No-no’s passing on Sunday, July 25th

I am sorry to have to tell you that No-no Mkhonta passed away early Sunday morning.  Sipho called me about 4:15am to tell me the news.  Once again I found myself in a place where words just weren’t adequate to express the emotions.  On Monday morning Sipho came by my place to thank me for my involvement and to ask me for an advance on his salary so he could pay for the funeral expenses.  He was so grateful and kept thanking me for all I had done for he and No-no but I felt that I did very little and felt so bad that I couldn’t do more.  He shared some beautiful stories about No-no.  From the little time I knew her and from what her father shared with me, she was a very special little girl with a great faith and trust in God.  Maybe the purpose of her short, innocent life was to teach others what it really means to love someone, and to teach us how to worship God tirelessly and to pray unceasingly.   It sounds like she had insight and wisdom well beyond her short 11 years.

Sipho also shared some of their conversations during the last few hours of her life.  It was heart breaking.  In Sipho’s words, “No-no asked about things that were painful to explain to her.”  She only wanted her daddy to hold her all the time and cried if he left her for even a few minutes.  Sipho and I both think she knew that her time was near.  She got to the point where she told Sipho that she was tired of being in pain and being sick and wanted to die.  What a painful thing for a father to have to hear.  Towards the end, the nurses tried to put oxygen on her but she refused.  She said she had seen too many children in the hospital be put on oxygen and then die shortly thereafter.  That such a young child should have to see those things just isn’t right.  It breaks my heart.  So many children in this country have no choice but to know things and experience things that children just shouldn’t have to know about.  They know about many things that we as adults in American don’t have a clue about.  Life for many is hard here.  There’s no doubt about that.

Today I took Thoko, Thini and Gladys to visit Sipho and his wife at their home near St. Paul’s.  Like so many Swazi’s, they have a traditional family homestead out in the rural area that is too far from where the work and schools are.  And like many Swazi’s even those with jobs and who work in the city, they don’t have a vehicle.  So I drove them to their homestead.  It took about an hour to get there, even though it was only about 30 km from Manzini (about 18.6 miles.)

Before we left Manzini, we stopped by a grocery store so they could get some things in preparation for all of the relatives, neighbors and friends that will be stopping by to pay their respects or to attend the funeral.  There were four of us inside the truck (it’s a double cab) and two sitting in the back of the truck.  While we waited in the truck for Sipho and his wife to do their shopping several people stopped by to chat with Thoko, Gladys and Thini.  It was like old home week!  This happens all of the time.  A person goes to town and runs into many people they know from somewhere.   It’s not the African way to say “hi” and keep walking.  The African way is to stop and chat for 5 or 10 minutes.  At times it can be very frustrating for an American, but most of the time I think it is really pretty cool.

After we got to the homestead we all sat on mats and sponges (foam mattresses) on the floor, which is the traditional way of receiving guests.  Even if a family has furniture, they will take it out of the room where visitors will be received.  As I was watching and listening for the few words I know in siSwati, I was struck at how similar this tradition is to what we have read about in the Bible.  We hear of Jesus and others “reclining” after a meal.  When there are no chairs, after a while, you just kind of recline a bit because it is more comfortable than sitting up straight on the hard floor.

In both locations, they sang hymns, someone gave a little “sermon” and all spoke of their condolences for the family and prayer that God will comfort them.  Then we were served some biscuits (cookies) and juice and we sat and talked for a little while.  When it was time to leave, Make (ma-geh) Mkhonta brought us each a large plastic bag full of huge avocados from their tree.  She walked out with me, thanking me again for all I did and thanked us for not only bringing them out to the homestead but for staying and talking with them for a bit, getting their minds off of everything for a few minutes and even making them laugh a few times at what was being said.  Gladys and I praised God for bringing me my new truck (bakkie) when he did because we never would have made it all of the way to the homestead in my Honda.

The funeral will be early Sunday morning at the homestead.  People will travel there Saturday evening.  There will be a wake and possibly a revival all night long, ending with the burial just as the sun is coming up.

On our way back to Manzini, we saw one of the former circuit stewards walking down the dirt road.  Of course we stopped to say hi and gave him a ride to the nearest (very small) store.  It is so amazing.  Here I am, in Africa, in the middle of nowhere, and I know someone walking down the dirt road.  What are the odds?  It never ceases to amaze me when that happens.  But such is the way of African life.

Update on No-no

I stopped by the hospital this afternoon to see how No-no was doing.  I walked in and Sipho started to cry almost as soon as I got there.  Once again I’m not sure what to do in this situation, so I stopped patting No-no’s back for a minute and patted his shoulder.  I can tell he doesn’t want me to see him cry.  I think most men don’t want people, especially women, to see them cry, but in Swaziland, this is quite unusual; especially since I’m not family.  Sipho said he is almost out of hope.  No-no is not getting better.  She sleeps most of the time and though her coughing spells have greatly decreased, she still has them from time to time.  She definitely had a fever.  After not having a fever for 3 or 4 days, her fever had gone up to 101 earlier that morning.  Her eyes weren’t quite as swollen, but she still wasn’t opening her eyes.  Sipho said all she wants is for him to hold her all the time.  And she doesn’t like it when he tries to sit down with her.  Sipho spent all day yesterday with her and stayed the night as well.  It was now about 12:30 and he was still with her.  And there wasn’t any one with him all night and this morning.  He said No-no was talking to him a lot last night.  He said it was like she was telling him good-bye because she was telling him how much she loved him and appreciated all the things he has done for her.  He was also asking him questions that were hard for him and painful for him to answer, such as why he is estranged from her older brother who is about 21.

