Resting under the tree

Resting under the tree
Genesis 18:3-5

Sunday, July 25, 2010

We have had a busy two days with the Bishop's consecration, more DVD shoot, singing, smiling, and teary good-byes. It is hard to leave.

Today we will trek back to South Africa and fly to Atlanta tonight, to be home on Tuesday.

It was a big experience, from the time of preparations, to the all-encompasing last two weeks. The transition back will manifest differently in different people, but talking helps. As family and friends of team members, try to be good and attentive listeners when your loved one arrives home.

I will try to write more of the experience when I arrive and have more time. So you can come back to the blog in a few days to check. It has been so full here, and the time short.

Pray us home...

Friday, July 23, 2010

It is early Saturday morning.
Yesterday was a long day as we traveled to remote areas of Swaziland, spending hours on dirt roads of washboards and ruts. Literally, my backside seems bruised this morning.

I decided not to post anything last evening because I was still processing and did not want to post anything too raw. I am still not sure that I will succeed.

Friday we put a lot of smiles on a lot of faces. And I thank many of you for that. Your monetary donations allowed us to be here. And some of you that gave money for Swazi supplies allowed us to give at least a weeks worth of food at each Neighborhood Carepoint Center, giving a nutritional boost to help fight diseases and grow and give them a good feeling in their bellies, at least for this next week. Lack of food security is a consistent theme through this country.

Those of you who participated in shoe drives, getting the word out, purchasing them and getting them in our suitcases - I can't wait for you to see the pics of us handing them out. With all the thorns and feces around, these will help protect their feet.

We saw children literally wearing rags. Molly commented yesterday that she probably wouldn't even use one of the little girls skirts for a wash rag. Harsh, but it is true.

The donations of medical supplies, school supplies and clothing...
Just know that your donations that got us here and allowed us to hand things out has made a difference in many lives. And it does make a difference. One of the workers at the last Carepoint we went to, I recognized from four years ago when we visited Make Elizabeth's Church. He was still wearing the same fleece that I gave him then. If it has kept him warm for these past four years, I am happy. So you should be happy too. Your gifts will be well used, until they literally can't be used anymore.

What is bothering me is this. Yesterday at our last stop, there was a girl of about nine, who was definitely acting as if she were the head of her household. She was caring, in both meanings of the word for younger children. Upon closer contact, she has multiple small lesions around her mouth, nose and eyes, leaving no doubt that she must also be HIV+. It looks painful. How she contracted HIV will remain unknown, but I know too many of the realities of these young girls who, due to their parents early deaths, inherit the responsibilities of their households, and become the targets of human predators. Something is really wrong when you look into the eyes of a girl who is younger than my own daughters and hope that if indeed there is a predator involved, that she is hopefully getting something positive in return. Does mercy really look like bread in return for being raped? God forbid.

I knew this would come out raw. And I am crying so I better go collect myself. The Bishop's consecration is today which will be a great celebration.

So many contrasts come at us quickly. Nauseating to celebrating, crying to laughing, living to dying, all in a moments time.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Yesterday we went to a carepoint center in Shewula, an area near the Mozambique border. It could not be more rural.

We had been there before in 2008. The once dirt and rock floor of the pre-school is now poured cement and there are panes in the widows. There is a new building that houses a classroom which is nice - the attempt is that this will hold the equivalent of 1st and 2nd grade classes, as the primary school is a very long walk from here for the young children to make. These are very positive signs.

What hasn't changed is food security, proof from their distended bellies. (they are no longer getting aid from Unicef - too little resources, to great a need). What hasn't changed is the amount of sickness, both in the fact that these kids are orphans and that their little bodies are in a constant battle with all types of sickness on little resources.

This sentiment was also at Gigi's. Gigi's has also had some funding to make the facility better - and praise God for it - but has it REALLY changed the lives of the children housed in them? I shouldn't be so cynical to say no, because it has. I will however continue to ponder what it is that will really make a difference.

Be ready people because I think we may initiate a program to help maintain daily food in the lives of the children at Shewula. I am not sure how to do this but... Pray and discern, pray and discern.

We are off to a game reserve today as a day off and to have a different African experience.

Tomorrow, we will go to two more Neighborhood Carepoint Centers.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Today we will be going out to homesteads all over Swaziland with Hospice at Home.

We are experiencing many emotions, up and down right now. The weekend was spent being welcomed into the loving arms of Christ, via KZC. It was a mountain top experience, figuratively and literally, as one of the venues for the DVD shoot was a mountain side.

Yesterday we descended into the valley of the suffering children at Gigi's.

Today we don't know what to expect as we visit the soon to be ghosts.
This picture is of a baby getting some peaceful sleep on sisi Molly's shoulder at Gigi's place. We are really being introduced to the problems of HIV here. These children are the Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVCs) of the streets in Manzini. Many will be sleeping out on the streets somewhere tonight. But today.... well this child got to feel a moment of what having a mom might feel like. A moment is not enough.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A young patient with her mom at the children's ward of the government public hospital. 16 July

At the Indianapolis airport on our way. 14 July
Janice, Susan, Molly, Lauren, Donna, Beth, Eric, Anna

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Saturday was too full. Making this post next to impossible to capture it with the time (what time?) that I have. Hopefully after our three hour church followed by the DVD shoot, we will have some time to try to catch up with our processing, our journaling and maybe even sleep (wishful thinking). We went to a funeral at daybreak, had an architect tell of us a a building project for a Youth Centre at the church, met with the women's group and some youth, were fitted for our church uniforms and had a three hour rehearsal preparing for the DVD shoot tomorrow. Wait until you see us in this choir!!!! We will stand out. We are the lip-synching, white, rhythm challenged ones. And you will get to see it because they are filming it today. Yikes!

