22Jun

Building a Playground

Words fail us when it comes to trying to describe what it was like to be a part of the playground raising at Mkhombokati. As Tara wrote, the entire CarePoint went through quite a face lift last week. All of the buildings got a fresh coat (in some cases, several fresh coats) of bright green paint. The preschool building was transformed on the inside as well. But part of the reason the team of 13 from Capital was able to get so much of that accomplished was because of the support from the community around Mkhomobokati who turned out to help make the playground a reality.

It was almost overwhelming on that first day when we saw the piles of playground parts spread out on the floor of the multi-purpose building – like, what on earth did we get ourselves into? But then we saw all the people who showed up to help. And each day, more and more got done.

Capital’s work over the last ten years at Mkhombokati has been about building a relationship. We don’t want to just be the people who swoop down and donate stuff and are never seen again. We want to help Mkhombokati and its people progress from survival to thriving, and part of that means building long-term relationships with them. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the work that happened at the CarePoint – as parents of children at Mkhombokati and neighbors who live in the area turned out to pick up paint brushes, dig holes, lift poles and beams and otherwise take ownership of this place.

We’ve come a long way in ten years, and so have the people who call Mkhombokati home. We can’t wait to see what God has in store for the next ten years!

21Jun

Face Lift!

Mkhombokati got a face lift! We stepped foot on the familiar dirt almost a week ago, but it’s almost unrecognizable now.

Painting started with a hand-scrub of all the buildings at Mkhombokati

The blue buildings, lovingly painted by our 2013 (cooking structure was painted in 2015!) team was in great need of a fresh coat of paint. In addition, the Swaziland field staff is transitioning all CarePoint colors to bright lime green so that children can easily spot a safe place to go to anywhere in the country. So right from Day One, everyone had a roller and paint brush in hand. And what a difference it made!

After we were done, some of our cooks were sad that we had to cover a fading mural, so our resident artists fixed that up by painting a veritable garden of beautiful flowers for them to feast their eyes on. We were even able to get a Swazi logo thrown in!

Another new addition – a welcome sign near the entrance to the preschool building

We were fortunate to have some wonderfully creative people on our team who also coordinated new paint and curtains and some fun decals for inside the CarePoint preschool as well. It all came together, beautifully, of course!

Gina and Tara work to replace the old faded letters with new bright ones

I had the personal opportunity to drive around the country a bit looking at some unsponsored CarePoints on Thursday, and as we climbed mountains and drove through valleys (the Swaziland landscape is surprisingly hilly!) I saw the landscape dotted with lime green buildings and thought of, in fact, how a child could certainly much more easily spot a place to find food, or help if they needed it.

While the buildings were being painted, there was another quite large addition to our CarePoint happening as well … the PLAYGROUND! We are beyond excited to have watched God’s provision rise into an incredible (and large!) structure for the children to enjoy. We’ll have more details on that in another post.

 

A CarePoint panorama featuring our new mural and playground

While Mkhombokati is, indeed, looking a bit different, so much is still the same and we pray will never change – and that is the long-term relationship that continues to be built, trip after trip and hug after hug.

-Tara

16Jun
Lower Family in Swaziland

Family

Sawubona!

This is my second trip to Swaziland. I traveled to this country four years ago with a team. It was an incredibly transformative experience in my life, but I did not have the opportunity to truly share it with my husband and children. As many of you know, when you travel to places like Swaziland, there are no words that can describe the experience. You come home a different person, but in some ways you feel alone when you return because no matter how hard someone who hasn’t been “there” tries, they just can’t fully understand. So, this trip, where I not only have my husband Paul with me, but also our three children (Sasha 20, Anna 18, Eli 16) is special! In addition, we also have the Miller kids on the team who have grown up with mine and are like my own (Savannah 18, Nicolette 14). And let me tell you, it has been breathtaking as a mother to watch them participate in serving the amazing people at Mkombokhati – as they open their arms day after day to waiting children, playing, comforting, hugging child after child whether they are dirty, wet, sick, or covered with

So, this trip, where I not only have my husband Paul with me, but also our three children (Sasha 20, Anna 18, Eli 16) is special! In addition, we also have the Miller kids on the team who have grown up with mine and are like my own (Savannah 18, Nicolette 14). And let me tell you, it has been breathtaking as a mother to watch them participate in serving the amazing people at Mkombokhati – as they open their arms day after day to waiting children, playing, comforting, hugging child after child whether they are dirty, wet, sick, or covered with snot!

They are rock stars here, and the kids run after our van when it arrives, not to see us adults, but to see the youth on our trip. Gone are the kids who complain if we ask them to empty the dishwasher. They have painted, hauled, sang with abandon, cried, loved and gone to bed every night exhausted and excited at the same time for the next day.

