Our time in Swaziland has come to an end. We are at the Johannesburg airport waiting to board our plane to Atlanta. We will land in Atlanta around 6am on Thursday and arrive in Augusta mid-morning.
We said our goodbyes to our children on Monday. On Tuesday, we visited care points and homesteads in Nsoko, which is located in south Swaziland. Our intent was to see where our Warren Baptist future missionaries, Stephen and Charity Spragg our going to serve. Their goal is to begin serving in September.
The care points in Nsoko are in the beginning stages of development. Seeing the children there brought back memories of the way our children use to look. There were swollen bellies, partial clothing, sad eyes and red hair due to malnutrition. It was heartbreaking to see. It also caused us to pause and remember how far we have come as we remember that our children in our care points looked exactly the same in 2009.
Leaving our children was difficult but we are thankful that they are in a much better place than they were when we started. This makes our leaving bittersweet until we see them again.
We encourage you to come visit these children if you are able. You will leave with a changed heart and a clear purpose of how God wants to use you to fulfill the James 1:27 mandate.
To be completely honest, two years ago when my wife told me that she felt called to go on a short-term mission trip with Warren to Swaziland, I thought she was kidding. In fact, I thought that she had made up the very name of the country. When she mentioned the cost of the trip I definitely thought she was kidding. Boy was I wrong. Jeanna did end up going to a real place in the southern part of Africa, completely paid for by friends and family. She returned home fired up for foreign missions as well as determined to sponsor a beautiful young girl named Nonhlanhla. God did amazing things in and through Jeanna on that trip and we have been sponsoring Nonhlanhla ever since. Yet, there was still a sense of distance and disconnect between my heart and the beautiful young girl whose picture is proudly displayed on my fridge.
Over the past two years, God has continued to work in my heart regarding the importance of foreign missions. He has placed friends and family in my life to spur me on to a passion for the fame of God’s name in all the earth. It is through this work and these relationships that I finally said “Yes” to joining 21 others on a trip halfway around the world to a place I had never heard of to share the Gospel with people whose language I do not speak. Yet, over the past week, God has done such amazing things in and through our team that have filled my heart with inexplicable joy regarding Swaziland. Not only have I had the opportunity to minister to hundreds of children and adults, I have had the privilege of spending time with Nonhlanhla daily. In fact, I have also met her brother and mother, who both recognized me from the pictures displayed in their home sent in letters by my wife. Nonhlanhla is no longer just the beautiful young girl on my fridge, but is my Swazi-daugher and sister in Christ who has taught me through her kind heart and sweet speech what it means to love without bounds.
I would encourage anyone interested in the work Warren is doing in Swaziland to jump onboard, whether it is serving on a missions trip, sponsoring a child, or even writing letters of encouragement to the children served at the care-points. Due to poverty and disease, as well as a lack of male Christian leadership worldwide, there is a dire need for Christian men to rise up and fulfill these roles regarding the beautiful young souls at Timbutini and Ntabas. I call to men, young and old, to step-up and rise to the challenge of serving God’s people in this wonderful country. The hustle and bustle of life so easily blinds us to the work that God is doing all around us. It is time to set aside personal ambition and to obey the command of Christ to make disciples and multiply disciple-makers, at home and abroad. I can assure you that Swaziland is a perfect place to start.
Before we arrived, each team member imagined what it would be like to actually be in Swaziland; to be here spending time with the kids. For me having visited Swaziland once already, I felt as if I had mentally and emotionally “prepared” myself for every experience. Let’s just say…I was wrong. In the past five days, I have been wrecked. I have seen complete joy and seen absolute grief. During one home visit, I met the family of my special friend. After being greeted by her siblings, we immediately learned that her mother could not come out of the house to meet us because she was sick with HIV. In that moment, my heart dropped. Everything I had ever thought about meeting my special friend came to a screeching halt. After praying over her family, I walk away emotionally drained. I had seen what she faces daily. I could not shake the image of what her life looks like. Since that moment on Tuesday, I have been aching to change everything for her; take her away from everything she faces….until today.
While busily painting faces in the shade of Ntabas Care Point, a child approached me and asked me to paint a beautiful yellow sun on his forehead. This boy had the saddest brown eyes I have ever seen. Seeing these eyes took me back to my home visit and the pain I had seen. As I began to paint, I noticed a scar on the center of his forehead and decided to paint over it. After finishing, I let him look at himself in my camera and the once sad brown eyes now had a look of absolute joy! I have never seen anyone so happy over something so small. In that moment, I realized that we can’t change the circumstances of these children, but we can bring hope and joy for the short amount of time that we are here. And that is all that God asks.
These children may have scars in their lives whether it be from HIV, poverty, rape, death, hunger, loneliness, or lack of love; but for this moment in time, we are here to show them that there is more in Christ. We are here for a brief moment to take them away from their pain and show the hope and freedom they can have in Christ. I have learned that our trip is in vain if we do not amplify and share the hope that we have in Christ….even if that means simply painting a beautiful yellow sun over a scar.