Sipho also said he feels like the nurse is angry with him because we finally organized the pot and extension cord so he could steam the room.  He feels like the nurse won’t do anything for No-no and that the nurses aren’t treating her anymore but he really doesn’t know why.  I told him my American response would be if she got angry for taking 3 days to partially organize a way to steam the room No-no was in then that was just too bad.  She should have done her job quicker.  But then I also backed down and said perhaps she isn’t mad, but he just thinks she is, or perhaps she was busy with other children.  He said he wants to take her out of the hospital.  I can’t say as I blame him, but I don’t’ know what the alternative is.

I asked him if he thought she would let me hold her for a while so he could at least go out to the rest room.  Sipho asked her and she said yes.  So Sipho gave her to me.  I didn’t know such a thin, though tall girl could be so heavy.  She weighed 22 kg’s or 48.5 pounds when she was admitted about 3 weeks ago.  I’m sure she weighs less now, but she’s so long and so weak that she felt heavy and was hard for me to hold.

I told Sipho to go take a nap, take a walk, get something to eat, or just go and take a break.  I sat there rocking her from side to side, patting her back, humming and praying.  After a bit I heard her quietly say my name and ask me to stand.  So I did.  It wasn’t long after that before Sipho came back.  He had been gone for probably about 30 minutes.  When he returned, he had a cousin with him.  She walked in the door, sat in the chair and cried.  Big help she’s going to be.  I left shortly thereafter because I didn’t want to intrude.

When Sipho took No-no from me he put her on his back and tied a blanket around her and him to hold her in place just like the mothers and grandmothers do.  No-no had asked him to put her on my back, but I told her I didn’t know how to carry a child on my back.  What I didn’t say is I wasn’t sure I could hold her on my back and I didn’t want to try it with a child very sick child of her size.  But as I watched him, I thought of what a loving father he is and how much pain and heartache he is carrying.  Very few men in Swaziland even hold their babies, let alone put a child of her age on his back the way women carry them.  As I left, I asked him to call me if he needed anything.  I hope he will.

Please keep No-no in your prayers.  Pray for healing for No-no and for strength and hope for Sipho.

This is a picture of Sipho with one of the Lake Charles team members. It was taken in early June. Since I can't take a picture of No-no, this will have to do. Picture a small little girl about eleven years old with more hair than Sipho, a little lighter complexion but the same smile.

This week’s thoughts about faith in action in Swaziland

I go to a women’s bible study on Wednesday mornings.  The majority of the women are missionaries from the US.  This group of women has been my life-line, my family, my church ever since I joined the group about 3 weeks after I arrived in Swaziland in August, 2007.  Currently we are studying the book of James.  This past week we were studying and meditating on Chapter 2.  Chapter two has two main themes.  The first one focuses on not discriminating against others based on how they look, how much money they do or don’t have, how they smell, dress, etc.  To quote the message:  “(v1) Don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious Christ-originated faith. (v8) You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures “Love others as you love yourself.  But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it.  You can’t pick and choose in these things.”

At first glance I, a person who is serving in Swaziland, could be real tempted to say, I’m good on this aspect.  I’m around people who dress in anything and everything they own, often don’t smell good, usually have very little or no money, and many times are in need of medical attention for anything from a cold to HIV/AIDS.  It would also be very easy to judge the Swazi’s, or anyone in any country for that matter, that drive fancy new cars, live in huge houses, have new clothes on all the time, etc. but don’t seem to care about or have enough time to get involved in helping those in their country that are more unfortunate that they are.  Meditating on this during the week I realized that there are people in this country that I’m less eager to reach out to – the beggar who accosts me on the street, the woman sitting in the same spot every day begging for a few coins, the rich woman who appears to have everything, the seemingly cold uncaring nurse on the pediatric ward of the hospital.  Busted.  Ouch.  How many times do I stay in my protected little bubble and pretend not to see, or am too unsure to reach out, or too focused on my own little boo-hoo, woe is me moments?  Unfortunately, the answer is not pretty.  I stay in my own little protective bubble on the edge of judging others way too much.

