This is Dumsile. I’ve known her for almost 2 years. She is a tireless servant of God and a Christian woman with many faces and roles. Let me show you just a few of them.
Dumsile in her Manyano uniform standing behind Mthokozisi during a prayer service blessing their grandparent's homestead and the house we moved them into in Auguest, 2009.
Dumsile is the Manyano CCS for the Lutfotja society’s. In the role of the society’s CCS, she shares the concerns 9f people within the society with other members of the society and with the Circuit Manyano if appropriate. She makes a plan for the other Manyano women in the Lutfotja society to visit and pray with people who are ill, have had a loved one pass away, are elderly and home bound or are going through a crises. She is also an important part of the project that helps children from Lutfotja Methodist Primary School who are sickly or HIV+ to get the medical attention they need by accompanying them to the Baylor clinic at the RFM in Manzini. Although we have a “Methodist Day” on the second Tuesday of each month at Baylor, if a child is sick or not doing well on their medication they may have to come back in between the regular monthly visits. If they don’t have anyone to accompany them, Dumsile accompanies them and talks with the Doctor. She is also the local contact if any of “our” kids need anything and she is responsible for holding the money we give her for transport for these children until it is time for them to go to the clinic. Besides all of this, I give her transport money for Mthokozisi and his sisters to go to school each day. I give it to Dumsile every two weeks and she gives it out to the children each week. So in reality, she is no only an integral part of what Thoko, Thini and I do, but she is also putting herself at somewhat of a risk by being our “bank” because money is scarce in this part of the country. I trust her completely with whatever I give her knowing that it will go to the proper person or family for the use it is intended for.
This picture was taken in August, 2009. Dumsile is on the left. We were cleaning up Mthokozisi's grandparent's homestead before moving Mthokozisi and his sisters there. Pictured here is: standing: Thoko, Mthokozisi, me, Jeri Front row: Dumsile, Mthokozisi's gogo and Mthokozisi's mkulu.
Dumsile doesn’t speak a lot of English, but we usually find a way to communicate the important things. She is a make (mahgay – mother) and a gogo although she looks so very young. She has the most precious smile and sparkle in her eyes. Her homestead is near one of the main tarred roads in Swaziland, very near to where I turn when I am going to Lutfotja Methodist Primary School. It is also a road I drive on many times on the way to other schools and it’s an alternate way to get to the border with South Africa. I always look for her and when she sees my vehicle she always give me a huge smile and waves. Talk about brightening up my day.
I don’t know if Dumsile is married or widowed. It’s a question one doesn’t really ask in this country, but I have never seen a man at her homestead. Her homestead is small with several block buildings for various family members including her mother or mother-in-law. She makes and sells chicken “coops” (baskets) out of straw for money. As far as I know, this is the only way she makes money for her family. Dumsile sells the baskets for E8 each which is a little over $1.00. I don’t have any idea how many she sells, but it can’t be a lot.
She braides, weaves and intertwines each group of reeds as she makes the basket.
Dumsile sitting by the side of the road making her "chicken coops." Did I mention that she first goes and cuts down the grass/reeds?
She is so smart...she puts on a pair of yellow rubber pants like one would use in the rain to keep the reeds from scratching her legs.
I can only imagine how the reeds must cut her hands, though I'm sure between making baskets and working in the garden/fields her hands have become much tougher than mine are.
A finished chicken coop. They are placed in trees, and yes, the hen flies up and lays her eggs in the basket. Maybe this is where the term don't put all of your eggs in one basket really came from!
Join me in saying a prayer of thanksgiving for this precious, wonderful sister in Christ.
Yesterday Thoko and I went out to the Nhlengetfwa family homestead. This is where Mthokozisi and his 3 sisters stay. I’ve written about this family many time over the last couple of years. These 4 children have basically been abandoned by their father and mother. Their mother left their father because he was abusive and he was trying to cut off her ear one night. The father, who is employed as a construction worker which is a pretty good job in Swaziland, generally lives in Manzini where his work is and rarely goes home. When he does go home he would take from the children rather than bring them simple little things like food or money to buy food. A year ago Thoko, Thini and I moved Mthokozisi and his sisters to their father’s parents’ homestead. Since the father was estranged from his parents we didn’t think it would be a problem and we figured it couldn’t be worse than where they were staying because at least they would have 4 sturdy walls and a roof over their head. All I can say about the year since the move is that at least they have a roof over their head. They are still 4 kids left to fend for themselves and now also for their aging gogo and various other relatives that come to live with them from time to time. One of the reasons for our surprise visit yesterday was to see who was staying there. Mthokozisi told Thoko one day last week that a very sick uncle had moved in with them and his aunts were asking what Mthokozisi could do for him. This infuriates Thoko and I – They are asking a kid what he can do to take care of a grown uncle.
