Author: Swazi Mission Team

17Oct

From Johannesburg, South Africa to Manzini, Swaziland

Swazi Medical Team 2016 travelled from Johannesburg, South Africa, to Manzini, Swaziland today. We drove through rain, fog, and high winds but by the loving hands of our driver Elliott we made it safely here. The winds when pulling a trailer  blew us around a bit, then passing large trucks with the fog made for an exciting ride.

Our 20 minute lunch stop included this cool glimpse of an animal park, African style. After getting through customs in South Africa we drive another 500 feet to enter customs in Swaziland – it was a long 5-6 hour drive, but we all got settled into our home for the next while. We un-packed all medical supplies and had both a Team Meeting and listened to a thorough cultural overview from our friends on the ground here, Melinda and Brandon Babb, and it was fun to meet their son Zack.  Melinda, Brandon, and Zack moved here from Salt Lake about a year ago because of the love and need they saw from this place during their first visit in 2009.

We are all battling some jet lag, but everyone appears to be handling “the tired” well and having grace. We have all already fallen in love with a baby named Joshua here on site.

Take aways of the day, songs in the car – Swaziland seems greener than South Africa – the drought is significant and apparent.  The people of Swaziland are lovely, kind, and smile authentically…and they make a mean cupcake- and the birds here are beautiful and sing beautiful songs to wake you up in the morning 🙂

#capitalswazi #swazi16medical #givethanks #capitalchurch

16Oct

Team Safely Landed In South Africa

Meeting yesterday morning at 8:00am, at Salt Lake City International with 1000’s of pounds of medical supplies for the Mkhombokati Care Point. Met by friends and family to assist with the check in, including a staff member and her family that just had a baby less than two weeks ago…WOW! That is commitment! Checkin went smoothly and then we were off to board the first leg of our journey to Atlanta. While in at Atlanta the team was able to grab some dinner and grab any last minute travel requirements, and then we boarded another very full flight to South Africa. Many movies were watched over the 15+ hour flight and books were read, sleep was a necessity. Everyone just got on and settled into the long journey ahead. There was a 5 month old in the row in front of most of our group – the team would tell you… She was pure joy. Never cried, and every time you would look at her with a smile she would giggle back at you… we were all so amazed. She was so beautiful and speaks to my theory when you are joyful – joy surrounds you.

After a very smooth landing in South Africa we cleared customs and collected the baggage – we met Brandon and Elliott on the other side of the customs hall and hugs and hellos were had by all. We were given some Simba Chips and water and made our way over to our hotel. Dinner is now…it is Sunday at 8:00pm, it is dark out already. So with that we send our love to all of our loved ones and thank our supporters for allowing us the opportunity to be here…here in South Africa, in this very moment.

Much love, The Swazi Medical Team 2016

 #capitalswazi #swazi16medical #givethanks #capitalchurch
10Oct

Thoughts Post Weekend Sendoff – One Week Prior to Lift Off

This weekend if you attended services at Capital Church, you were able to see the team of 12 going to Swaziland Medical stand before you. Tara spoke so eloquently about how many firsts we have experienced over the years, from a new life, to death, from planting gardens to seeing the fruits of our labor carried home in ways we never imagined… Some of the take aways I had as I stood there listening to her speak, were these… My mind flashes to a woman sitting in the front row – as we stood before her, she sat weeping, I saw her authentic love for these children 8000 miles away, I saw her love for the friendships she developed with her teammates, she never said a word, I don’t know her name, I have never met her, but her love was unquestionable. Read More »

8Oct

Getting Ready Swaziland October Medical Mission

After several months of preparation, fundraising, packing, and meetings the team is ready for take off and we can’t wait to love and care for the children of Swaziland. The Team is comprised of many different backgrounds, but we are all grounded by our common mission, and the knowing we are all meant to share this special journey together. We hope to see you at one of the services this weekend, as we will introduce our team in person, but for now our team’s individual biographies are below, so you can get to know our team members. Read More »

23May

Now what?!?!

I knew the time in Swaziland would fly by. I knew that it would impact me. I knew I would impact the children. I knew so much, yet now I am back, I know so little.

