Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Homestead visits

It is springtime here in Swaziland and much like Texas, the weather is so hot and still one day and then cold and cloudy the next. That is exactly what happened on Sunday and Monday. We thought we would die from the heat on Friday and then woke up Monday morning to clouds, drizzle and wind.

Monday we did homestead visits as we extend Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu to some of the families in the Lomngeletjane area. I was so cold and couldn't help feeling guilty that I was out in the cold weather for brief periods of time, retreating to my warm car between visits while the people we were visiting had no where to escape to and in many cases their house offered little shelter from the wind and cold. We saw the kids below start a fire (without any adult supervision) to get warm. At one point the little girl in the pink jacket was up on top of the pipe while the fire was burning below her. The contrast between how much we supervise our children on just about everything in the States and how children in Swaziland aren't supervised at all never ceases to amaze and shock me. I've learned to close my eyes and shudder a bit and then whisper a little prayer asking for protection for these children; especially the little ones.

One of our stops was to the homestead of baby Sipho. We wanted to see how the baby was doing. The pictures below are of the "house" they live in. There are 6 children and the mom and baby makes 8. The house is about 27' x 15' and is divided into two rooms. I was surprised to learn that it has a cement floor. Unfortunately there are holes in the walls, the door had serious gaps between the boards and both of the windows, one in each room, were broken. The mother was in the smaller room which is obviously a room for sleeping. She was sitting on a reed mat on the floor (her bed) nursing the baby. She didn't have any shoes on her feet, because custom is to leave the shoes outside when entering a house and of course she also didn't have socks or slippers to put on her feet. The room was very dark. I had to stand against the door to keep the wind from blowing it open. The wind was coming right through that door. Thank God that Deb bought a heavy blanket and a hat for the baby.

In the picture below, the mom is the one seated with the multi-colored scarf on her head. The girl I wrote about in my post for last week is the one standing on the left of the mom. A few of the children are not in the picture.

Another one of the families we visited is a gogo taking care of her 4 grandchildren. The head teacher from Lomngeletjane asked us to visit this homestead because one of the children, a girl, has severe sores on her head. The girls' father is deceased and the mother deserted the child when she was about a year old. It is not known where the girl's mother is or if she is still alive. We arranged for the gogo to go with the Rural Health Motivator to the Baylor Clinic at the hospital in Manzini to have the girl tested for HIV and also receive treatment for the sores. The girl's test results were negative (Praise God!) and medicine was prescribed to hopefully clear up the sores quickly. The gogo is HIV+ which is a concern because she is the children's only caregiver. We have to try to help keep that grandmother healthy and alive long enough for these 4 children, ages 4 to 10, to grow up.

We were also asked to look in on a set of twins, pictured below. They are 4 years old. We were told that the boy had trouble walking because of swollen knees. The kids were so cute. They were very bashful and kept hiding behind their mom. So I went to the car and got a couple of apples and bribed them, one at a time, to come sit on my lap so I could take a look at them. The little boy walked just fine, his knees didn't look swollen and they looked normal. He was so cute. Neither child responded when I said hello to them, but when I asked how they were in SiSwati, they both answered very politely. And of course they took the apple when it was offered to them.

We visited another homestead of a little girl that as been at Lomngeletjane for two years now. When I first met her she didn't look well. The teacher at the time told me she was HIV+. We don't know if that is true or not. The gogo said she was given some tables but she didn't know what for and she didn't go back for more. Someone in that family (a sister or daughter to the gogo, I didn't quite understand) passed away a few days ago so we couldn't visit for very long and we can't take the child to the Doctor for awhile because it is against the Swazi culture to go out in public or socialize with people for 30 days after the death of someone. Luckily the child doesn't appear to be in an immediate health crisis.

