Thursday, October 11, 2012

Saying Goodbye is Never Easy

Day 8.

Final journal entry:
"It's the last day and I pray that it would be used effectively to speak life over many little bodies.  I'm not ready to leave.  I dont want to go back.  I can feel God here and I fear I won't be able to sense His presence in America."
The last day was full of celebration and goodbyes.  Full of long, tight hugs, "I love you's", and promises to keep in touch.  It was the very definition of bitter-sweet.
When we arrived at Bhobogazi my little buddy was there waiting to play. I immediately scooped him up into my arms and snuggled his precious little body. I have no idea his name, but he is forever etched upon my heart.

Here are a few photos that we took of our wonderful team before we headed out for ministry. 
The ladies of Bhobogazi
Teammates quickly became family
The weather was picture perfect.  It was sunny and warm and the views were breath-taking.  We spent the morning inside of a lovely women's hut.  Her hut was made of mud and she was clearly distressed that the summer rains may wash her home away.  Can you imagine having to worry about your home not withstanding rain?
We were all crammed inside of her tiny home, sitting on heavily used chairs, and occasionally a chicken or two would wander inside.  It's was odd, as I sat there in the cool air, staring out her tiny little window, I couldnt help but feel at home.  It was cozy here, filled with so much love, with so much hope.  I had a clear view of the African country side, I had my husband right beside me, and I was listening to some amazing women share scripture back and forth.  Perfection.
Our new friend shared scripture that she drew strength from and later we shared a realization we all came too - the same Bible, the same verses that we draw strength from, are the same words that this women in the African bush draws strength from.  Our world is so tiny.  We are all in this together, no one is to be forgotten. 
It was a visit I won't soon forget.
While we waited for the rest of our team to get back from their home visits, we spent some time just playing with the kids, which if you haven't figured out, is the best thing ever!

We did our last session of VBS and then threw the children a carnival.  We had a balloons, a jumpy castle, bubbles, nail polish, and all sorts of fun things the children to do.  They were beyond excited and hardly new what to do with themselves. 
Seeing the pure joy on the childrens faces was such a blessing.
The kiddos jumped and jumped until their hearts were content!  We were able to play some music from our bus and the girls showed off their dance moves, and might I say, they have some serious moves! 

Too soon the day was over, so we gave our final goodbye hugs and cried our final goodbye tears.

We all gathered around in a massive prayer circle to give a few final words of encouragement and love.  We prayed to our mighty Savior and left our beloved Bhobokazi.

We went to pick up the rest of our team at their carepoint, which turned out to be such a blessing.  I got to see my sweet friend Thandelueto (the girl I bonded so tightly with on day one) and tell her goodbye.
My sweet Thandelueto and I
This last day spent with the children was heartbreaking.  Driving away from their tear stained faces and not knowing if we would ever see them again was almost more than we could bare.  I miss them deeply.
A little update:
About 3 weeks after returning home I had a wonderfully unexpected surprise!  One of our translators, Sdumo, fortunately has a cell phone with internet access.  I noticed that he had posted a photo on facebook of my precious Thandelueto and one of her friends.  I asked Sdumo if he could tell her that I said "hello" and that I was thinking of her and loving her.  By the grace of God he was still at the care point with her, and her and I were able to have a little conversation.  I was able to reassure her that I would never ever forget her and that I loved her so very much.  It was the biggest blessing.  I thought that I would never be able to speak with my sweet friend again, especially not over the internet, but God knew just how to lift my spirits and set up this devine appointment!  Praise the Lord!
Often it is hard to leave those you love.  Our natural instinct is to stay and to care for them.  But, that isn't always an option.  One thing I have held tightly to is the fact that the Lord loves these precious people more than I could ever love them.  He can care for them and protect them more than I would ever be capable of.  He IS our Creator, Sustainer, Protector, our Father. 
I had to chose to release them back into His hands.  That is where they are safest and most dearly loved.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Moon in Africa