Ok, so I’m convicted on the first part of Chapter 2.  How about the second part?  Faith and Deeds aka Faith in Action.  Ok, I’ll make this a bit shorter by just saying, once again I’m convicted.  Busted, Ouch.  Yes, it takes a lot of faith to retire from my corporate job (the politically correct way of saying “I quit!”) and leaving my family, friends, home and comfy life to move half way around the world to work in a culture I don’t quite understand with people that most of the time I can’t really communicate with and that often have needs that are completely overwhelming.  I live by faith everyday that my family back in the States is ok, that the Lord will guide and protect me and that the funds will come to complete projects or help children and women who have nothing.  I rely on faith that I am doing the right thing according to God’s plan.  One could think I am living my faith in action; this part of James doesn’t apply to me.  Let me tell you about my day yesterday (Monday) and then you will know what faith in action really is.

My day started at 4:19am when I got a buzz on my cell phone.  It was from my dear sisi Thini to wake me and let me know that it is time to start praying.  Thini has a prayer group that she buzzes every morning at this time so that the group can all pray together where ever they are.  I had sent her a test message on Sunday evening asking for prayers for my God daughter, Stacy, who was admitted to the hospital Sunday evening.  They were going to induce her so she could deliver her first baby.  It was a situation of concern, but not necessarily life threatening with an outcome that would most likely be bad as would be the case in this country.  Thini immediately responded to my message saying she would pray right then and she would buzz me to be a part of her prayer group to surround Stacy and baby in prayer.  When she buzzed me, I managed to wake up long enough to say a rather short, sleepy prayer (I hope God understood me) before falling back to sleep.  Thini and the others prayed and then got started on their day.  Now Thini and the others on her daily prayer chain have faith in Action.  They not only talk the talk, but they get up early to make sure they walk the walk as well!  Don’t get me wrong, I pray a lot for others, but I’m not one to set an alarm and get up earlier just to make sure I have time to pray for others before I start my day.

Around 10:00 am Thoko, Thini and I went to talk with the head teacher at Lutfotja Methodist Primary School.  The project we work with Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu, had paid school fees last year for several children and we hadn’t received the results of how they are doing in school.  We also had to give transport money to a child who needed to go back to the ear specialist again.  I’m trying to do simple math to figure out how much we needed to give with the child to cover transport and the Doctor’s visit fee but just couldn’t add two simple numbers.  I know it is because I am so tired from being woken up so early.  Thoko is laughing at me because for once she can add the numbers quicker in her head than I can.  Matter of fact, I can’t seem to think straight about anything.  This child, a boy named Lebanti, is the grandson of the Rural Health Motivator who helped us visit so many homes to learn the families’ true needs.  A few months after all of her help, we learned from the school head teacher that the RHM’s grandson, Lebanti, couldn’t hear.  We gave the gogo (grandmother) the money for transport and the consultation fee to go to the hospital and found that Libanti had an ear infection so bad he couldn’t hear.  We also discovered in this process that his school uniform was in threads and about 3 sizes too small for him.  So with One Child, One Heart at a Time funds from my generous and faithful donors, I bought him a new uniform, belt, shoes, socks, etc.  The child is now a different person.  He stands taller and does well in school.  His gogo is, of course, eternally grateful.  Unfortunately, his ear infection came back so he had to go back to the Doctor and I was left struggling to do simple math so we could give him the money!

We left Lutfotja to go to La-Mawlandla High School in the same community.  Our goal was to see how two of the children we are supporting were doing.  One is supported through the women’s Manyano and one through One Child, One Heart at a Time funds.  Thoko had brought along a small parcel of donated clothing for another child, Mnledisi, that went to Lutfotja last year, but is now in form 1 (8th grade). We asked Mthokozisi to go find Mnledisi so she could give him the clothes.  Come to find out the clothes weren’t for him, but was for another child, a girl who also now goes to La-Mawlandla.  Thoko told Mnledisi that she would bring him the clothing parcel the next time we came and that he could go back to class.  But he kind of lingered for a minute.  So eagle-eye make (pronounced ma-geh, means mom) asked him what was bothering him.  He finally opened up and said he didn’t have a jersey and was cold.  It’s winter here.  The boy had on a thin white shirt that was obviously too small for him and a pair of paints that were also so small he couldn’t close them at the waist or zip them all the way up.  The pants were held together with what looked like a belt that goes with a girl’s skirt.  It was pink, blue, yellow and white.  Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu paid for this child’s school fees last year because he was number one in his class and a very responsible young man.  He was the leader of the boys cultural dance team.  He is a double orphan living with a woman who isn’t related and who obviously doesn’t have the money or care about seeing he finishes school.  There is a big difference in the amount of school fees primary students pay verses what high school students pay.  Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu doesn’t have the funds to pay high school student fees.  Most likely, this child would be asked to not come back to school once the third and last term started in September.  Make Nothando (me), couldn’t stand seeing this nice young man dressed like he was or the thought of him having to drop out of school.  I went into the school office to ask for a slip to pay his school fees and buy him the uniform he needs including a school jersey (sweater) and track suit….NOW.  So he can be warm.  Were both of these examples of faith in action?  Not really because I know that because of wonderful donors, I have the money to buy this today and somehow will have the money to support him in the years to come. Yes it requires faith, but compared to what most people here are dealing with, the level of faith required is pretty low, and what I did to help these kids was pretty easy for me to do.

