Monday, May 11, 2009

Last week's adventures

Last week went by rather quickly. It was a fairly busy week. On Tuesday my friend Mary Beth and I went to Nelsprit, SA for the day. We both looked at our calendars and decided if we didn't go then we probably wouldn't be able to go until mid-July or August after the teams left and things settle down. We left Mbabane around 6:45 AM to go through the border shortly after it opened. It was a beautiful day with almost no traffic on the roads or at the border. As always, our first stop was to get a good cup of coffee or in my case a good decaf latte. Then we had a few things to get in the mall and then went for lunch at Mugg & Bean. This is right next to a grocery store that carries the largest assortment of US foods anyone has encountered in all of South Africa. Mugg & Bean and the grocery store were the center of our trip to Nelsprit. We were like kids looking at everything on the shelf and discovering a few prize items. For me the highlight was a can of Bush's BBQ baked beans, two cans of black beans (they don't have black beans anywhere here) and a small package of frozen blueberries! For Mary Beth it was a spray bottle of Fabreeze. We were so excited with how we scored big time, even though we spent an arm and a half for the items. Our trip back was wonderful and we made it back to Mbabane well before dark which now comes about 5:45.

On Wednesday I took the ladies who volunteer for Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu (For the love of Christ) project out to lunch to celebrate being funded for another 6 months. The ladies donate their time to travel with me to the homesteads of the children we are trying to help with the project. I should say that I drive with them. I'm the transport. They do all the actual work. I took them to my favorite restaurant in Swaziland: Mantenga Lodge. In typical Swazi fashion, things didn't go as planned, however, the ladies all said they had a great time and enjoyed the opportunity to talk. I was disappointed during much of the afternoon because the restaurant had changed their menu so my favorite dish wasn't available anymore (spareribs with sauce as close to Texas as any I've found so far.) But also it drove home to me how very different our cultures and expectations are. I love the view as much as the food, but for them, even though they had never been there before, the view didn't mean as much to them and they were disappointed in the menu because they didn't serve what Swazi's consider a celebration meal, meaning much meat. The waitress graciously worked with the cook to provide them the meal they wanted. Then the ladies talked mostly in Siswati so I ended up sitting there reminding myself to take in the beauty of the scenery all around me. I gathered from what little I did understand that they were venting a lot of emotions regarding Swazi life in general and some things that have been going on at the church which haven't been real Christian like. One of the ladies on the executive committee also joined us and I was doubly glad because she could offer them wonderful words of wisdom, encouragement, hope and thanks for all their efforts.

After lunch I had to take three of the ladies home because it was late and it had started raining. My dear friend
Thoko who lives the farthest out in the rural area would not be able to get transport at that time of the day/evening and it was raining so she would have had to walk in the rain. I couldn't take one home without taking them all home. When we dropped her off at her house in the pouring rain she directed us to go back via a way I have only been once before. She said it was shorter and that the river isn't as high in that spot so it is easy to cross. The other ladies had the directions so they directed me quickly without any trouble to the river. At first glance at the river I gasped "Oh my God! We have to pray." Praying started with me saying 'Lord, I trust you will get us across this river.." I started slowly across with that pit in my stomach warning me I was doing something I really should know better than to do it. The river isn't very wide, maybe 20 feet across. About 1/3 to 1/2 way across I swear I felt my wheels leave the soft, sandy river bottom. I prayed harder and held my breath and fought the urge to close my eyes. As my car kept going forward across the river and my car started reaching the more solid dirt of the river bank, I started saying " Lord, 'Even though I walk through the valley of death' has new meaning for me. Thank you for being with us." It was a few minutes after getting onto solid ground that I started breathing normally again.

On Thursday I took
Thoko and Thini to a Manyano meeting at the Lutfotja society where we first started the Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu project. We wanted to explain to the women about the project and formally hand it over to their local CCS (missions person). She will keep in touch with the families and report back to us progress or needs while we start working with the second school. When we arrived we saw one of the children we help and her Aunt. Mthokoisize was also in attendance. The Rural Health Motivator was also there. It was so good to see these people that I have come to love. It was like coming home. The little girl, Samekelisiwe, actually let me give her a hug! I didn't understand a word they were saying during the meeting, but I could see on every one's faces that they were listening intently to what Thoko and Thini were saying and that they were all praising God for our visit and what our project has done for the children in their community. The grandfather of one of our children brought a big pot of backed sweet potatoes for us to eat and then gave a big bag of them to Thoko and Thini to take home. It was a very blessed day and I think it gave Thoko and Thini a lot of encouragement for the work they do. They don't often get much encouragement, just complaints from most of the women at St. Paul's. My personal highlight was when Samekelisiwe came and sat next to me when I motioned her to and let me hug her and sit there with my arm around her rubbing her back. She was so afraid of me when she first met me and she was so obviously sick. Now she is much, much better. She looks healthy and has the most beautiful smile. Unfortunately she doesn't hear well. We're sending her to a ear specialist at another hospital this week to see if they can do anything for her. As we left, we were loaded down with 4 additional ladies plus the big bag of sweet potatoes. What a site! By the way, their "sweet potatoes" aren't like ours in the US. These are white with a texture somewhere between an overcooked red sweet potato and an old white potato. They are very dry and kind of stick in your throat no matter how you cook them. The taste is okay though.

On Friday,
Bethuel and I went up to Lomngeletjane to check on the progress of the toilets. We were very disappointed and actually a bit angry that John and his crew had not been working very much since our last visit. We also had to wait for almost an hour before he actually got on-site. Bethuel and I had a pretty stern, plain discussion with him and I told him both toilets needed to be completely done by May 19th when school starts up again. Our first team, from Louisiana, arrive on May 22nd. I received a message this morning that John is on-site, the materials we ordered were delivered on Saturday and he is working hard so I shouldn't worry. Actually, I do have faith he will get in gear and get the buildings finished, but this IS Swaziland. Anything could happen to delay him.

On Sunday, I went up to Mbabane to attend a English speaking church with several
people there who are here with Children's Cup. It was bittersweet but such a blessing. The day was absolutely beautiful with just a touch of cool crisp fall weather and the beautiful white clouds suspended in the most beautiful blue sky that only seems to happen in the fall. The pastor, an American, called all mothers up on stage and gave us a chocolate candy bar and prayed for us and all of the mothers and gogo's (grandmothers) around the world. The tears couldn't be held back as I thought of how much I miss my mother and my sons. But I felt the love of Christ wrapped around me and knew it was okay. Okay to miss them, okay to cry and okay to cling to Christ in my humanity because he was clinging to me right back.

Ben, the Pastor, said one thing that stuck in my mind and heart that is so very, very true. He said makes (mothers, pronounced
magay) and gogos in Swaziland work harder, sacrifice more and love unconditionally more than any of the mothers or grandmothers he has seen anywhere else in the world where he has been. They certainly have it much harder than anyone in the US could even imagine, even the poorest of our poor in the US. I find this so true and what strikes me the most is the love and sacrifice of the gogos above all else. They are the hope for the future and yet their own future is so limited. I shudder to think where these children would be without the gogos. No matter how poor the gogo is, her homestead is always much better off than one that has no gogo. You can't always see the difference, but you can feel it. It's all because of the grandmothers love, eternal sacrificing and dedication to her children and especially her grandchildren. God bless the gogos.

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