As we drove near the homestead and as I was parking the truck we could see what looked like kids scampering around. It was clear they had seen us coming and were doing something – maybe they were picking things up. We walked down to the homestead and found the 4 kids plus another one standing outside their house. Gogo was up and around as well. Someone had burned off the grass in the yard, or a fire was accidently set. It was better than seeing all of the tall grass and some of the junk had burned off the ground as well. Gogo immediately came over and started talking to Thoko and I. There wasn’t any sign of the uncle and no mention of him either. Gogo told the kids to take us into their house so we could talk because it was rather cool yesterday. In reality, gogo wanted to talk and tell Thoko all the great things she had done for the kids – which in reality is zip, zero, nada. But we were polite to gogo. I was sitting on the mat they placed on the floor for us at a spot that I could see the outside. Little did I know how strategic that was.
Thoko and I also went to the homestead to see their end of second term school reports. Before we went into the house Mthokozisi said to Thoko and then to me that he failed the term, but that we shouldn’t be too worried because he would do better. So while we sat on the mat with the gogo talking away in Siswati, I looked at their school reports. Mthokozisi, who is in form 2 (9th grade) did fail miserably with an average score of probably around 30 – 40%. His sister, Nozipho who is in form 1 (8th grade) didn’t have her school report because she turned her library book into the wrong teacher. (Sound familiar?!!) She said she passed though. Tsembani who is in 5th grade did very well. She was in 5th in her class with about a 70 – 75% average. Tiphelele who is in 3rd grade passed but with scores around 50%. I just sat there looking at the reports and wondering how the kids are supposed to do better when there isn’t any one at home to help them or guide them and when lessons are presented at one level for everyone and most of the teaching is repeating things by rote or copying things off of the blackboard. And then I would shudder as I thought at how low even the best of the scores were. I kept trying to think of how I could help the kids do better in school, but realistically, I know there isn’t much I can do. So from my spot on the mat I would just keep looking out through the doorway pondering so many things and asking God what I am here for and why we can’t seem to make more of a difference in these kids lives. And as I was gazing outside I saw the beautiful little bird sitting on top of a pole. It’s body looked like a kingfisher which I’ve never seen in Swaziland. And the tips of its wing feathers were the most beautiful bright blue. So I escaped reality by watching the bird. I took a couple of pictures of it and at one point I motioned for Tiphelele to come near me. She did and I told her to look at the beautiful little bird. I don’t think she looked at it, she just giggled. The Swazis think I’m a bit crazy because I love pointing out beautiful flowers, trees and now birds.
At one point the gogo stopped talking and Thoko told me that the gogo was telling her that she has been telling the kids they need to go into the field and collect sisal (a cactus much like the yucca) leaves because the white fiber inside can be sold to make some money. At that point I lost it a bit. I know my response was a bit louder and more direct than it should have been when I said that the children needed to study more so they could do better in school and since they have no one to cook for them or wash their clothes and they need to start a garden so they will have some food to eat that they already have more than enough to do. The frustrating thing for me is I knew that if they did make money the gogo would take it. These kids would be expected to support their gogo instead of getting any help from the gogo. After my little outburst I knew it was time to focus on my little kingfisher again. It was such an incongruent scene: burnt grass, stumps of trees, a sheet of corrugated iron for roofing discarded in the middle of the yard, a dog that was so skinny and sickly I wanted to cry, cow patties everywhere, a falling down corral for the cows, random pieces of rubbish and then this beautiful bird sitting there above it all.
My beautiful little bird. When I got home I looked it up in a book of birds and animals in the greater Kruger area. It's called a brown-hooded kingfisher. This bird is either lost because I don't think there is a body of water around here or it truly was a gift from God.
Thoko and I talked with Mthokozisi about what he needed to do if he didn’t understand what the teacher was talking about in class. We encouraged him to ask the teacher after class to explain what he didn’t understand. We suggest he correct the problems or questions he got wrong. Thoko in particular told them they needed to study much more. Of course they were out of candles and kerosene for their lamp and they don’t ask for more when they run out. But it might be that they don’t ask because they know someone will just take them and use them. I felt so helpless and discouraged.