People have been asking me how the trip was and I reply with a simple, “amazing!” This is partly because I know that is what 90% of the people want to hear (the other 10% ask follow-up questions) and partly because I can’t express the heartache, the turmoil and the utter joy I am feeling.

As I continue to reconnect with the other team members, we express how much we wished we were still at Mkhombokati. We’re adjusting to our new normal. We came home to our air-conditioned homes with pillowtop mattresses, walk-in closets, refrigeration and plumbing. But something was missing. We each left a piece of our hearts in Swaziland and are struggling to fill that void.

The simplicity with which the Swazis live is amazing. Many fit upwards of nine people in a one room home that is half the size of my bedroom. They may only have two outfits – a dressy one for church/school and an everyday outfit. They don’t have electricity, so they cook on an open flame what they can eat and nothing more. Most of their food is non-perishable. Yet, with what we consider almost nothing, they are happier than most Americans who seemingly have everything, because they take care of one another. They love each other unlike anything I’ve seen here.

Going to Swaziland was one of the most rewarding, exciting and amazing experiences of my life. Coming home has been one of the most difficult, trying and challenging. Driving to the airport in Johannesburg, I heard Tenth Avenue North’s song, Love Is Here. The lyrics got me choked up:

Come to the waters
You who thirst and you’ll thirst no more
Come to the Father
You who work and you’ll work no more

And all you who labor in vain
And to the broken and shamed

Love is here
Love is now
Love is pouring from His hands, from His brow
Love is near it satisfies
Streams of mercy flowing from His side

Leaving this beautiful land that is in the middle of the worst drought in a century and to be filled with so much love, these lyrics couldn’t have been more alive. Love is what it is all about. Love is where you are. Love is who we are. Love is what can satiate that thirst we have to make a difference. Love is God.

So, what now? The only thing I can think of to fill the piece of my heart I left in the care of my friends in Swaziland, is to replace it with love.

-Cameron Stark

 

12May

The Impact at Good Bye

Our mission teams swoop in to Mkhombokati, all bells and whistles blowing, ready to put on a show and sing and teach. As one precious team member lovingly describes it, we arrive and “make a circus out of everything.” Our short-term teams carry special friends of special friends and supplies and songs and hope to unpack the simple gift of making good on the promise of showing up, just as the teams before us have and the teams that follow us will.

We certainly go with intention and plans and purpose, working to ensure that the activities of our specific short-term mission fit into the long-term goals of both the Swaziland ministry at Capital and the strategic development goals of the Swaziland missionary field staff.

Our teams, however, have just a few hours during each of five precious days to build and strengthen relationships through loving on and laughing with the children. There are only so many finite minutes to hug and hope and help. In an instant, we pack up our three rings, zip and clip up our bags and roll out of town. We cringe at what feels like a tearing of us from them, as the bus bumps down the road on that last day, now familiar faces waving and fading behind us.

In the grief and the pain of good-bye, God dresses our wounds with the peace of knowing that our little flock will be well looked after. And that’s because they have a shepherd. Two shepherds, actually. Their names are Mbuso and Zama.

The ministry in Swaziland, which operates 33 CarePoints and serves over 6,000 children is not a relief/aid organization. One would think, amidst such intense poverty, that aid would be, by default and necessity, a constant priority. And yes, of course there are gardens and farms and projects designed to enable the feeding of all those children 5 days a week. And yes, there are building projects designed to improve the function of the CarePoints purpose. And yes, there are garages full of underwear and socks and items to replace the clothes whose holes no longer provide cover. There are statistics related to all of these. But they aren’t the ones that matter most.

At the heart of this ministry lies one word: development. The seat of the ministry’s emotion and passion and the place from which it both groans and rejoices is not from providing stuff, but from serving and shaping souls through discipleship and development.

The book When Helping Hurts defines development as the “process of ongoing change that moves all the people involved—both the ‘helpers’ and the ‘helped’—closer to being in right relationship with God. It is a process that people do with each other, not simply for each other.” Our western culture is quick to measure mission trip success with checklists and the pounds and piles of things. It feels good to hand out a shiny new pair of shoes do a barefoot child. A photo of this does wonders to market a ministry. But let’s be careful to catch ourselves in the trap of overvaluing the giving of stuff and focus instead on hard conversations that focus on development. Let’s wrestle with how and what and where our time is truly most valued and aligned with the overall ministry vision. 