Day 8.
My journal entry this morning:
"I see the moon this morning.  I cannot believe that it's the same moon that I see in North Carolina.  I love you God, the creator of the world."
The sun was up and it was shining brightly.  I was sitting outside looking out at the most beautiful view, listening to music, and spending a little alone time with my Savior, with my Bible open on my lap.  I looked up at the sky and saw the moon, clear as day. 
I counted the hours trying to figure out what time it was at "home."  2 am?  So..the moon was shining somewhere over America too?  I have no idea how all of that works, but what I do know is that God created one moon for our little planet.  I was staring at it in Africa and I looked at it very often in NC.  It was a strangely profound moment.  The world is so tiny and God us our tiny little planet safely tucked away in the palm of His mighty hand. 
We left for our ministry sights at the usual time of 9am (but not before we could get a few snapshots with friends!).
We spent a lovely morning spending time in homes praying, loving, and sharing scripture with new Swazi friends.  Our leader Scott accompanied us on a few visits, and his presence boosted our confidence a ton.
We loved home visits and took away a lot from them, but at times we felt we could do more.  But, we were too timid. 
The Holy Spirit dwells within those who have placed their faith in Him.  The very one who created us, who created the heavens and the earth, resides inside of you and me.  We are capable of so much more than we could ever fathom, in the name of Jesus.  When we call on Him and believe that He will do what He has promised, amazing things can happen.   
He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
Matthew 17:20
When our requests and desires line up with the will of God, nothing is impossible.  But, we must believe it first.
We went to visit with a lady who had had a stroke.  She was paralyzed on one side of her body.  After sharing scripture and few testimonies with her she allowed us to lay hands on her hurting body and pray for her.  We all prayed in unison, calling the Lord to heal her and strengthen her. 
By my account, she still couldn't move half of her body when we left, but God never leaves.  We asked Him to heal her, and He is the only one capable, and I trust in His mighty hand.
We spent the rest of the afternoon like all the rest - loving and being loved by 40ish amazing kids.
If you ever need to feel loved, or maybe you need to hear that you're beautiful, might I suggest you visit rural Africa?  God poured out His love on me (and all my teammates) through these children.
Why yes, that is a cow in the background.

I mean seriously, aren't these the most beautiful children you've ever seen??
My sweet husband captured some very flattering photos of me and my teammates singing songs with the kids for Vacation Bible School.  We always had so much fun singing and being goofy - the kids certainly appreciated it!

The kids giggled the whole time!
Before leaving I got a precious little snuggle from the sweetest little boy I've ever met.  He stole my heart.  More on him in day 9.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Meet Bubba and Siphesihle

Day 7.
I prayed this morning to my heavely Father for my purpose in Swaziland to be revealed. 
"I pray that today would be the day I see my purpose revealed here and that I have the faith to step out and accomplish my task.  Help me to love today.  To love like you do. Amen"
During my morning devotional time I was listening to some music.  The Lord whispered two questions to ask myself in my ear..
Do I look like You?
Do I sound like You?
Today, Joseph and 2 of our teammates split off to go help build a home.  I was bummed that we wouldn't be together the whole day, however, we all have different talents that can be used to show God's love and Joseph certianly was able to do that through construction (or digging, as it turned out).
This is Lindewe, the women whose home was being built.
The construction team!  Kameryn, Sharon, and Joseph.
Back at Bhobogazi..
A few people from our home-vist team went back to Mose's house.  He has become a bit of a friend and his family just needs so much help. 
In the past two mornings that we've spent with his family, we met his nephew.  His nephew was always sitting on a cinder block up against their hut because of an injured leg.  We found out that he had been attacked by a dog and it appeared like his wound was a little infected.
We were blessed to be able to bring him an antibiotic to fight off the infection.  My prayer is that at this very moment his leg is healing and he is able to walk on it again.
We were able to visit and pray with a few lovely women before heading back to spend the afternoon with the children.
I want to introduce you to a little friend that I made..
This is Bubba.  Well, clearly, that isn't her real name, but we affectionately named her that.  She was a cutie-pie, but she was very "sturdy" (if you know what I'm saying).  We found this little one just standing at the gate of the care point.  She just stood there and stared at all the kids playing.  We didn't know where she had come from or who she was. 

Everytime one of us would go over to pick her up or bring her into the care point, she refused. Eventually she came in and stood behind the building where they prepare the rice and beans. She would not speak, play, smile, or laugh. She had no reaction to us - just a blank stare. She had desperately sad eyes.
We asked around to see if anyone knew her or recognized her, but no one did.  Ultimately, we just ended up taking turns spending time with her and trying to make her smile.  The only gesture I was ever able to get out of her was a wave goodbye.
Little Bubba touched my heart.  I know very little about this little girl, but this is what I know. She had sad, yet curious eyes.  She clearly wasn't underfed, but she certainly wasn't "healthy."  She was very hesitant to trust any of us, which begs the bigger question of, why?
I pray for sweet Bubba.  I pray for her well being, for her health, for her hope and her happiness.
I made another friend this day as well.  Her name is, Siphesihle. We got the spend time talking about her life and her faith.  She at one point asked if I wanted to be her best friend.  The answer was simple, OF COURSE I did.  (I have actually written to her since being home and I am praying that she received it.)
Best friends!
My new BFF is 12 years old.  She lives with her dad, her mother died a few years ago from an illness (probably AIDS).  This makes her very sad.  She has, I believe, 3 younger siblings, whom she cares for.  She told me that she sleeps on the dirt and never sleeps well, it is uncomfortable and cold.  Fortunately, she is in school, so there is hope for her future.
  Right there is the best reason to support impoverished children.  They need to be in school.  Is it known that the longer a young girl stays in school, the longer she typically abstains from sexual activity, which in turn could curve the rising AIDS rate.  Education will also help to build up a generation who can make a contribution to the community and ultimately help bring the nation back to its feet.  And as we all know, education gives children a sense of confidence and value, which is so vital for them to stand firm and strong in their convictions.
I walked away from this day with a lot of humility and a lot of passion for what these kids go through and how much help they need.
I dont know if I felt like my specific purpose in Swaziland had been revealed to me that day, but I had a new sense of my ultimate purpose.  There are many many things in this hurting world to be passionate about, there are SO many ways we can help and show Christ's love, but at the end of the day, the best thing I can do for anyone is share with them the truth of Jesus.
This little cutie-pie loved my sunglasses!