Then we walked over to look at the area Mthokozisi had cleared for a garden; I had bought some fencing for them and told him when the fencing was up and the ground prepared to call me and I’d bring them some seedlings. I reminded the girls that all of them needed to help Mthokozisi in the garden because he shouldn’t have to do the work all by himself. They said yebo to everything Thoko and I said, but I don’t get the feeling that the girls will help Mthokozisi.
Thoko and Mthokozisi stepping of the garden fence line.
Thoko, Nozipho, Tiphelele, Tsembani and gogo
So we left. Both of us were feeling a bit down and frustrated. Here’s my dilemma: If a child isn’t doing well in school, do we keep paying their school fees? If they are failing year after year or doing so poor what we in the States would consider failing what is the point of them staying in school? Do we encourage them to do better or do we just accept whatever they achieve? How is a child going to be successful in the next grade or ultimately finish school if each year they are passed with 50% or less of the skills obtained? How are they going to succeed in school and in life if they aren’t taught to problem solve or how to ask questions when they don’t understand things? What if we don’t continue to pay these children’s school fees? The answer to this is they will probably sit home and do absolutely nothing and there will be no hope of getting any sort of a job other than sporadic manual labor jobs. In addition, many won’t have the one “meal” a day that they get in school. So do we keep them in school to keep them semi busy and so they will be fed once a day? So many questions, so little answers but I find myself asking myself these questions over and over and over. And then I pray for wisdom. Oops, there’s a problem. Instead of pondering the same thing over and over (worrying about it) I should just turn these questions over to God and trust that he will guide me to do the right thing. (ya think? Does Matthew 6: 25-27 ring a bell? He even feeds the little beautiful birds!) It helps that Thoko wrestles with some of these same questions and that we can openly talk about these issues, and as we talk our way through these dilemmas we help each other feel a bit better and always remind each other of God’s faithfulness.
Lord, I ask for your wisdom and guidance regarding what to do, say or how to help these kids. Please help me remember to turn these types of dilemmas that I am faced with over to you from the start because I know that only YOU have the answer and the answer is to call on Jesus Christ to guide us, comfort us and when needed, even carry us. Give me the strength, patience and grace not to judge or be discouraged but to be a positive, Christian force in these children’s lives and in the lives of so many others. Give me the words to encourage Thoko as well. And Lord…..thank you for bringing me the little bird as a beautiful reminder of your glorious creation and your unfailing love.
I can’t believe it is already August 13th. Where did the time go? I’ll try and do a quick recap of a few events that took place since August 1st.
On Monday, Aug 2nd, thanks to a fellow missionary here, I found a honest and dependable mechanic to change the oil and filters on my bakkie (pickup truck). It took about 3 hours to get it changed partly because in Swaziland most places that do automobile service don’t stock parts. They get them as they need them. Thank God he was able to get the parts in Manzini. When little things like needing an oil-change come up, it’s real hard not to miss being in the US. For three years I’ve lamented “Where is Jiffy Lube when you need them?!”
Unfortunately, not long after the oil change, I started feeling achy and got a bad headache. Luckily it was a 36 – 48 hour thing and I was able to keep under blankets piled high and sleep most of the time. I’m fine now, but I was a bit nervous when I got sick since I had spent some time in an enclosed, small room with No-no who had TB and meningitis. I also felt bad thinking that I could take Tylenol to help me get past the aches and headache, but they only gave her something equivalent to aspirin every 6 or more hours. It’s time like these that brings the harsh reality of the resources between our two cultures into greater focus. I must admit I am so grateful to come from a country that has so many wonderful resources such as Tylenol, Advil, Motrin, etc. and places like Jiffy Lube and running, reliable water and electricity. The list could go on forever.
On Thursday, Aug 5th, we visited a couple of schools. The first one we went to was Salukazi Methodist Primary. The former head teacher retired in March and the replacement is a young man that was a deputy teacher at another one of the Methodist Primary schools. When I met him various times as a Deputy at his other school, I always felt like he was a pleasant, caring, conscientious teacher. I’m happy to see that he has been moved into the head teacher spot at Salukazi. I was also pleased to see that with the help of World Vision, they have a borehole on school grounds, two new student latrines and are in the process of building a 3-classroom block.
