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.