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.