Thursday, July 30, 2009
To refresh your memory, this is the family of four children who have basically been deserted by their mother and father. The mother left a couple of years ago because of the father’s violent nature. She is afraid to go back. The father lives and works around Swaziland and periodically comes home but does not do anything to support the children. In fact, it has been our suspicion that when he comes home he actually takes things that we have given the children including food. The neighbors also steal from the children in part because they are jealous of our help (especially mine as the white “rich American”.) Last December their father’s hut which the children slept in when the father was not at home collapsed because of the rain. This has been one of the most frustrating situations because I can’t solve the problem. Well I could, but it wouldn’t be the right thing to do and the children would have probably been hurt more than helped. So I have tried to encourage the others to continue to work this issue and have tried to be patient because this process moves so SLOW. Thoko especially wants this issue resolved. She actually has done the most to resolve this situation even though she is a woman and it isn’t really her place. That’s a lot of where I come in. I encourage and advise her and then if necessary I speak up as the arrogant American that wants things done “now now.” (In Africa, now means when I get around to in sometime in the relatively near future. “Now, now” means right now. Well maybe not drop everything and do it now, but almost right now.) So the result of Thoko’s effort is that there have been discussions and meetings with the children’s father and mother. Even more important is the fact that there have also been meetings with the Chief’s inner council, members of the local Methodist society and members of the school committee where the three girls go to school (Lutfotja) about what would be best for the children. Last week a small delegation went to the father’s parents’ homestead to talk with them about the children going to live with them. The children indicated they would like this, the father said he would allow it and the word was the grandparents would like this as well. The meeting was set for last week. Mthokozisi did not show for the meeting which is very unusual for him not to keep an appointment. So they took Nozipho who is in 7th grade. She said she would like for them to move to the grandparents’ house. The grandmother was not home and had been away since the day before they went to visit. The grandfather who is partially blind was there and said he would like for the children to come and that they would be given land for a garden and to build a house of their own. This is VERY encouraging. But Thoko and I were concerned because Mthokozisi wasn’t involved in that meeting. We trust his judgment and know he would be truthful with Thoko.
When we saw Mthokozisi yesterday at school, he looked so good. He is such a nice looking, responsible and well behaved young man. He gave Thoko a hug and then came and gave me one. Thoko asked why he wasn’t available last week for the meeting and he said he had to take his father’s cows to the dip tank and one of the cows had been naughty and run off so he had to go round him up. By law, once a month on a certain day all cows have to be taken to their assigned dip tank which is basically a small pond that contains water mixed with pesticides to prevent parasites on the cows. Most of the time young boys who don’t go to school are sort of hired to do this job. Or one of the boys in the family who doesn’t go to school does this. In the Nhlengetfwa’s situation it means Mthokozisi usually has to miss school to take care of these cows for his father. Mthokozisi told us they would like to go live with their grandparents and though he wouldn’t be so bold to say it, I got the feeling that they would like to go sooner than later. He also told us that his father came home last weekend and bought them 20kgs of mealy meal but other than what was left of the mealy meal they had no food. No beans, soup mix, soap, candles, etc. In other words, the father came home there was no food so he bought a bag of mealy so the kids could cook for him. Plus he ate what was left of whatever food, tea and sugar they had. Thoko and I sent Mthokozisi back to class but told him to look for us on his lunch break. We then went to the little store in the community and bought the children some beans, peanut butter, bread, sugar, candles, soap, matches and I gave them a half a dozen oranges I had brought along. The little community stores are as expensive as our 7-11’s. We then went and gave the local CCS 5 rand so that on Saturday the children could come get one of the bags of maize that have been donated by the church and community and get it ground into mealy meal. We left saying to each other that we knew we had to go out to see the children for a reason.
We also drove to where the grandparent’s homestead is. It has two houses built out of blocks and then a smaller house for cooking. We couldn’t drive right up to the homestead because of the road and I didn’t want the grandparents to see me. The plan, if the father really agrees, is for the children to live in one of the two houses, which actually belongs to the father until the church can build a small house for the children. The children are going to have to walk maybe 2 or 3 kms to get to the highway and then take a bus for about 6-8 kms to the town of Luve and then walk another 2 or 3 kms to actually get to their schools. We are now in the process of determining the cost of the bus and working out a way get the cash to the kids in small amounts rather than by the month. Our rough estimate is that it will probably cost 3rand one way times that by 4 children. We could move the children to schools closer to where their grandparents live, but we want to keep the children in the schools they are in so that we can keep a closer eye on them and because there is now a support system for the children at school and with the Church. They know there are people who love them and care for them.