And then there is sharing this experience with my husband, Paul. We have been given the task of talking to the young adults here about sex, marriage, consent, and yes, rape. He with the boys, and I with the girls. Yesterday, we both sat at the picnic table at the Carepoint, pouring over our Bible together for passages to help with our respective talks. I looked at him and thought of what we were doing a week ago. If you had told me then that I would be sitting with my husband searching the Bible and talking about ideas on this very heavy and serious topic, I would never have believed you. There was no cutting each other off as we try and bring home our own points while moving on to the next thing we have to get done, no silent or vocal criticism, no pretending to listen when you have moved on, no urgency to finish so we can check another thing off the endless list, no thinly veiled sarcastic remarks. Just sitting, together, praying for wisdom, writing, and talking … about, for a moment, being mother and father to the motherless and fatherless, being parents to children 7,000 miles away, all to honor our own father, God. It took all morning and we spent every minute we needed to – no less and no more. My heart is full for these people, their abundant lives, their perseverance despite lack of so many things, and the family God has blessed me with.

-Danielle

Lower Family in Swaziland

14Jun
Siphesile & Anna

Stop the Bus!!!

“Stop the bus, stop the bus!!!!!” said my mother when her maternal instincts kicked in as she spotted a familiar face passing the bus.

Siphesile’s face, when the entire Lower family piled out of the bus, was one I will remember for a very long time and her reaction will be imprinted on me for the rest of my life. The next day, she came to the care-point and wouldn’t let go of my hands and if she did, it was to throw an arm around my neck and my waist. Her uninhibited attitude towards me was a completely foreign concept, as Americans never let themselves be that vulnerable around strangers. She taught me her dances that she does with friends and she sang John Legend’s “All of Me” to me as she looked me in the eyes the whole time. Siphesile took my phone and took countless selfies of us and then went through and showed me the ones she wanted me to print for her. Needless to say, she has taught me to let my guard down and be silly with people I don’t know very well. She taught me to be sincere and proud of how you are. Most importantly she taught me to be firm in my faith and to keep those you love in your heart forever.

Siphesile now refers to me as her “sister” and she will always be a permanent member of the Lower crew.

– Anna

Siphesile & Anna

13Jun

Day Two – Third World Perspective

I have been fortunate enough in my life to only been exposed to real third world poverty twice and one of these is this trip. The first was the summer of 2013 when I went on the other Capital mission trip to Guatemala. While both trips have been to countries that are experiencing extreme poverty I can’t help but be struck by the differences.

Even after only two days in Swaziland, I have noticed the cultures of the countries are surprisingly different in interesting ways. For example, Guatemala doesn’t really have an upper class; whereas, Swaziland has shiny new BMWs and Audis interspersed with dilapidated buildings and barbed wire on every house. In Guatemala none of the cars were new let alone new and at some points there were communities built on mounds of trash. Another significant difference is how people talk to one another and us. The Swazi people are very closed and private to the point that it is hard to get them to even talk about their relationship status. In Guatemala, I had multiple deep talks with people wanting to share their religious story or asking for us to pray for them about health, work, or family.

Sasha with Swazi children, 2017

Behind these differences in culture and class prominence, there were also startling similarities, which is cool when you think about how these cultures have never really had any opportunities to come in contact with one other. Both had immense national pride and the hope for a brighter and more successful future for their country. Both the Swazis and Guatemalans also had this beautiful acceptance of their dependence on God. They didn’t feel that was a show of weakness but rather celebrated that God had helped at all. While they worked to make people’s lives better and improve the country, both peoples were content and thankful for what they do have. This fact has been humbling and paradigm shifting and I would love to try to remind myself of this when I return to the US. -Sasha

12Jun

Day One – Full of Smiles and Love

Our first day at the CarePoint our van was greeted by smiling happy faces… Swazi children greeting the 2017 Swazi Team

We took a quick look around the CarePoint, the garden, greenhouse and more.  Everything is looking so good, despite the severe drought that is still plaguing the nation, and is posted as public notice as a looming water crisis by Swaziland Water Services.

The ladies on the team began painting right away, with help from our cute and lovely Shepherd, Zama.

Paul and Eli jumped in with some willing Swazi men, grabbed shovels and started digging holes for our VERY LARGE playground! We were all appreciative as well for the help we had from some of the men in the Mkhombokati community – and even the littlest kiddos in the community got their muscles out and carried poles all by themselves. Watching them carry was a highlight for many of us. By the end of the day, they were able to get some of the posts in the ground!

Of course, we had a fun time playing with the kids!

It was a beautiful day and we know we have a lot to look forward to getting accomplished this week.

Please keep us in your prayers. We want to do so much in just a few short days! We need to paint the exteriors of the two large buildings at Mkhombokati, plus the interior of the preschool building. We have a lot of playground pieces to put together! We have cement to pour. We are trusting in God that everything that needs to happen will get done, but now that we’re on the ground, we see just how big our dreams were. We are so grateful to the community members who have partnered with us to help get things started.

12Jun

Getting Ready!

