I am home and trying to find the words to share with you all God has shown me. His grace and covering and love were so obviously present during my whole trip. I was beautifully taken care of and provided for.
I also witnessed the devastation the enemy has wrought on a beautiful people in Swaziland. I've never seen such extreme poverty, sickness, pain, or suffering on such a wide-scale basis. AIDS has devastated this country and evidence of it is everywhere. I met many gentle, stoic Swazi's and not one of them had escaped--all either have HIV, full-blown AIDS, or have lost one or more family members to this disease. We visited care points where kids get their one meal a day. Small children converge from surrounding fields to eat a bowlful of food. The presence of Children's Cup workers (May God richly bless these amazing servants!) enables many to get food, an elementary education who otherwise would have none, and some medical care. The children put ours in the U. S. to shame with their gratitude for their schooling. Teresa, a nurse with Children's Cup, provides health care against extreme odds, working long hard hours in a country brutally lacking in health care. Children come to her clinic with high fevers, rashes, extreme dehydration and malnutrition, as well as "normal" childhood health problems. Of course many have HIV or AIDS. What amazed me was these kids come without parents (who are either dead or single parents who have to work no matter how sick their kids are) in conditions that would have me laid up in bed. They sit stoically waiting for care. Teresa then prescribes treatment and medication and hopes and prays that these grade-school age children follow through. She takes those to the hospital herself who otherwise would probably die alone. Pastor LaSalette is a one-woman dynamo running a church for the poorest of the poor, a school for children who have nothing but Christ's love, and a beautiful care point. Everything she touches shows God's beauty and love. Lori and I were blessed beyond measure to get to stay and work with these two women and Teresa's family. We also visited hospitals (if you can call them that--filthy places of dispair, including an abandoned children's ward where kids are dropped off either because they are too sick for their parent(s) to care for them, or their surviving parent is too sick to care for them, or both), villages consisting of straw shacks without roofs where the "men" were drunk on fermented sugar cane and children went without shoes or adequate clothing in winter, and orphanages--sad places because they were orphans, but happy places because they were clean, well fed, and loved by a housemother who will raise them to adulthood . Often "all" I could do was pray for those staying in these places. Children are children and all were happy for attention. We held them, Lori took photos (they loved to see themselves!), laughed with them, read to them, sang with them, prayed for them, and told them Jesus loves them.
We witnessed a sad but commonplace funeral procession--a motley group of villagers wailing and singing and carrying a dead 6-month-old baby to a grave in the village. Unaccomapanied children stood by the way watching a pageant they see all too often.
I was blessed to get to teach Bible studies to two groups of care point cooks. One group had Bibles in SiSwati--the other group were illiterate. All come from the villages where they work and recieve no pay but do get food for themselves and their families and are grateful for what they recieve. Most are abused by their husbands or have been abandoned by them (both rampant and permissable in Swazi culture). We prayed and cried together.
I attended probably the most powerful church service I've ever been to at Pastor LaSalette's church. People with nothing came for miles to worship our Lord and they do so with fervor. The worship team was on fire with the Holy Spirit, in spite of electrical failure, darling (smelly!) children with sores all over their bodies came and sat in our laps and sang and danced with us. Teresa's husband, Daran, was the guest preacher and I'll never forget his message. At the end, he gave an altar call--the most powerful I've ever heard. He shared his testimony of accepting Christ at age 28. Then with brutal honesty he pointed out that most of those in attendance won't live that long and exhorted them to come to Christ now. Once again, I was in tears. We were welcomed with open arms by the congregation. As I was most of the time there, I was humbled beyond measure. One little girl had been blessed with candy. She gave me a piece. Oh, that we were that generous with all the Lord has blessed us with.
Beyond the pain and suffering, I was also witness to God's grand creation--zebra's, baboons, monkeys, a pregnant giraffe, elephants and rhinos right in front of our vehicle, hippos, crocodiles, exotic birds, warthogs on our patio, springboks, impalas, bushboks, and many more. Africa is every bit as beautiful as I imagined, at least the corner I was priviledged to visit.
I was treated to gracious hospitality and succulent meals by LaSalette, Teresa, and Theronda's mom Carolien. We had hot water, running toilets, and electricity most of the time. Phone lines were iffy at best, though!
I'm sure I'll think of other things to post as I get beyond jet lag and culture shock so please stay tuned if your eyes haven't glazed over yet with my long missive here.
Thank you seems so inadequate for all your prayers, financial support, and love, but it's the best I can do.
Please continue to pray for the Swazi people and the dedicated missionaries who give their lives there, including Lori, LaSalette. Teresa and Daran, and many others I was honored to meet. God works mightily through these warriors who are His hands and feet.
Please also pray for John and me as we pray for God's guidance as to how He would have us serve--part of my heart remains in Swaziland and I know John is being moved as well.
If God moves on your heart to donate, you can contact Live in Love, Children's Cup, or me. While I don't know what the future will bring, I definitely feel God's call on my heart for another trip, with John, to serve in Swaziland.