We came home and made a big pot of chicken soup to warm us up. It was good, but I couldn't help thinking about how cold and dark it gets and how little food most of the people have. I can't help but wonder how these people manage to survive from day to day.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The weekend for babies

Friday evening Thoko got a call from the Rural Health motivator (RHM) for Lomngeletjane that the woman who was pregnant that we visited on Wednesday needed to go to the hospital because she was in labor. We asked the RHM to give her the transport money to get there. We were very concerned about the other 7 children ranging from 13 to around 2 or 3 years old and were very relieved to hear later that she left them with a neighbor. At 5:00 AM on Saturday (9/26) the mother gave birth to a very large, healthy baby boy. She named him Sipho which means gift. Sipho weighed 4 kg at birth which equates to 8 lbs 13 ounces! This picture was taken when Sipho was about 7 hours old. They kept the mother and baby in the hospital for 24 hours which is really quite unusual. The mother said it is because they gave him a polio and DPT shot. From what I heard it is still very unusual for a mother and baby to stay in the hospital that long after birth. Deb and I bought a few cloth diapers, a baby blanket, a hat and a couple of sleepers for the baby because the mother had nothing and has no money. I gave her the money to pay the hospital bill. This morning before church Deb and I went back to the hospital to pick the mother and Sipho up to take them home. We had also stopped at a grocery store to buy them a bit of food because I seriously doubt there was anything to eat at that homestead. I called the RHM and a woman from the church that lives near her and told them that she was home and asked them to look in on her later in the day.

On Thursday, 9/24, Thoko, Thini, Gladys, Deb and I went out with the Manyano ladies from the small congregation of Bhudla Methodist Church to visit a couple of the gogos (grannies) that can no longer make it to church. The visit would need a whole other blog post of it's own so for now I will just say it was hard to see how they live, but very touching to see how happy and how much hope our visit gave the gogos and the ladies from Bhudla. When we got back to Manzini, we had a meeting scheduled in the evening to discuss some of the pressing issues we uncovered when making our first homestead visits in Lomngeletjane as part of the Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu program. I made a pot of soup for us to share before the meeting. As we were sitting around the table talking, Thini shared that her 6 month old great grand niece had started on ARV's the month before and that the baby isn't doing well. The child's mother is 20. Thini's sister had passed away leaving the child's mother (her daughter) and a few other young children with no one to care for. Thini brought the baby, her mother and the two other small children that I think are related to the baby's mother, to live with her. My heart broke on the spot. Thini is the most loving, caring person. She shares all that she has which is very, very little in the way of material things but very, very great when it comes to love and compassion. I asked if we could see the baby when we took her home after the meeting.

This is Deb holding the baby. Her name is Nonjabulo. She is 6 months old and weighs 4.7 kg (10lbs 7 oz). She is so thin and has a very bad cough. We found out yesterday that she is also on TB medication. Little Nonjabulo has eyes that see everything and little tiny hands that have a good grip. She is very sick but if anyone can nurse the mother and baby back to health, it will be Thini. On Saturday we took Nonjabulo a few things. Because the mother is HIV+ and so is the baby, the mother should not nurse the baby. However, formula is very expensive especially for a pensioner who receives 600 rand (about $80.) every 3 months IF the government gets around to paying it. One small can of formula is around $38 rand. I told Thini that I will buy the baby's formula. I want to make sure the mother doesn't nurse the baby any longer so the baby has a better chance to get better. So know that some of the funds that are so graciously and generously given will go to help feed this child as well as others.

Please pray for Sipho and Nonjabula and their mothers and Auntie. Pray for health, pray for protection and pray that they have the opportunity to grow into healthy Christian men and women. Please continue to pray for strength for my very special group of ladies, Thoko, Thini, Gladys and Thembi as well as others who help us as possible and for me for wisdom, strength and the means to keep on finding these children and helping them one child at a time.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The week of Sept 15 thru 24

On Tuesday, Sept 15th I drove to Johannesburg, SA to say good-bye to Jeri and Gary before they boarded their plane to return to the US. On Wednesday evening my dear friend, Deb, arrived and on Thursday morning we took off for Kruger National Park. We were there for 3 nights before coming on to Swaziland on Sunday. We had an awesome trip to Kruger. We saw what they call the Big 5 on Friday. The Big 5 are the 5 animals that were considered the most dangerous to hunt on foot: Cape Buffalo, Elephant, Rhino, Lion and Leopard. It is rare to see all Big 5 animals on one day. But we not only saw them on one day, we had great sightings! One of the lion sightings was a lioness eating a recent kill (giraffe). We saw the Leopard come up the brush along the road then then it crossed the road right in front of our vehicle definitely on a mission. And we were charged by a herd of about 30 elephants. They started to cross the road in front of us. We were a good, safe distance away. There was one vehicle ahead of us and none behind us (Thank God). All of a sudden they changed their direction, clearly deciding they didn't like us where we were and started charging us. We started backing our vehicles up as fast as we could. By then cars started piling up behind us so we backed up around them while Deb leaned out her window motioning them to back up and get off the road. When the elephants felt we were all a safe distance away they went back into the bush continuing on to the watering hole they were headed to. As they walked past us (as a distance) we could see that there were several young elephants in the herd including one very tiny elephant that they were trying to hide. That is why they didn't want us anywhere near them. Elephants have a very strong family unit and they are very protective of their young. In a breeding herd such as this the elephants all team together to protect the young. I've been trying since Sept 20 to upload pictures to my blog but there is a problem and I can't upload them. But if you are on facebook, you can check my wall out for a few pictures.

