TGIF

Fridays have become my favorite day of the week if at all possible I go up to Mbabane to help out at the Sandra Lee Center where Nomile stays!  This past Friday was an exceptionally GREAT day!  My Friday morning started with me taking my car to the mechanic that I’ve started using in Manzini.  He is a very nice, capable young man and seems to be very honest.  He was recommended to me by a fellow missionary that took his vehicles to him for service.  The mechanic’s name is Jose, but here they pronounce the J as a J, not an H.  My air conditioner had stopped working on Monday and of course this has been one of the hottest weeks I can ever remember.  Jose said he would check it out and thought it probably only needed “gassing.”  He said he would be finished by noon which I was hoping for because I had planned on going up to the SLC in the morning, but cut it to a half day so I could get my air conditioner fixed.  One has to have priorities.

At 10:00 I went to an awards ceremony for the ten Methodist Schools in Central Circuit that was to be held at St. Paul‘s.  The ceremony was to announce the best primary school student, best form 3 (10th grade) student and best form 5 (12th grade) student; the best primary school teacher and best high school teacher; and the best school in the circuit for the 2010 school year.  There were several students from St. Paul‘s high school in attendance and they kept singing songs while waiting for the ceremony to start.  Their  voices were incredible.  It was wonderful just listening to them and we had lots of time to do just that because the ceremony didn’t start until 10:45!  I was very, very impressed and excited to hear that this is the second year that the Schools Manager (the Superintendent of the Central Swaziland circuit of the MCSA) had done this.  The winner of each category was selected by not only how many subjects they passed or how many students passed the national exams given to each 7th grade, 10th grade and 12th grade student, but it also took into account their grade point average.   In other words the winners were chosen not just on how many passes they had but also on the quality of those passes!  I’ve been talking to several head teachers and the schools manager about the need to do this for quite a while because a student could pass by having an average of 40% correct, and the top student could have grades between 70 to 80%.  This doesn’t do anything to prepare them to go onto to college or some sort of post high school training program.  The winners for the best primary student and teacher came from Lutfotja Methodist Primary School and the best overall school was also Lutfotja!  This made me so happy and proud of them because we (the Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu project and One Child, One Heart at a Time funds) have been working with some of the children at this school to get them to the Doctor each month for their ARV medication and/or at other times as needed, to pay school fees and buy uniforms for some of the kids.  In 2009, I bought fencing for Lutfotja with the agreement that they would grow Maise and vegetables to feed the children at school.  I did this because I could tell that the agriculture teacher was very good.  And indeed he is because was the one that was chosen as best primary school teacher of the year!  There is only one High School, so their winners weren’t quite as exciting as the primary school winners were.

Each winner was given a check for R500.  I’ve been thinking of offering some type of monetary award to the most improved school or best school based on their performance, but had not made the offer to do so yet.  So I am so glad that they did it on their own.  I am still considering of perhaps pitching in a bit more money in the future for the best school, and I’d like to also see an award go to the most improved school.   My hesitation is sustainability.  It would require on-going support, but I’m not letting that stop me, especially since they have started doing something on their own to incent the students, teachers and schools.

2010 award winners: (L to R) form 3 best student, form 5 best student, best teacher - high school, best teacher primary school (Lutfotja, Mr. Zwane), best school (Lutfotja, Mrs. Mthethwa), Rev. Nyameka. Not pictured: best primary student, from Lutfotja.

The ceremony had just come to a close when Jose called me to say he was on his way to deliver my car.  The best news was that it only needed the “gas” so it was a quick and relatively inexpensive job.  That air conditioning was like a breath of fresh air!