From La-Mawlandla, we went back to Manzini.  Earlier, in the morning, I had called Sipho to see how his daughter was doing.  For some reason he wouldn’t answer my question but asked if I had time if I would please come by the hospital to talk to him.  Thoko reminded me of Sipho’s request when we were done with all of our errands.  It was almost 4:00 – the start of visiting hours.  I was tired, had to go to the bathroom and hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast (but at least I had breakfast which is more than Thoko and Thini had.)  So I begrudgedly agreed that we should stop by the hospital to see him.  We got there and found that no-no had been moved from her bed on the pediatric ward to “the dark room” which is a very small room with only one very small window.  It is used for kids with meningitis whose eyes are sensitive to the light.  I discovered it is also used as an isolation room.  We opened the door to go in.  I couldn’t believe what I saw.  Little no-no’s eyes were swollen shut.  She had the most horrible dry cough that I’ve ever heard.  Every time she coughed she would then cry because her stomach hurt so bad.  Sipho told us she had gone down over the weekend.  He said that earlier in the day blood was just running out of her nose.  At this point, it was still bleeding, but just little bits at a time.  Thoko, Thini and I stood there, crowded into the little room that was freezing I couldn’t figure out what to do or say other than to plead with God to heal this sweet little girl.  So I let Thoko and Thini carry the conversation with Sipho.  Sipho could hardly speak.  Thoko, Thini and I and a few others were having a meeting at St. Paul’s at 5:30, so after we talked for a bit we said prayers and then we left.  I told Sipho that I would bring back a couple of blankets for him after our meeting because that room was freezing.  This is Africa.  There wasn’t any heat in the room and no sun to warm the room up during the day.  It made me silently cringe. After the meeting I took him the blankets.  I thought I would run in and drop off the blankets quickly and run back out to the truck so I could take Thoko and Thini home.  But when I got there, Sipho was in tears and No-no was coughing non-stop while gasping for air.  If she did stop coughing for a few seconds she would cry in pain.  When we were leaving a few hours earlier, they were getting ready to give her a pint of blood platelets. Now, there was blood dripping from her arm because her IV had backed up.  Sipho didn’t know what to do or say.  He asked if I would advise him and perhaps speak to the Nurse.  As I’ve mentioned many times before in my blogs, questioning someone in authority is not done in this culture.  There’s a definite pecking order.  I pulled my “white card” and went to the nurses office and very gently and respectfully (yes, I can do that!) asked a few questions and expressed my concern with No-no’s coughing and the IV.  I was surprised when she came to check on No-no within 5 minutes.  She was obviously concerned as well.  Since visiting hours had been over long before, I thought it best that I leave.  And I still had to drive Thoko and Thini home and it was almost 9:00 at night.  I left a discouraged, tearful, scared father that was pretty much out of hope.  All I could do was pray:  ”Please God, heal her according to your plan and give Sipho strength.”  There was a large part of me that expected a call in the middle of the night saying she had passed away.  Was this faith in action?  I don’t know.  It certainly didn’t feel like it because I did it reluctantly, and honestly, I didn’t have a lot of faith that No-no would live through the night, though I had no doubt that God would heal her according to His will and that he would be by Sipho and No-no’s side every step of the way.

Today my day started again with a buzz from Thini at 4:19 am.  I was in a dead, hard sleep but this morning I didn’t go back to sleep.  I said a very long prayer and then got ready to go to the hospital to talk to the Doctor with Sipho.  Praise God, she was a little bit better.  Her coughing had slowed down, but she was as weak as a kitten and couldn’t open her eyes or talk.  All she wanted was her daddy to hold her while standing.  His back was breaking, but he wouldn’t do anything that caused her discomfort.  He had some hope back.  The Doctor came by, and I discovered that they couldn’t start a humidifier for her because they didn’t have a two plug adapter.  TIA.  So I quickly drove back to St. Paul’s and brought him one.  Then in the afternoon I got a call from Sipho saying they didn’t have a pot to boil the water in for her!  So I finished what I was doing, went home and got one of my pots and took it to the hospital.  TIA.    Sipho thanked me profusely for all I had done.  I told him that I give the glory to God that I was here to help but that I really didn’t do much.  He said I was there when he had lost all hope, and that my presence, and the presence of Thoko, Thini and Rev. Nyameka because of me, and our prayers were what he needed the most.  Maybe this is what faith in action, or faith and deeds means.  It doesn’t have to be something extraordinary.  Maybe it’s just taking the time to say a prayer, say a kind word, give a loving touch to someone who has lost all hope or give someone who doesn’t have much a helping hand when they aren’t asking or expecting it.

Thank you Lord for giving me the opportunity to be even a small conduit of your love and faithfulness to those you put in my path.  Please Lord; wrap your loving arms around No-no and Sipho.  Heal No-no and protect them both from further pain and heartache.  Amen

Please pray for all of the people I have written about today because they are all special children of God.  And please say a special prayer for No-no.  I wish I had pictures to show you of Libanti, No-no and the hospital.  But I don’t.  It’s too personal and intrusive.  I’m sorry, but I just can’t cross that line and invade their privacy that way.  They are too close to my heart.

