Lomngeletjane Methodist Primary School Dedication

Tuesday, July 19th was a very, very big and emotional day.  It was the official opening and dedication of Lomngeletjane Methodist Primary School.  The ceremony was supposed to start at 9:00 (or between 9 and 10).  It finally started at 10:30!  Many people arrived between 11:00 and 12:00.  Chief Lomngeletjane didn’t arrive until 12:30!  The Chief however “wasn’t late.  He was detained!”  Despite it starting so late, it was a very nice ceremony.

The students waiting for the ceremony to start. Notice the boys with grey trousers and all of the nice looking maroon jerseys (sweaters) and track suits. These were bought for the children through funds donated to One Child at a Time, One Heart at a Time.

You may notice that some of the boys in this picture have on khaki shirts and trousers. These are older uniforms. Usually the kids have two uniforms. One they wear on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. The other they wear on Wednesdays and Fridays. The boys at Lomngeletjane wear khaki shirts and pants on some days and grey on the other days. The plan is to transition them to grey so we bought the boys grey trousers and shirts. The reason for two uniforms is so that the one can be cleaned while the other is being worn. In reality, most children in the rural schools are lucky to have one uniform, let alone two!

The ceremony was opened by Rev. Nyameka and then handed over to the Bishop to give a talk and pray. This is Bishop Siwa, currently the Bishop of the Highveld and Swaziland District. He is also the Presiding Bishop - elect and starting in January he will be the Bishop over all of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.

Bishop Siwa gave a very good talk.  His scripture was from Psalms 1:1-3:  “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the way of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever he does prospers.”  He went on to say that a person’s heart defines the person, not the way he looks or the education he receives.  An educated man with a hard heart who does not love the Lord will use his education for personal gain or even to harm others.  But one who has a heart for God and walks in the ways of the Lord will use his education for the good of others.  Therefore, since Lomngeletjane is a mission school, it must teach the children the way of the Lord so that they will grow up to be strong, Christian leaders for the good of their community,  Swaziland and even the world.  He said it was the church and teacher’s responsibility to help the children learn how to develop a vessel to hold the water so that he or she can bear much fruit.

 

After Bishop closed his talk with a prayer, we walked down to the classrooms where the dedication plaque had been mounted on the wall. In this picture, Bishop Siwa is cutting the ribbon covering the dedication plaque.
Rev. Nyameka (L) and Bishop Siwa (R) unveiling the plaque.
Bishop Siwa saying a blessing over the school, the school grounds, the teachers and all of the children who are and will be attending this school.
Then we moved to one of the new classrooms.  Bishop Siwa is holding the keys to it which will be officially turned over to the Head Teacher (Senele Shongwe) and the REO (Regional Educational Office).  Bishop Siwa stated that it is the Methodist Church’s responsibility to teach the children the ways of the Lord, but it is the REO  who has the responsibility of ensuring that the children have a good education.
Bishop Siwa unlocking the door.
Bishop Siwa knocked 3 times on the door calling for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to be present as he opens the door and we enter.
Bishop Siwa blessing the classroom and leading us to prayer walk through it.   I could feel the Holy Spirit’s presence as we were doing this.  It was way cool!  This is when I really knew that we have done a good thing and that the Lord is pleased.
The inside of the classroom.

After the prayers and blessing of the classrooms, there were more speeches with occasional breaks of entertainment by the children.

 

The Lomngeletjane Choir. They had beautiful voices. They sounded more like high school kids than primary kids. The young man who is "conducting" is somewhat of a "naughty" boy (or a class clown). His name is Yusumuzi Shabangu. He is 13 years old and in the 4th grade. He got a complete new uniform last week: new shoes, socks, trousers, shirt, underwear, jersey and shoe polish. He grew a few inches on the spot as he stood taller. I was so surprised to see him conducting the choir. Granted he obviously likes the attention, but he really knew how to lead the choir. This young man has some talent. I'm going to keep my eye on this young man. I want to get to know more about him and try to encourage him to do well in school so he can get a good education.

John Dlamini, the builder we used for the first four-classroom block, the staff room/storage building, the latrines and the teacher's house. He is a member of the community and is now the head of the school committee.

The kids doing the "gumboot" dance. This is always on the agenda for ceremonies at schools. It is a non-sense skit/dance that is created and performed by the students. It is usually a spoof on "life and/or different jobs." The kids, parents and teachers always love it. I must say it is funny, even if I don't quite get the point of it.

Sigombeni High School male traditional dancers. Their dance also had a theme welcoming Lomngeletjane Primary school to the community. Sigombeni High School is the closest high school. It is about 4 to 5 km away if you travel there via the road.