Rose Mkhatjwa
Saturday we arose at 4am, and joined a small community that laid young Rose Mkhatjwa to her eternal rest. I can say we helped because this was a community event and we joined into the community and added our presence, prayers and voices with those around us.

We arrived as Rose's body was being taken from her home, where she slept in her living time, to a rocky hillside cemetery, to her new resting place. We joined the walking procession, in the darkness and cold, which like a pickpocket was searching to take something from us. But we are the living. We create warmth, no matter how the cold tries to steal it.

The lighting effect was perfect. From the lightening sky, we knew of the promise for a new day, slowly slowly, until the sun burst upon us, finding us among the rocky, earthy formations, a small community of the living and the dead saying farewells and welcomes to Rose, mother of three, member of Gods community.

More later...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Arriving in Swaziland

We are now in Swaziland. We made the five hour trek from Johannesburg to Mbabane, the capital. It was a gorgeous day, and the glorious views of the mountains, were a good welcoming committee and provided a wonderful contrast to what we encountered today.

We unloaded our luggage at the hotel and immediately left for the biggest public hospital in the country. We visited the children's ward and the men's ward. Here we learned the difficulties of health care here in Swaziland.

We met a man who severed his spinal cord four weeks ago. He is paralyzed from the waist down. He has been in the hospital but has not yet seen a doctor. Almost too difficult to imagine. He needs a specialist and there isn't one to be had. They keep telling him that one will come from South Africa but no one knows when that might be.

There is a shortage of doctors here. Swaziland has no medical school and whenever someone goes to medical school outside of Swaziland, it is nearly impossible to get them to come back. We were told that there are only 8-10 doctors for @ 3500 patients at the facility.

In the children's ward, we met three orphans who are disabled/disfigured. One of them is a girl that sits in her wheelchair. She is 20 yrs. When I asked how long the hospital had been her home, she told me since she was born. In every society, it seems that the disfigured are on the far reaches of the margins. The other two, who live in what I would call a work room/cleaning room/staff room, along with the stench of urine, were much younger.

Throughout the hospital there were no private or semi-private rooms, only big spaces with lots of beds divided by screens where lucky.

We will continue to process these scenes.

We had a few very pleasant surprises, too. Friends, Sandile and Thokozani joined us tonight for a gathering of songs. It was entirely wonderful to visit and sing with them (more enjoyable to listen to them then to listen to me.)

Tomorrow will be a full day.
We will be leaving the hotel at 4:30am, before dawn, to attend a funeral service, which happens outside at day break. Thokozani, the groom from two years ago, will take us.

We will then have meetings with the church groups of KZC - youth reps, women's groups, etc. We will have our final fitting for our church uniforms and we will have choir practice, for the DVD shoot on Sunday. More on that later...

All is well. Keep praying for us.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fly me to the moon...

Woke up this morning and smiled, then prayed ferverently. And smiled again.

Frank Sinatra has been singing in my head this morning, "Fly me to the moon..." In other words, I am excited.

My ride to the airport just arrived (thanks Melissa!). Today, after all the planning, praying, and preparing we are on our way.

My prayer has been that we will see what God wants us to see, do what God wants us to do, learn what God wants us to learn, and Love the way God wants us to Love. Let it Be. Amen.

Please pray us there, and then pray us home.

Now, in the words of Cap'n Jack, "Bring me that horizon!"

Friday, July 9, 2010

In four days I am going to be frantically hoping that I have packed/prepared/paid/prayed everything necessary. I have jokingly been telling people that all the preparation work that goes into these trips means only one thing - that we get to go to the airport and will most likely get past security. After that, anything goes. This "joke" is a result of the vast experience of 2008 when God had an intervention with me about my control issues. How entertaining to have the very first flight canceled, causing all the months of preparation to unravel within moments, extending to headache filled hours of grasping at anything to get us back on track . Splitting the group, loosing two people in computer oblivion, Thrifty giving away our rentals, lost luggage, motels misplaced in the dark... Are you wondering how I managed to recruit another team? It turns out that all those things, although great anecdotes, are not very significant.

Yes, in four days I will be checking off the final (and possibly irrelevant) list. Tonight I will check off the item: create blog.

Right now, I have my head wrapped, making sure that this new scarf will work as a head covering for church in Swaziland. Thanks to technology, earlier today the new CD recorded by the choir of Kukhany'okusha Zion Church was transferred to me over Skype and I am now listening to a beautiful rendition of "It is well with my soul..."

This is the perfect atmosphere for my first blog.

Where should I begin?

Probably with this warning to those of you who will follow this journey via blog. I have no idea how well I will do with this. So let's keep the bar of anticipation low.

In 2004, the first mission journey of this kind, Babe (Baa-bay) Bishop told me, "We need people to get to know us." The ground had already been prepared, and that was the seed being planted. His words declared the impetus of this mission.

Getting to know the people of Swaziland means recognizing how HIV has devastated their country, exasperating extreme poverty and lack of food security, crumbling an already cracked infrastructure.

Getting to know the people of Swaziland also means being welcomed home into the body of Christ. We learn so much from them about faith, hope and the audacity of love. Isn't audacity a great word? Daring, insolent heedlessness of restraints, fearless, bold. Combine that with Love and Shazaam! - Out of the dark night comes a new dawn. A NEW dawn made of NEW Light.

Stay tuned...