What’s happening at Lomngeletjane

I have good news and bad news about Lomngeletjane.

The good news is, we have walls up for all four classrooms up to the top of the door frames.  That’s a huge YEABO!

The bad news is:

1)  The electricity still has not been restored to the school because they can’t get SEB (Swaziland Electricity Board) to come out and give them an estimate to move the breaker box down into one of the classrooms in the school.  It was up on the outside of the original, “off-cuts” church building which is about 100 yards from the school.  It was not in a secure place.  Someone stole all of the breakers, ruining the entire panel, in May.  To reinstall it about 15′ from where it was will cost approximately R2100 (about $300), which is much more expensive than it ought to be.  This location still wouldn’t be secure so we are trying to find out how much it would cost to move it down to the school because the school will never be able to come up with that much money twice.  In reality, they won’t be able to come up with that amount of money to do it at all, so I will have to help them out a bit.  No electricity means no water for the school.  The school has to buy a tanker truck of water to be able to cook for the children and for construction of the new classrooms.  A tanker of water costs about $20 (R150) for 9,000 liters.  This is enough water for approximately two weeks.

The "off-cuts" original church building. They call it a off-cuts building because it was made with the cheap cuts of wood off of the trunk of the tree that would otherwise be wasted. If you look closely you can see the breaker box on the outside of the building on the right side. The church now uses one of the classrooms for worship.

2)  Our beloved head teacher, Busisiwe, got a promotion and has left Lomngeletjane.  This all happened while I was gone.  Two years ago she applied with the Regional Education Office for the Ministry of Education for a job as schools inspector.  She was interviewed for the job over a year ago.  They finally called her and wanted her to start now-now (African term for immediately – sort of.)  It is real bad news for us, but good news for her and for the children of Swaziland.  It gives me hope for the future of Swaziland.

3)  The daughter of Sipho, our builder, is in the hospital.  She is 11 years old.  She has meningitis and TB.  She’s a sweet, sweet girl.  Her birthday is the same as my youngest son, Scott’s birthday – January 18.  Sipho can’t work right now because he has to stay at the hospital to care for his daughter.  It is very unusual in Swaziland for a man to care for a child, especially in the hospital.  But, his father-in-law got very sick and passed away a few weeks ago and so his wife had taken all of her leave to care for her father and then prepare for the funeral.  She can’t take any more leave.  Most of the time Sipho is there around the clock, but on weekends his wife takes over and there is also an auntie that comes periodically to stay the evening with her.  She stayed with her one week, but also had to return to work.  Just imagine having to sleep in a hard chair or on the floor without a mattress or cushion, and being there to take care of all of your daughter’s needs.  On top of that, he faces the frustration of dealing with the Doctors and nurses and he has to be careful of where he goes or what he does because he is surrounded by women who aren’t used to having a man in their midst.  His daughter will be in the hospital for another 10 to 14 days IF all goes well.  He calls his daughter by his nick name for her: no-no.  I’m going to call her that as well because I can’t begin to pronounce her full name!

Please pray that No-no gets better quickly; that her father has patience, strength and faith that his daughter will get better quickly; that we can resolve all of the issues and problems surrounding Lomngeletjane; and that I can react to these situations with wisdom and patience while keeping the faith that God will use these situations for the good of his kingdom.

TIA

This Is Africa.  I thought I’d share just a bit of my day with you.

I slept really well last night and woke up a bit late (just before 7:00).  To give you a bit of perspective, sleeping well is a miracle for me and sleeping in until almost 7:00 is almost unheard of.  So as I laid there, knowing I was a bit late, I was trying to decide if I should get up and hurry eat breakfast and get downtown early, or if I should try to get some exercise in before attempting a shower and breakfast or if I should just soak up the feeling of a good night’s sleep.  The decision was actually made for me because the phone rang at 7:00 sharp.  My new builder at Lomngeletjane, Sipho, needed to speak with me.  When I returned from Switzerland I heard through the head teacher at Lomngeletjane that his daughter was sick and in the hospital.  I was going to call him over the weekend but just didn’t get around to it.  I told Sipho I would go by the hospital around 9:30 this morning.  I still pursued the self-discipline to start exercising.  I was at it for about 2 minutes when the phone rang again.  This time it was Thoko.  OK.  Exercising wasn’t meant to be on my list of things to do today.

Thoko and I had a lot to discuss.  We were probably on the phone for 20 – 30 minutes while she updated me on things that happened while I was gone and I updated her on things I learned or did once I got back.  Tomorrow (Tuesday) is the “Methodist Day” (the second Tuesday of each month) at Baylor Clinic at the RFM hospital in Manzini.  We made our plans for tomorrow and vowed to stay in touch to see if anything new unfolded throughout the day.