Our hearts soared and we praised God when Mthokozisi said he went to a retreat one Saturday with the “SU” (Scripture Union – a kind of bible club that meets at high school during lunch time.) He said he enjoyed it very much. He said they are also continuing to attend the local Methodist Church.
I came home exhausted, as usual. It’s not that we “did” much. All I did was drive and then sit and talk. But it is the emotional and mental stress of trying to look objectively at the situation, letting others deal with it in their way and mostly making choices. And they look to me for advice and the answers. Which child or family do we help? Do we spend the money for this situation or for another one? Do we support only one of the children in the family or do we give them all a chance? How will the funding continue so that they aren’t abandoned before they can at least get a high school education? It’s all a balancing act on a very fine line and it’s one that I pray continually for God’s wisdom, strength and for Him to show me the way.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Jeri, Gary and I went on a little road trip last week. On Wednesday we drove to the Mpumalanga Province of South Africa to see some of the natural sites in that area that I have heard so much about. The area we went to was west of
On Friday morning we headed back to
From Builder’s Warehouse we drove to the old downtown area to go to a material store I knew about which sells a lot of great African print material for very reasonable prices. As we drove into the downtown area, 2 or 3 guys started running towards my car waving us down. I don’t remember if they got in front of my car or if I stopped to hear what they were saying but they kept pointing to my car saying there was something wrong with my tire. I know I didn’t open the door and waved them off and kept going. But since tire issues have been such a problem for me, I pulled into an empty parking spot about a half a block up the street. I debated shortly because I would have turned right at the next street and found a place to park because the material store was on that corner. The parking/”security” guy tried to tell me I was parked to far from the curb. I told him I was only going to be there a second. I remember pulling my keys out of the ignition when I turned off the car and opened my door. (Thankfully, that is one habit I followed.) The next thing I knew the guys that originally tried to stop me were running towards my car. I told them there wasn’t anything wrong with the tire, and was irritated. Then they started pointing to what they thought was wrong with the car. I started to get back in my car and all of a sudden there were 4 or 5 guys around the car and one had opened the back door and was reaching inside. Jeri, Gary and I didn’t know what was happening because it was all happening so quickly. I was fumbling trying to put my keys back in the ignition to pull up the window thinking for some reason that they were reaching through the back window. Then we realized what they were doing and we were all screaming “”Stop, get out, don’t do that, give it back to me, etc.” They had grabbed Jeri’s purse which was actually under our coats and were running away with it.
So I pulled out of the parking spot where we were and drove into the next block where we saw a couple of police men walking. We told the two policemen that we were robbed and asked where the Police Station was so we could report the crime and get an affidavit of the theft so Jeri and Gary could get back across the border. He told us how to get there, when I asked if we should drive, he said “no, walk” and pointed to a security/parking guy who would watch my car. We then discovered that we were less than a block away from the Police Station! We weren’t too sure about walking to the police station or leaving my car but they kept insisting it was ok. The security/parking guy walked us to the police station and even took us inside and made sure we were in the right spot and that someone was going to take care of us quickly. When we left to go to the Police Station I took my purse and the backpack with my laptop in it with me. I’m sure I looked like a scared tourist walking down the street with the look of panic, fear and anger on my face, my purse on my shoulder and my laptop bag over my purse. And for good measure I was clutching my purse to me. Actually the Police took our statements pretty quick. It only took us about an hour or so. When we finished we walked back to my car distrusting everyone we saw on the streets. We were pretty shook up and in shock. We immediately drove to a store similar to a Target to get a new cell phone for Jeri and Gary. A new law was put into place on July 1st which required proof of residency in
As we have relived those few minutes several times, I keep reminding myself that things could have been much worse. We could have been hurt and they could have taken both of our purses, my laptop and even my car. And luckily
The following are a few pictures of our few days away in God’s spectacular creation.
The following three pictures are from a viewpoint called God's Window. It isn't what we expected, but it was breath taking. The most amazing thing is that at the top of this area was a small rain forest. Walking through this area was the first time since coming to Africa that I felt like I was actually in terrain what I thought Africa was supposed to look like!
This is the Blyde River. After checking into our Hotel at Pilgrims Rest, we took a dirt road to what is known as the Potholes. We crossed this river several times as we drove along the dirt road. This is one of two rivers that flows down into the Potholes.
These are called the potholes. This reminded me more of Utah than anything I expected to see in Africa.
The Pinnacle. The second picture is of the waterfall at the start of the gorge leading to the Pinnacle.
Berlyn Falls. From here the water goes down a beautiful gorge full of trees and big boulders. Unfortunately because of the time of the day and the resulting position of the sun I couldn't get a good picture of it.