The dedicated missionaries have made this ministry about a single noun: people; and about all kinds of verbs, like training and equipping and empowering and coaching. Their ultimate pot of gold is to raise up Swazi’s to care for their own out of a place of knowledge of and abundance in the Lord’s kingdom, not out of the fear that comes from the despondent cycle of scarcity on this earth.

There are many examples of how this strategy is being executed throughout the ministry:

Sisekelo Setfu

Swazis and missionaries wrote and developed this a custom discipleship curriculum that is taught daily to the children at each CarePoint.

Ngesikhatsi

Swazis and missionaries created this custom grief counseling program that takes small groups of children through intense personal sessions, teaching them how to express and process their unimaginable grief and loss, putting them on a path to freedom and forgiveness. (Forty seven children at Mkhombokati have been blessed by this program.)

Sports Ministry (for the fatherless)

An amazing bunch of exuberant young men travel to CarePoints throughout the month, offering life coaching through soccer. They teach a custom curriculum that pairs life skills such as courage in conjunction with soccer skills. They work to simultaneously raise up boys in sport and reach out to the fatherless.

But it is the Shepherds, born out of the Swaziland Leadership Academy (SLA) that are the heart beat of this ministry.

Each year, the missionaries pluck a small (10 to 15) group of young men and women who show initiative and interest directly from the CarePoints to become SLA students. The students then spend eight months in South Africa where they are intensely poured into, coming face to face with their own past, their own pain and their own stories, sifting beauty from the ashes and the faithfulness of God. They are also given a crash course on managing attendance spreadsheets and all the foreign minutiae of administration that management demands.

SLA students are transformed, tended to as people and trained as leaders, emerging from this journey of spiritual formation ready to discern and execute.

Upon their return to Swaziland, each student is assigned a CarePoint to which he or she becomes its Shepherd. There, they serve the children after school four days a week, acting as big a brother or sister, as a mother and/or father, as a disciplinarian and counselor and teacher and friend. In a land with 40% unemployment and omnipresent illness and death, these Shepherds are walking monuments, beacons of hope to thousands of children.

Mbuso (pictured above right) is our veteran shepherd. His smile is magnetic, with a transcendant gravitational pull. Mbuso’s mind dwells on what is true. He is curious and confident and wholehearted. He lives not far away from the CarePoint himself, in the homestead on which he was born, a small concrete block with a bed and a lone light bulb. Our team was treated to dinner at his homestead, an evening under the stars that forever redefined hospitality in my playbook of practicing Christianity. Zama (pictured above left) is Mkhombokati’s new shepherd. Her smile is soft and sweet and shy. She is gracious and tender and her gentleness is evident to all. She is approachable and encouraging and teachable. She embodies the fruits of the spirit.

First and second year Shepherds are volunteers; they do not get paid. They serve, making a daily difference in the lives of our special Mkhombokati friends even as I type. They give their time to raise the children of their country into good citizens of both the Kingdom of Swaziland and the Kingdom of the King of Kings.

Shauna Neiquist wrote, “connection heals us more than achievement ever could.” And the Bible says, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

The connection and love that Mbuso and Zama  selflessly offer as living sacrifices inspire and encourage us all.

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” – Philippians 1:9-11

-Tara Ross

7May

Let It Rain… Open the Floodgates of Heaven.

Well we’ve been praying for rain, and today it was that rain we received.

Today was the first “Family Fun Day” to be held at Mkhobokati. Our Fun Day committee (Derek & Laura) spent hours meeting, brainstorming, packing and organizing supplies. Late last night the whole team huddled up, assigned stations and were ready to roll this morning with a bounce house, relay races, a soccer clinic, a dance-off, slack line, amoeba tag… we were ready for some serious FUN. As we started to pull out supplies, as the children began to swarm around us and their families lined up at the gate, we looked up and saw the skies open and the rain began to pour down. Not just a drizzle, but a sudden and dramatic torrential rain.