After Thoko, a friend of mine here in Swaziland – a fellow missionary from the States, gave me a call to see how my trip to Switzerland was and what the Lord had revealed to me during that time.  Although we had a lot to talk about, we couldn’t talk long.  The environment and circumstances beyond our control don’t make for long telephone conversations most of the time.  (TIA.)  Someone came to her gate so she had to hang up to go see what they wanted.

So I quickly got ready to leave.  Walked up to the church to get my car, and the Superintendent had pulled part way out but was blocking my way.  So I had no option but to sit and patiently wait.  (TIA) This being Monday morning, I needed to take my dirty laundry to the only place in Manzini that does laundry early in the morning.  Most people have someone come into their home to do their washing, but that just didn’t work out so well for me.  If I can get it in early enough in the day I can usually get it back the same day.  I’d already missed “early.”  I maneuvered through traffic without an issue and the parking guy didn’t even come to collect his R2.50 (about .40 cents US).  Things were looking good!

From the laundry I drove about a block away and parked again and this time the parking guy (not the same one) did come to collect!  I went to the post office to collect the mail for the church.  Someone was stealing all of the mail until the Postmaster and I finally figured it out around the beginning of May.  Since then the box is locked and I have to collect the mail in person, which is fine with me.  We’re getting mail which is all I care about.  But they have been promising since they locked the box that a new lock would be coming in by the end of the week.  This morning he told me the new locks were in so I need to bring the old keys in so they can change it out – like “now-now”.  While I am glad to hear it, my mind is already trying to figure out how I can make this happen without spending hours waiting.

From the Post Office it was a lovely walk about a half a block to the bank. I’m actually going in a big circle around Manzini at this point. This bank is where the funds are deposited for a project I help with, Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu.  I am a signer on that account.  I went to write a check for petty cash before going to Switzerland and discovered that we needed to transfer some money from savings to checking.  Sounds easy.  Right?  Not.  You have to go to the bank to pick up a “special” form (nothing more than a copy of a simple form done on something like Word) to fill out and since our account requires two signatures, I have to get two signatures on the transfer form.  While there, I ask what our savings account balance is, and also told her we don’t get bank statements for the savings account.  Amazingly she gave me the balance without a problem.  And then she proceeded to tell me that our type of savings account doesn’t get statements.  Account holders must come in and ask for one.  Great.  I asked her about on-line banking which they do have.  But our savings account wouldn’t be accessible via on-line banking.  Wonderful.  At least I now have the transfer form and know the drill.  Or I think I do.  We’ll see as time goes by. The good news is it was a beautiful morning and I actually got to walk a few blocks!  Yeabo!

From that bank I went to another’ bank’s ATM.  It’s the one I always use to pull out money because you can pull out more money at one time from this ATM, thereby cutting the ATM fees down a bit.  I couldn’t get any money from my US account.  I tried these ATM’s last week using a different US account’s ATM card and it didn’t work then either.  Great.  I tried to ask the people inside the bank if there was a problem with the ATM machines.  They couldn’t understand what I wanted to know.  The woman just kept telling me to go to the foreign exchange desk inside the main branch in Manzini.   I told her thank you, but it wouldn’t help me because I’m not trying to exchange American money for Swazi Emalangeni.  She couldn’t comprehend what I was asking.  Oh well, I can’t understand what most Swazi’s say or how they think either, so we are even.  I left vowing not to let it bother me.  TIA.

So, feeling a bit discouraged, I headed to the hospital.  It was too early for visiting hours, so I called Sipho to come out and meet me.  About a week before I left, Sipho’s father-in-law passed away so he took several days off from work to go help prepare for the funeral and then he needed some time off for the actual funeral.  Now he is telling me that his daughter became ill not long after the father-in-law’s funeral.  She is ill with Meningitis.  She is also HIV+, which I knew.  Meningitis is or may also be considered to be one of those “opportunistic” diseases associated with being HIV+.  I could see the worry and hurt in his eyes and he sweetly referred to her as his baby girl.  (I’m guessing she’s around 7 – 10 years old.)  Wow.  That puts all things into perspective.  I remember how scared I was when my oldest son got Meningitis when he was almost 3, and other than ear infections he was a healthy little boy, we had the best medical facilities available to us and we caught it early. Bless Sipho’s heart, he still wanted to talk to me about some concerning things that are or may affect progress at Lomngeletjane.  You see, Sipho can’t work while his daughter is in the hospital because there is no one to stay there and take care of her.  His wife took all of the time off of work she is allowed when her father passed away.  Sipho’s sister came and stayed with his daughter last week, but she can’t take any more time off either.  So, his wife is staying with the girl during the night (sleeping on the floor or in a hard, probably broken plastic chair by her bedside) and until they can find another solution, Sipho must stay with her during the day.  I told Sipho not to worry about the progress on the new classroom block right now because there were other things going on that need to be resolved.  So in reality, his absence is a bit of a blessing in disguise for Lomngeletjane.  I’ll tell you about those things another day.

While talking to Sipho, my phone rang a couple of times, but I couldn’t hear what the caller was saying.  So the caller sent me a text message.  The caller was Nonjabulo’s mom saying she needed more formula for Nonjabulo who is recovering from the measles.  A lot of kids get measles in this country.  They say it also easily attacks kids with weakened immune systems.