Lomngeletjane girls doing a choreographed line dance.

Lomngeletjane girls performing traditional Swazi dances. They were very good.

Lomngeletjane boys traditional dancers. The slim guy at the rear of the group lost his dance attire (a skirt) while he was dancing. It was so good I had given him underpants the day before! They were red and I must say they fit him pretty well! I thanked God the boy a pair and was wearing them! When one of the little girls kicked high, her skirt came apart a little and I could see her brand new pink panties!

This young man was in the choir. I sent Thoko a text message while they were singing telling her we missed a child! How do you like my Swazi attire? Every one thought I was very beautiful and were so happy that I was now a real Swazi!

The ceremony ended around 3:00 and then we were served lunch.  From Lomngeletjane I drove to Mahlatsini to take them some paint.  Thoko, Thini and Sibongile drove with me.  We were even more blessed when we got to the church and saw that the progress that is being made is very good.  It was a long, great day full of blessings.  Thoko and I talked about the day’s events the entire way home.  We reminisced about how we got to know each other.  She was the person that cleaned my house so it was ready for me.  Who would have guessed back then that we would become so close!  I couldn’t help but sing “the Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord” over and over and over again.  By the time I took the ladies home and got home myself, it was about 8:30.

 

"To the Glory of God." I am always saying "It's all for the Glory of God" when I'm thanked for all the things I've done. It was so special to see those words on the plaque. Maybe they have been listening to me!

Once again, I want to thank all of those who have so graciously and generously donated to One Child at a Time, One Heart at a Time making today possible.   I also want to thank the members of the teams that have come and given of their time, energy and money to make this school a reality.  The teams are: 2008- First United Methodist Church, Round Rock, TX; 2009 – Munholland Methodist Church, New Orleans, LA and Belmont United Methodist Church, Nashville, TN; and Individual United Methodist Volunteers in Mission Jeri and Gary Carson-Hull; 2010:  McNeese University Wesleyan Center, Lake Charles, LA, and 2011:  California-Nevada Conference United Methodist Women.  Unkulunkulu Abusisi! (God bless you!)

 

O Happy Day!

Today has been quite a long day full of hard work, a few glitches and lots and lots of smiles from happy children.  Today Thoko, Thini and I took uniforms, Jerseys, track suits, shoes, underwear, socks and shoe polish out to 58 children at Khalakahle Methodist Primary School.  If you have been reading my blogs you know that a lot of work has gone into making this happen not to mention the resources the Lord has given us through our donors.

After staying up until at least midnight the last three nights in a row trying to get all of this organized and packed up, today was finally the day to see the smiles on so many children’s faces.  Thoko, Thini and I met at St. Paul’s so they could help me pack up my bakkie.  The boot of my bakkie and the back seat next to Thini was loaded down with the items.  We took a few extras of most sizes of things just to make sure we had the correct sizes.

I sorted the track suits, jerseys, shirts and trousers into the needed sizes and then put them into the big plastic bags. One bag was for the jerseys, one for the track suits, etc. The 3 colorful shopping bags on the lower left are small plastic bags containing underpants, socks and shoe polish for each child. Why shoe polish? It costs money and is relatively expensive. I decided to buy each child that was receiving a pair of shoes a container of shoe polish in an attempt to keep the shoes polished hopefully protecting the leather just a bit so they might last a little longer.

Not pictured was the bags of shoes we also took and the girls uniforms which we didn’t have at this point.  After loading up my bakkie we went to the seamstress (Phumaphile) to collect the 20 girls uniforms.  Bad news.  She wasn’t quite done and what was even more frustrating was that she hadn’t called us.  After much discussion, we took her around the corner to buy the material she needed to finish.  We decided that we would wait for her to finish hemming the uniforms and sewing on the buttons and then take them to Khalakhale.  They were missing belts, but we told her she could finish them and we would take them out next week when we have plans to go in that direction again.

Let me back up just a bit and confess that when I woke up this morning the last thing I felt like doing was getting out of bed.  I was dog tired and had no energy.  I made myself a cup of coffee (decaf) and sat down in my one comfortable chair in my very small living room which is literaly covered with plastic bags and piles of uniforms, jerseys and tracksuits.  I took a few deep breaths, layed my head back on the chair and prayed to God that He would give me the strength and energy I needed to get through the day.  I also prayed for the Holy Spirit to fill me with patience, calm, peace and joy so that this day could be a wonderful reflection of Jesus Christ to all that we came in contact with today.  I then finished my coffee, took a shower, ate breakfast and then realized that I was feeling better.