We returned from SA on Sunday afternoon. On Monday I had a meeting to update the sponsor for the Lustandvo Lwa Krestu program. He was visiting from the UK and the woman who is in charge of HIV-AIDs from the mission unit of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa was with him. I found out about 3 hours before he arrived when he was arriving and that we would be meeting with him as soon as he arrived. This lack of communication wasn't their fault, but typical Swazi communication at it's worst. Because of the late notice I was only able to get Thoko to the meeting. The meeting went well and it is always so good to see them. Their visit is more a source of encouragement sprinkled with suggestions rather than stress or a message that we aren't doing well. Our program is small, and we will have to work hard to find other sources of income once this grant is finished, but we can definitely see how some of the children's life has improved, including one child who I am sure would not be alive today if we hadn't sent her to the Doctor to be tested and started on ARVs.

On Tuesday, I drove our visitors to the Mahamba circuit so they could meet with the people to get an update on their program. The Mahamba circuit is about and hour or so away so we had more time to visit. I volunteered to drive them to Mahamba because I wanted to see the circuit Superintendent and see how their project is progressing but it was also a good opportunity for Deb to see that part of the country and what another circuit was doing.

On Wednesday, Thoko, Thini, Gladys, Thembi (the Rural Health Motivator) and I tried to start homestead visits for children who attend Lomngeletjane as we expand Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu to that school. It was very cold, foggy and drizzly. We were only able to meet with one family. Ish. The child whose name was given to us by the head teacher and the Rural Health Motivator is 13 years old. She was raped when she was 12 and received very little care after the incident. She has a younger sister by the same mother and father. Both girls are living with the step mother who has 4 children by their father and is expecting her 5th baby any day now. The father passed away a few months ago. They live in a mud, stick and stone tiny hut that is so small I can't imagine how they fit in their. There is no income, no nothing. Our volunteers will put our heads together and with a lot of prayer make a plan to do what little we can to help this family. Our first priority is to get them medical care. The father passed away from TB which is an opportunistic disease to HIV. By the sound of the mother's cough, I would guess she also has TB. They all need to be tested to know their HIV status, but we can't insist on this. Pray we come up with a way.

Today is still cloudy, which Deb loves but the rest of us are cold! We are heading out in another direction of Swaziland to visit a few gogos with the Manyano.

Please pray for continued strength and guidance as we continue to visit homesteads and help those that we can.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Monday, Monday

Monday was one of those days in Swaziland. Thoko and I had scheduled a meeting for 11:00 at Lomngeletjane with the head teacher, the RHM (Rural Health Motivator) and the society Manyano CCS (social concerns) person. Our goal was to start discussions and gather information about the children at Lomngeletjane that have health problems or are extremely needy as we prepare to expand Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu to Lomngeletjane. Our plan was to go up there, be back to St. Paul’s by about 1:00 so she and Thini could do some work in my office (really the Manyano storage area and workroom!) and prepare for a Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu committee meeting in the evening. The sponsor for Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu is coming to Swaziland next week to check on the progress of the project and hopefully fund us again.

About 10:15 Thoko called me and told me that one of the children from Lutfotja had come to the Baylor clinic at the RFM (the Manzini hospital) for her monthly medication. We did not leave money for this month’s transport for the child and her aunie with the school so we needed to try and locate them at RFM to give them transport money to go home. We were going to stop by there before going to Lomngeletjane. Just as I was leaving my house, Bethuel called and said he was at Babe Simelane’s office (the Health Inspector) in Matshapa and that the inspector had time now, now (which means right now, not sometime in the near future) and so he was taking him up to Lomngeletjane. The plumber we hired to put in the plumbing on the teacher’s house and lay the pipes to go to the septic tank and French drain that will be built was on-site working. We wanted to ensure we built the septic tank and French drain properly. I told him I would pick up Thoko and we would meet him at Lomngeletjane and then figure out how to get money to the child and her auntie later in the day, thinking it would be about 1:00.