After getting my car I headed straight up to the Sandra Lee Center in Mbabane.  My friend Robin and her husband Michael started this center several years ago.  For more information on this amazing home for orphaned and abandoned children, go to their website at:  http://sandraleecentre.org.   I’ve been trying to go up once a week this year to help Robin with what ever I can do to assist them.  The last couple of weeks I’ve been helping her sort through and organize clothing donations for the kids.  She has a garage with shelving for boys clothes and another one for girls clothing.  The idea is to sort all the donations into size and put them in boxes so when she gets a new child or when a child grows out of their clothes she can quickly go the appropriate garage and pick out clothes for the child.   As you can imagine it’s a tedious job which isn’t very fun especially when it is very, very hot.  I tease Robin that she is such a slave driver because she knows I’ll do anything to see Nomile!  But in reality I do it willingly and yes, the bonus is to see Nomile and all of the kids while we are working.  But most of all I can’t imagine how she and her husband have been mommy and daddy to so many kids over the years.  Robin and Michael don’t live at the SLC.  They currently have 4 houses at the SLC.  Each house has a make (ma-gay, meaning mother) that stays with them day-in and day-out caring for them and raising them as if they are own children.  It’s a life long, or at least very long term, commitment for the makes.  They also have an Aunty that comes during the day to help with the washing, cleaning and cooking for the children.  Each house has up to 8 children in it.   Robin and Michael treat the children as if they were their own – keeping up with their school work, checking on them if they are ill, buying the groceries for the houses, giving them lots of hugs and kisses and taking the children to their home to play or swim in their pool.  The love that surrounds that place is amazing.  The children are amazing.   Just living at this center gives these children such an advantage over so many other Swazi children, not to mention the schooling, medical care and nutrition they are receiving.  Luckily, on this Friday since I was tardy coming up to work, we worked for a short time in the pantry for the center re-organizing some of the food, medical, hygiene and school supplies.    It wasn’t near as hot and garage duty!

After the kids had lunch we took them to Robin’s house swimming.  I have no idea how many of them I took over in my bakkie.  I probably had six in the cab with me and at least another eight or ten in the back.  It’s very common in Swaziland for kids and adults to ride in the bed of the pick up truck.  It makes me nervous, but the kids know how to behave.  Luckily it’s only a couple of kilometers from SLC to Robin’s house.  When we get to Robin’s house, the kids know just what to do.  The boys go to one bathroom to go potty and change and the girls go to another one.  Then they go to the cupboard outside where all of the flotation devices are stored.  The kids know just who needs to wear what kind of flotation device and who can just go run and jump in the pool.  Friday was the third time I had gone swimming with them, so I’m getting the hang of it, though I’m still a bit slow trying to fit and blow up those little arm floaties for the kids.  They are very patient though.

The kids have so much fun.  A few of the younger or newer ones need some one-on-one attention, and Robin is teaching the older ones how to actually swim and dive.  Normally, Nomile would be considered too young to go, but Robin knows how much I love that little girl so she lets her come and of course I mainly help Nomile in the water.  The first time we went swimming she cried whenever someone splashed her.  She wanted both of my hands firmly on her at all times and just to be sure she held me in a death grip around my neck and with her legs around my waist.  She hadn’t been in the water very long when she motioned me to go the side of the pool, immediately got out and walked away from the edge of the pool.  She immediately started taking off her floaties and then moved to as far away from the pool as she could.  Oki-doki.  I got that message loud and clear!  When Nomile has had enough swimming I start taking the other kids around and playing with the older ones.

The second time we went swimming it was really too cold outside, so none of us stayed in the water very long.  But Nomile was a bit better.  She didn’t cry quite as much when splashed and I could take my hands off of her, though for most of the time she still had a death grip on me.  I did get her to stretch her legs out behind her a few times.  But she definitely did better than the first time and she had such a good time with all the kids.

Nozwelo (appropriately nicknamed Nozi) and Nomile buckled up and ready for the drive back to SLC. They sang what they knew of the ABC song (in English) all the way home. It was so adorable.

