When the Dust Begins to Settle …

12 Jun

One week ago today we arrived home. Hearts and suitcases overflowing, we pulled into the parking lot of Warren Baptist Church tired but full of glory stories! We greeted our loved ones with dirty hugs and kisses (We had, after all, been traveling for nearly two days so we were all desperately in need of a hot shower!) Exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally, we rattled on and on about our life-changing time in Swaziland.

Then, we all climbed into our cars, said our goodbyes, and headed home. Now for some of us that meant going home to a quite place. For others, little people anxiously awaited the arrival of dear ole’ mom and dad! Either way, the words from this 1980’s R & B came to my mind …

“Back to life. Back to reality!”

I wondered to myself as we pulled into our familiar driveway …

When the dust begins to settle, what will my reality be like now that I’ve seen and smelled and touched and loved the people of Swazi? When the dust begins to settle, will my life resume “as usual” or will it always be different?

Well, I can tell you this … after a week post Swazi, a day hasn’t gone by that I haven’t talked about, thought about and prayed about those who touched my life so tenderly. Oh, those dusty faces … how very precious they are!

Below are a few pictures to remind you of our time in Africa. But I want to share with you a way you can get involved right where you are. Follow one of these links to Children’s Hope Chest (Timbutini Care Point or Ruby’s Care Point) and look at the children who still need to be sponsored. For $1 a day you can help feed and care for a child.

Think about it.

Pray about it.

Do something about it!

Remember the carpenter who walked the long dusty roads of Israel? He loved children. He died for children.

Listen to Jesus’ words and follow His example of love and kindness …

 “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 19:4

Before the dust settles, consider showing the loving-kindness of Jesus. Sponsor a child today!

Timbutini Care Point

Ruby’s Care Point

DSC02138 DSC02147 IMG_4481 IMG_4527 IMG_4529 IMG_4535 IMG_4663

Corbin and friend Eli and friend group #1  JQ nail queen Liz and boy Robin and friends Spragg and girl white dress

JQ

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Sweet Memories

3 Jun

We are boarding our plane in a few moments and wanted to share some sweet memories.  See you soon!Duct tape Liz Leigh Ann Laura favorite Kati Ann our kids Brad Amy

Swaziland Summer Team 2015

It’s Not Okay With Us!

3 Jun
Today was a day of final hugs and kisses, final songs and dances, final I love you’s, final games of air ball and hula hoop sessions. As I wiped the face of the little boy I enduringly call “Pudge,” I could’t help but wonder what his days would be like once I walked away. Who would wipe his face and hold his hand as he walked to sit down and eat his lunch? Who would hold him as he got sleepy? Who would look into his big, beautiful, brown eyes and see the love buried deep within him? 
 
Is it okay with us that very few take the time to do these seemingly small gestures of love and compassion? Is it fine with us that these children may go to bed hungry because there is no food where they live? Is it okay with us that their shoes are worn and their clothes are tattered? Can we just ignore Third World anymore and be content with western civilization? 
 
No, I do not believe we can. We are no longer blind to the poverty, sickness, loneliness, and disease that plagues these innocent babies. We are not okay leaving without having a plan in place and people on the ground here continuing to look out for them. We are no longer fine with business as usual. There must be a change, and it has to begin with us this time. We must carry the torch! We mustn’t forget the home visits and miracles that gave us a glimpse of God’s glory.
 
We are changed and because we have changed, we can only pray that the children of Swazi have also been changed!
 
But … what can we do? Tomorrow we leave for America! The land of the free and home of the brave. We will come home to our family and do our best to tell our stories from Swaziland, but will those who’ve never been truly understand? Will they have the same compassion and love for little faces whom they have never met? What can those of us back home do from so far away? Pray specifically for these children.
  • Pray that God provided food for the families, shoes for their feet, school fees, safety, and protection for them.
  • Give! Sponsor a child at one of Warren’s two care points
  • Pray for the Go-go’s to love and care tenderly for the children.
  • Visit for yourself! Be a part of next year’s mission team and fall in love with these precious little ones.
  • Find a mission in your own backyard and be a blessing to those around you!
 
There were many smiles today! There were many tears today! But most of all there was much love today! 
 
Jesus said, Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
 
As these children continue to come to our care points, I pray they will find rest for their weary souls. As they receive food, I pray that the hands that prepare their food will be like Jesus to them, lovingly caressing little hands and hearts. As they play ball or jump rope, I pray they find joy in the small things and remember the times we had this week. 
Our lives are forever changed, and I believe theirs are too. They have been touched by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords as they were held and cuddled and kissed and loved in Jesus’ name and THAT makes the difference. 

