Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A long day and a new name!

Yesterday was one of those 12-hour days in the mission field. It was full of highs and lows, but what’s new? And of course winter decided to hit yesterday so it was very cold, cloudy and drizzling part of the day.

The day started with a visit to Mthokozise’s school to get a report on how he is doing. Imagine three Swazi women and I going into the office to have a meeting with our “son’s” teacher? He had no idea that Mthokozise was being supported by the Methodist Church, of his home life and situation or that he was loved so much by so many mothers. He thanked up profusely for being so involved in his life. He said most people just send a check at the beginning of the school year and never follow up. He said he was so blessed to see our love and concern for this child. After meeting with him, we saw Mthokozise on his break. We all had to give him a hug and each of us had some question or word of motherly advice for him. As I hugged him in the middle of the school yard, I thought of how I wouldn’t have dared to do that to my own sons. They would have disowned me. Ah, the little ironies of life.

From there we went to check up on a few of our kids that are part of the Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu project that are ill and leave money at the school for them to see a Doctor. The CCS (Christian Community Service) Manyano (Methodist) woman from that society (congregation) has been actively working with these children and their families on behalf of this project. She said she went around begging with people to give her blankets for one family that had none. She also talked about Mthokozise’ and his sisters needs at church on Sunday. As a result the members of that small society took up a collection of 75 rand to help feed the children. That isn’t a lot by our standards, but for people who are mainly unemployed with little cash, it is a tremendous amount. Our hearts were bursting with joy at how much our sister in Christ has learned and is growing in her role as the society’s CCS.

Then we drove over the river and through the hills to Salukazi Primary school. We added 11 families from that school to our Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu Project. We have visited all but two of the families. These last two families live so far out in the rural area that no one really knows where their homesteads are. So we picked up the children to show us where they live. The first child’s homestead was way, way out in the middle of no where. His grandfather said it takes them 2 hours to walk to school. I’m not sure that is exactly true, but I’m sure it takes at least an hour and we’ve been told by the head teacher at the school that some of the girls from this area have been raped as they walk to school. The grandfather lives in this homestead with one daughter who is a widow and a son living there with his wife. The grandfather has two grown children who have died. In addition, there are 12 children living on the homestead; six where under 4 or 5 years of age. As the ladies talked with the adults, I sat on my mat watching the children, observing the adults as they talked and praying. The mother of the youngest child had one of the children run and get her a bottle to feed to the baby when it woke up and cried a little. I found myself thinking that the mother was probably HIV+ or she wouldn’t be giving the baby a bottle. These people weren’t near a store or clean water. They wouldn’t be using a bottle unless it was necessary. Then I found myself thinking about how calmly I was processing my observations and wondered if my heart is hardening or if God has given me the strength to see what I need to see without my heart breaking open every time I visit a homestead. I prefer to think it is the later which is an answer to my prayers for strength and wisdom. When the conversation was beginning to wind down, it started raining a cold, steady rain. We hurried to the warmth and safety of my car, but the family remained under the tiny thatched roof.

As I drove away, I heard something on my tire. When I looked to see what it was I saw that I had run over a branch from a big thorn bush that is so common in Africa. I pulled it out and immediately heard the air escaping from the tire. Oops. By now it was about 2:30 or so. I had only had an apple for lunch with almost no water to drink all day. I was cold and one of the women was seriously getting on my nerves because of the tone of her voice and how much she always talks. She also has a way of making things sound worse than they are. I found myself so irritated at her that she made such a big deal about the children walking for 2 hours to get to school, but didn’t seem to notice the pathetic homestead and lowly conditions in which they were living. I had to tell the second child that she would have to walk home which irritated me even more because it meant we couldn’t finish our homestead visits as planned and I felt bad making her walk home in the rain when we had said we were taking her home. I wanted to get back to Manzini before my tire was completely flat. So I drove as fast as I thought I could or should go to the place in Manzini that fixes flat tires. I was real quiet as I drove, watching out for everything and any little sign that my tire has gone completely flat. But I knew that I was really being so quiet because I was angry and irritable. So we get to the tire place, I tell everyone to get out of my car and the guy fixes the flat in about 10 minutes for 15 rand. That’s less than $2.00. What a deal!

Just as we are leaving the tire place, Thoko says the others are wondering if we can go get something to eat because we have a meeting of this committee at 5:00 and they only had bread and boloney for lunch. I knew I needed to get something for these ladies to eat, but I was feeling tired and overloaded at that moment. But, of course I begrudgedly said yes, we could drive to the grocery store around the corner. As we start to go to the store, Thini says “We haven’t decided on a name for Christine yet and we must do it today.” For a foreigner to receive a Swazi name is an honor. It’s not something that is done readily. When I heard this from other missionaries when I first came to Swaziland I thought I would probably never be given a Swazi name. Thini offered up two names, but said she thought my name should be Nothando. The one lady who was getting on my nerves said to me “I bet you don’t know what it means.” I responded with a big lump in my throat that yes, I did know what it means. It means love. The woman was pleased that I knew what it meant, and I was so humbled. Why at my lowest moment when I was feeling the farthest from a Christian as possible, did Thini decide to name me Love??? It certainly was a reality check and I felt so unworthy of that name. I asked God for forgiveness and also thanked him for his gift of these sisters in my life. They also told me my last name has to be Dlamini which is the King’s last name. It is also their last name. So we all agreed that we are now truly sisters. Have I mentioned lately how blessed I am?

We had our meeting in the evening with the executive committee of Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu. The first part of our meeting was with Mthokozise’s father. The team is trying to understand his side of the stories we’ve heard and push him to care for his children. What we would really like is for him to let the children go live with the mother on his parent’s homestead. When our meeting ended, I drove Thoko and Thini home. That took about an hour and a half or so. So by the time I got home, it was 9:00 PM. It was the end of a long day. I had a bowl of cereal and went to bed tired, stressed and yet very thankful and aware of God’s presence in my life.

1 comment:

Swaziland 2009 VIM said...

What's in a name?
I have called you by name, you are mine. Isaiah 43:1
What an honor to receive such a blessing. Truly you embody God's love to be given this name!
Thanks, Chris for sharing your deepest experiences. Can't wait to see you soon!