When we learned of the delay with the uniforms Thoko and I decided we weren’t going to let it ruin our day.  I told her what my prayer had been this morning and said that I think the Lord was making sure that we took some time to relax and enjoy each other’s company.  So what does one do in Manzini when you have an hour or so to kill?  Well, actually there was a lot I could have been doing, but it seemed like the perfect opportunity to go to Baker’s Corner to have some tea and relax with each other.

OK, so maybe we went a bit overboard with the "tea" but Thoko wanted chocolate cake so how could I not keep her company? And Thini almost always orders what Thoko does because I think she doesn't really know what to do. This put a nice spin on our morning and forced us to sit and relax with each other for a bit. How can one do anything else but sit and enjoy the moment when you are sharing chocolate cake with sisters??? And by the way, when you see me next..don't even mention that I have been "eating well" meaning I've gotten fat which is a complement in Africa. I've decided that when the Lord directs you to share a meal with dear sisters He also takes out the calories and the expanding dress size is just a fluke of nature!

When we finished our tea we still had about 15 -20 minutes before Phumaphile told us to come back for the uniforms so I went to CashBuild to order more blocks for the pump house at Salukazi Methodist Primary School.  While I was in CashBuild Thoko took the opportunity to run across the street to Pick ‘n Pay and buy a few groceries for her family.  Then we went to collect the uniforms.  Guess what?  The uniforms still weren’t quite finished.  We calmly decided to take what she had to see how they fit and then bring them back to be finished.   So we were off for the hour long drive to Khalakahle.  It was a nice drive:  the traffic was light,we didn’t get caught behind any very slow moving trucks,  there weren’t any cows on the road and there were no roadblocks.   Our day was definitely getting better.  It had also gotten warmer which was a good thing.

We arrived at Kalakahle about 12:45.  We were going to be there by 10:00.  The grade one and grade two students get out of school at 1:00.   We had called ahead to let them know we were going to be late and asked them not to let the children who we had been measured for uniforms a few weeks back to leave for home.  When we finally arrived it was a whirlwind of activity to gather the children and set out the clothes so that hopefully we could hand out the items in an orderly fashion.  Thank God that we had 3 or 4 teachers and a few of the rural health motivators ready to help us.  Many hands do make the work light.

The clothing was set up on tables around the room. The children were called in and gathered around the edge of the classroom.

When we first arrived at Kalakhale and the teachers saw what we had brought, one of the teachers asked Thoko is we had called Rev. Margaret Dlamini to come preside over the handing out of the clothes.  She said no, we hadn’t thought of it.  Rev. Margaret was the head teacher at Kalakhale when it first opened and only had two classrooms.  After she retired from teaching she went into the ministry and is now a retired Circuit Superintendent of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.  She happens to live quite near the school.  One of the teachers called her and she immediately came up to greet us.  Rev. Margaret looks like a typical old fashioned school teacher.  She has a stern face most of the time and doesn’t put up with nonsense but her heart is pure gold and when she smiles it comes straight from the heart.  As soon as I saw her we both smiled at each other and said “Awe!” and embraced each other.  It was such a sweet moment.  I just love this woman.  She’s taught me so much about the schools in Swaziland, I’ve been to her home many times, I went with Richard Bosart to visit with her dying husband just days before he passed away.  I took my son, Christopher, and his wife Jen to meet her when they came to Swaziland in February, 2010.  We have a bond that will never be broken.  I was so touched that she came, though I knew she would because that is who she is.

Thoko said one of the teachers also asked her why the media wasn’t called to publicize what we where handing out today.  She told the teacher that it wasn’t about publicity.  The day was about touching children’s hearts and the hearts of their parents and gogos.  It was about the love of Jesus not a story to be in the newspapers or on TV.  I was so proud of her!  I suppose we could have publicized it, but if we had it would not have been a special moment just with the children.  The focus would have been on the media and what they wanted.  It’s not the environment that Thoko and I wanted.  I feel strongly that the Lord hasn’t called me to say “look at what I can do or have done” but has called me to give what I can in a personal, one-on-one way while praising Him for the opportunity and giving all the glory back to Him.

Margaret blessed the uniforms, prayed for the kids, Thoko, Thini and I as well as thanking God for all of the “people in America” who have so graciously donated to my ministry.  I took a video of it, but don’t have the program needed to compress it to a size that I can post in my blog.  One day I will figure that out and post it.  Don’t hold your breath though unless you look real good in blue!

After the blessing Thoko explained how we wanted to proceed to make sure everyone got what was ordered.  It was a bit hectic in the beginning, but soon we all (including the kids) got the hang of it and things went quite smooth.  I was amazed at how few sizes needed to be changed.  I think we only have to get about 4 – 6 bigger size jersey’s for the biggest kids we had.  It was absolutely amazing.  I couldn’t believe it.