I believe that God was pleased this week. He was pleased and honored and at the end of the day, the Lord whispered, no He shouted … well done and He displayed His glory in a shimmering array of majesty and splendor!

Sky
We love you precious Swazi children and we’ll see you again soon!
 
Swazi Team Summer 2015
Team

Wisdom from Young Hearts

1 Jun
We have an incredible group of young people on this team. They are growing in their faith and truly showing the love of Jesus Christ to all they come in contact with. We thought we would let all of you back home get a glimpse of Swazi through their eyes. They were asked to give their perspective about our mission in one word followed by a brief description. Here’s what they said …
 
Eli – age 10 (The youngest on the trip)Eli1
 
LOVE
 
The first thing Eli did after telling us his word was turn to 1 Corinthians 13 and read the entire chapter to us. Then he said this …
 
We wouldn’t be here if it were not for love. God loved us and created us so we could love them. So we love them and the cool thing is, they love us back! 
 
It’s like a cycle … God is love and He loves us. We receive God’s love and then love others. Then they love others … it goes on and on!
 
Kolbi – age 13
 
LIGHT
 
Kolbi says we must speak God’s Word all over the nations. He sees his friend, Niko, from Timbutini as a very happy and joyful person. He says that her happiness shines like a lighthouse. He was writing about Niko in his journal the other night. Just after he wrote that her smile was like a lighthouse, he looked down at the bottom of his journal and saw a verse about being a light. This confirmed what his heart was telling him … we must go and be a light to all around us just like Niko!
 
Tamara – age 15
 
Colorblind
 
We are all loved by God and equal in His eyes. Just as Jesus let all the children come to Him in Matthew 19:14 without concern for race or socio-economic status, we must allow these children to penetrate our hearts and love them regardless of their skin color. Love is color-blind!
 
But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
 
Austen – age 15
 
Contentment
 
These kids are happy throwing a ball. These kids are happy playing with rocks. These kids are happy blowing bubbles (at any age). It frustrates me to think about how ungrateful my friends and I back home are most days. I should be happy with water at lunch rather than insisting upon Coke, but I’m not. The kids here would be thankful for water any day of the week. Lord, help me be content!
 
 
Maddie – age 16
 
Humility
 
I am truly humbled after being here and seeing how these children live. It’s amazing to think about the things they don’t have. Their focus is on what they do have, though, and that makes all the difference. 
 
 
Chandler – age 16
 
Obedience
 
Being obedient to God’s call is very important. We should never ignore His call. Being selfish or disobedient is not an option. We are commanded to be Jesus’ hands and feet.
 
2 John 6 says, “And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments …”
 
God’s commands are not optional. When we hear God’s voice, we should listen and obey.
 
Corbin – age 17
 
Potential
 
Corbin says … These kids are so smart and they overflow with God. They fill my glass and make my cup overflow. I want to stay here so badly because I see all of their potential. They know the Word, and they are so glued to God. It is utterly amazing!
 Kids in shirts
 
I don’t know about you, but I wish I would have been this insightful as a young person. God is really speaking to them and showing them great and mighty things that they did not know! 
 
Swazi Team Summer 2015
 
 
 
 
 

For I Am Not Ashamed …

31 May
As we traveled the two hour drive to Nsoko for church this morning, our bus was filled with praise music – our kind of praise music. We arrived ready for worship. After greeting the regular attenders, we quickly found our seats and sat quietly anticipating what it would be like to worship “Swazi-style!” All was quiet, until suddenly the air was filled with the sound of uninhibited praise and worship to our Lord and Savior! They were not ashamed to lift their voices in praise to Jesus!
 
Psalm 100:1 says … Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!
We were blessed with another joy-filled day! Sunday worship in Swaziland is like nothing most of us have ever experienced. There are no lights. There is no written order of worship. There are no hymnals or words on a screen. There is no certain time that you sit or stand, no man-made rules or regulations for dress or proper etiquette. It’s a time and place of freedom. It’s a time to worship, with hands raised, feet dancing, and voices making melody to the Lord.
 
Our team has experienced a time of worship each morning and evening of our stay here in Swaziland. Before embarking on the day’s adventures we spend time worshiping and praying. And at the end of the day we come together again to sing and give thanks to God for His provisions. One of the songs that we have loved singing to the Lord is “Place of Freedom.” The words are so very powerful and minister to my heart when I sing them. 
 