This Friday, she told me she wanted to go swimming!  She immediately came to get in my bakkie.  I would ask her if she liked swimming or if she was going swimming and she would say “yes.”  We got there and she immediately followed the routine and stood patiently while we got the floaties on everyone.  Then she went and stood by the edge of the pool and looked at me waiting.   I ran inside quickly to put my swimming costume on and had no choice but to immediately get in the water.  No time to wonder or worry how cold the water was.   I asked Nomile if she wanted to jump to me and her answer was “Yes. Jump.”  She jumped to me, and of course, she gets very little water on her face or head when she jumps to me.  I’m a softy.  I don’t want to scare her away from the water.  But much to my surprise, she was very relaxed!  No more death grip, she immediately put her legs out and sort of kicked a little.  Most of the time I had just one hand/arm out for her to hold onto, or I was holding her head out of the water using one finger from each hand on the floaty.  A few times I even let completely go of her.  However, when she saw both my hands in the air waving at Robin, then she started panicking just a little.  She was talking up a storm, wanted to jump in a lot, didn’t  cry when the other kids slashed her and I even had her blowing bubbles.  At one point I said “Nomile, you are swimming so well!”  She responded with: “I know that.”  She stayed in the water with me for at least an hour.  There were probably24 kids from SLC, 2 – 3 adults, and 6 or 7 high school kids in the pool most of the time.  It was crowded and a blast.  Nomile even had fun swatting at the “big fish” which was one of those big inflatable sharks.  Once Nomile got out I just played around with some of the other kids.  I was probably in the pool for 2 hours.  Was I ever tired when I finally got out!  Once I got out of the pool, Nomile came up to me several times for me to pick her up or hold her.  She was so cute trying to smooth my wet hair down and push it back off my face!   This sweet child captured my heart the minute I saw her in 2009 and each time I see her she captures my heart more and more.  I am so thankful to God for the plan He had to save this child and for her to be put in the SLC.  When I’m at the SLC I don’t even need to pick her up and hold her, though I usually do.  I am content just to watch her play with the other kids and wander around the yard.  She is such a sweet girl and she is so happy, healthy, relaxed and knows she is well loved.

Nozi standing on the step waiting for someone to help her get in. She has the most infectious smile. You can't help but love her to death but don't try to pick her up or you'll strain your back. As Robin says, "She loves her food."

Nomile waiting for me to help her put on her floaties.

After dropping the kids back off at the SLC it was time to drive home in my air conditioned bakkie.  I am still praising God for one of the simple things in life per the American lifestyle, but such a precious commodity here in Swaziland.  The day ended on another high when I was able to talk to my youngest son, Scott, via Skype.  I can’t imagine a better day ever, unless maybe it was one when I could have spoken to my oldest son, Christopher, as well!

Today it is Sunday and I’m still full of joy and love from Friday.  I can’t stop thanking God enough for his magnificent blessings and the miracle of Nomile and her brothers and sisters at the SLC who have all been rescued from certain death if they had not been found or removed from their abusive environment.  These children are a true testament of how love breaks all barriers and heals all.  How true that old Beatles song still is:  “….All you need is love. love. Love is all you need…”

Nomile helping me sweep the SLC office floor. She was so focused and meticulous.

 

 

A look into God’s goodness and faithfulness last week.

Tuesday started out HOT.  At 8:00 in the morning when I walked out my door the sun felt so hot on my skin that I immediately went back in and put sunscreen on and grabbed a sun hat.  I started my day by driving to Matsapha (about 5-10 KM away) to return for the second time a set of locks that didn’t work.  Each time only one of the two locks in the package worked and even though the package said the locks would be keyed alike the sales guy at the hardware store kept saying “no, they are each supposed to have their own keys.”  This morning I was just going to ask them to give me my money back and I would go buy them somewhere else.  But amazingly we found a package that actually had two locks that worked and the same keys work in both locks just like the package said!  Go figure.  I was in and out of that store in less than 5 minutes.

Then I came back to St. Paul’s to meet with Absalom, the head of the church’s Trust Properties committee and the person coordinating and advising me on the materials needed to finish Mahlatsini Methodist Church.   He was over 30 minutes late.  While I was waiting I went into the church office to give the secretary the dates of when a team from California was coming.  It took almost 30 minutes for me to give her those dates because in mid sentence she would do something else such as make a phone call or get up and get something from the storage files.  And if that wasn’t bad enough two of the pastors kept coming in and just talking right over us.  After a good 20 minutes my patience finally started wearing thin so I told them very nicely that they were all being very rude to me and to each other.  They all said “sorry,” but their behavior didn’t change.

So my morning turned from good to not so good pretty quick.

When Absalom and I finally met, he gave me a bunch of stories as to why construction hadn’t started yet on Mahlatsini.  His latest story was that they thought I was just going to fund the roof and then see if I had enough money to do the plastering, and then wait to see what the story would be for the next step.  I told him using very American straight forward language that I have been waiting for 6 weeks to start on the construction of Mahlatsini and that I wanted the church finished by May.   I asked Absalom how they could have got that idea and all I got was more stories.  So we made a plan to go out to that area of the country on Thursday, buy the gum poles needed for the roof and talk to the people there.  Absalom is supposed to be finding a builder to take with us.