On the way up to Lomngeletjane, Thoko asked if she could share what could be considered gossip about our dear friend Thini. Of course I said yes. She told me that when she had called Thini to see when and where she would be joining us that morning Thini’s grandson answered the phone. Thoko thought that wasn’t right because he should have been in school. The grandson told Thoko that he wasn’t in school because Thini wasn’t able to “top off” (pay) the difference between what the government paid for his school fees as a double orphan and what the actual school fees are and therefore he was sent home from school. He couldn’t go back until his fees were paid. This happens all over Swaziland at the start of the third and final term of the year. I told Thoko to call Thini and find out how much she owed for the child and where we could pay it. Thoko called Thini and asked questions, but knowing that I like to remain anonymous, did not tell Thini why she wanted to know this information. They just talked as two sisters, one listening to the other’s problems. Thini is one of the most loving Christian women I have ever met. It doesn’t matter if she is with a small child, a teenager, a gogo or a grandfather. She literally takes them under her wing and shares her love and compassion with them by her touch and smile. She is amazing. After all that she does for me and the people we visit, I wasn’t about to let her grandchild be kicked out of school because her grandmother who has so little money couldn’t afford to keep him in school. Thoko knew I wouldn’t let that happen either and was hoping Thini would forgive her for disclosing this confidence to me, or as she called it: “gossiping” about her.

Up at Lomngeletjane, Bethuel, Babe Simelane, the plumber and I discussed the work that had been done and what needs to be done. I was very impressed with the work the plumber was doing. He seems to be working quickly and very neatly. It was clear during the discussion with Babe Simelane that the plumber knew what he was doing. That part of the meeting was very encouraging. The very discouraging part was that John, our builder, had not only started digging the hole before the Babe Simelane came up, but as we suspected he had dug a hole about 3 times the size of what it needs to be. That means I paid for work that wasn’t needed (again) and that now I will have to pay to have the hole filled back in as the walls to the septic tank are built. John, the builder, has been making many of these “mistakes” over the last several months which has ended up costing me more money. I am very frustrated and don’t want John to continue work, but it’s not as easy to get rid of someone in Swaziland as it is in the US because of the political and cultural ways of doing things here. If I don’t use John, who is a resident of Lomngeletjane, it may result in hard feelings which may have a bigger impact at the end of the day than the “mistakes” John keeps making.

After our meeting, I walked up to the head teacher’s house and we talked about the Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu project and the needs of the children and families. Listening to the needs of the children and homesteads is always a daunting, overwhelming experience. There are always more people on the list than we ask for and they look to me to make the decision on whether or not a child is included in the program. It is so hard for me to say “no” because even though a child may have overwhelming need, they don’t the criteria for the program. The RHM for the Lomngeletjane is the woman who actually was the driving force to start the original carepoint at Lomngeletjane. She always has a list of wants she is trying to get from whatever source will help her and she always asks for more than one can give. That is a good thing for the community, but very stressful for Thoko and I. True to form, she had a long list that we divided into three separate lists. One of adults and gogo’s of the community that the church needs to try and assist, A second of people in the community that are part of a program already in place to follow up with TB patients. (TB is a big problem in Africa and is considered an opportunistic disease for people who are HIV+. Because people have a hard time getting and staying on the correct medication there are several resistant strains of TB that no longer respond to the normal medications.) And finally the list of children, some of which don’t live in the area or aren’t old enough to attend school yet. The children that don’t live in the area or aren’t old enough to attend school caused us the greatest concern. The children that live out of the area walk for two hours each way to attend Lomngeletjane because the school fees so far are so low. Basically the school fees is the same amount that the government pays for OVC’s so there is no need to “top off” the child’s fees. However, these children are not doing well in school they suspect because it is just to far for these children, most of which are in first grade, to come to school. But they also suspect that the food they get at school is the only food the children are eating. So, what to do? But finding a way to keep them at Lomngeletjane may not be the right answer in the long run. When we discussed the children that are too young to attend pre-school or primary school I didn’t know what to say. How does one say no because they don’t attend school yet? And should make that decision? It’s certainly not me by myself. I made a note for the committee to discuss the situations and come up with a plan. In reality, I know I am just putting off the decision and that I will be responsible for making sure the decision is upheld no matter what it might be.