One of the teachers marking the child's name off the list for the item of clothing he was handing out. I had lists of everything and which children should receive what and in what size. I asked the adults to check the sizes on the child and to mark on the list what size the child took and what needed to be ordered. A good working knowledge of spreadsheets really helps!

The girls in their new jerseys holding a bag that contained their shoes, underpants, socks and shoe polish. They will get their uniforms (dresses) next Tuesday. It was interesting that although we had each child try on their new pair of shoes, none of the children would wear them home. Some of the smaller children had never had a pair of shoes. They held the shoes as if they were very fragile and worth a fortune which I guess they are in the eyes of a small child who lives in extreme poverty. We take so many things for granted.

The boys in their new jerseys, trousers and shirts. I'm not sure why the two boys in the front don't have their new uniforms on. They may not have wanted them to get dirty on the walk home. The adults in the picture are: Thini, front left; Rev. Margaret Dlamini back left (with read scarf on head); Me back right; Khanyasile Mastebula, teacher, to my right; Thoko front right.

Thini and I worked on handing out the boys jerseys.  Most of the boys tried on their jerseys before they went to get their trousers and shirts.  I would look as some of the torn, worn shirts and pants and want to just cry.  I had to remind myself that they would walk to the tables next to me and Thoko would give them their trousers and shirts.  I kept fighting the urge to walk them to Thoko and tell her to make sure this child got new clothes!

We actually finished around 3:30.  It is amazing that it only took us 2 1/2 hours to hand out all of those uniforms.  We had prepared ourselves to being there all day long.  God knew we didn’t have to be in such a rush this morning because all would work out perfectly.  I’m so glad He made sure we listened to him!

When all of the kids left, Rev. Margaret brought in a big pot of sour porridge she had made for everyone.  She didn’t know we were coming today, but when she saw the work we had before us (“God’s work”)  she went back to her homestead and brought us all nourishment.  Sour Porridge is made from milk fresh from the cow and then left out to sour.  It is then mixed with some mealie meal.  It is served at room temperature.  It looks like the large curd cottage cheese.  It is a favorite food amongst Swazis but for this American woman who doesn’t care for milk to begin with, I just can’t do this one.  I tasted some about 3 years ago.  It took all I could muster up to swallow it without gagging.  I did take a small taste on my finger of today’s sour porridge and I will admit it was much, much better than what I tasted 3 years ago.  Luckily I don’t usually take milk products anymore so Rev. Margaret remembered that I can’t drink milk.  I was more than happy to watch them eat!

I have to back up once again.  Because it was so cold this morning I thought this would be a good day to hand out some Methodist in Mission hats that I had been saving to give out during winter.  I gave Thoko and Thini their hats on the way to Kalakahle.  We also discussed who should get the rest of the hats.  We were having a problem deciding because we didn’t have hats for everyone we work with so it was difficult to decide who we wanted to give a hat to verses who we should give a hat to so they wouldn’t complain they were left out.  As everyone was they were eating their sour porridge I decided that I was going to hand out the hats to all that helped today.  If we didn’t have enough left over to give to other people, oh well.  Would you believe that we had exactly enough for everyone that helped today to get a hat!  It kind of reminds me of the loaves and fishes.  God always provides what is needed; no more, no less.

The women wearing their United Methodist in Mission hats. They really earned them today! What a blessing it was to once again be at this school! The small woman seated between Thoko and Rev. Margaret is also named Margaret Dlamini. She is the current head teacher. She has been so sick since last (northern hemisphere) fall. She is looking a bit stronger and better each time I see her.

I had the chance to talk just briefly with Margaret, the head teacher while they were eating.  I told her that One Child at a Time, One Heart at a Time wants to find a way to partner with them to enable them to better help their OVCs.  We will talk more about this in the days to come.  The smile on her face was priceless when I told her we wanted to assist them.  It was so precious.  I’m hoping this will give her more strength to get better.

I took Thoko and Thini home.  It gave us time to talk about our day and how blessed so many children were and how many homesteads we touched today.  We are so grateful that we got to be the hands and feet that made this happen.  We couldn’t have done it without each other and without God’s help.  We savored the precious time on our ride through the countryside talking about our day.  We all agreed that we had a very good day and the Lord blessed us so very much.  We serve an awesome, BIG God.  Nothing is too tough for HIM to handle – even over-tired missionaries.

God willing we will take uniforms and things up to Lomngeletjane Methodist Primary School on this Thursday and then take things to Salukazi Methodist Primary School next Tuesday.  And then this big but awesome task will be finished for this year.  We are walking in faith that we can do this again for many more children early next year.

