Many of you have asked us the question ‘Why Swaziland?’ and about how our story began. For as long as I (Rachel) can remember I have loved African culture, the music, dancing, art and craft, the nature and everything about it. At around 13 I started going on short term missions to share my faith, beginning with children, in parks and on beaches with Life Missions and talked about Jesus to my friends.
I also started learning physical theatre after seeing Innovo Physical Theatre (formerly Mimeistry) and their amazing ministering arts performances that shared the gospel story with a visual spectacle that etches in your memory for life.
I watched my sister Deb fall in love with Zambia and Zimbabwe where she spent 3 months on mission as part of her Bible College year out, and my sister Rosie and brother-in-law Matt began volunteering in various parts of Southern Africa, but I was unable to go as I was travelling to study Theology and Ministering Arts with9 Innovo Physical Theatre in California.
Performing with Innovo 2002
After a few years during which I married Dan, Matt returned to Swaziland and came back offering again to let me go along with him, Rosie and my nephew Tris on their next trip.
I jumped at the chance as my youngest of three girls was old enough to have a week with daddy (and nanny!) and I had always wanted to work in orphanages, I had done so in Romania briefly but always wanted to work in Southern Africa, maybe partly through images I had seen on TV as a child but also because looking back I can see how everything led me to this point.
Nephew Jordan volunteering in 2013
In the next blog post I’ll tell you about the trip that changed my life in 2014. Matthew came back from a trip to Swaziland with his son Jordan in Feb 13, bursting with life, enthusiasm and passion for the Swazi people and it was infectious. ‘When I’m there I feel like I’m who I’m meant to be!’, he explained. He told us about the gorgeous scenery, the lovely, friendly, warm and hospitable Swazi people and the desperate need of a country ravaged by AIDS and sadly rife with abuse, leaving thousands of children orphaned, homeless and desperate for care.
So when he offered to take me along I spoke to Dan and we prayed, and during a creative worship time at an Innovo workshop, a close friend stood up and asked us to act out images of open doors, declaring that this was a new time in which God would open new doors in all of our lives.
The Innovo workshop in Paris
Open doors, that was what God had told Matt about when he was last in Swaziland, Suddenly God was speaking and, while miming gates and ducking in and out of human doorways, I asked him to confirm whether I should go in October with Matt and Rosie.
Almost immediately, and out of the blue, the workshop leader changed the music and played a song called Africa. Everyone started dancing to the out-of-context lyric ‘ Africa, Africa’, and I laughed out loud and looked around for Dan to catch his eye. Call me crazy, but for me that was my first ‘yes’ from God. It was finally my turn to go and discover this utterly magnetic continent!