Lisbon Falls. There were a couple of sets of falls here that make up Lisbon falls. The first one is the longest drop and the second picture shows the second stream that comes down another path and then eventually dropping all the way down. Both were beautiful.
Mac Mac Falls. These were named after a Scottish mining camp. Everyone's name was Mac something so the camp and the river became known as the Mac camp. Then they tried to divert the river to make mining easier and what happened is that the water was only partially diverted the result being two falls instead of one. Hence Mac Mac Falls!
The following are pictures of the cottage in Pilgrims Rest. Check out the bath tub! I haven't seen one like that in ages.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
We were surprised when we arrived to find the Member of Parliament for that area present as well as some members of the church and the Young Men's Guild also from the church. I was even more surprised and very touched when I discovered that the children were in the classrooms sitting at their tables and the teachers were instructing them. These two teachers came to a preschool workshop we put on in Sept, 2007. Of all the people who attended, I think these two women have done the most to try and implement what they learned in that workshop and neither one of them can speak very much English. It brought tears to my eyes to realize how much good those few days were for these women and children. It also made me sad that because this carepoint/preschool is so far away, the women don't speak much English and I have so many other projects on my plate that I can't come out and work with them more.
After a few songs from the children we handed out the uniforms which always results in pandemonium and it always amazes me that somehow all of the uniforms always seem to find their way to the right child so that they all fit. We also took several pairs of shoes that were donated thanks to the mistake of the airlines. There was a team of United Methodist Volunteers from the States that came through Johannesburg where Richard Bosart picked them up and then drove them to the Mozambique border where they were met and taken into Mozambique for their mission project. One of the teams 36 suitcases (I couldn't believe it) didn't arrive on time so they told Richard to put it to good use. He gave it to me and it was full of new children's shoes of various types and sizes. YEBO! Many children received new shoes thanks to the team from the States. At the bottom of this post you will find a story of another child from Lomngeletjane that also benefited from this gift.
The girls in their uniforms. Aren't they just adorable?
This little boy received one of the new donated shoes in addition to his uniform. He was very happy and isn't he cute?
The children in their uniforms. They're holding their underpants in their hands!
The children eating their porridge for their lunch. I was very impressed that out here in this very rural area where there is no water nearby, the children were eating with spoons. Usually the children eat with their hands which is the local custom, especially in rural areas. When these children eat, there is hardly a word spoken and there isn't any pushing, shoving or squabbling.
After their lunch of porridge, we handed out oranges to the children and then brought them into the classroom for a dessert of peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches and juice. Thini brought small plastic bags for the children to put what they couldn't finish eating in to take home. Thini always has the right thing. You can sure tell she is a gogo!
Meet Innocent. He's Tiphele's older brother. He's about 4 years old but looks about 2. When we took some more formula (I forgot how much babies drink!) and some food to the family last Thursday he was standing in the door leading into their "kitchen." He was home from pre-school that day because he wasn't feeling well. It was cold, he had a runny nose and sounded congested and didn't have shoes on his feet. When I asked Bongiwe (his mom) why he didn't have on shoes she said they were too small.
So yesterday (Monday) I took him a pair of shoes from the donations left behind by the team headed to Mozambique. At first when I tried to put them on his feet, he cried and moved away so no one, not even his mom could put them on. Then I pulled out a pair of socks to put on him first and he was very intrigued. She managed to get them on his feet and they fit perfectly. Then it was so cute watching him try to put on the other sock by himself and then another small child from the neighborhood helped him put on the second shoe. And then he was quite happy with his new shoes! See the pics below.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
As I look at these pictures and remember how happy Tiphelele's mother is, I realize that we are all experiencing what "one heart at a time and one child at a time" is all about. Tiphelele is doing well and growing, her mom is so grateful and happy and my heart is so touched and full of joy to be a part of this miracle of life.
Tiphelele was fascinated with my necklace especially the replica of the cross in our sanctuary back home in Round Rock.
Great progress is being made one the teacher's house at Lomngeletjane. The teachers are getting excited and are hoping to move in after winter break which ends the beginning of the second week of September. I'm still praying my funds will be enough to complete the house.
Monday, July 13, 2009
A light has gone out in Swaziland, but I pray that another light will shine in her place to spread the love of Jesus. I thank God for the opportunity and honor to meet her and serve her. I pray that those who knew her and loved her are comforted by the love of Jesus during this time of mourning.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
After that trying task, they tackled laying cement to patch up the area that was taken out when there was a sewage leak outside my place last March. The maintenance guys fixed the sewer but didn't replace the cement they dug up. Rev. Nyameka said the guys who do the yard maintenance couldn't understand what I wanted. As if it was so difficult...just put back what you tore up. It sounds like it was quite a task, between having to dig up some of the hard, compacted dirt and then making several trips to so called hardware stores to find what they needed to complete the job. Gary said he was amazed that there were so many stores in Manzini that claimed to be hardware stores. He said they weren't anything like a hardware store in the US and I reminded him that we aren't in Kansas anymor (toto).