As usual for Africa (TIA-This is Africa), our day ran very late. We didn’t finish our meeting with the head teacher, RFM and local society CCS until 3:00 pm, and of course we hadn’t had any lunch, although in keeping with the Swazi culture, the head teacher did give us a tasty roll to eat and something to drink. By the time we got to RFM, we knew that the child and her auntie would be gone, but we felt we had to try and locate them just to be sure. We went to the Baylor clinic and Thoko went into one of the rooms to talk to the nurses and I sent a text message to the three people on the executive committee to remind them of the meeting at 5:30. I almost immediately got back responses from all three of them that they wouldn’t be able to make it. (TIA) This left me feeling even more overwhelmed and discouraged than I had been in the morning. Soon Thoko motioned for me to come join her. The nurses knew “our” children by name. They told us the status of the two that had come that day. We also discussed getting some training from them regarding the specifics of the medication – how to take it, what the side effects are, and how long to keep on it even if the person thinks it is making them sicker. They encouraged us and thanked us for the work we are doing. Thoko and I left the RFM realizing that our plan didn’t happen because God knew we needed a bit of encouragement so He brought us to this meeting at this time. If we had come earlier in the day, the nurses would have been busy and would not have been able to talk with us or we would have found the child and her auntie waiting and never tried to go speak with the nurses.

By the time we got back to St. Paul’s it was after 4:30. I went to my place and grabbed the few cans of soda I had, a few apples and the last remaining granola bars one of the team members left to share with Thoko, Thini and Gladys because I knew they would all be hungry. I knew Thoko and I were starving. While we were eating and preparing for our meeting, although I wasn’t quite sure why we were having it other than Gladys would already be on our way and we were too tired to move at the moment, Thoko shared with Thini her secret – that she had gossiped about her to me. I gave her the money for the school fees. Thini was so touched and was in tears. I told her we are family and that as in Swaziland, that’s what families even in the US do. They help each other when they are in need. I told Thini I had been looking at some of my pictures and I was so touched by Thini. I had my computer so I turned it on and started showing her some of my favorite pictures of Thini “in action.” As we all looked at the pictures, lovingly marveling at our dear sister Thini and how she reaches out to young and old (and saws off wooden doors better than an American male can!) we realized that we had a good story to tell the sponsor next week. Thoko and I had been so discouraged because the needs are so great and we are so limited because of our lack of human and financial resources. We didn’t know what to share with the sponsor next week because we felt like we haven’t accomplished much since his last visit a year ago. But as we looked at just those pictures from the last two or three weeks that show Thini in action, we realized that we have some true success stories. There are some children and families that have truly been helped so that their health and/or quality of life has significantly improved. We came up with a plan for our sponsors visit next week and left with a feeling of hope. We thanked God for the opportunities He presents us and for his strength, guidance and especially His blessings that keep us encouraged and determined to continue His work.

Since it was about 7:30 at night and I was the only one with a car, I had to drive all three ladies home. That took me about two hours. I got home exhausted but so glad I am in Swaziland and have such dear sisters here to work with. Yep. This was just another day in Swaziland; full of challenges, opportunities, love and blessings and I am so grateful that I am here to be a part of it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A new home for the Nhlengethwa Family on 8/29/2009