Chorus:
I wanna lift my hands, till I can reach heaven I’m gonna shout your name until the walls come falling down. I’ve come to worship. I’ve come to worship. I’m gonna sing my song like I am unashamed. I’m gonna shout for joy, at the mention of your name. I’ve come to worship. I’ve come to worship. 
 
I believe that today, as we raised our hands to the heavens, God was delighted in our worship. A group of Swazis mixed with a group of Americans came together in worship to Him. There was no language barrier or concern about color or race. We simply made a joyful noise to the Lord together and … it was beautiful!
 
The church we attended was at The Anchor Center in Nsoko where our friends the Spraggs minister. It was a joy getting to visit with them this week at the care points Warren sponsors, and it was so very special to get to see with our own eyes where they live and serve.
 Spraggs
Swazi looks really good on the Spragg family! They glow with the love, joy, and hope of Jesus, and it is evident that they are walking in obedience to the Father by living among the wonderful people of Swaziland. They shared with us their greatest needs: community acceptance and care point sponsorships. They are serving at multiple care points and only one is actually fully sponsored. An unsponsored care point means the lack of consistent meals and discipleship for the children. Please remember to keep the Spraggs in your prayers! They are adjusting well and God is using them!
 
The message today was Romans 1:16-17 …
 
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
 
It was a powerful message about evangelism and growing in faith. 
 
After the message, the preacher asked some of our team members to lay hands on two of their oldest members and pray for them. We prayed for a 110-year-old invalid woman and her 80-year-old daughter. I cannot relate to you the privilege it was to pray for these two women of God. During the service the invalid woman was literally carried into the church by several of the members because she does not have a wheelchair. What a powerful sight to see!
 
Our days are quickly coming to a close in this magnificent place of God. Please continue to pray for us as we make intentional connections on Monday and Tuesday at the care points. Pray that God will give us the power to proclaim the Gospel without shame or hesitation. Ask the Lord to help us share clearly what He has done for us and what He can and will do for them!
 
Love to you all …
 
Swazi Summer Team 2015
Spraggs team
 
 
 
 

A Day of Rejoicing!

31 May
“This is the day that the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” – Psalm 118:24
 
Several years ago when Scott Hall visited Swaziland, he offered to pay the children to pick-up trash off of the ground around the care point. Their payment, he told them, would be one Jolly Rancher. While the boys and girls eagerly raced to find trash, Scott knew that most American kids would laugh in his face if he offered them the same opportunity. While we have become spoiled and often ungrateful, the Swazi children see each tiny treat as something very special.
 
Visiting Swaziland can be difficult. While spending time with the sweet little children who instantly cling to our legs and hug our necks, we smile with joy; we play; and we giggle. But afterwards, on the bus ride home or at group devotions in the evenings, we break. 
 
The stories, the people, the hurt just gets to us. 
 
The tears fall like rain. 
 
The Lord is wrecking us, and we will never be the same. 
 
While most days here for the children are heavy; today was a fun, light-hearted day.
 
Each year when Warren visits, we provide a big treat for the children – Fun Day! The kids from our two care points, Ntabas and Timbutini come together for this day of celebration. Today, about 500 children from both care points all gathered at Timbutini for Fun Day, where they bounced on inflatables, made bracelets, had their sweet little faces painted, their nails polished and tiny hands rubbed with lotion. They danced the Cha Cha Slide, skipped roped and hula-hooped. The teens participated in a soccer and handball clinic led by Xolani, a disciple who heads up the sports ministry. The children from Ntabas were driven over to Timbutini, about 50 at a time, in the back of a truck. They were full of pure joy and squeezed in so tight they couldn’t move. The older boys were pressed tight against the glass of the truck window. When they arrived, swarms of children immediately flocked to the modern playground that Warren built several years ago, so excited to play on one much nicer than the one at their home care point, Ntabas (or “Ruby’s” as we like to call it).
Bus
Line of childrenm All children
Lord, thank You for the pure joy on these children’s faces. Thank You for a generous church body who has donated so much in finances, time, and love.
 
