Well it’s Saturday. We are wrapping up our week here eSwatini and it has been a wonderful week. Filled with medical training, some medical treatment, and lots of hugs and fun at the carepoint. We even gave out the bibles that you were able to sign for your special friends. They loved getting to read the messages or having them read to them, those messages meant so much. Thank you for writing those sweet messages.
At the beginning of the week, if you recall, we did a two day Medical Training. We ended up having a total of 68 shepherds attend the training during the two days. Today we have our team Doctor, Erin, sharing her story along with pictures from the training and pictures of children reading their new bibles. Tomorrow, we will share pictures from the fun day that we had at the carepoint today, including a bounce house, games, and a yummy meal including meat, beans, and pop (which is ground up corn, that is common for them to eat).
Here is Erin’s story:
To understand where we are going, we must understand where we have come from, and acknowledge that the thread of God’s plan has been woven throughout the story of the world by faithful servants for years. As I reflect on my (now) third annual medical mission trip to eSwatini and consider the answered prayers and trust that continues to develop between the Capital community and the AIM staff (which includes Swatis and missionaries), I am humbled and overwhelmed by the decade of answered prayers and relationship building between Capital and Mkhombokati communities; these relationships were in place long before I had set foot on this sacred ground. Without those many years of people being obedient to Christ and answering a call to serve, I would not be able to participate in or witness the revolutionary efforts of this Fall 2019 team.
After moving to Salt Lake City in 2015, my husband (Zack) and I were blessed to find Capital Church on our first Sunday in the city. Shortly after my Capital introduction, a church leader shared information about Capital’s many-year partnership with Adventures in Missions (AIM) in eSwatini at a specific place called Mkhombokati CarePoint. The Capital leader spoke of a hope to answer a medical need at Mkhombokati at the request of the AIM staff in eSwatini. As a doctor with an interest in teaching and reaching the unreached and a decade-long interest in global health with a particular emphasis on health in developing countries, let’s just say I was very interested in this opportunity. Zack and I ended up leading a medically-focused trip to eSwatini that following Fall of 2016, and on that trip and the one that followed in the Fall of 2017, I lead the medical efforts at Mkhombokati. At the request of AIM staff and with the help of many amazing nurses, therapists, a dentist, and other faithful team members, we were able to address acute health needs in the children and some adults within the ministry on those two Fall trips, as well as provide some basic health education to the children at the CarePoint. In 2017, a small amount of time was also spent educating the AIM shepherds about some common medical issues. That time invested to execute an acute care clinic in 2016 and 2017 was both useful and meaningful, because it addressed a need that was requested by the people on the ground who care for these kids and this community daily. But in a country with the highest rate of HIV in the world, with limited access to clean running water, where tuberculosis shortens too many lives, and where puberty, hygiene, and disease transmission are not publicly taught, pop-up medical clinics are not the long-term answer to the future of improving healthcare. Knowing this, I was both thrilled and honored to hear that for our 2018 Fall focus, the AIM staff were requesting our time be spent NOT doing an acute care clinic. Instead, we were tasked with extending what was started in 2017 and providing much-needed health education to the shepherds and AIM staff. These men and women are the Christ-following future leaders of eSwatini. What an honor to be able to educate them on healthcare topics that would improve the care of the 8,000 children currently in the CarePoint system, and potentially (God-willing) impact the future health of the country!
In preparation for this 2018 medical conference for the AIM staff, we were given topics to teach at the request of the shepherds. Just weeks before our departure from the US, I learned that we would be teaching not just a handful of the shepherds, but that the training was being made mandatory for all the AIM staff. We ultimately trained 68 AIM staff members who were transported in, from around the country, for a two-day medical conference. Praise God! The AIM staff learned about HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, hygiene, cholera and other types of diarrhea, skin infections, and the most common cancers in eSwatini including any preventable actions that can be taken to decrease risk. We educated about asthma, and discussed puberty and what can be expected. Through interactive stations we taught about appropriate use of materials within a first aid kit, and how to wrap wrists, knees, and ankles after a sprain. We also discussed the emotionally and culturally difficult topic of recognizing signs of abuse in a child or adult, including small group practice to address those challenging conversations.
Those attending the conference were extremely engaged and interested in learning. They took notes on their handouts; they asked dozens of questions throughout any given topic. They enthusiastically participated in interactive sessions and small group discussions. In short, they were a teacher’s dream! Care Point Coordinators and Shepherds have shared their gratitude for the time spent teaching them, stating that they had never been formally taught about these topics. Many who attended the training have reached out to me to share how “relevant and useful” they found the information to be. Multiple people have separately shared with me that they believe the information on topics that are common and a growing issue in eSwatini will lead to “improvement in the future healthcare of the children at the CarePoints”. Another female shepherd shared that the information that was taught will not only allow shepherds and staff to care for children better, but also for their own families.
Our investment in the education of the future leaders of tomorrow has been a groundbreaking step in the AIM and Capital partnership, allowing us to indirectly love on not only the kids at Mkhombokati, but also the kids at the other 39 CarePoints. God has used our Capital community to serve his kingdom this week by giving us the opportunity to invest in the 68 adults who give of themselves daily to feed, disciple, care for, and encourage the children of eSwatini, and I am privileged to have been able to witness this.
Yesterday we were able to hand out the bibles that were signed by all of you for your special friend before we came here. Simply put, they loved them!!! One, to get a bible was a very special gift and two to open them and to see a message from their special friend from the states made it even more special and amazing! One girl even jumped for joy at the sight of the message from her special friend in the front cover.
Thank you all so much for following along with us this week. Tune in tomorrow, before we head back home for pictures from our fun day and a final blog post of a wrap up and a couple final stories from our team leaders for this trip.
Without further ado, are some pictures from the Bible handouts that were done yesterday.