Mary, Martha or the girl on Elm Street?

This post is long but it’s been an outlet for me.  So, grab yourself a cup of coffee, tea or whatever your favorite drink is, sit back and relax.

This past week has been a whirlwind.  The date of my departure is quickly approaching and I have several projects that needed to be completed by certain dates.  That’s not exactly a recipe for calm, peace and success in Swaziland!  At the start of the week, I basically had 3 weeks left to get many things accomplished before the dedications of three of the projects start and I leave for a mission trip to Malawi.  When I come back, I have 5 days before a team from California arrives and then a week after they leave before I leave for the States.  I am very well aware of the fast approaching deadlines.

I started the week thinking of Mary and Martha.  You know, Mary and Martha from Luke 10:38-42?  When Jesus stopped by their home, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to all he had to say, probably hanging on his every breath and word that came out of his mouth.  I visualize her sitting on the floor at his feet looking up at him with joy and wonder showing in her face.  During which time Martha, her sister, was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.  After all, Jesus was in their living room!  And I’m guessing that all those pesky disciples where there too.  She had tons to do, to serve him as he should be served.  But that darn Mary (I wonder if she was the little sister…hummm) was sitting there slaking off, visiting with Jesus.  So, I imagine, Martha played the part of the martyr keeping her anger pent up inside her until she couldn’t take it anymore.  Then she went to Jesus and asked him: “Lord, don’t you care that Mary has left me to do all the work?  Tell her to help me!”  But Jesus answered “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  I could hear the Lord saying to me on Monday “Christine, don’t worry about all that needs to be finished before you go.  Don’t be Martha, make time to be Mary.”  So I started my week really wanting a balance between being Mary and Martha.  I can’t just be Mary because there are things that must get done, but I don’t want those precious, personal, important moments to pass me by because I’m so busy attending to my to do list and being very overwhelmed.

I had worked most of Sunday getting organized for the week so that I wouldn’t be so rushed.  Monday started off good.  I was behind a bit on my schedule, to start with, but all was good.  I went to a store (Ackermans) in downtown Manzini to try and buy 83 pairs of school shoes and twice that many socks.  I knew it would take awhile, so I gave the store clerk my list of sizes and styles of shoes I wanted and then went to do some errands around town.  I also went to a few other stores to check their prices against Ackerman’s even though Ackermans has been very good in the past about returning shoes if they don’t fit.  I took my time and returned to Ackermans about an hour or so later.  The clerk was overwhelmed and the store manager was basically useless, but the employees can’t do anything without her approval.  So I calmly rolled up my sleeves and started helping while he called to the only other Ackermans in Swaziland up in Mbabane to see if they had any of the sizes and styles of shoes I wanted.  The clerk and I finally got as many shoes as they had in stock that I could use and as many socks in the sizes I needed and headed to the cash register.  The manager was freaking out and complaining about how much work it would be and how tired and hungry she was and that she had the flu.  (They call everything the flu.)  Her employees were rolling their eyes as she kept complaining.  I kept calm and peaceful even though I hadn’t had lunch either.  I organized everything for them and helped them with as much as I could do remaining quite cheerful and thankful every step of the way.  I even apologized to their other customers and kept my stuff out of their way as much as possible.  We finished about 4:30 in the afternoon.  I had been at this task for 6 hours!  No matter.  All was good and I was praising God for it going as smooth as it did.

I went to bed a little earlier than usual that night because I was getting up early the next morning to go to Nelsprit, South Africa with Thoko, Thini and Sibongile to buy 72 jerseys (sweaters), 45 track suits (sweat suits), and 95 trousers and shirts.  The day started out early and we were almost on our target departure time.  We had a great ride to Nelsprit.  When we got there I took them to Mugg and Bean for “tea” and something to eat before the big job ahead of us.  They were overwhelmed in the restaurant.  They had never been to a place like that so they had no idea what to order.  It was cute.  The three of them ordered the same thing!  We had a nice visit while eating.  Then we headed to the store to get the school uniforms.  I had called the day before, so most of the jerseys and track suits were set out for us.  We just had to make decisions on some of the sizes based on quantity of stock.  No sweat.

When finished with the track suits and jerseys we moved over to find school trousers and shirts for the boys on our list.  We anticipated this was going to be a nightmare because we had the boys measurements, not their sizes.  We had to measure the pants to see what size would probably fit what boy.  It was a rocky beginning, but we finally came to an agreement on how to tackle the task and finished very quickly.  By the time we finally got my credit card to go through, we had been in the store for only 3 hours.  We were praising God for blessing us so.  From there, I took the ladies to McDonalds for dinner before heading home.  McDonalds was another new and very foreign experience to them.  I’m not sure they really liked it, but they did like trying some of the food we eat in America.  I had to confess to them that now that my kids are grown, the only time I eat at McDonalds is when I am in South Africa!