I was frustrated with the stories and lack of progress, but I was doing pretty good at keeping my cool.  I wasn’t going to let this ruin my day.

I picked up Thoko at the bus rank and then we went to the house the District Manyano are building for the Nhlengetfwa family (Mthokozisi and his sisters).  I was expecting to see some great progress because we had hired a young boy of about 16 who has dropped out of school to help Sipho.  The boy, Libanti, is hard of hearing.  He is one of the children that we have helped get to the ENT doctor to try and resolve the issues with his ears.  As we were nearing the house I could tell the windows weren’t in yet which prompted me to start praying that I would stay calm.  When we pulled up to the house I thought maybe Sipho was pouring the skreet (the floor) in the house.  But as we walked up to the house we saw that Sipho was still plastering the inside walls.  Thoko stopped to talk to Sipho and I just walked inside the house and sat down on a plank (board) setting across some blocks.  All I could do was look around, breathe deeply and pray for God’s guidance and patience.

Thoko told me that Libanti hadn’t been back since the second day.  The last we heard was on the second day he went home early because the dust from mixing the concrete bothered his ears.  We assumed he had returned the next day because no one had told us differently.  I was really upset with Sipho because I expected more of him, but I kept quiet.   Thoko and I briefly talked about the state of the building and our options.  We discussed the possibility of hiring additional people to help, but we were concerned about how Sipho would react to it.  Finally Sipho came to a stopping point in what he was doing and came in to talk to us.  Sipho and Thoko talked in SiSwati, with a few sentences here and there coming through in English.  Thoko periodically interpreted for me.  Sipho said if he had two helpers he could finish on schedule which is the end of March.  (Yes, two weeks away.)  He also told us he didn’t think he had enough skill to do the drop ceiling, fascia board and gutters.  In reality, I don’t think he wanted to do that work and he knew that if he had to do that he would never be finished.  In addition we have been having issues of him constantly looking for cash advances and as Thoko explained to him again, we (really her) are just being good stewards of someone else’s money.  Therefore we have to pay for the labor when the work at each stage is finished as originally agreed upon.  In Swaziland they pay at different building stages.  So plastering the inside of the house was one of those stages.  Unfortunately it has taken Sipho six weeks to do a job that should have been done in a week.  Two max.

When Thoko and Sipho were finished talking she asked me if I would like to add anything.  I very calmly looked at Sipho and said that I was disappointed in that he hadn’t called Thoko to tell her that Libanti was no longer working.  If we had known there was a problem we would have worked to solve it as soon as possible.  Instead, he caused us needless delay again.

We left with a plan of how to proceed.  We were going to approach getting this house finished by attacking the work that needed to be done from three different angles at one time.  (Pretty bold for Swaziland.)  To do this, first we had to find out what happened to Libanti.  We discovered that Dumsile gave him 3 weeks of bus fare to him the day before he left.  Dumsile said she would go with us to Libanti’s gogo’s house to verify what she gave Libanti.  Second, we had to get a carpenter to do the drop ceiling throughout the house, put up the fascia board and gutters.  Third we needed to hire two helpers to help level out the dirt in the house so the skreet can be poured.  And finally get someone to paint the house when finished.  The problem?  Where would we find these people?  Thoko and I were pretty discouraged but we vowed to each other that we were not going to jump to conclusions or give up.  The first place we wanted to go was to Libanti’s gogo’s house to find out what happened.  We were so disappointed in Libanti and were so tempted to be angry and think the worst.  Thoko said it looks like we have to write Libanti off and I agreed.  Then we found Dumsile standing by the side of the road waiting for us.  She came to talk to Thoko and had already found a very able bodied man who was out of work and was willing to go help Sipho.  The only problem was that he couldn’t go until Thursday.  That wasn’t a problem for us!  And the added bonus?  He is a member of the local congregation’s YMG (Young Men’s Guild the Men’s organization with the Methodist Church)!

