of them are in visibly better health because of the medication and Doctor’s visits that are being funded through this program. Through this program we met a family of four children which I have written about a couple of times. This is the family whose mother’s whereabouts are unknown and the father works on the other side of Swaziland and rarely comes home. He doesn’t support his children in anyway. So the children live on their own and are often without food or other necessities. Mthokoisiwe is the oldest child, a boy aged 14. He wasn’t going to school because the father didn’t pay the required school fees. Through a grant from the Manyano (the Methodist Church of Southern Africa’s women’s organization), he started High School (8th grade) a few weeks ago. After Lutfotja, we went to Mthokoisiwe’s High School to check on the status and speak briefly with the child. While at the High School, Mthokoisiwe told us that their house had fallen down in the rains that have been hitting Swaziland so hard in January and February. Of course we took him home to see the house. Rain, dirt roads, hills, valleys and streams don’t mix well but we made it. I really don’t know how to explain to you what we saw and how we felt. These children are staying by themselves, it is cold and damp, the house they were sleeping in, which is really their father’s house has fallen down around them because of the rain and the poor construction. The smaller house which is their kitchen (just a bare floor where they build a fire and a window for the smoke to go out of) is about to fall down but that is where they are sleeping now. I watched the little girl who is in 2nd grade try to start a fire out of sticks of gathered wood under part of the roof of the fallen-down house wondering how their wet school dresses were going to dry and how they were going to cook a pot of mealie meal (thick ground corn) with such a small fire. I wondered how at such a young age the child knew how to do such things. I wondered where and how they could do their school work and how they washed their clothes. I wondered how they would stay warm, and how they wake up and get to school on time. I forced myself not to be angry with the father and stay focused on the children. I had to leave and start walking back to the car so I could shed a few tears in private and ask God why and for him to take care of these children, because no one else can do it but Him. Then we left. It took me 4 hours to get home because of the rain and muddy roads and because I took Thoko and Thini home because they had missed the last transportation to their homesteads. The short cut to Thoko’s house, through the country and across a small river is impassable now because the river is too high so we had to go the formal, but long way which took at least an hour after we got to Manzini. It’s still raining outside.

Please pray for these children and for God to reveal the right answer because I know what I might think is a good thing to do may not be the right thing in the long run and for the resources to help their situation.

Friday, February 6, 2009

If you build it, they will come.

After about an hour of watching, learning, clapping, and covering our eyes as cars attempted to make it up the slippery muddy last hill on the way to Lomngeletjane, I decided to give it a try. A couple of the young truck drivers kept telling me I could make it up, even after other cars failed. And then there is that good old pride that was at stake. On one hand, I didn’t want to turn around and not attempt it, but on the other hand, I didn’t want to get stuck and have to have the guys who where standing around watching have to push me out like they did about a half a dozen other cars. So Laura and I each took a deep breath and let out a good old Texas “yeehaw” and up the hill we went. I’m proud to say we hardly fishtailed as we made it all the way to the top. Everyone was cheering us on. Lesson for the day: watching and learning from others is a very good thing to do.

Then on to Lomngeletjane. It was so good to see John (the Builder) and the office/storage/kitchen building almost finished (there are just a few finishing touches left.)

When we dedicated Lomngeletjane last November, there were 29 students and about 10 preschool students. Now there are 88 students in grades one to three and 24 preschool students. It is amazing. Unfortunately, there are only about 10 desks and maybe 50 chairs in the primary classes and just two tables and benches in the preschool. The government still hasn’t officially registered the school so there is only one teacher that goes between the three classrooms. Until the school gets registered and the money flows from the government there aren’t funds to provide the basics (i.e. desks, chairs, chalkboards, teachers, etc.) for this new school; and who knows how long it will take to get the funds from the government once it is registered.


  1. A car stuck in mud on the last hill going to Lomngeletjane.
  2. New food storage / head teacher’s office / veranda for cooking.
  3. Catching rainwater for future use.
  4. Kids in “lunch” line at school. Children are getting a cup full of mealy meal, or as we would know it, ground corn with water cooked into a thick porridge.
  5. Kids eating.
  6. Kids washing their plates.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I'm back.....

My friend, Laura and I arrived in Swaziland on Wednesday afternoon February 4th. Richard Bosart was kind enough to drive us over. Much to our surprise, it misted most of the way from Johannesburg to Swaziland, and by the time we got to the border it was outright raining. The summer (which we are in down here) is the rainy season, but this rain is very out of character. It has been raining a lot over the last two weeks.

I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that they had called Lungile, the girl who normally does some laundry and cleaning for me, to come and clean my house. I didn’t have to walk into a mass of cob webs and lots of dust. Unfortunately, because of the rain the clean floor got muddy very quickly.

My toilet bowl wouldn’t fill after flushing, but Richard cleaned out the filter and fixed that problem and my phone didn’t work. But other than that everything was fine. What a difference from last year. I called the phone company today and they came this afternoon to fix it. Amazing.

I’ve only turned onto the wrong side of the road once so far so things are going good. I saw Thoko today and we had such a good time catching up, although there is much, much more catching up to do. It sounds like she and the volunteers did a super job while I was gone, which I had complete confidence and faith that they would.

One of the real blessings that happened while I was gone was that as we had planned, food parcels were taken to the homesteads of the children we are helping through one of the grants. As it turned out, the chairman of this committee went as well as one of the associate pastors. When they took the food parcel to Mthokosiwe’s homestead, his father was there. Mthokosiwe is the young man who will now be going to school thanks to a grant from the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. He also acts as the head of household to three younger children because the mother’s whereabouts is unknown and the father would rarely come home from where he works about 3 hours away. The father met Thoko and the others and expressed how bad he felt that he didn’t come home more often and that he couldn’t provide much for his family. Indeed that is part of the reason he stayed away; he felt so bad and people kept giving him a hard time. But he was so touched by what the children had told them the ladies have done for the family. He said obviously God loves his family and he wants his children to go to church to know God better. The father stayed home for the holidays and started building again on a house he had started so the children will have a better place to live. Praise God! Miracles do happen every day.

We tried to drive up to Lomngeletjane today to see if the kitchen/storage/office building was completed, but the mud was so slippery that after three attempts, Richard turned around. The rain has stopped a little bit this afternoon so I am hoping we can make it up there tomorrow. I need my kid fix and I can’t wait to see the finished building (hopefully).

It was a great time in the US. It was so great to spend so much time with so many of you. Thank you all for your support – financial and emotional. I have carried it back with me. I look forward to an exciting 2009 serving God by loving and helping his children one child (of any age) at a time and heart at a time.

God bless you all.