Finally, after eight months, Mthokozisi and his sisters have a decent roof over their heads with walls that aren’t collapsing, windows and a door that actually locks. As a quick review, I met Mthokozisi and his sisters last August (2008) when we went to the homestead where the children were living as part of our Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu (For the love of Jesus) project. The children had been brought to our attention by the head teacher for Lutfotja Methodist Primary School. We were told the children are extremely vulnerable because both parents had basically deserted the children. We started making regular visits to the homestead bringing them food and seedlings to make a vegetable garden. In November, 2008, after a pretty severe rain storm, they told us that their thatched roof was leaking and that termites where dropping out of it. Just before I returned to the US in early December, I bought them a large piece of plastic to put over the thatched roof to hopefully stop the rain and insects from dropping on the children. Then in February after I returned from the US we discovered that the mud and stick hut had collapsed during the heavy rains in January. (See my blog post of 2/11/09 for pictures of the collapsed hut.) Although I wanted to just buy the building materials and hire someone to build them a new small house, I knew that was not the right thing to do for many reasons, the biggest one being that I needed to be patient and let the Swazi’s solve this problem their own way. This was not a problem I could solve and if I tried, I knew I would only make matters worse. So I’ve tried to be patient, poking people for progress a few times when I couldn’t stand waiting any longer. The patience has paid off. Thoko, in her infinite wisdom, patiently contacted the father, talked with the chairman of the school committee, the Rural Health Motivator (who is appointed by the Chief), the children, the mother, the father’s parents and the local Methodist Society. The Rural Health Motivator brought the situation to the Chief’s inner council. After many conversations and meetings, permission was given by all involved for the children to go live in their father’s house on the father’s parent’s homestead. The father and his parents are estranged and therefore the father rarely goes to that house.

On August 18, Thoko, Thini, the Lutfotja CCS (Manyano community service person) and I took Mthokozisi to talk with the grandparents to make sure they were okay with the children coming to live on their homestead and to see how much work needed to be done in preparation of the children moving in. We determined that everyone seemed very willing for the children to live on the fraternal grandparent’s house. The house and yard needed to be cleaned and the house has a lot of cracks and it is full of the little tunnels of dirt that the termites had dug but it is much better than where they were currently living.

On Tuesday, August 25, Thoko, Thini, the Lutfotja CCS, Jeri and I went to see if the children were at their grandparents house cleaning up the house and yard so we could move their things over. We really went to see if they needed any help. The children were there working and seemed very happy. We visited for awhile, and then the Grandfather wanted to show us where they are to build their own house. We walked a short distance to an area on the homestead that the grandfather indicated. He said he wanted their house to be built close to his house so that he and his wife could keep an eye on the children. He gave an emotional speech in SiSwati to the children welcoming them to their new home and telling them how happy he was to have them there. When he was finished, he took two handfuls of the tall grass without pulling them out of the ground and tied the tall grass into a knot to mark the spot for their new home. It was very touching. Everyone seems to be so glad that this move is taking place. After this little ceremony we all got to work raking the yard, putting the trash and junk that was burnable into a pile which Thini lit a match to. Yes, all that burning makes me cringe, but what else are they going to do with it? At least it was all gone. It is amazing what burns. We finished our day with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and oranges for all.


1. The spot where Babe Nhlengethwa tied the knot marking the spot for the children’s new house.

2. Working in the yard.

3. Thoko, Jeri and I preparing PBJ sandwiches.

4. Lunch time.

The children and their grandparents are happy and looking forward to the move. You can almost feel the relief and hope. Everyone's step is a little lighter, their smile a little brighter.

On Friday, August 28, Thoko, Thini, Gladys, the Lutfotja CCS, the rural health motivator, Gary, Jeri and I went to the grandparent’s homestead. Thoko and I drove to the father’s homestead to pick up the children and their belongings and take them to the grandparents homestead. Then we all worked together for a few hours replacing the door to the house and hanging new curtains Gladys had made for the house. Since I was paying for the material, I got to pick the color so of course I picked blue. My mother's and my favorite color! She would be so happy. I don't think there have ever been blue curtains in a house in Swaziland before! Gary showed Mthokozisi how to take the door off the hinges and then Gary got help from Thini as he trimmed the door. (In reality, Thini showed Gary up in how well she could work that saw to trim off the sides and bottom of the door so it would fit!)


1. Gladys and Mthokozisi hanging the new curtains.

2. Thini so proud of herself when she finished trimming the new door.

3. Mthokozisi painting the new door.

On Saturday, August 29, we all went back to the homestead with Rev. Nyameka, Thobile and Elter to pray over the homestead. We were met by the members of the Luftotja Manyano. After praying in the home we went and prayed over the land where the children’s new home is to be built. It was a very moving time. This has been a long process and we are a long way from a secure happy ending, but things are going extremely well. The best part of it is that the children know that people care for them. They know they can tell someone at the church or at the school if they need something and if the church or school can’t help they will let Thoko and I know so we can make it happen. One of the discussions that happened on Saturday was the discussion of whether the children should start attending a Methodist church that would be closer to their new homestead. We know there are schools that are closer, but we have all decided that we would rather find a way to pay bus fare to get the children to and from school to keep them in an environment where they are loved and looked after. When the discussion of the church came up the same decision was made. So even though the children now live further away from their school and the church the school and church aren’t about to let them go. So, as we try to figure out how we are going to pay for bus fare for the children to get to and from school (both where the funds will come from and how we will get them to the children each week) we must include bus fare for the kids to go to church each Sunday. That’s a great additional problem to have.