The course of our Fun Day took a turn. A turn for the worse? All of our time and effort put to waste? But how could we mourn this rain? This is the rain we have been praying fervently ever since we heard of the historic drought, this is rain that everyone we’ve visited has been desperate for. Confused about how exactly to feel, those of us with rain jackets bundled up to welcome soaking wet families at the gate and usher them into the multi-purpose building.

As I huddled under the outdoor shelter with a group of kids to watch the downpour my mind wandered toward songs about rain. Lets face it, the song “It’s raining, it’s pouring, the old man is snoring….” makes no sense and “Rain, rain, go away” just didn’t quite sit well in the midst of a drought so I asked Sisephile, a talented teen we’ve been getting to know, “Do you have any songs about rain?” Immediately her voice rang out, and every child around us followed her lead in perfect harmony, “Let it rain! Let it rain! Let the buckets of heaven pour down.” We clapped our hands and swayed together willing that rain to continue. I was no longer conflicted.

I knew in that moment that there was no way our day would be ruined by the rain. I knew it was nothing but a beautiful blessing, reminding me that our plans are no match for the awesome plans God has for our lives.
The grills were moved under the roof to continue cooking a meal for all five hundred of our expected guests and while the food cooked we gathered the children, their families, the Care Point staff and our team with no plan at all but to wait out the rain together. There was not an inch to spare in the 30’ x 50’ cinder block building with a metal roof. But we were all warm and dry and protected, something that wouldn’t have been possible ago when the Care Point consisted of a tree on a hill.
The next few hours were spent in celebration, gratitude and joy. Parents and grandparents sitting in tiny chairs meant for preschoolers, crowds standing at the back, our team sitting on the dusty concrete with the kids, all trying to see through the cloud of smoke that was pouring in from the grills just outside. But what we all saw through the smoke was well worth our stinging eyes and aching knees. Groups of children from the care point had lovingly prepared poetry, songs and dances to share with us. Words cannot describe the passion, effort and talent that went into their performance today. And we are so grateful for this beautiful gesture of their love.

But there was something else there.

Though these performances were directed at us, their visitors from across the world, I could not help but look back at their families whose eyes were full of pride. They shouted out their support, sang along with each song, and just like we would expect back at home, I saw many a mother with her camera phone out recording every moment of her child’s moment in the limelight.

These parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles walked in the fence looking weary. These are men and women struggling to survive and keep their children from starving, but even before we had the chance to serve them the biggest meal they’ll have all year, even though we didn’t have
the chance to lavish their kids with a bouncy house and relay races and a dance party, before they received a homemade cupcake for the walk home… they were uplifted by their own choir, their own songs and dances and heritage, they were uplifted by their own children. In that
moment I saw a pride and a hope that just maybe their kids were going to be okay.

7May

It Can’t Get Better… But It Does!

If I had to choose a favorite moment from today, I would fail miserably. There are just too many. As I look back over the last twelve hours, my mind jumps to several that would compete for “favorite”. Here are just a few:

 

  1. In VBS this week, we’ve been talking about how to love God with ALL of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. LOVE GOD. Today, we talked about the importance of loving our neighbor. LOVE OTHERS. At one point, Tara held up a map and showed the kids where SLC, UT and Swaziland, Africa are located. Then she said that we flew in an airplane for 22 hours to come and see the kids because we believe they are our neighbors and we LOVE them. When she said how far away Utah is from Swaziland, many kids audibly gasped and covered their mouths in shock. They had no idea. It was an incredible moment to see them realize that we would fly half way around the world to love on them. They are SO worth it!

 

 

  1. Music is my passion and I felt like we needed to share one particular song with the kids this week: Good Good Father. But as I planned to lead the song, I feared that it might be painful for them. So many have lost earthly Dads (and Moms). Would it remind them that they didn’t have parents? Would it hurt more than it helped?

 

But as I walked around the Care Point today, I heard little voices following me singing lines like, “I’m loved by you, it’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am…” Everywhere I turned, different children were singing the song as they played. The truth that God is our father wasn’t painful at all. In fact, the message brought hope to these sweet kids. They can walk around with their heads held high knowing that are sons and daughters of the King of Kings!

