Good morning friends! We have finished our fifth day in eSwatini and third day at the Carepoint, as well as, third day working with Labaligugu or Treasured Ones. The team was able to hand out the bibles that you were all able to sign for your special friends and they all loved being able to read your sweet messages. We will be able to share some pictures and more details on that tomorrow. Today we have stories from Brandi and Chaliece, who had the very unique opportunity to work Amy McAdams and Labaligugu this week. A program centered around special needs children and their caregivers here in eSwatini. Brandi is a Pediatric Physical Therapist and Chaliece is a Licensed Massage Therapist, they were able to go around to homesteads with Amy and work on the children and teach their caregivers how to do exercises, stretches, and different massage therapy techniques that can help the children become stronger, more flexible, and more independent.
Here is Chaliece’s story:
I wasn’t finished when I left last year, after the last medical clinic, that I knew for sure. At the time, I just didn’t know what that looked like. Did that look like picking up my life and moving 4000 miles away from home or another short term mission trip in the future? At first, when I got back home in 2017, I felt that the answer was picking up my life and moving 4000 miles from home to become a long term missionary. Then I learned through prayer and conversations that it wasn’t for me.
I just had no idea that 3 short months later, a conversation at lunch with a close friend would turn into the reason I’m here today. That conversation turned into an idea, that idea turned into a plan, and that plan turned into a pitch. That pitch was then accepted by AIM and not a moment too soon, because Brandi and I found out the week before applications were due for the trip that our plan was accepted.
That brings me to the plan for the trip. Last year I met a woman, who you may have heard me mention a few times in previous blog posts, by the name of Amy McAdams and her husband Steve McAdams and their children Ellie and Maggie and their foster daughter Mumu, who has Cerebral Palsy. Why do I mention that, you ask? I mention that because once Steve and Amy started fostering Mumu, they would take her on homestead visits and they started seeing children that they hadn’t seen before, most of them with Cerebral Palsy, like Mumu, or other similar disabilities that they hadn’t seen at care points prior to this. Amy soon realized that this was a Demographic that had never been reached before and it was one that needed to be, so she started Labaligugu or “Treasured Ones”. It is centered around disabled children in eSwatini and their caregivers.
This year, as a Licensed Massage Therapist, along with Brandi our Physical Therapist, I got the amazing opportunity to go to the homesteads of 11 of these beautiful children and work on them and teach their caregivers how to do different massage strokes and stretches to help their children with circulation and relaxation in their muscles. The caregivers have all been so grateful and excited to learn.
The first time I felt like I could help was last year when Amy spoke to the Fall 2017 Team about Lababligugu during our trip. I have personally worked with Special Needs children in the past and had also done massage therapy for the Special Olympics. So when I got the opportunity to do something for them I didn’t even have to think about it, at that point there were just some logistical things to work out. Like when during the week it would happen, with the medical training being during the beginning of the week for ALL of the shepherds and would AIM even agree to it initially. Well our God is great and both worked out perfectly! AIM loved it and timing worked out perfectly for us to work with Amy in the latter part of the week.
You may be asking why this is such a big deal? They are children, maybe a little different, but still children and still God’s children and in eSwatini, they aren’t quite seen like that. They are almost seen as outcasts in society and treated as such. Families don’t bring them out much when people come over, fathers will leave or request that the child is left with someone else in the family. So to have a chance to reach out to and show love, in any way, to this demographic is a very big deal. There have been amazing day and emotional days and everything in between.
I’m so very blessed that God called me, not only once, but twice. These people and this place are very special. Labaligugu is an amazing program for very special children, as well as their caregivers. It’s not easy task taking care of a special needs child when you have first world health care around the corner, let alone when you live here in eSwatini. My heart breaks for these caregivers and I also have immense respect for them. If you would like to learn more about Labaligugu and their mission you can go to: https://www.eswatinirising.com/programs/disability
Here is Brandi’s story:
I have attended Capital Church for 3 years, and every time they would pray for, show photos of, or give updates on the Swaziland, now eSwatini ministry, it touched my heart and I thought someday I would go. Throughout Physical Therapy school, my passion for pediatrics grew and God began placing a desire on my heart for medical/therapy related missions. However, as a graduate student, the time and finances deferred me from going.
Last winter I started hearing about the fall medical mission trip to Swaziland and felt God tugging at my heart. I was trying to ignore Him, thinking I would go in 5 years, when I was more established as a therapist. I then heard about Labaligugu, which was a special needs ministry that was started in eSwatini. I also learned that this trip would be education based, which would provide unique opportunities for growth, ministry, and could help empower the local people. I began praying and the Lord made it clear that I was supposed to go!
Throughout this week Chaliece, Amy, Sibongile, and I have been driving through the rugged mountains of Eswatini to visit the special needs children who are a part of Labaligugu. This experience has brought a new understanding to me of God’s enduring love, for many reasons. I have been humbled by the amazing Gogo’s (grandma’s) who take care of these children to the best of their ability. Going up to each homestead, we never knew what situation may present- but all of the Gogos and bomakes (plural for mothers) were very involved in therapy sessions, asked questions, and were engaged. The entire family would sit with us, and watch and learn.
One particular special experience was going to see Magwaza, a young 8 year old boy who suffers from an undiagnosed condition which causes muscle weakness and mild ataxia. His mother was away during the visit, but his 5 siblings helped carry him outside to us. While working on his coordination, his siblings would clap and cheer each time he successfully completed a task. They assisted and encouraged him while taking steps with a walker. Magwaza’s infectious smile was enough to understand the enduring love he felt from his siblings.
I have been edified by both Amy and Sibongile, who have started this incredible ministry to share Christ’s love with those who are unable to physically come to the care points. I am so excited for the future of this ministry, and how the Lord will continue to provide for its growth!
I will never forget the joy in each child’s face as we were able to love them, encourage these families, and give them hope from God. One phrase I have been repeating to myself this week to bring me peace is from one of Troy’s sermons: “Life is not fair, but God is not finished”.
We are excited to share more with you tomorrow about the Bible sharing with the children and share pictures on that and more about the medical training from our team Doctor, Erin. This week is quickly coming to a close and it’s amazing how fast the time flies when you’re doing God’s work and enjoying every emotional and wonderful second of it. But I don’t know that any of us would trade it for anything.
We will see you right back here tomorrow!
Grace and Peace!