So I left Sipho, went back into town to get the formula for Nonjabulo.  While I’m at it I get oranges, bread, peanut butter, jelly and juice to make sandwiches tonight so the kids coming to Baylor at RFM tomorrow will have something to eat.

I headed home and though it was only 12:45, but I was emotionally drained. By now, I’ve eaten some lunch, called Thoko and gave her the news about Sipho’s daughter, made plans to go pray with them tomorrow and decided to write a blog about my morning.  Now I will probably drive to Matspha, which really isn’t far, so I can give Nonjabulo’s mom the formula and maybe even go by the hospital to visit Sipho and his daughter and pray with them for a few minutes.  I know that this is more important than anything else I need to do right now.  I also need to chase down one of the other signers on the Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu account so we will have the money to pay for the transport for the kids that are coming to Baylor at RFM tomorrow.

So, welcome to my day in Africa.  I’ll deal with the issues and what is going on at Lomngeletjane tomorrow because “tomorrow is another day.”

Please keep praying for Swaziland.  Pray for the country, the government, the people, the church, and the missionaries in this country including me.

Back in Swaziland

I arrived back in Swaziland on Tuesday evening, July 6th.  I could be giving you updates on the last couple of days in Swaziland, but instead, I’m going to dwell on the Breathe Conference and my last day in Switzerland.  Everyone asks me what was the best thing about the Breathe Conference.  The wonderful opportunity to worship and hear a meaningful message for two hours each morning for 10 days is up there at the top of the list.  Having breakfast looking at the “three sisters” glaciers and then watching the color reflect off of them as the sun was setting around 10:00 PM was certainly another high point.  The opportunity to go on daily walks or hikes by myself or with others.  One could truly walk anywhere and feel completely safe and without worry and you could always find a path leading back to Credo.  The daily sessions with a counselor, the massages, the food and of course the chocolate were wonderful.  The quiet at night was a treasure.  The loving, safe, encouraging atmosphere was such a blessing.  Even the tears that seemed to flow for reasons that I sometimes couldn’t identify were a welcomed blessing.

But, the high point of the conference was the time I was able to spend alone in prayer and communication with my God and savior, Jesus Christ.  There is something so healing to be reminded by God himself that what he wants is to be in relationship with me. Little old me.  And that he wants me to come to Him with my burdens and to rest and be renewed; to come to Him to drink the cool, refreshing living water.  The 10 days at Breathe and being in Switzerland were like a brief glimpse of what heaven will be like.

My flight from Zurich to Frankfurt and then on to Johannesburg wasn’t until 6:15 on Sunday evening, July 4th.  So, not wanting to waste the last bit of time in Switzerland and being in God’s beautiful creation, another woman who also had a late evening flight and I made plans to take a train ride up to one of the lower mountain tops and walk around for a bit before we had to leave for Zurich.   I woke up at 5:00 AM on Sunday to steady, though not heavy rain.   I prayed for the rain to stop, and by the time we were done with breakfast it was pretty much over.  My friend and I decided we weren’t going to let the rain deter us.  We were going to step out in faith that by the time we got up to the top of the mountain the rain would be done.  And of course we weren’t disappointed.

The view of Wilderswil from Credo on Sunday morning, July 4th as we started walking down to the train station. The rain had pretty much stopped, but the clouds were lingering.

A glimpse of the blue sky and the clouds below as we were going up the mountain.

Even with the clouds below the view was spectacular.

The view as we were nearing the top. The hills are alive with the sound of music..

One of the views as we started walking around at the top of Schynige Platte.

There were wildflowers everywhere and there was a section that was a botanical garden planted by the Japanese with hundreds of different types of wildflowers. This was the sign warning not to pick the flowers. It took a few minutes for us to figure out what this sign was all about. What a hoot!

We took a short walk with a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.

Such beauty is breathless. God is so amazing.

One last close up view of the glaciers. They are so magnificent. I couldn't just stop taking pictures.

And finally our last view as we headed down the mountain on the train.

It was a beautiful morning, and a wonderful chance to say good-bye to this awesome part of God’s creation.  Once we got back to Wilderswil we changed out of our wet shoes, gathered our luggage and leisurely made the trek to the train station in Interlaken for the 2 hour ride to the Zurich Airport.  It was a wonderful way to spend the last bit of time before going back to the reality of Swaziland.

In a few days I will update you all on whats going on at Lomngeletjane.  But I decided for today, I wanted to spend the time in God’s word and in prayer and in awe of these beautiful mountains.  I hope your day is blessed.

My Switzerland adventure to Breathe

I am writing this blog from Wilderswil, Switzerland.  Yes, Switzerland, not Swaziland.  I have been blessed with the opportunity to attend the Breathe Conference for missionaries serving in hard places around the world.  It is ten days long and we are being totally pampered by the volunteer staff of the Breathe Conference.  We are truly given the opportunity to take a break from our ministries to rest, renew, refresh and breathe.  We spend a couple hours each day in worship of our Lord and Savior.  We are fed three wonderful meals a day and we also are blessed with massages, counselors to talk with each day, and an opportunity to talk with a medical doctor about any medical concerns we have.  In between those times we are free to do whatever we want, including going for a walk or hiking in the beautiful countryside around this area or just being still in the presence of our God and his magnificent creation.