First problem solved, Dumsile got in the Bakkie to go with us to talk with Libanti’s gogo.   On the way I saw Babe Shongwe walking by the side of the road.  He is a YMG member and steward of the local congregation.  We stopped to talk to him and he recommended another YMG member who had been working away from home but recently returned.  He felt he would be glad to come work!  Our spirits were soaring now.  But we still wanted to hear what happened to Libanti.  When we got to Libanti’s gogo homestead, we found her  sitting under a tree.  We joined her.  I’m sure it was the best spot to be in Swaziland on this hot day.  It was so African!  There was a nice breeze and with the shade it was very pleasant.  It was a good respite for us to be out of the heat. We found out that Libanti’s ear was bleeding which is why he left work on the second day.  The following day he took the money we had given him and managed to go to the ENT Doctor about an hour away.  He didn’t have enough money to do that, but Gogo told us he walked part of the way so he would have enough money.  The Doctor gave him some medicine and told him to take it easy until his ear healed.  Gogo wasn’t around the homestead during that time because she was at a relative’s homestead because of a death in the family, but the evidence all pointed to the fact that Libanti had told the truth about the ear problem and trip to the Doctor.  He just didn’t think to notify anyone and when gogo came back she assumed the work was finished.  The ladies talked more and laughed at several things gogo was saying.  I could tell they were sharing stories about kids.  It was a such a sweet, precious time.  As they were talking I sat there thinking of how grateful I was that we came immediately to Libanti’s gogo to find out the real story instead of going back to Manzini disappointed, angry and frustrated.  I also realized with transport and a phone how easy it was for us to solve today’s problems.  Without transport, this would have taken hours and much money.  In reality, it wouldn’t have happened.

We left Gogo praising God for the gift of His faithfulness and our patience and self-control.  After Libanti’s house we stopped by the house of the other person Babe Shongwe told us would be a good helper.  He came to the car to talk to us holding the most precious little girl probably a year and a half to two years old.  As they talked in Siswati I praised God that there are good Christian men in this country who obviously love and care for their children.  We left so amazed and grateful at all God had done for us.

Then we stopped in Luve to look for the gogo of one of the boys that we assist through the Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu project.  His sister had finished form V (grade 12) but Gogo wasn’t able to top off her school fees last year so they couldn’t get the results.  When gogo told us of this issue, Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu paid them.  Thoko had asked gogo to meet us in Luve to get the receipt.  Thoko couldn’t see her. But I pointed her out to Thoko!  We had a good laugh over that.  This gogo was the third person this morning I had recognized before Thoko did!  She said I am truly Swazi now.  I said coming to Luve is like coming home because I always see people I know.  More people than I recognize in my own home town in Texas!  While there we also spoke with the Uncle of a little girl, Samkelisiwe, that we also help through Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu.  He was so excited to see us.  Thoko told him we will be taking her to Good Shepard Hospital for her hearing loss.  (Hearing loss is a common side effect of the ARV’s.)  The uncle was very happy.

So after a good day, we headed back to Manzini.  Thoko had asked that her granddaughters stay at school that day and not ride the Kombie home.  We were having a Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu meeting that evening.  Thoko no longer has anyone to help her at home so the kids would have been going home to an empty house.  So we picked up her two granddaughters and then went to what has become our usual place…Nando’s Chicken where I bought all of us lunch/dinner.  We had such a nice visit while eating and for dessert we all had soft serve ice cream cones!  We were celebrating out wonderful day.

That evening at our Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu meeting the girls played in an adjoining room.  It reminded me of having my own kids with me at meetings some times.  After giving an update on the Nhlengetfwa family house, we gave an update on everything else that had happened since our last meeting with Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu in November 2010, including the financial status.  When our agenda had been covered I told them all that the Lord had told me it is time to go back to the US and be with my family for awhile.  I told them that I feel certain God has plans for me.  I am leaving for the US on August 31st.  I told Thoko and Thini a few weeks ago, so they have somewhat adjusted.    I had told the Superintendent the previous week, so now it was time to tell the committee and volunteers that I work with the most.  There was silence at first, but then we talked about how I’m not leaving for good.  I just need to spend more time in the US instead of Swaziland.  I promised I would be back.  That encouraged them.  Of course by the end there was a discussion on the many things that we need to do before I leave!

So the day was a long and hot day.  I didn’t get home until after 8:00.  But we had a good, blessed and productive day.

