At last I was finally able to have my first breath of Southern African air, thanks to Matthew who was willing for me to join him along with Rosie and their son Tris, who was then 10 and very keen, as he had no memory of his first trip at aged 2. We visited as a mini Mission Impact team – the name for the teams volunteering with Challenge Ministries Swaziland, then headed up by an amazing American missionary named Sherri. Full of passion for the Swazi people, she was the perfect guide to introduce us to this beautiful country, its unique needs and fascinating culture. She was an unstoppable ball of energy and fitted so much into our short ten day tour, pouring out her heart for Swaziland and knowledge she had gained to us on the way.
Our mini Mission Impact Team
Travelling with my nephew Tristan was an absolute pleasure as he threw himself into volunteering with sheer enthusiasm. Seeing him interact with his new friends and on one memorable morning, helping distribute medicines at a mobile clinic in Ngwenya, was a huge highlight.
Matt, Rosie and Tristan at Hawane Farm
Matthew’s main task was to join the maintenance staff at Hawane while Rosie and I ran some sessions with different children’s groups, on topics like the fruits of the spirit and the feeding of the 5000. Rosie and I loved working with the children, especially seeing how much they had grown to love Jesus since being taken into the care of Challenge Ministries from being orphaned or in dangerous circumstances; what a beautiful miracle to see in front of you! We were so blessed to have the children sing to us and even pray for us on more than one occasion.
Before the trip I was privileged to meet a missionary who had been based at Hawane and she was emphatic that as we aimed to bless and give, we would receive blessing beyond our expectations, and she was so right.
The day we joined the health team for a morning at one of their mobile clinics will stay in our memory for a long time. We set up in a church with very basic equipment and there were stations for different health checks. The last ‘station’ was for prayer with the local pastor who was delayed arriving. I offered to join a lady from the team to pray for patients. Some of the patients appeared uneasy and did not feel able to express their prayer needs so I was only able to pray for God to reveal his love to them and then tears began to fall; I believe God answered. People’s stories were heartbreaking. One lady was reeling from the shock of her son being bound and killed right in front of her, another had just been diagnosed with AIDS and subsequently rejected by her partner.
Finally an older gentleman, or Nkhulu, (Grandfather) brought his five year old grandaughter asking for prayer for the return of her mother who was feared dead or that she had possibly abandoned them on purpose. I was overwhelmed to see the little girl listening and then putting out her hand in prayer herself, for her own lost mother, at the age of five. They were dressed in tattered clothes and the nurse in charge arranged for a food parcel for them. After returning to the UK I suddenly recognised the gentleman’s broad smile in a photo on social media, receiving care at a pamper day especially for the elderly. How wonderful to see the effect of care and an ongoing relationship built!
The strangest part of the day was going on to have a lavish lunch at a lovely tourist spot, in immediate contrast to the very real suffering and poverty of many of the patients we had encountered that morning. It was a culture shock simply travelling a few miles into a starkly different environment, and was very difficult to process, at the same time as suddenly having an opportunity to contact our close family through wifi and trying to make the most of the rare chance when we really should have been trying to share our challenging emotions and stories from the impacting morning.
Rachel and Rosie at Ngwenya Glass
We had been told by various people to expect the unexpected and it was good advice! We went with Sherri to visit some of the ICBC’s as they are known- this stands for ‘In the Community, By the Community. These are projects where CMS has partnered with a local Swazi pastor who shares the vision of caring for orphans and widows and sharing Jesus with the community in their own way. There are currently 6 of them, each with a church, preschool, health care and orphan care. We met pastor Vusi who had taken in a number of children and he shared some of the unique needs of the rural swazi community with us before introducing us to pastor Elliot who heads up a smaller ICBC in Engcamini. Here is a picture of his church:
Inside were a few benches. He explained how there are women and children, but almost never men, and that there is a great lack of male role models and father figures in Swaziland. He then showed us his plot of land where he had dug the foundations with the faith that God would provide for the church building!
-F – A – I – T – H –
We are yet to hear how their story has developed-watch this space!
We visited the beautiful town of Bulembu later in the week. There is no place like it in the world, a town nestled in a gorgeous valley, filled with flowering trees and buildings left by an abandoned mining community, now full with 360+ rescued children from 0-18.
I actually cried right before I went into the baby home, as the tour guide explained a few facts about the children. It was not so much the experience itself but the fact that I was finally where I had dreamed of being since I was a child. My sister and I were able to hold and bottlefeed brand new twins while we listened to the amazing house mothers describing daily life in the home. There are 2 toddler homes and then a large number of homes for older children, containing 5 or 6 boys or girls and 1 ‘auntie’. Then the 16+ youth are in a larger home with some adult carers on hand. We were also taken to see some of the enterprises such as the honey factory, water plant and dairy, where profits feed back into the childcare programme to make the community sustainable. Children receive a quality education and learn about Jesus as their saviour.
Sherri and my sister Rosie had begun to realise that something more was going on for me than just a one-off trip. I had already known this so I was asking a million questions about the history, issues and needs of Swaziland as well as the details of CMS. So Rosie asked me, out of all the projects which one drew me the most and I instantly said Bulembu but that I doubted that it would ever be a reality because it seemed to good to be true. Having the privilege of volunteering there would be so special. Going back to Hawane farm I had a strong feeling which had built up over the week that I needed to go into Hawane Christian Life Church because God would speak to me there. I ended up going alone after the worship had started. The children I had worked with in the week were dotted around the back rows without parents or carers. I kept wanting to look back at them. Then I heard a voice say, ‘This is what I made you for.’ I waited, thinking ‘is this happening?’ and heard it again. I asked God to explain and received a series of verses which were all pointing to one conclusion- God wanted me in Swaziland for much more than this short time.
So going home I had the task of explaining to my unsuspecting husband that I thought God wanted us in Africa. As it turned out, God had of course been preparing Dan. We prayed over all the verses and direction we had received and proceeded to apply to become Elim Missionaries with Challenge Ministries Swaziland, and were accepted. As we told our friends and family, we waited for CMS to let us know where they wanted to place us and finally an email came, the conclusion was… ‘It’s BULEMBU!’
God miraculously provided for us for our whole family to visit in January 2016, so our next post will describe our adventures!