Kids at Salukazi Methodist Primary School pumping water to wash out their dishes after lunch.
I did have a TIA (This is Africa) moment at Salukazi. I was commending the head teacher on the shelter the parents built over the stoves that were built for them 3 years or more ago. The stoves had never been used for one reason/excuse after another. The head teacher told me that they were going to have to close in the walls of the shelter because the wind was too strong and was blowing the fire out. I told the head teacher that the wind shouldn’t be a problem because of the design of the stove. He called over the Deputy Head teacher (Anna) who has been there for several years and knew more about the issue. When Anna arrived at the shelter I walked to the opposite side of the stoves from where I was standing when the Head teacher was telling me of the problem. When I walked to the other side, I saw why the wind was too much and was blowing out the fires in the stoves. They had knocked the bricks out of a big portion of the stove near the original opening where the wood is put in and started. They did this to make the fire bigger. No wonder that now the wind was blowing the fire out! The women didn’t understand the technology or reason for these stoves and I’m sure they weren’t taught how to use them. These stoves are purposely designed to use much less wood than the fires they use every day to cook over. Once again it was a moment that could only happen in Africa. It took a lot of strength to not laugh until I was in my bakkie. Then I laughed and laughed and laughed. This could have been a great Candid Camera moment! Ah, you gotta laugh.
On Monday, Aug 9th, I went up to Lomngeletjane and had a meeting with Sipho, the new head teacher (Senele) and Absalom (a retired gentleman that was an architect and buildings inspector but now periodically helps me determine the specific building materials needed and supervises the builder to make sure things are done correctly.) Sipho is ready to start working again after the death of his daughter and I wanted to familiarize Senele with the project. We are still working in faith that the funds will come to complete this building by the time I come back to the States on Dec 3rd for the Christmas holidays. The meeting went well with several different issues being resolved.
Absalom, me, and Sipho discussing specifics of the next steps of building the classroom block. Our plan is to finish the walls of all four classrooms and hopefully roof the entire building but finish only one classroom at a time depending on funding. In the background is Senele (Henry) Shongwe the new Head teacher and to his right is the previous builder and current head of the parent's committee John.
Tuesday, Aug 10th, was “Methodist Day” at Baylor Clinic in Manzini. We brought 8 children from one school (Lutfotja) and 2 children from another school (Lomngeletjane) to get their monthly ARV’s. Most of the children are doing quite well. Two of the Lutfotja children aren’t doing quite as well and their CD4 count has gone down which is not a good sign. We suspect one of them is not taking the medication as required. Her mkulu (grandfather) always accompanies her to Baylor so the Doctor suggested that mkulu starts requiring her to take the medication in his presence so he knows she has taken it. She will come back in two weeks to see how she is doing. The unfortunate thing is that IF they can’t get her to start taking her medication reliably they may have to take her off of the ARVs, which would not be a good thing, but would be better than her intermittently taking the medication.
We also found out that Coliswa, the young girl from Lomngeletjane that we had such a hard time finding someone in the homestead to be responsible to ensure she would take her medication correctly, had basically not taken any of her ARVs over the last two week period. Her mkulu had finally agreed to make sure she takes her medication, but it looks like that didn’t happen. The Doctor had changed her dosage two weeks ago and we suspect that it confused the mkulu and Coliswa. I instructed the woman from that area that accompanies the children to Baylor to walk Coliswa to her homestead and explain directly to the mkulu how the medication must be taken every time she is prescribed new medication or the dosage of existing medication is changed. We are also going to try again to get the mkulu to come back with Coliswa on her next visit so we can make sure he understands how the medication should be taken. Sometimes I get frustrated that we aren’t helping more children, but situations such as these two are so emotionally challenging and draining that I don’t think I could handle more situations like this.
One very interesting and unusual thing about both of these situations is that the mkulu is the one monitoring the child’s medication. In this male dominated and oriented culture, this just is not seen. Matter-of-fact to even have a male around the family or homestead whether they help or not is not the norm. So now, including Sipho, there have been three situations where the males are taking care of the child. Thank you God for the insight into these unusual yet challenging situations which can be messages of hope for this culture and these children. It helps me look at the situation as a glass half full instead of half empty and I need to keep that perspective in so many situations especially when it is so hard to keep that perspective.