1. Blessing of the homestead.

2. Blessing of the house.

3. I presented the children a gift for their new home. I gave Mthokozisi a Bible and to Nozipho (the oldest girl) a book of Children’s Bible Stories to read to Tiphelele (the youngest girl).

4. Blessing of the ground for the new house.

5. Me sharing some of my favorite books of the bible and specific passages with Mthokozisi and Nozipho.

We pray that the Lord keeps blessing and watching over these children, that they grow strong in their knowledge and faith in the Lord and that they grow up to be strong Christian men and women.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A lovely afternoon

Thoko and I spent a good afternoon together. First we visited with the CCS in Luve regarding the Nhlengethwa family (Mthokozisi & sisters) and some of the other children that are a part of Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu. Then we met up with the counselor from Luftotja and the two youngest Nhlengethwa girls as they were leaving school and came up with a plan to get transport money to the kids each week. Then Thoko and I talked as I drove her home. It was so good to listen, talk, listen, talk, ask questions, listen, talk, etc. You get the picture. One thing would remind us both of something else we wanted to tell or ask the other person. The afternoon went by too quick. When we arrived at her homestead she took me to her garden so I could see how things are growing and so that she could harvest some vegetables for me. (She always sends me home with more vegetables than I can eat in a month!) Earlier, she told me that the strawberry plant that she bought a few months ago when we were both at a nursery had produced 4 strawberries and I was especially anxious to see it. She had never grown strawberries but wanted to give it a try. She was so excited about the strawberries. I am always so impressed by her garden. As we walked to the area where the cabbages were ready for harvest I couldn't help but marvel at the size. The cabbages were so huge. They would have easily won a blue ribbon at any State fair in the US. I found myself shaking my head and asking why, in a country where such beautiful vegetables can grow, are people starving? My only solace in that question is that she doesn't understand it anymore than I do.

You be the judge...(the following pictures have not been altered in anyway to enhance their beauty.)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday Worship at Lomngeletjane

I went up to Lomngeletjane to worship this morning. I had a framed picture of each team that worked there this summer that I wanted to present to the congregation. I have been waiting to do so because I wanted Enoch Malelala, the Lomngeletjane Steward and also a local preacher, to be there when I presented it. The Lomngeletjane society (congregation) is one of many, many small societies in Swaziland that don’t have a pastor assigned to it. Local preachers, stewards or the pastors take turns rotating between them. I had to wait quite a while before Enoch was scheduled to go back to Lomngeletjane.

I was surprised when I got there because Benyani, one of the assistant pastors was there as well as another local preacher and a few people from St. Paul’s. Benyani was there to give communion but I didn’t understand why he didn’t preach and save the local preacher from coming. I wondered just a bit if it was because I had asked Enoch when he would be going to Lomngeletjane and I said I wanted to come when he was there. Then perhaps the schedule changed, but they came anyway because they knew I was coming.

As always, I understood very, very little of the service but I felt like I belonged there with my other family. I love to sit in these small societies and watch the interaction between the people, especially between the Makes (mothers, pronounced maggay), the Gogos (grandmothers) and the children. As soon as a child is old enough to walk and sit by themselves, they sit with the rest of the children in the front of the church (in this case one of Lomngelejtanes’s classrooms) all by themselves. It never ceases to amaze me how quietly they sit. But if a smaller one gets sleepy or has to go to the toilet, one of the Makes, Gogos or even an older youth quietly gets up to take care of the child whether it belongs to them or not. As I sat there watching the adorable children I kept thinking of the African saying that it takes a whole village to raise a child and how true it is; especially with the twins, Tiphelele and Tiphotakhe and their little cousin, Musa who just turned 3. If a gogo was holding one child and another one needed something, another gogo just matter-of-factly picked up the child and took care of it. Mid way through the service when a song was being sung, Zitsile quietly got up and led all of the children out of the room. I assumed they were going to Sunday school, but found that instead they were all going to the latrines for a potty break! Then just as quietly, when each child was finished they all came back in together and took their seat.

