That is how I think of our time there. God moved in so many ways in us and through us while John, Tom, and I were in Swaziland. He used us to touch hearts and used the Swazis to touch our hearts. There are so many stories to tell and I hope you will all ask many questions and be patient as we try to answer and process it all. It was definitely life-changing for us. I will share the mud hut story to give you a glimpse.
We spent a lot of time in the "communities"--villages of mud huts. These places are heart-wrenchingly sad with the poverty, huge epidemic of AIDS and other diseases, alcohol abuse (mostly home brew), and the breakdown of families due to death and serial marriages. They are also places of great hope as Pastor La'Salette, Lori, and others from Christian Family Church reach out to share the Gospel as well as practical help with the people. The church itself is comprised of people from these communities.
During one of our visits, La'Salette observed that a widow's home was virtually falling over--held up only by a long stick. So the men and youth group from church pitched in, along with the 4 of us, to rebuild. Yes, it is actually fun to build a mud hut in one day! This small act had a profound effect on the community. Abraham, a dear brother from the church, shared that many non-Christians were very impressed at what God had done through His people. Abraham said that several turned their lives over to the Lord as a result. It was huge for men in the community (who tend not to take care of responsibilities like working and supporting their families) to see this work. It also had a huge impact on the people that white people were sent by God all the way from the US to minister to them. This simple mud hut stands for God's mighty provision for His people, through His people. It is a light to the entire dark community there and a reminder of His great love.
We were also blessed to get to share a Bible study with this community--Tom, John, and I all shared what God placed on our hearts to share from His Word. We visited the women's TB ward at the hospital. We went out with the CHIPS team on emergency calls (ministering to those with AIDS whom the program is helping--these were all emergency calls--Lori is fabulous, along with Teresa's help as she is able to reach her via cell phone). Most of the calls resulted in Jabaloni taking the patients (adults and children) to the hospital--often for severe malnutrition or TB which goes hand in hand with AIDS there. Neat to witness Teresa planting the seed of salvation with one emaciated man and then Pastor La'Salette and the men leading him to the Lord when he was ready.
I also was privileged to get to do counseling with 4 women while I was there--2 missionaries and 2 Swazi women. In addition, I led a full day training with breast cancer survivors who will now reach out to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. Breast cancer, along with AIDS, has a huge stigma in Swaziland, so for these women to "go public" takes a great amount of courage and strength. I was honored to get to be a small part of encouraging and equiping them. Teresa does a great job in her role with Breast Cancer Network--truly an important ministry.
I was also blessed to get to do a training with a group of 5 pastors--God does amazing things--who am I to mentor these men? Yet I know God used me mightily in their lives.
We visited an amazing place called simply "The Farm"--a self-sustaining orphanage consisting of 4 homes overseen by widows, each caring for 8 orphans. These children come from horrific backgrounds (wandering the city streets, being beaten when failing to bring home food to an alcoholic father, being fed beer in a bar at age one by a mother who said, "you take her then, I don't want her," a 5 year old boy who was so close to death with AIDS that a doctor said it was useless to waste money trying to treat him--he is now 13 years old!, many with a past of sexual abuse). They will be raised as their own children. The children are provided with an education as well--a big deal in a country where education is not free and many go without. The farm supports itself by raising chicken, pigs, and produce. Peter and Mary Jean are the missionaries to whom God gave the vision for this place and through whom it is run. I was honored once again by being able to do a training session with the 4 mothers--a time of counseling and prayer.
We also got to witness the wonderful things being done at the Care Points (where children are fed the one meal they get each day--usually beans and "pop"--a maize porridge) and at the schools run by Pastor La'Salette. I got to overhear a class being taught on AIDS--teaching children how to avoid it as well as how to care for family members who have it. (Every family is affected.) The children ALL said that they love school--there is NOTHING they dont' like about it. They know they are blessed to get to attend as many children from their communities do not. Those who do not sit around or go to work in the markets. There are no toys except rubbish they find and use creatively.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention the wonderful things--Bongi and the beautiful praise and worship team who blessed us so mightily with their music, Pastor La'Salette and her overabundant hospitatlity (we all GAINED weight in Africa!), Pastor Jabaloni, Jabaloni, Pastor Sibisi, Abraham, and so many others who allowed us to minister alongside and learn from them. They are our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ.
I'm sure I am leaving so many things out--please do ask us questions if you are interested--we want to share! Thank you so much for your love and support. Please continue to keep this country in prayer as the needs are great. Please also pray for those like Lori, La'Salette, Teresa, and Daran who serve so faithfully there. Lastly, please continue to pray for us as we seek God in how we should best follow Him in continued ministry there.