For a mid-morning snack, each child received a treat of five small cookies (called biscuits) and one piece of fruit. Then for lunch, everyone lined up to receive their bowl of food, dished out of a big pot by a Go-Go. The smell of grilled sausages wafted through the air, smelling more like a fall carnival than a party at a dusty plot of land with block buildings and outhouses off a dirt road in Africa. The children each received a sausage and pop (a type of rice dish) with a delicious tomato sauce on top. Every child, no matter how small, was expected to carry his or her own plate to a spot on the ground where he or she could sit, which even the toddlers did with ease. Today was most likely the only day this year that these little ones will eat meat, a special treat beyond their daily rations of porridge, rice and beans.
 
Lord, please bless this food to the nourishment of their bodies. 
Eating
Before it was time to go home, a truck filled with whole cabbages pulled through the fence. “Cabbages, cabbages!” the children yelled with glee in their beautiful SiSwati language. At the end of the day, each child received a giant cabbage to take home to their family. In the process of bagging these cabbages for our children to carry home, a good number of leaves came off. None of the broken leaves will be discarded, because nothing goes to waste here; the Go-Gos will make sure it is all cooked. 
Cabbage
In the quiet privacy of the church sanctuary, we prayed for and presented these beautiful Go-Gos with small tokens of our appreciation: a reusable shopping bag, a water bottle with “Seniors 2014” written on it, backpack, flip-flops, sunglasses, toothpaste, t-shirt and sweatshirt. In all honesty, what they received with great gratitude, you or I might donate, throw away or discard. All the ladies slid their plastic sunglasses onto their faces, looked at each other and grinned widely. Then, our precious 85 year old Go-Go, Ruby, full of gratitude that could not be contained, stood up and broke into song praising Jesus. 
Go-gos
Day after day, these Go-Gos, or Grandmothers, cook in large iron pots over hot fires, stirring with wooden spoons as long as a child’s baseball bat. Many of them have multiple children whom they have taken into their own impoverished homes. They do not get paid for the work they do. They volunteer simply because they love these children and their communities. They do so much for others, and when we present them with even the smallest token of our appreciation, they are completely and unbelievably overwhelmed with thankfulness to us and to the Lord. 
 
Thank you, Lord, for blessing us with these women and teaching us by their example of gratitude for small things. Please let them know it is You who provides for them. We are merely Your hands and feet. 
 
Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. Psalm 115:1
 

At some point during the day, I sat atop a inflatable obstacle course, comically attempting to allow the children to go up only one at a time. As soon as they made it to the top, they did flips and flops off the top to the bottom. I’m pretty sure back home most of the moms would have had a panic attack with worry that a child would break his or her neck. As the kids continued their stampede toward me, I was handed a switch by a young local leader so that I could at least seem a little “threatening” to them. Yup, this definitely isn’t America!  

jump house

Despite the mayhem, I thank God so much for this day. The Swazi leader apologized to me and said she didn’t know why they were so wound up. “They were just so excited,” I replied. She said, “They shouldn’t be that crazy. They have seen this before.” Yes, they have seen this before. A whole year ago! I thought. Can I tell you how many bounce houses my children have jumped on this year? How many playgrounds? The zoo, the aquarium, the play area at Chick-fil-a? We even have a trampoline in our backyard for crying out loud. Of course these children are excited. 
Father God, thank You so much for their excitement, and thank You for allowing us to witness it. Thank You for giving them a fun day free from the big burdens these little bodies carry most days.
 
The burdens these boys and girls carry are so heavy. What must it be like to live in a home where you are never sure there will be food tomorrow? What must it be like for a small child to have the responsibility of parenting their own siblings because their mother has died and their father is in jail? What must it be like to not be able to go to school because you can’t afford school shoes? What must it be like for a mother to worry her own child could die simply because he cut his foot and can’t seek proper medical treatment? This heavy life is one that many Swazis live, and it is reality for the children at the care points. In the years our church family has been in Swaziland, we have seen all of those things. But today was not that day.
 
Today was not a day of tears; today was a day for celebration.
Their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration … days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor.  – Esther 9:22
 
hands face painting I love Robin Carolyn
Missy nurse Carolyn baby cheek
 

God Hears Our Cries!

29 May
Over ten years ago I, along with millions of other people all over the world, read a little book entitled The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkenson. It’s a small book based on a short, yet powerful prayer of a man in Scripture most had never even heard of. This prayer from 1 Chronicles 4:10 says this …
Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.
Jabez was a man with a mission. Yes, he desired the blessings of God, but he also longed to be used of God in some way. When he prayed, “enlarge my border,” he was asking God to give him a greater sphere of influence. He also asked for God’s protection from harm.
And God’s response … He granted what Jabez asked.
 
