About that Africa?! I’ve been back in the States for 8 weeks now, yet it feels like a year, and living in Africa is like a dream. Is it because the children laughed, hugged and cried the same as those here? Or because people are the same inside wherever they live—wanting, needing to matter to someone, anyone. Desperate for Hope to Live! But no truer words have ever been spoken to describe Africa vs America: “It’s the same, but different.”
First off, the cottage where I lived next to the landlord’s house was behind fruit trees, flowers, and vines of delicious “sue-sues.” Our clothes flapped dry in the African Fall breeze, while dogs chased cats chasing chickens, squawking amid the hadidas in the trees. Our British-African landlords, Johnny and Betty, were quirky-wonderful. We never wanted for anything! They had it all, and also treated us to an occasional sauna, hot soup and good story-telling of 40+ years in Swaziland. I miss their presence in my everyday life.
Along the way, the amazing full-time missionaries and Children’s Cup staff made sure that we experienced as much of Africa as possible, beyond the mission field. We hiked, biked, rode horses, found too many waterfalls to name, and visited specialty factories and stores. But to be honest, most of those places felt like we could’ve been in a first-world country. And visitors traveling into the Kingdom of Swaziland by mere fascination could surely miss the reality of what lies less than a mile from any traveler’s point of interest—the deepest poverty I’d ever seen.
This vulnerable population is one that rarely dreams or thinks of a future. Most have lost parents to HIV, and assume their plight is the same. Death is normal to a child. It’s expected. It’s Swaziland, which has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world. The rate is only perpetuated by witch doctors who tell men that they could be cured by having sex with a virgin. And the poverty, both visual and within, was unlike anything I’d ever seen, smelled or touched. People live under shrubs or in huts made of sticks, mud and rocks—if blessed. Most children walk over an hour, tackling the mountainous terrain, just to get a bucket of water, medical care, or a warm meal. But whether hugging children, prepping food, going with the medical team, or just being, God’s presence was consuming, letting us know how much he loved us and Africa. I also experienced incredible hospitality, anointed and spontaneous worship, and much laughter. And I consider it an honor to have loved on children amid the overwhelming stench of poverty, and realizing the value of a filthy shirt on a cold day.
While in southern Africa, I witnessed Children’s Cup [CC] model how to encourage a healthy, sustainable community through the aid offered. I heard prayerful considerations of all angles before setting programs into motion. And my heart jumped when President Ben Rodgers said, “CC’s goal is to work ourselves out of Swaziland!” I knew this organization had their heart in the right place.
My objective was to capture stories from the mission field. To be honest, the poverty, the abuse, the stories, as well as the miraculous and hopefuls, all overwhelmed me. I’ve asked God what to share in depth, or in brief. In brief, I helped serve at the Logoba “Chicken Day” to over 300 children. Faces lit up while anticipating the 1st piece of chicken in months.
I also went with the medical team to dispense meds and love on the children a few times. I traveled down bumpy roads with the child sponsorship coordinator, carrying paperwork & photographing children.
I met a 6 yr old whose name means “God’s love.” And as I prayed with him, his face lit up while I wondered about his future as a “mute” in Swaziland.
I also held 2 writing classes for missionaries & staff, and helped minister to & entertain the missionary kids at a much-needed retreat for their parents who work hard for the people of this region.
And a true highlight was this. A friend realized the child she’s sponsored with Mission of Mercy, now One Child Matters [OCM] for 10 yrs lived in Swaziland. The person in charge of OCM partnership had become a close friend of mine! After locating 12 year old Gcinile, I discovered her needs, went shopping, and traveled 2 hours to her CarePoint to meet her with her grandmother/gogo. While walking her home, I learned that her mom died 18 months prior, and her dad 6 yrs before. Her gogo is a volunteer cook at a CarePoint, and calls Gcinile “her heart.” This child is one of the blessed orphans. Most are left to fend for themselves, often abused, abandoned or dead.
We also stayed “on the go” between Swaziland, Mozambique and South Africa. The goal was to see if a tilapia farm was a viable option to raise food & generate an income! After miles of investigation through sugar-cane fields, up ocean-side cliffs, and into the mountains, this dream is a reality. As of July, Children’s Cup has their first tilapia farm at it’s Global Leadership Academy [GLA]. And other skill developmental programs began and blossomed while I was there: a baking course, a gardening class, creating leather bracelets. A wood-working and auto-repair shop are now under construction. This is CC’s way of addressing the needs of teens who often drop off the radar. They need life skills for a trade in a land where the
unemployment rate is projected at >50%. And CC has the “heart thumpers” on staff to plant seeds, minister to and guide them. They include African nationals who may be former CarePoint kids, GLA graduates, or those who escaped political unrest in neighboring countries. These amazing souls lead Bible programs and camps for the children, and Bible studies for the volunteer “bomakes” who cook for CarePoint children. They are the drivers, the gardeners, the medical team, the facilitators, the administrative help, the staff at GLA, the ones God has chosen to carry His light amid the darkness. They are now my friends!
I am still processing this journey, but I know that I will never be the same. God called me there to do a work through me & inside of me, and He did. Showing me what truly matters in life, following Him, and trusting Him with the steps to take. And I know that experiencing God’s move in southern Africa would not have happened if friends & family like you had not helped, had not prayed, had not said, “Yes, I believe in what God has called you to do.”
Thank you!!! And may God’s favor reign in your life forever,
P.S. There is so much more … to be continued in a different format.
PSS. That Africa some of you may wonder about. That’s my thank you to YOU!