The ride back to the border went smoothly.  It was almost dark when we started (It is winter here), and the road goes through some mountains so there are a lot of twists and turns, but all in all it went well and we made good time.  We were enjoying out time together.  We got to the South Africa side of the border about 7:15 or so.  We rushed through immigration, but when we went to go to the border gate, they asked to look in the boot (the back of the truck) and asked me if I had a receipt, which I did.  But when he saw the amount, he made me go back to this little shack (literally, a wooden shack) to have them fill out customs forms.  I was not happy.  I immediately turned into Dr. Jekyl.  I waited in line quietly but with a very angry look on my face for an hour and had to pay R130 just for them just to fill out the forms.  I amused myself by looking at the maize power cords all plugged into the same outlet, wishing I could take a picture to send to my IBM friends as another example of what NOT to do!

We crossed through the border into Swaziland and was immediately faced with a parking jam because there are very few parking spaces and no order or courtesy.  But we got through immigration in probably less than a minute.  Immigration in Swaziland is much, much more efficient than in South Africa.  But then I had to go through Swaziland’s customs.  Let the nightmare begin.  There is absolutely no order – no lines, no signs, no one willing to answer questions or help you; nothing except a lot of pushing and shoving.  I was there almost 2 hours before I could finally muscle my way to a customs person.  He filled out my papers without saying a word to me.  Then, as he is handing them back to me he asks what I am going to do with the uniforms.  I tell him I am giving them to OVCs at some of the Methodist Schools I visit.  He tells me I can’t do that without being registered.  So I tried a different approach and told him I was a missionary with the Methodist church and I was sure they were registered.  So he says I should have filled the form out in my name and I should have gone to another counter.  I make the mistake of not just saying, “thank you, I’m sorry it won’t happen again, sir.”  We bantered back and forth until I finally totally blew it, raised my voice and said “so you are telling me that I can’t buy uniforms for kids that need them without being registered to do so with the government because the government wants to know everything that is given out?  That is absolutely stupid.”  That really made him mad.  He said he wasn’t going to let me talk to him that way” and walked off.  I thought uh-oh, he’s going to detain me and I quickly prayed for forgiveness, help, and for the Lord to shut my mouth!  Finally another person in the crowd told me to take the forms to the next pool of people fighting to pay their custom tax.  I waited there for another hour or so.  (I’m sure he buried my form at the bottom of the file.)  Basically when there were only about 10 people left waiting in the crowd the clerk finally called me to pay the same tax I had already paid in South Africa.  We left the border at 11:00 PM.  The border closes at 10:00.

I had to take all three women home because they don’t have vehicles and there is no transport that late at night.  By the time I got to driving through the dark countryside on the dirt roads to Thoko’s house, I had calmed down and so I kept reminiscing about my first trips there and the times I got lost.  It was a precious trip down memory lane and quite a learning experience for Sibongile.  I got home at 12:55 AM.

I got up still tired and drove up to Mbabane.  I am house-sitting for a friend and her husband for 5 days while they are away on vacation.  I’m really there so their teenage daughter isn’t staying there by herself. I spent most of the day on Wednesday at the Sandra Lee Center playing with the kids and reading books to them.  It was a nice way to relax and get over my stress.  I was back in Mary mode.  Late in the afternoon I realized I had to go to Ackermans to get the shoes they were holding for me.  After an hour and a half, I finally had the shoes and some socks and went “home” to my friend’s house.