Jeri and Gary said that my neighbors couldn't figure out what they were doing to the doors. They had never heard of or seen window and door screens and couldn't figure out why I need them. Jeri said one neighbor did say they had heard that some mosquitos carry some sort of disease. All of the neighbors were so thrilled that the sidewalk was finally fixed so that the water will drain properly and they won't have to walk through the mud.
I am so blessed to have two such wonderful people who are so giving become a part of my life.
The screen for my back door, which is the one I use all the time.
It is hard to see, but this is the screen for my living room window.
This may not seem like a big deal, but trust me, it is HUGE! Now when it rains, the water won't pool outside my door it can drain down and around the side of the house. And I can stand at my laundry tub again without standing in dirt and mud.
Isn't this sweet? There will be a reminder forever of the the wonderful gift Jeri and Gary gave me.
Friday, July 10, 2009
This is the living room of the house I stayed in. We had two houses. Each house had a kitchen, two bathrooms and 4 or 5 bedrooms. One house had a stove and the other house had the table and chairs. So we moved the table and chairs to the house with the stove and consequently we ate breakfast and lunch at that house. We ate delicious dinners at the lodge and then used their sitting room for our nightly devotions. In the picture below we were sitting around the fireplace one evening. Unfortunately, I couldn't get everyone in the picture. We were very thankful for the fireplace and all of the wood they provided us because it was very cold until Thursday and Thursday night. The fireplace was the only heat source in the house.
Pictured left to right: Mary, Becky, Donna, Mary Jane.
Jane was my roomie for the week. It was so great to get to know Jane and the others. They welcomed me into the group as if we had known each other for years and I had been a part of the planning process all along. She was the leader for VBS and did an excellent job.
The team left at 6:30 Friday morning to go to Kruger National Park and after one last great hot shower, I packed up and returned to Manzini. I will truly miss this wonderful group of women and everyone in Bulembu, especially the children.
After telling the story of Noah's ark again, we put these wonderful animal masks on them so they could pretend they were the animals in the ark. I thought they might be afraid of the masks but they had a great time. These little kids never ceased to amaze me with their eagerness to learn.
The kids were give "rainbow" glasses. When they put the glasses up to their eyes, they could see a prism effect. I was amazed that these little ones put them on and had such fun with this activity. These glasses were reinforcing the rainbow God gave Noah after the rains stopped and things began to clear up. I doubt they got the concept, but it was fun to watch them and they loved the glasses.
Callie, a volunteer from Connecticut, and Hallie getting the hand print of one of our 2 year olds. We made rainbows out of the children's hand prints.
The finished "rainbow." Didn't they turn out great???
The children eat lunch on mats on the ground on the play area because it is too cold in the building. Most of our team is along the back. (l to r: Zandy (from the Child Care Center) Christian, Heather, Donna, Hallie, Mary Jane, Becky, Ruth, Farida, Rosemary, me, Jane) After they finished eating their lunch, we gave each of them a package of zoo crackers to wrap up the theme of VBS.
After lunch, we toured the Bulembu Ministries Homes. They have a half a dozen or so homes that are already in use, and then they have 6 newly refurbished homes. This is one of the new homes. They took some of the existing homes, put on a new roof and redid the inside. They are quite nice. Each house can hold six children (either girls or boys) and a house mum. A dining hall structure is being built near these houses where the children will go for meals.
One of the "Persimmon" houses which is the name of the first group of houses that children ages 4 to 18 live in. Each house can hold up to 8 children and a house mum. Girls and boys are mixed in these houses. Each house has a live-in house mum.
Monday's craft time. We made Noah's ark and then put stickers of animals in the ark - or anywhere we could get them on the paper or paper plate. The kids had fun. They are so precious.
Snack Time! By the way, the building is a huge barn like building that used to be a bar. It has a corragated iron roof with the top part open for air flow which is great in the summer, but horrible during the winter. There is no heat. There is a fireplace but you have to almost stand in the fire to feel the heat. It was actually warmer outside than it was inside.
Children brushing their teeth. The water was freezing cold and just about as much water went down the front of their clothes as went in the mouth, but the kids took tooth brushing very seriously.
Aunty Mavis (the preschool teacher for the 2 year olds) and Mary Jane using the wonderful story board made by the women from FUMC Pacific Grove. The kids really enjoyed it.
Art project for Tuesday, July 7th. Hand puppets out of paper sacks.
Bulembu Christian Academy. What an amazing school.