Before the children go back to school, I give them PBJ sandwiches, a piece of fruit and juice. My new bakkie makes it much easier to serve "lunch" to the children.
And here is a glimpse of me doing one of the unglamorous tasks I am called to do. I am making notes regarding today's costs and future appointments for the children and writing receipts for the cash I give Dumsile (woman in the red hat) to pay for the transport to bring these children to Baylor and also 3 others who have to come back before our next scheduled Methodist Day at Baylor on Sep 14th.
After Baylor, we drove out to the rural community of Mafutsini about 20 minutes outside Manzini. The CCS (Christian Community Service) person with the local Manyano (Methodist Women) had asked Thoko to come visit some homesteads, hoping to get some assistance for 3 families in that community. The first family had 5 kids. Both parents were alive, but the father is “sickly” and can’t work. (They use the term sickly a lot. One is never sure what it really means. Sometimes it means the person is either known or suspected to be HIV+, but not always.) It was a very sad situation with inadequate shacks for the family to live in and obvious severe poverty. The second family was a very old gogo and mkulu taking care of 3 orphaned children. All of the gogo’s and mkulu’s children have passed away so there are no adults to help care for these children. The homestead had some fairly nice houses considering the rural area on it, but there was no way to take care of them and no one lived in them. The third family was a gogo with 5 orphans. This gogo’s children had all passed away and she was left with 5 grandchildren to take care of. Her husband had also passed away. One of the children was “sick” and is suspected of being HIV+ but she hasn’t been taken to the clinic yet. It was another one of those situations that I have to sit and pray and ask for strength and wisdom. I can’t help all of the families and children that need help in Swaziland. I also know that I need to give the church at large an opportunity to help their own people. Ah, but it is hard. So I pray that the Lord will protect and take care of these precious gogos, mkulus and children and give the ladies and leaders of the church the strength and resources to assist these and many other families. And I continue to pray that I will have discernment to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice as to which situation I need to help with and that I not only listen to that voice, but I obey.
The first homestead we visited.
We drove to the school where all of the children attend and then loaded them all in the back of my bakkie to drive them home. These are the 8 children left after the 3 children got out at the first homestead we visited.
On Thursday, May 12th, we drove out to pick up the school reports for the children Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu is paying school fees for at Lutfotja Methodist Primary. The end of the second term is on May 13th but the head teacher had the reports ready for us a day early. It is sad to see how poorly a few of the students are doing and how low the standards for passing classes are in this country. A few of the students are doing poor because of health issues. One student, a newer recipient of this program, is failing everything. The only explanation I could get was that the child couldn’t see. They showed me his work which I had to explain to them that without knowing what he was supposed to be writing I had no idea what the issue was. We added the child to the list of kids we need to try and find other services to help. The problem is there are very few opportunities to help children and they all involve the child living at the facility which means a room and board fee of close to $1,000 a year.
After Lutfotja we went to go visit one gogo’s garden. She has been asking us to come see it for several weeks now. This gogo cares for two orphaned grandchildren. The younger one is HIV+ and has had a rough year recovering after a rural clinic gave him adult ARV’s about a year or so ago. The gogo works tirelessly to help this child. She is amazing. So I’m thinking ok, we’ll go to her homestead for a quick visit and compliment her on her garden. She’s always had a beautiful garden so I thought it was possibly just a reason to thank us. I was surprised when we didn’t go to her homestead. Come to find out she has a plot in a community garden project for people with HIV/AIDS. This project is called RAIN water for Africa. RAIN stands for Replenish Africa INitiative. It is funded by Coca-Cola Africa Foundation in partnership with the Swaziland Ministry of natural resources and energy and implemented by Nazarene Compassionate Ministries Swaziland and Engineering Systems Design: Agri Pump. In addition, students from the education department at the University Of Swaziland, working through an organization called SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise an international program with Wal-Mart as the main corporate sponsor.) are working with this project to help education the people on better farming practices and business practices so that the people who are working in this garden can understand how to keep the amount of vegetables for their family to eat and to sell the rest. They are also working to get contracts with grocery stores to buy the vegetables. We had an opportunity to speak with two of the STIFE students and also two people from the Nazarene Compassionate Ministries. I wanted to cry when I saw this wonderful project. It is one of those things that since coming here I thought this is the type of things the people need to learn and need help with. But I knew I didn’t have the skills or resources. So I’ve continues to get frustrated by the need and turn it over to God in prayer and listen as HE would remind me that I can’t do everything. I’m called here for one child at a time, one heart at a time. This project is so exciting on so many levels including the fact that these innovative, caring, intelligent young people are studying to be educators in Swaziland. This gives me more hope for the future of this country, especially the children. The two young people I spoke with will make excellent teachers and their hearts were to help the children in the rural areas. Praise God!