Thursday morning I got up early and headed down to Manzini for a day full of tasks Thoko and I had planned.  I was still hoping it would be a busy but relaxing day. Well, surprise, surprise. It was not a good day.  It started off great.  I got some things done on the computer before heading down to Manzini.  Then I dropped off the shoes I bought at my place and went to St. Paul’s office to see what the progress was on the ladies sewing the girls’ uniforms for me.  St. Paul’s started a sewing project in 2009 or 2010 to sew church uniforms and school uniforms.  The profits are supposed to go to their Mission fund to help out those in need.  I really wanted St. Paul’s to sew the girls uniforms for me even though there prices are a bit high in my opinion.  I gave them the number of uniforms and sizes the first week of June and we set a deadline of June 23rd.  I knew they hadn’t started by June 23rd, and had heard rumors that they had and had not started on Monday, June 27th.  Thoko and I thought I should go see for myself what the story was.  It was not good.  A few uniforms had been cut out, but that was about it. I was furious to say the least.  I was angry with the secretary for not staying on top of it and updating me as I had asked.  I was angry at the ladies who weren’t coming in basically because of their feeble attempt to strike for better pay.  I was especially angry because one of the sewing ladies also helps us with Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu and was with us when we measured the kids on May 31st!  Sadly, I must confess that Mary was long forgotten.  Martha was still struggling to keep her head above water.  Even Dr. Jekyl had been replaced.  Now I felt like the girl possessed by the devil in the old movie “Nightmare on Elm Street.”  I don’t remember the girl’s name, but when the priest came to exorcise the devil from her body, she sat up in bed, her eyes bugging out, and her head spinning round and round while vomiting out what looked like pea soup.  I wasn’t spitting out pea soup, but I was spitting out a bunch of words and I definitely felt like her.

I left St. Paul’s on my way to do whatever I was supposed to do before picking up Thoko in town.  I stopped by the post office to see what had happened to a package that had been mailed to me before the end of May.  While in line Rev. Nyameka came in and got in life after me.  I’m sure he wasn’t thrilled when he heard and saw how angry I was.  But he also knew how frustrated I was because I really wanted to give the sewing project my business, but I was supposed to be delivering the first 20 uniforms this coming Tuesday.  In addition, I am physically out of time to get these delivered because it’s not a simple task.  He listened and we talked about it.  He is very frustrated and angry as well.

I left the post (with package in hand!) feeling a bit calmer and went to pick up Thoko.  I needed to go to the restroom and I thought we could both use a cup of Rooibos tea to soothe our souls.  So we stopped by Baker’s Corner to use their restroom and get tea and a snack to go.  Thoko decided she wanted a piece of chocolate cake.  So I joined her. (It was a tough job, but someone had to do it!).  We ended up sitting in Baker’s Corner eating and enjoying the cake and talking about the uniforms, a plan, etc.  But it was good and I felt much better afterwards. Yes, Mary WAS miraculously still barely alive in me.  Our plans for the day were going to be shot, but the first priority was to find a solution to the uniform problem so we wouldn’t have to face some very disappointed girls on Tuesday.  We went to one place she knew of that was right near Baker’s Corner.  The lady we talked to, Make Nkosi)  was actually a member of St. Paul’s and went to the 8:00 service so she recognized me and I her.  But her prices were even higher than St. Paul’s and she insisted she needed at least two weeks to do the 20 uniforms.  In addition, she wouldn’t entertain doing a smaller number that I could have in a week.  But as Thoko was going through the discussions with Make Nkosi I went to the car to make calls to get to the bottom of what was happening with St. Paul’s sewing project.  (They were rumors and untruths being told by one person to all of us.  It was good I confronted and called her on it.)  Meanwhile, Thoko was also sending a text message to a lady who had sewn some uniforms for us in 2009.  She said she would work night and day to get the 20 uniforms done by Tuesday and her price worked out to be at least 40R cheaper per uniform than either St. Paul’s quotation or this other lady.

So, Thoko and I left Make Nkosi’s sewing shop and headed to Phumapile’s place.  She ran up and greeted us with the biggest smile you could ever imagine.  She was so happy to see both of us and to have our business.  Her smile was priceless and we felt very confident based on the work she had done for us in the past that she would deliver well sewn uniforms as promised.  Thoko and I were praising God over and over again.  Thoko asked her to figure out how much material she would need so we could buy it later in the afternoon.  First we had to go talk to a painter who had been waiting on us for two hours.

So now to the new painter – Babe Sifundza.  He is going to be the painter for the church at Mahlatsini.  We asked him to come see Mthokozisi’s house and give us an estimate of what needs to be done and how much it would cost to finish the house.  The previous painter, Masebenta, had never finished painting and what he did do was not very nice.  Some of the fault was the builder’s, Sipho, for not doing a good job of finishing the building before painting.  But at any rate, it had to be done correctly, and though I was going to try and do it, the reality is, I didn’t have time.  Babe Sifundza seemed like a very nice, knowledgeable painter.  I let Thoko do all the talking, and most of it was in SiSwati, but I could tell by what I did understand and by his gesturing that he was pointing out all the things I had listed as needing to be corrected or finished.  I did talk to him a bit about a few things and he said yes it needed to be done and told me how he would fix it.  His quotation for labor was very reasonable.  Once again, I was praising God for this second earthly angel and I was standing firm that I wasn’t going to allow the past experiences rob me of my faith.