 

  1. I went on a homestead visit with a few other team members and a Swazi staff member. When we arrived, we met the Grandmother that is taking care of four children and a young man. As we presented the gift of food (rice, beans, maize and a bucket filled with kitchen necessities), the Grandmother began to dance where she sat. But soon, she was so overwhelmed with joy and gratitude that she hopped to her feet, threw her head back in laughter, and did a victory dance. It was an amazing moment that I will never forget! Lord – may I live life full of gratitude for your good gifts!

 

  1. We ate dinner at Mbuso’s (one of the Swazi shepherds) house and it was quite an amazing experience! We ate traditional Swazi food (yum!) and ate outside under the vast African night sky. We ate, and prayed, and sang, and laughed together. What a glorious picture of unity in Christ. Even though we don’t speak the same language, we are united in our love for Jesus and our love for each other.

I can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds. Each day gets better and better…

Grace & Peace from Swaziland! Umusu Nekuthula!

Suzanne

6May

More Than Care

As I sit at the dining table at the guest house at Sunset Palms, I struggle to organize, maybe even identify, my thoughts and feelings. I’m listening to the chatter and laughter of my teammates in the kitchen (whom I absolutely adore), while “At The Cross” is playing in the living room. The first thought that pops into my mind is joy. Joy that I’m living in these moments, fully present and  uncomfortable, being willing to stretch towards my God given potential. Walking on Holy ground at the Mkhombokati Care Point, visiting the homesteads of these precious children, trying to establish trust with the teenage girls, washing their callous scorned feet, reminds me that God just wants me to show up.  He wants me to be willing to show up and answer His call. I do not prefer being uncomfortable. As a matter of fact, I might hate it. But eventually, I have to stop running from it.

One of our missionaries, Morgan, that’s from Alabama (so grateful she’s not an Alabama fan, but I’d still love her, she’s awesome), talked about how important it was for us as Christians to be uncomfortable, otherwise we are stagnant in our walk. So there’s that.

Mkhombokati, brings such a mixture of emotions. I have an overwhelming sense of peace being in this place. And some anxiety – am I giving these kids enough?  Devastation over the poverty, illness, sanitation. 63% of the Swaziland population do not have one meal a day. Not one meal! 2015 was the driest year in a CENTURY. No crops. No food. Cows dropping dead.  Watching these parents/grandparents fight to survive and care for their families, at times can feel so hopeless, but then I get the privilege to pray over their land, their family, their finances, and their health. I feel the power of God here. I believe He hears me and I’m reminded that I am getting to be a part of His Kingdom right here on earth, in Africa and that I’m an active part of His story. Wow.

I wish I could articulate my thoughts in a more profound way.  I’m having a difficult time processing everything I’ve seen and experienced here. I’m blown away by the leadership and commitment of the missionaries and the Swazi staff. The life they are building, the lives they are impacting, the sacrifices they’ve made, are extraordinary. I have felt so welcomed and loved and cared for here. The family that runs the guest house, Steve and Amy McAdams, (they are also from Alabama), have treated us like royalty. Let’s just talk about the cheese grits, the homemade biscuits and gravy, and banana pudding! Seriously. Worth going to Swazi for those biscuits. Troy is definitely going to need to plan another trip for himself!

Today, our children (because they are all our children) had their first spelling bee at Mkombokati. It was beyond exciting and empowering to watch these students think and struggle and spell these English words correctly. The crowd would roar when one of our friends would get it right. They felt such pride and so did we. This brought hope and inspiration to the community.  We took pictures of the top spellers in the competition and printed them out on a Polaroid printer for them to have as a memory with their first, second and third place ribbons.  They don’t have mirrors or many pictures of themselves so this is an absolute delight for them. They love to look at themselves. It’s marvelous. I hope this was the first of many spelling bees for these brilliant kiddos.

