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.
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.
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.
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.
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!