Gogo Dludlu next to her strip of the garden. It goes the entire length of the field. She goes there every day to water, weed and tend the garden. While we were there she picked some spinach to sell to someone on the spot.
Yesterday, Saturday, my friend Dianne and I went to Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary about 15 km from Manzini. It is small reserve with mostly small wildlife such as antelopes (Impala and Nyala), “hoofed mammals” (zebra, hippo, wildebeest, and warthog) and crocodile. The neat thing about this sanctuary is that you can drive, walk, or ride bikes throughout the park. As we were driving toward the start of the hiking trails, we went by the hippo & crocodile pool. There was a crocodile sitting on the bank of the pond right next to the road. We parked and walked as quietly as we could to as close as we dared to see it up close and personal and of course take a picture of it.
No, this isn't a stuffed croc even though it looks like it. When we drove by here on our way out of the park it had moved to a little island a few feet off shore.
Then we drove to the rest camp, parked the truck and went for our little hike. We went on a 2 1/2 hour loop that took us through fields where the antelope and “hoofed mammals” (minus the hippo) were grazing, by some beautiful streams, then up and around the back side of the hippo & crocodile pool. It was a beautiful hike and the weather was absolutely perfect.
Just as we were getting into the truck to leave I decided to quickly go throw some garbage into the rubbish bin. As I was doing so something caught my eye; it was the rear end of a hippo right on the other side of a 3 foot stone wall! I quickly went and told Dianne to come. It was so incredible to be so close to such huge animals.
I've never been so close to hippo's before. They were maybe 15 feet away!
We got home from our hike and then dinner about 6:45 pm. I barely had enough time to take a trickle shower (Yes, the water isn’t flowing well again. TIA), change into long johns with a long skirt and a sweater over it, grab a heavy jacket and then go pick up 3 ladies to take to the all night vigil for No-no Mkhonta. We got to the Mkhonta homestead which is about 29kms out in the rural area about 8:30 pm. I was glad that Thini was one of the ladies with me so she could help me remember where to turn (I call her my Ace navigator) and was also grateful that they had posted signs at each turn. Being very used to driving in the middle of the rural area without many markings to tell me where I am, I had written down the kilometers between each turn. (I’m getting smart in my old age!)
There were many people already at the homestead when we arrived. The family had erected a tent along two sides of the house and they had a generator to provide electricity to the homestead. There were many benches set up on the cardboard floor of the tent. There were also benches set up outside of the tent near where women were cooking over open fire. We were directed to sit on one of the benches near where the ladies were cooking. No-no’s mom stepped outside briefly to greet us. She then told me it is against custom for her to be outside greeting the people; all of the women in the family are to stay inside the house where the casket containing No-no was. But she wanted to say hello and thank me for coming. She offered us tea and scones. Sipho stopped by briefly and also greeted us and thanked me for coming and bringing “my team.” I left the ladies about 9:30 and drove back home. I wasn’t sure I could stay up all night long and Dianne has only been in Swaziland for 2 days so I didn’t think I should leave her alone all night. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!)
During the night, probably about 100 or so people gathered at the homestead to pray, hear sermons and sing all night long. I set my alarm for 4:15 am and by 4:30 or so I was dressed and out the door again to go back to the homestead for the funeral. Funerals generally start around 6:00 in the morning. The funeral was just preparing to start when I arrived. They brought the casket out at the beginning and put it in the hearse, which was a pickup truck with a camper shell. Then the women from the house and Sipho came out. The women sat on floor of the front porch and Sipho sat with the men under the tent. There was more singing, a few speeches, and I assume scripture and other words of comfort. Then everyone rose to follow behind the hearse on foot for about 1 km to an area that is set aside for burials of family members in the area. I was told it was too far for me to walk so I must drive there. They always tell me it is too far for me to walk so I must drive and I am the one silently screaming “I want to walk!” But Sipho came up to me and asked if I would drive his older aunt to the grave site. Of course I said yes and felt a bit better about having to drive. Four ladies rode in the cab with me and about 6 ladies climbed into the back of the truck.