Our first full day on the African continent has come to an end, just as our friends back at home are barely finishing up with Capital for the weekend services. It seems strange to be writing this at 9 pm on Sunday when it’s only 1 back home!

 

Sasha and Paul relaxing before hitting the road again

We drove today from Johannesburg to the world’s quirkiest and most fun truck stop (Alzu, about at the midway point between the airport and the border with Swaziland), then from there on to the border crossing, then a brief stop at Ngwenya Glass to stretch our legs, and then on to Manzini.

 

It felt good to unload those 35 checked bags from our trailer and put our roots down at Sunset Palms, the guest house where our team is staying.

 

Swazi17 unpacking checked bagsWe were so excited to see Brandon and Melinda Babb and their adorable little man, Zachary, who kept us entertained while we settled in. They did a great job helping the team get used to the cultural differences we’re going to encounter when we get to the carepoint tomorrow. There’s a lot to remember, but it all boils down to being respectful of the people we are here to serve.

 

We’ve been told our playground is now at Mkhombokati, waiting for us to begin the work of putting it together (with a little help from our Swazi friends – OK, a lot of help from our Swazi friends). It’ll be a packed day, but we’re so excited to be Capital’s hands and feet on the ground with these kids.

 

Sala kahle (stay well)!

 

 

8Jun

Ngiyabonga

Well, here we are.  Less than a day away and we will be on an airplane to Swaziland, Africa!  We are so very excited and want to thank you, Capital Church for the great send-off in SLC and PC!!

Capital Church send-off for Swazi Team

 

If you were at one of the four services, you may have already heard that one of the big physical projects we have planned is the building of a playground!  I am so very excited and grateful for this.  It means that our Swazi kiddos will have a fun and very safe place to come and play.

Thank you again, Capital and everyone who helped to achieve this, those who donated supplies, who made love cards, scarves and beanie hats, and those who helped support members of our team and so much more.  We are so grateful for all of you.

Also if you came to one of the send-off services, you learned how to say, “I love you” in Siswati (Ngiyakutsandza).  Now we would really like to say, Ngiyabonga! (Thank You!)

6Jun

It Takes a Village

13 people are boarding a plane on June 9, 2017, to go to Swaziland, but there’s nothing less than a small army of people who make that possible, and we are so grateful.

children fundraising for Swaziland, Africa
Take a look at these kiddos! They sold bottled water at a slight markup to raise money for the team (and because they’re honest, they disclosed that on their signs).

If you have donated to one of our team members, THANK YOU.

If you have given a tube of toothpaste or a pair of socks or a box of crayons or a board game, THANK YOU.

If you came out to make cards for your special friend, we are so blessed to be able to deliver those for you. THANK YOU.

If you are praying for our team members, the missionaries in Swaziland, the shepherds and bomake who take care of the kids, and the kids at the carepoint, your prayers mean so much. THANK YOU.

Not everyone is in a position to get on a plane, but it takes ALL of us to get a mission team ready to go and to support it on the ground. Thank you, Capital, for everything you do at Mkhombokati!
15May

All Packed Up

Team packing supplies for Swazi17

You plan for months. You meet, you discuss, you shop, you coordinate — but it doesn’t really seem REAL until it’s all there, piled in front of you and ready to pack.

Gift bags for bomakes, and packing for Swazi17

Everyone jumps in and starts grabbing and sorting the pencils and the crayons and the backpacks and the toothpaste and the jump ropes and the bubbles (don’t forget the bubbles!!) and the Bibles. There doesn’t seem to be much of a system to it; it’s every team member on deck, a mad dash to get it all squeezed into the assortment of mismatched luggage you’ve assembled, making sure no bag is over 50 pounds and you’re not wasting space with a bag that’s under packed.

Folding up fleece scarves on packing day, 2017

Before this day, it’s all been theoretical. You know you’re going. You know what you need to take with you. You know what the plan is. You’ve practiced the VBS skit and giggled over the idea of your tallest teen team members dressed as zoo animals; you’ve sung the songs and taught each other the motions. But now it’s right there in front of you. Now it’s laid out and packed up and ready to go. You are going to Swaziland! All this STUFF is going with you. In just under a month, you’re going to be singing songs and playing games and building a playground, but more importantly — building relationships. Suddenly, it’s not theoretical anymore.  This.  Is.  Happening.   We are doing this!

What is every bit as real but a lot less visible is the immense support that makes it possible for packing day (in the short term) and your trip (in the long term) to happen in the first place. None of this would happen without the love and the backing of the amazing people of Capital who sponsor children at Mkhombokati, who donate items and money and time, who pray and plan and hope right along with you. Every item packed represents love from those folks to people on the other side of the world. Posing in animal costumes for VBS skit for Swazi17

We may be the ones putting on goofy costumes and painting the buildings (not at the same time, of course), but it takes ALL of Capital to pull this off.

Next stop, Johannesburg!

Swazi17 Team all packed up with 29+ bags!

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)
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