Unfortunately, at some point, the younger father to Mthokozisi (his father’s youngest brother – Mtghokozisi’s uncle) came to unload on Thoko.  He was telling her all kinds of stories and complaining about the kid’s behavior and how he doesn’t want the mother to come back and stay but if she does, she can’t sleep in the new house, etc.  He just kept going on and on.  Thoko was very upset.  We talked about it most of the way back to Manzini.  We couldn’t do much more because her phone and the Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu phone were both out of airtime and my phone’s battery was almost dead.  We quickly stopped to get airtime for Thoko so we could be back in business and then hurriedly headed to the material store where Phumapile was supposed to meet us because it was 4:45.  Stores close at 5:00.  Bless this angel’s heart, she had the material all measured and cut with an invoice waiting for us to pay.  She then took us around the corner to buy the buttons.  Plus, she had worked out a discount for us so the material was about 200 – 300 R less than we expected!

Our Thursday was a very stressful day and we felt like we had been on an emotional rollercoaster ride all day.  We didn’t get to other important things we had hoped to do, but we attended to the priorities.  Except for the St. Paul’s sewing project status which was still uncertain, we finished on a high note. However, we were both very, very drained.  I still had to drive back to Mbabane and make sure my friends daughter was ok and get dinner on the table for both of us.  All was well, and it was nice to have someone to talk about my day with and also to listen to how her day went.

Friday morning, I got up and had to make several calls to get progress reports on the other projects (Mahlatsini and the electric pump for Salukazi’s borehole), buy the paint for Mthokozisi’s house and buy approximately 180 pairs of underpants for the kids who are getting school uniforms.  Then Thoko and I were going to quickly take the paint out to Mthokozisi’s house and be done by 1:00 or 2:00.  I was planning on being back in Mbabane between 2:00 and 3:00.  I found myself working off two laptops, mine and the one that belongs to the people whose house I am staying in, while making phone calls at the same time.  Shades of IBM.  I quickly headed to the paint store on my way to Manzini.  It of course wasn’t simple, and it took me an hour to buy the paint.  Then I had to go to CashBuild to order materials needed to finish Mahlatsini.  Thoko and finally headed out to Mthokozisi’s house about 1:00.  We delivered the paint, found out a decision we had made about a color was incorrect, but it was all good because I had enough paint on site for the painter to start Monday morning and I had the advice of a knowledgeable trusted man about what to get and where to get it.  Plus I then knew what paint I needed to buy for Mahlatsini.  We were actually able to buy the paint needed before leaving Manzini so we are prepared to take it out next week.

I stopped by the grocery store on the way to Mbabane to buy groceries for dinner and while there I ran into Absalom who is the Church’s trust property committee’s lead and the person working with the congregation at Mahlatsini to get it finished before it’s dedicated on July 23rd.  It was perfect timing because I had the quotation from Babe Sifundza for Mahlatsini!  My week was topped off with a phone call from my dear friend and spiritual sister in Round Rock and then a good night’s sleep full of sweet, sweet dreams.  Selah. (pause, or breathe in, breath out)

It’s been a tough week.  I feel now like it’s back to just a struggle between doing everything that needs to be done (Martha) versus taking the time to savor those special moments (Mary).  I am praying Dr. Jekyl and the girl on Elm Street have disappeared for good.  I have two weeks left to get most everything project wise done.  But I feel hopeful now that we can get the uniforms done in time for me to deliver them before I go to Malawi.  And that I can schedule in time the week of July 18th to rest a bit and spend some quality time with Thoko talking about the future of One Child at a Time, One Heart at a Time in Swaziland when I leave and making sure she feels confident that she has all she needs to be our hands and feet in Swaziland while I am in the US.  We also want to spend some time just being sisters.  I am also hoping I can spend some quality time with the kids at Sandra Lee Center and attend my Wednesday morning bible study.  I can do all things thru Christ who gives me strength.  I am going to try much harder to keep Christ as my focus and let the other things work out according to His plans.

One thing I forgot.  Because Phumapile and Babe Sifundza have charged so little labor costs, if they finish on time, I will get them a bonus.  Even though I am in a time crunch, I can’t take advantage of them but yet I don’t want to tell them their prices are too low.  I’d rather keep their wages low and try the incentive way of doing business.  After four years here you’d think I could figure out what works!!!

This afternoon I am heading to a 4th of July celebration at one of the hotels for all the Americans.  It may be the last time I see some of these folks before leaving for the States.  Enjoy the 4th of July.  Let us all remember what this holiday signifies and say a prayer of thanks and of concern for this great nation of ours.  God bless America the land that I love.  And God bless Swaziland and the land and people that I also love.

I hope you all have a blessed week full of “Mary” times.