There’s no way to efficiently describe my gratitude for this opportunity. I look into the faces of Nkosephayo and Lihle and Tandzile and so many others and I burst wide open. I will carry them with me, their imprint on my soul. They have altered the lens through which I see this world in the most profound way. Thank you for sharing your home dear Swazi’s.

4May

A Beautiful Juxtaposition

In his powerful sendoff prayer at our last planning meeting at Capital, Troy lovingly encouraged us to pay attention to our souls, welcome the stirring sensory experience of Swaziland, and prepare ourselves to return forever changed. There was an expectant nature in the room after those poignant words. I am sure, however briefly, each of us took a moment trying to consider what that transformation would look like for us.

As predictable, yet incomprehensible, as that invitation was from Troy, to let our souls be open to what God has for us on this trip, there is always a knowing each moment is new. You will never live this moment again. Or this moment. Or this moment. Such intrigue and excitement! A wonderful yoga teacher once told me in Warrior 2 pose, “You will never be in this pose again.” How true, even for a person that practices this pose daily. No matter how many times I enter into Warrior 2, I will never have the same exact angles of my body, the same amount of breath in my lungs, the same weight distribution in my feet, the same thoughts in my mind, and so on. A beautiful and grounding truth.

It is a message that I took with me off the mat that day, and I love to reflect on that sweet truth and gift of being fully present as often as possible. It is an invitation to approach each situation with a beginner’s mind and welcome what God has for us in every moment. There may be parallels in our experiences, shared feelings and emotions; but within that familiarity, an opportunity to be open and aware of what is different. And within those differences, what we can learn, offer, and feel in each moment.

Every breath in our lungs is a gift from God, and within that, an opportunity to praise Him for this life, to accept His gifts and welcome Him to walk closely with us to guide us in His life-giving way. Although each day offers us this gift, today, the abundance of this present was one of the pinnacles of my lifetime.

Our time at the Care Point today was focused on another life-enriching and fun VBS lesson, the humbling beauty of washing the children’s feet and gifting them new shoes, and for some of us, a visit to the homestead of a child from the Care Point.

I could write a novel or a short story, about the sensory experience and impact of today. For those of you who know me, you know that is not an exaggeration! But my fatigue will force me to resist that delightful temptation and I will try to somewhat succinctly offer a glimpse into today’s events that prompted the above reflection.

Today, my smile was so big, pure, uninhibited and blissful, it reminded me of some of the most joyful moments of my life. It happened as we danced to the kids singing “Making Melodies” – the same kids I had earlier tossed up into the air to lovingly catch. Those moments have sealed themselves in my mind to be recalled as often as I would like.

My ears recognized a familiar prayer as we gathered to lift our voices together in “Our Father.” I have likely heard those words thousands of times, each occasion offering the beautiful promise of “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” But there was something different this time: My eyes had never set sight on hundreds of Swazis from toddler to adult, eyes closed tight in focus and dedication, faces expressed with utmost devotion and reverence, voices booming strong, almost chant-like, with passion and faith. Our Father has never looked or sounded like that to me before, and it never will be quite the same again. Another gift for my memory bank of how amazing and big God is and how sweet His grace is.

Today, we gently held feet covered in thick layers of dirt, some with cuts, thorns, and blisters. Starting with the littlest children at the Care Point, we lovingly played with and tickled their feet, as we washed away layers of dirt, removed thorns, and patched up blisters and cuts. We talked about their interests, and how amazing each of them were. We told them how much they are loved by their “special friends” and the entire Capital community. They were educated or reminded of the significance of the washing of feet, and why Jesus offered this loving act to his disciples. Their feet were dressed with new socks and shoes, and we closed with a prayer for each child.

I saw countless genuine smiles spread across faces, children and team members alike and I felt my heart grow in love for these kids, as well as my teammates, who have some of the sweetest souls I have ever been in the presence of. Team members reflected on the experience as heartwarming, emotional, humbling, energizing, and peaceful. As I washed each foot, I prayed over the many miles that foot has walked, what each foot carried in both burden and joy, and I offered praise that they have Jesus to share their load with, all the days of their life. In doing so, a chaotic room became almost still in time. As a nurse, I have washed hundreds of feet, and found great beauty in caring for the details for my patients, but it was never like this. Never like this. Another deposit for the memory bank.