Everyone was so pleased with the team pictures and very honored to receive them. They said how much they enjoyed getting to know the people and how much they miss them. The also said how blessed they were to have me here as one of their family because if it wasn’t for me, they would have never met their dear new friends. I felt very honored to be in that position. Of course they also told me to relay to the teams that they must all come back to their home in Swaziland!

After the service they had a “family meal.” I know it was because of all the visitors, including me, but as always the food was delicious and it was wonderful to see everyone eating together, though not everyone sat at the tables. The children and most of the gogos and makes sat together in another part of the room. Just like home…someone has to watch over and take care of the children.

Tiphelele looked very good. Her development is slower than her sister, but she looked healthy. She kept looking at me and after the service I actually got a few smiles out of her. I was afraid to try and hold her though because she often cries when she leaves the safety of her make’s or gogos arms. Musa, her little cousin kept watching me during the service and playing shy. I don’t think he knew what to do because he usually sees me at the house. I could see his little brain thinking I wasn’t supposed to be here, I was supposed to be at his house. Finally after lunch I went up to him to “high 5” with him. He had just a little bit of chicken left in his greasy little hands. It was so cute to watch him try to figure out what to do. He wanted to eat the chicken and he knew his hands were dirty and he shouldn’t touch anything but he wanted to high 5. He finally figured it out and gave me a high five and a big smile. We were both happy.

Some pictures from today:

1. Tiphelele in the arms of her Auntie.

2. Musa pretending to read the bible (I think he was really trying to sneak peeks at me.)

3. Tiphelele’s two brothers, Innocent (sleeping in his chair) and Meluleki.

4. Tiphotakhe standing at the bench entertaining herself during the service.

5. Enoch and Zitsile after opening the presents that contained the pictures.

6. Enoch walking through the congregation showing everyone the pictures.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Swaziland Wedding

This morning I went to a wedding in Mbabane. A young woman from Zambia who has been working for Children's Cup in Swaziland married a young man from Zimbabwe. The woman, Zinty is such a joyful, energetic, god-filled young woman. Both she and her new husband, Lungile have tremendous musical talent and write much of the praise and worship music that is sung on Sunday mornings at Healing Place Church.

This was a "western" wedding, not a traditional one, however, there were bits and pieces of their culture that were added to the wedding making it very special. It was a beautiful wedding. Five pastors participated in the service at one time or another.

The first clue that this was a wedding in Africa was when I arrived at the church a minute or two late, there was almost no one there. The bride finally arrived about 9:45 and the wedding started shortly thereafter. (The wedding was supposed to start at 9:00.) As with most special ceremonies in Swaziland, they have a Master of Ceremony to let the audience know what is going to happen next. Paper, ink and copy machines cost a lot of money, so there is generally a MC instead of paper programs. It also allows for those last minute changes. The MC was Zinty's brother. He introduced the wedding party one at a time and they danced in the door and down the isle. (see first picture below.) Dancing is always included in African ceremonies. When the groom danced down the isle, he would stop and shake people's hands. What surprised me was when Zinty walked down the isle on the arm of her father, they walked very, very solemnly and slowly.

After answering the question of who gives the bridge to be given in marriage, the ceremony started with praise and worship followed by the official vows and exchanging of the rings. This was followed by their individual vows written for each other. It was very sweet. Then they had a blessing, and an introduction as husband and wife followed by washing of each other's' feet. It was one thing to watch Lungile carefully and thoroughly wash Zinty's feet, but then she kneeled down in her beautiful white wedding dress and washed his feet as well. This was done to stress the sacrifice that both people must do for the other during marriage and they must always have love and a servant's heart towards each other.

Several people got up and gave testimonies similar to the toasts we do at wedding receptions. This was followed by the two of them receiving communion. And then the mother of the bride came up so they could cut the cake. She explained the meaning of this ritual and how one was to feed the other out of love and respect. It was very moving. I couldn't help but think how different and more meaningful this little ritual was compared to what it has become at most weddings in the US - a competition to see who could cram the most cake in the other person's mouth.

The ceremony finally ended almost two hours after it started.