It's not just the kids that are hungry.
If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
Isaiah 58:10

Monday, September 3, 2012

Praying the Germs Right Off of Me!


The layout of everyday was the same.  Morning ministry consisted of home visits and the afternoon was spent with the children at the Bhobokazi Care point, putting on Vacation Bible School.
If you remember, yesterday we met Moses.  He was desperately hungry and had a family to feed.  When we left him the previous day we returned to our care point to eat lunch, which obviously didn't sit well.  We talked to our leader and hatched a plan to get a food basket together for the family, and by basket, I mean, plastic bag.
We were beyond blessed to return to his homestead and present him with the food.  What we brought him and his family would last about a week or so, depending on how sparingly they ate.
We were also able to pray again with the family and give them some encouragement.  It was a beautiful beautiful morning!
Our ministry team with Moses (in the blue shirt) and his family.
Our next stop was to visit Audrey's mother.  Audrey is an amazing woman who we happened to meet at the care point.  She lives close by and spends time at Bhobokazi regularly.  She became a close friend to all of us!
We were pleasantly surprised that they lived in a relatively nice home and everyone in the household could speak English.  So refreshing!
Apparently, every morning they spend time in prayer together, so we were just in time.  Audreys mother was absolutely inspirational.  She ministered to us the entire time we were in her home.  She served in the Peace Core as a translator for her native language, Siswati.  She has actually been in America and even had the opporunity to stay, but chose to return to her beloved home. 
She prayed with us and spoke life over each of us.  She was eager to get to know us and encourage us.  The time was full of laughter, prayer, singing, and blessings.  I will never ever forget this family, they gave me so much more than I could have ever offered them.
Our ministry team with Audrey (the gorgeous lady with the big hair!),
her mother (in the white), and her aunt (kneeling down).
We ran into part of our group serving a family by carrying water for them.  Being the hands and feet of Jesus comes in all shapes and sizes!  I found this scene to be so comical because while it took one Swazi woman to carry  the bucket of water on her head, it took two Americans per bucket!

The rest of the day consisted of loving on some precious children and doing our best to show them Christs' love!
He's going to make the best daddy someday!

This is Mahti, our translators daughter.

We all just loved this sweet little girl.  She is always smiling and trying to get attention.  She was enamoured by Josephs beard and she also took a peak down his shirt!  So funny!

It was actually quite cold this day.  Probably in the 60's.  These poor children were in tiny little dresses or torn skirts and pants - the fortunate ones had flimsy little jackets. 
My little friend in the brown jacket had something filthy on her sleeve and continuously wanted to hold my hand with it.  It was one of those moments where you just have to pray the germs right off of you (and do your best not to sniff or use that hand)!  All I know is that yucky stuff on her wrist of her sleeve appeared to be brown and it was a bit damp - need I say more?
In that moment of being a little horrified about what I was touching, I thought about Jesus.  I am filthy, repulsive even.  However, Jesus, my Papa, holds tightly to my hand, snuggles me in closely to His chest, and kisses my cheek without a thought.  He loves me unconditionally, irrevocably, and unashamedly.  I chose to cuddle and hold this little girl, because that is how Jesus loves His children.
I found myself quickly not caring what was on her sleeve anymore.  I knew the Lord would protect me and had called me to this childs side.  All little who-knows-what on her sleeve wasn't going to stop me!

dinner time!
On our way home we saw the most incredibly site.  The Lord was speaking loud and clear!

We were all awestruck at the view.  God was, is, and always will be present in Swaziland (and all over the world, for that matter)!  I believe He was showing us and giving us tangible evidence of His presence.  Of His might and power. 
He gave us so much encouragement that evening, an encouragement that carried us through the week!  Praise the Lord!