Toward the end of our day at Mkhombokati, Josh, Nana and I visited Tengetile’s homestead with the Care Point Shepard, Mbuso. Nana hugged Tengetile close as we all squeezed together in the backseat, bumping along the dirt road. We had a small walk from the road to her homestead; the sun gently bathed our faces, casting a soft glow on the countryside and illuminating the beautiful landscape of Swaziland. Landscape that holds many similarities to the mountains and desert of Utah, but as my eyes drew away from that somewhat familiar sight, they fixed on a completely foreign scene.

My eyes first fell on three malnourished dogs wagging their tails excitedly as we made our way to the yard. Then to the chickens and a rooster that roamed the land and home. A cow was mooing in the background. And then my eyes landed upon Tengetile’s grandmother sitting quietly on a straw mat listening to beautiful music and hugging an infant grandson. Tengetile was unlike most children because she held am important position of responsibility as she arrived home- immediately offering hospitality by fetching the guys chairs and Nana and me a mat to sit on, as well as a couple other duties before she joined her grandmother on her mat. Shortly after, Tengetile’s mother returned from her walk to gather water, balancing the bucket on her head with grace and ease.

The conversation was warm and welcoming, facilitated by Mbuso, who is related to this family. In our time together, the topics ranged from the beautiful landscape, how welcoming their home was, my love for the animals (had to throw that in, much to their laughter), the impact of the drought, the family’s prayer requests, God’s love and provision, their gratitude for the Care Point and our mission teams, and even Swazi politics! It was a wide-ranging and heartwarming conversation.

Through it all, I have never felt a greater juxtaposition of experiences: laughter, quickly followed by tear-filled eyes; with a return to joy after a wave of pain; striking beauty beside utter destruction. The home was composed of branches and stones with a roof that will be sure to let in every drop of rain whenever that blessed weather returns. Tengetile’s grandmother spoke of mice running over their feet at night, her poor health, and the life changes from the drought. In the same breath, she spoke of God’s provision, and how she felt so blessed by Him in many ways, and especially today from our visit and our food offerings.

Josh beautifully and eloquently lifted the family up in prayer, in such a way that perfectly captured the emotional rawness of our time together, including the vulnerability, fears, wishes and hopes present in this experience. He brought the dichotomy of our hearts into peaceful harmony as we gave it all to God. We focused on the truth of who God is, how He is always faithful and his provisions are visible in every season of life.

I will never look at the mountains and countryside of Utah the same way again. Each time my eyes fall on a sight that reminds me of the Swaziland countryside, I will be taken back to these moments. Of the seemingly contrasting feelings and experiences existing in harmony and finding God so present in this community.

I am in awe of life and its many intricacies. Life is all at once beautiful, yet challenging; simple, yet expansive; transformative, yet humbling; restorative, yet crumbling. It is only day two and I have watched my teammates and me experience all of the above. Through it all, I find us gravitating toward gratitude, love, compassion and embracing the provision in the midst of challenges. There is such grace and peace in not trying to be this or that, rather, trying to just be and appreciate the lesson, adventure and exploration at hand. There is no measuring love, and there is no need. For whatever you give, comes back to you tenfold.

As I sit here, reflecting and writing about today’s experience, my ears are filled with the sweet instrumentals of Suzanne on the keyboard and Josh on the guitar, Suzanne’s familiar expansive and angelic voice sounding more like an entire host of angels than ever before (if that is possible), and Cameron, Rachael and Derek beautifully harmonizing as they prepare for tomorrow’s Worship Night. How’s that for a rocking band?!

My heart is full; my cup overflows. In the midst of the most pain and suffering I have ever directly witnessed, I am overwhelmed by the provision. At the end of a very long blog post, will you believe me as I say, “there are no words”? I grow more and more in love with God and all of His creation every day. Thank you, Capital Church, for your hearts full of love for the people of Swaziland. Your hearts have found a beautiful place to direct your gifts of love and resources. You could not ask for a lovelier, more thankful and full-of-life community.

Sending you prayers for grace and peace.

Love,

Laura Guilmain

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