On Thursday, I had scheduled to go to Mahlastini with Absalom, but Thoko and I felt it was necessary that we check on Sipho again and see if the helpers arrived.  Since Mthokozisi’s house is on the way to Mahlastini, we could take care of two items at the same time thereby saving our precious resources – time and petrol.  Arrangements had been made with a carpenter to do the ceiling and we wanted to take him to the home to see what needed to be done and give us a list of materials needed.  After visiting Mahlastini, we met the Carpenter and took him to the homestead.  We were very pleased to see how much work the two helpers had got done.  We were not so pleased with what Sipho had got done.  It was good that Absalom was with us because he helped the carpenter make the materials list and also advised us on some other things we will need to complete the job.

While there, the issue of food was brought up again.  Thoko asked me what I wanted to do and how much we should give them.  I told her, as I usually do, that I am the wrong person to ask because I don’t have a clue.  I told her in our culture you get yourself to the job and you bring or buy your own food.  We finally talked about what a fair price would be taking into account the cost of food and gave it to the helpers.  We are going to try and get the mom to come out to the homestead for two weeks to cook for the builders.  She cleans for another homestead though, so we’re not sure she can the time off on such short notice.

All in all it was a very good week.  God’s faithfulness was amazing and how he blessed us because we didn’t get angry or frustrated or try to figure out how “we” were going to solve the issues was nothing short of a miracle.  We kept calm and had faith that God would guide us.  God didn’t just hear us, and he didn’t just give us ordinary blessings; He had a solution waiting before we could even think of what to do and it was bigger and grander than we dared to think.  That’s how BIG our God is!  He never ceases to amaze us if we give him the chance.
On Monday morning Thoko and I will go back to Mthokozisi’s house to make sure the materials we bought on Thursday have been delivered, that everyone is at work and that the plastering on the inside of the house is finished
.  We have renewed confidence that the work will be finished as scheduled but we also feel it will help things if we go out a couple times a week to check on things.  With God’s help, we will also figure out the solution to the lunch issue.

Thank you for your patience with this very long blog.  Your reward is a few pictures from Tuesday and Thursday.  Also, I got a few notes from people that you couldn’t comment on my blog anymore.  I had changed the setting to not accept comments because I was getting so much spam.  I’ve now signed up for an anti-spam program for the website so I’m going to try allowing comments again.  Thank you once again for your patience.

The frog that came into the Nhlengetfwa House when we were having our meeting. It entertained me, Sipho and Thoko wanted it gone. I had to stop them from crushing it. I'm guessing in their culture it brings some sort of bad luck. I finally shoed it behind some planks and Thoko would finally sit down again!

Celebrating at Nando's! What a treat! This is Thoko's oldest granddaughter who is in the 3rd grade.

Thoko and her youngest granddaughter who is in 1st grade. This one is a kick! You can't help but laugh at her.

Our two helpers clearing the dirt from around the house and using it to bring the level of dirt in the house up to the appropriate level so the skreet can be poured.

Filling one of the rooms with dirt. The previous picture and this one brought such joy to our hearts because we could physically see progress!

You can't really see him, but this is our carpenter measuring and figuring how much material he needs for the ceiling.

 

 

A long overdue blog…

Once again, I find myself needing to apologize to you for not updating my blog for such a long, long time.  As you gathered from the last blog I wrote in 2010, the last couple of months of 2010 were very difficult for me on multiple levels.  I just couldn’t get myself into a frame of mind to write things positively or objectively.  It wasn’t until I was home in Round Rock, Texas that I realized just how much I needed rest and time to heal mentally, emotionally and spiritually.   I spent most of December, getting caught up on my sleep, taking long walks almost everyday, visiting with dear friends and members of my church family and soaking up the love I felt each time I went to my home church whether it was to be part of one of the groups I was active in before I left for Swaziland, enjoying one of the spectacular Christmas programs or enjoying every second of worship on Sundays.  Oh, and I can’t leave out the breakfast tacos on Sunday morning in the Mission Cafe!!   It wasn’t until Christmas eve, sitting in church that I felt the magnitude of blessings that God and his people had been showering on me.  The outpouring of love became so overwhelming on Christmas eve as we sang Christmas Carols and listening to the Christmas eve message.   As I sat there wrapped in the love of so many people, some I don’t know, who had been praying for me and were so concerned about my illness and thought about the little baby born that night over 2,000 years ago that would grow up but have His life cut short because he loved us so I couldn’t help but feel God’s healing and loving touch.

