Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I left my heart in Swaziland...

Thank you to all of you who supported me through prayer and other means in my mission trip to Swaziland. It was truly a divine and purposed trip. My team of ten from IWU became my second family. We worked so well together; God had a plan and role for each team member to shine. I formed eternal relationships with the beautiful students, children, and faculty at Emmanuel Wesleyan Bible College, was broken by God’s precious orphaned children at the Fortress orphanage, and was challenged and moved by the students at Hillside High School where we taught Reach4Life HIV/AIDS prevention. I witnessed God’s hand at work in my own life as I was challenged by an 11 year old girl, Zinhle Malaza to go deeper in God’s word. I found healing in my time spent visiting with two young AIDS patients at the Hope House. While I experienced, saw, and heard many heart wrenching and harsh stories of the lives of the people of Swaziland, God protected and shielded my heart. Needless to say, I did not want to leave. The African way of life is a breath of fresh air from the fast-paced western culture in America. God showed me a different side of his character through the African people. Living simply and relationally are two key things the Africans do well, and I feel challenged to hold fast to these principles. I will never forget the amazing men and women of God, and beautiful children that I met in Swaziland and I will cherish the precious moments I shared with them.

My trip to Swaziland planted seeds that I believe God will water through the relationships we formed with the students and children. The time spent holding and playing with children filled holes in their hearts and lives left by a culture that places little emphasis and attention on its most vulnerable little ones. The lessons taught and testimonies spoken in the classrooms at Hillside High School challenged a new generation of Swazis to change their nation. And the teams presence on the Bible college encouraged and supported students and faculty to press on to advance the Gospel in Africa.

After 14 days of joy and laughter, sadness and tears, love and encouragement and doing life with the people of Swaziland I said goodbye not only to my new friends in Swaziland but also to my family from IWU and came to South Africa.

I arrived on Thursday May 28 to White River, South Africa to do my International Community Development internship with a community based organization, Hands at Work. Hands at Work is working toward a goal of caring for 100,000 orphaned and vulnerable children by 2010. In caring for children, “Hands” seeks to provide three basic services: food security (one meal a day), education, and health and shelter security. These services are provided through orphan care centers that offer pre-school during the day and after school care and feeding, schools and after-school programs, and home visits to clean, bathe, and feed them.

I am living in community with about ten other short-term volunteers at what is called the Hands Village. We cook, clean, and do life together. It is hard for build relationships because people are constantly leaving and arriving, but it is nice to have people to talk to that speak your language! 

So far I have had the opportunity to work at the Orphan Care Centers- playing with kids, holding babies, helping in the kitchen, and assisting in homework help. Today was a very rough day. I went to a community called Belfast to do home-care visits. When we arrived to the first home we went into the room and there was a mattress on the floor with a man laying there covered in blankets. The ladies said we will sing some songs and pray for him, then leave. As soon as we got in the room it was apparent- his eyes were wide open and not moving, the grandmother shook his head and put her hand on his chest and then we were ushered out of the room because he had died. The mother was told and the sisters and they were all wailing. It was awful. He was only 32 years old and we do not know what he was sick with but I would guess AIDS. It was a horrifying experience, yet in a way it was somewhat normal and calm for them. 

Please pray for me as I process and attempt to respond to these experiences.  

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