It’s interesting to note that this is the only place in Scripture that Jabez is mentioned, yet God honored the prayer of this seemingly unknown man from the line of Judah. He heard his humble cry and responded. He saw him! In the midst of a long line of descendants, God inclined His ear toward him. He was not forgotten, cast aside, or overlooked. Jabez was remembered.
During our time in Swaziland we have had the privilege of doing home visits each afternoon. What is a home visit, you may be wondering? A home visit is an opportunity for us to take a child or group of children home, meet their parents or caretakers (if they have them), take them food, hear a bit of their story, talk with them about Jesus, and pray over them.
 
Today we had an amazing home visit! Two groups piled into one van. There were 19 of us in this van – eight adults and 11 children. The driver dropped us off near each home and our group carried the bags of rice, beans, maize, and other food items up the dusty path that led to the home we were to visit.
 
This particular visit was unique because there was actually a complete family unit present. There was a mother and a father. Please understand that it is very rare to see a father figure in a home and even more rare is the opportunity to engage in conversation with a dad. This family was truly special!
 
Our guide for the home visit, Xolani, is the Shepherd at Ruby’s Care Point. When we walked up, Xolani told us to place the food on the ground and sit on the cinder blocks outside of the home. The mother and father, along with all of the children sat outside by the door of the home, as well. Xolani began talking to the parents, telling them who we were and why we were there. They shared with him a bit of their story and he then translated back to us.
 
He told us that they had been praying for God to provide for them. They had both recently lost their jobs and though they had been trying to survive, things were grim. They had tried to plant a small garden, but it had been destroyed. They had searched for jobs but were unsuccessful. They were completely without food and in their words, “they had very little hope.”
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are open to their cry. – Psalm 34:15
The mother then shared with us in English how very grateful she was that we had come to bless them. Then a really amazing thing happened. The father began to talk to us, not in English but in SiSwati. He, too, expressed his gratitude and thanks to God for providing for his family.
 
We explained to them that it was not us, but God who had heard their prayer and answered it.
 
After this we presented them with the food and exchanged hand shakes and hugs. They kept saying how they were overwhelmed with the provision of God!
 
We asked if we could pray with them and they responded with a joyful, “YES!”
 
Praying here in Swaziland means that everyone prays his or her own prayer to God, out loud, at the same time. It’s really an incredible sound! We all began talking to God at once. It was a beautiful! A sacrifice of praise to the Lord!
 
We asked if we could have a picture together and they agreed. We embraced again and said our goodbyes.
Jacqueline home visit
 
As we were walking back to the van, Xolani shared something profound. He shared how amazed and overwhelmed he was at God’s provision to answer his prayer. He explained how very difficult it is to do what he does. He shepherds the children at the care point, but he is also the one responsible for deciding who gets a home visit. He said that he prays and prays to have discernment so he can know who needs a visit that day. He expressed his gratitude to God for leading him to choose that family on this day!
 
Xolani said something else that really convicted me and touched me deep inside my heart. He said, “God wants us to be obedient to Him and if we will just be still, stop all of our busyness, and sit at His feet, we can hear His voice and know what to do.” 
 
Now that is not a new truth to me. I have heard that truth, read that truth in God’s Word, and taught that truth many times. BUT … I don’t always live that truth. Busyness takes precedent over stillness. I fail to stop and see the miracles God provides for me with daily. 
 
Today this family discovered God in a way they had never seen before. God (El Roi) pinpointed this little family, in this little house, in the tiniest country in all of the world. He didn’t need a GPS or Google Maps either. The very hand of God reached down and scooped up this little family. He heard them, just like He heard Jabez, and He granted what they asked. He showed Himself to be Jehovah-jireh, their provider.
 
Do you see the multiple miracles in this story? HE saw. HE provided. HE used this team of ordinary people to be His ambassadors of love. And God didn’t just hear this family’s prayer. He heard Xolani’s prayers, as well, and He blessed Xolani for His obedience. 
 
In Matthew 6:25-31, Jesus said these words, 
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life.”
 
What miracle has God blessed you with recently? 
 
I pray that we not only notice the miracles, but that we, like this family, are overwhelmed by the goodness and grace of God every single day!
 
Oh, that God would bless us indeed, expand our territory, keep us from harm, and hear our prayers!
 
We love you!
 
Swazi Summer Team 2015
 
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