At the grave site, there was a few more words said and lots of singing. In Swaziland, they lower the casket into the ground and then the women of the family come and throw handfuls of dirt onto the casket. Then, the men in the family shovel the dirt until the casket is securely buried. The rest of us stood and watched and sang until the job was done. Sipho ceremoniously put one shovel of dirt onto the casket, but then sang with the men leading them in what and how many songs to sing. The loving way that he would glance to see that his daughter’s casket was being buried correctly and then turn back and start another song with an expression of love on his face touched my heart because I could tell he was singing for No-no. During one of the talks that Sipho and I had he told me how much she loved to come to church and sit with her daddy even though she should be sitting with her mom or the children because she loved to sing with the men. Let me tell you: when the men start singing during a service, there is nothing more beautiful than hearing their rich deep voices as they sing from their hearts.
Though I hummed as everyone sang, gently dancing with them to the music and singing the parts of the songs I sort of know, even though I don’t know what the words actually mean, I found myself getting angry. Angry that small children such as No-no have to be struck down before their lives really begin because of the dreadful disease called HIV/AIDS. I kept thinking: Because of the sins of our fathers (and mothers and forefathers). And then I prayed for the Lord to heal the people of this country, this continent and the world from this disease. Please don’t let more children suffer. I knew I had to let go of the anger and keep my hope in the Lord. It’s the only way things will change.
When the burial was finished, we all had to sit on the ground for a prayer. Of course I didn’t know that. All of a sudden Thini turned as if she was getting ready to leave and then told me that I must sit down. I responded by saying that I was okay, I could continue to stand. I assume she was tired of standing. There was another young woman next to Thini who was offering her piece of cloth that she laid on the ground for Thini and I to share. She told me that before was the time for standing, but now it was time to sit. So I sat. The local preacher prayed, and then for some reason the men stood up, but the women stayed sitting on the ground for another prayer. Then Thini and the young woman told me that we could stand because it was time to go. Most of the ladies I drove down piled back into my truck and we went back to the Mkhonta homestead. The time was about 7:45 am.
At the homestead we were all given a take-away container of food that some of the ladies had been working to prepare through most of the night. Each container had rice, potato salad, strips of beef in a gravy, cooked cabbage and beets. As always, it was delicious and while it was a little strange to be eating such food for breakfast I was so hungry I really didn’t care. We were able to say good-bye to both Sipho and his wife. Sipho asked if I could take a few of his family members back to Manzini with me, so 3 ladies sat in the bed of the truck for the ride back.
Driving back was the most difficult part because I was so tired. Even though I had gone home to sleep, I didn’t get much. I was struggling to stay awake especially since the ladies fell asleep. At one point I know my eyes shut as I drifted off because I could “see” a guard rail like we have in the States in front of me and there aren’t any like that in Swaziland. Luckily as I swerved to not crash into the guard rail I woke up just before running off the side of the road. I praise God for that literal wake up call. Luckily if I had run off the road at that particular spot there was only a small dip at the side of the road so we wouldn’t have been hurt. But I’m still singing God’s praises for keeping me from harm.
I got home about 10:00 am. I was tired but knew I wouldn’t sleep. So, I decided to do a couple of things. First on the list was to see if I could figure out why the toilet wasn’t filling. For two days we had to fill the tank up using a 5 liter water bottle in order to flush it. I was able to get the inner workings apart and find the little screen filter completely clogged. I even managed to get it put back together correctly after only one incorrect attempt. Since I was on a role, I decided to see if I could fix the tailgate on my truck. When I stopped at the bus rank (stop) in Manzini to let the 3 ladies who were riding in the bed of the truck off, I couldn’t get the tail gate shut. There is a rubber bushing on either side of the tailgate where the latch is. Both bushings had moved around so that the latch couldn’t shut. I managed to get them back into the proper position. Yebo! Two things accomplished in one morning! And that was the end of my day. For the rest of the day Dianne and I have been sitting and watching season one of “24” that I brought with me from the States. I was just too tired to do anything else.
So, such is the 24 hour period in the life of a missionary in Swaziland, Africa on Saturday to Sunday, July 31st – August 1st, 2010. From the thrill of walking so close to God’s beautiful, amazing creatures to the sadness associated with burying such a young, sweet girl to everyday maintenance. It’s all in a day’s “work.”