My youngest son, Scott and I celebrated Christmas on December 25th relaxing and enjoying each others company.  We then went to my niece’s house for Christmas dinner and Scott’s girlfriend joined us.  On December 27th we had our real Christmas celebration as my oldest son Christopher and his wife Jen came to Round Rock on the evening of December 26th.  My God-daughter, Denise and her family also came.  My niece and her family joined us.  First we decorated molasses cut out cookies which is a long standing tradition in our home and then we shared a traditional turkey dinner.  Once again I was overwhelmed with how much the Lord has blessed me.  Family has always been important to me, but I think spending 3 1/2 years in Swaziland has made my family even more precious and important to me.

January became busy as I went to San Antonio to attend the wedding of a dear missionary sister from Swaziland.  It was a mini Swaziland missionary reunion as there were several of us in the States for the holidays.  We had a terrific time and the wedding was absolutely beautiful.  Then I went to California for a week where the only thing on the agenda was relaxing and watching my other God-daughter Stacey’s 6 month old baby boy.  Was that ever rough…NOT!  While in California I met with the team leader (Becky) of a group of Methodist Women from California that came to Swaziland in 2009 where  I joined them in Bulembu as a team member.  Some of the members of that team and I had lunch at Becky’s house and we talked about her bringing another team back to Swaziland in 2011.  It was another God filled occasion and it gave me the excitement of coming back to Swaziland and looking forward to what 2011 brings.

On February 1st I left Round Rock and headed to Swaziland.  I arrived back in Swaziland, safe and sound on the evening of February 3rd.  That gave me one day to get groceries, get my truck up and running, and unpack a few things before attending the first function on my calendar:  a visit from the MCSA District Manyano executive board members on Saturday February 5th.  The District Manyano are building a house for Mthokozisi and his sisters.  If you’ve been a follower of my past blogs you will recall that Mthokozisi and his sisters are living on their own.  When we met them in 2008 they were living in a mud hut.  That hut collapsed in the heavy summer rains in January of 2009.   The District Manyano awarded Mthokozisi a bursary to attend the 5 years of high school and also wanted to make building a home for him one of their projects.   Finally towards the end of 2010, I helped Thoko communicate with the District Manyano and helped them get the project started before I left to come to the States for Christmas.  The District Manyano executive board were coming to check on the house and to pray over the kids and the construction of the house.  It was very exciting to come back and participate in that event.  Here are a few pictures of the progress so far.

 

11-4-2010: Thoko, Dumsile, Make Gele and Babe Shongwe with blocks we had brought down from Lomngeletjane because they weren't needed there. This was the first physical sign of the start of work on the house!

11-26-2010: Sipho (our builder), Thoko and Thini discussing the building plans. The house is built on the spot where Thoko is standing.

2-5-2011: The Manyano singing praises while walking to enter the house.

Manyano entering into the house.

The Manyano District Officers praying inside the house.

Thoko presenting some clothing donations that was brought for the kids. A offering was also collected for the children. This paid for the kids bus fare for the month of February with some left over to buy some food and other essentials.

Mthokozisi looking down at the donation. I think he is somewhat overwhelmed by all of the generosity.

2-28-2011: Progress on the house so far. For some reason Sipho slowed down after the Manyano was here so he's not near as far along as Thoko and I would like.

2-28-2011: Security doors are being installed. Most houses in Swaziland have security bars on the windows and outside doors. There is concern over the safety of the kids, their belongings and the building materials so we had these installed sooner rather than at the end when they would normally be installed.

The goal is to have this house finished by the end of March because on April 15th or 16th the Bishop will be in Swaziland and the District Manyano would like to dedicate this house.  Thoko and I are trying to light a fire under Sipho and get him working a bit faster.  I’m hoping if our goal is to be finished two weeks ahead of time, we just might be finished on time!  This is Africa after all.

I will be adding random updates from October to the present on children and projects as I can.  Thank you for your faithful interest, support and prayers.