Switzerland is everything I thought it would be and more.  Beautiful and awesome doesn’t begin to describe this setting.  From our hotel, Credo Schloss Unspunnen, a Christian Retreat/Conference Center, we can view the “three sisters” of the Alps which are three glaciers including the infamous (if you’re a James Bond fan) Mt. Eiger (of the Clint Eastwood movie, Eiger Sanction), Monch and Jungfrau which boast having the highest train station in Europe at 11,333 feet.  If I look in the opposite direction I have a view of beautiful smaller mountains and a lake.  And of course in between there are beautiful forests and green fields dotted with chalets.  It is breathtaking.  The air is so clean and so is the country side.  There’s no dust, little dirt, no smoke or ashes that blow into your house even with the windows shut.  I can walk absolutely anywhere by myself and know that I will be safe and easily find my way back to Credo, even though I can’t understand a word of Swiss German.  The cows must be the fattest and most content cows in the world.  And of course, I must mention the water.  It is clear, clean, cold and wonderful.  And the shower is such a luxury.  I think I must be in heaven and yet I haven’t even mentioned the chocolate!

It is truly a blessing to be here.  I find myself finally letting go and letting myself breathe.  There is a lot in my life and relating to what I do in Swaziland that I need to turn over to God and this conference is helping me do just that.  And for that I am thankful.

View from train from Zurich to Wilderswil. This picture was taken near Interlaken West. The lake in the background is the Thunersee Lake.

The View of the "Three Sisters" from Credo in Wilderswil.

Switzerland has water fountains all over the countryside and along the streets in the towns. The water is always crystal clear and cold. After coming from an environment where clean water is so hard to come by it is such a blessing to just stop along the street and get a drink or fill up your water bottle.

The cows drinking out of their little dripless, clean water fountains!

Credo. I have a tiny little room off on the main circular stairway. When I enter it I feel like I am walking into a special room in the castle and I open my windows to listen for my Prince Charming. OK, so I grew up near Disneyland and still believe that dreams can come true. About a 5 minute walk to the right of Credo is the ruins of a castle (Burgruine Unspunnen) built in the 1200's. How cool is that?

The little church in Wilderswil. The town is in the background.

Yes, there is a McDonald's in Switzerland. One afternoon I walked to Interlaken West, about 20 minutes from Credo. I just couldn't resist taking a picture, but I didn't buy anything. The food at Credo is too good to spoil it with McDonalds.

One of the many walking paths around Wilderswill and Interlaken.

A view of the glaciers from out day of hiking. I kept wanting to break out in song: The hills are alive, with the sound of music.....

More of the glaciers.

One of the little towns scattered through the mountains.

Look at the size of the bell on the cow; not to mention the size of the cow! All of the cows and goats wear bells so there is always a sweet bell choir in the mountains.

There are waterfalls everywhere. Some big and long, some not so big or long, but all beautiful.

Another mountain top view.

These next three pictures are of a series of 10 waterfalls inside the mountain. The force of the water was unbelievable.

The falls are called the Trummelbach. They drain from Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau.

Walking up the steps (at least 600 one way) and viewing the 10 different chutes reminded me of Schlitterbahn in Texas. I can see where Schlitterbahn got it's inspiration for the waterpark.

A view of the countryside on the way up to the "top of Europe", the trainstation near the top of Jungfrau.

More of the awesome country. We took 4 different trains up to Jungfraujoch the Swiss-German name for"Top of Europe" and 3 different trains down.

View of the Jungfrau Glacier

This is so close to heaven.

The peak of Jungfrau. 13,642 feet.

My 2010 Chuy's picture!

The observation building is at the top of the rocks. A friend and I walked an hour away from that peak trying to make it to a view of the other side of the glacier. But we finally gave up so we could make the next train back down the mountain. Hiking in the snow for an hour up a slight incline was hard, especially now that I'm starting yet another decade of life.

As we were out walking, clouds came in. If we had been any later, we wouldn't have had a view. When the clouds blotted out the sun, it was cold.

We're on the train down the mountain taking another route.

The face of Eiger.

This little herd of goats were right next to the train tracks. We could hear their little bells tinkling as they ran to get away from the train. It was like a scene right out of Heidi.

A picturesque little town.

The view of Eiger from the little town of Grindelwald. We walked around Grindelwald for about an hour in between trains. We could have taken an earlier train and not explored Grindelwald, but what fun is that?

A church in Grindelwald. Right after I took this picture it started pouring down rain. It was a 10 or 15 minute summer shower but it didn't interfere with our journey because it was time to catch the next train down the last leg of our journey back to Wilderswil.

Thank you for being patient.  It was hard to narrow my pictures down to only 30!