UMVIM Team August, 2011

A team of six United Methodist women from California came to Swaziland to do a vacation bible school for the kids at Lomngeletjane.  They were in Swaziland for about 10 days, leaving about a week before I left for the States.

Their first Sunday in Swaziland they went to church up at Lomngeletjane.  After church we visited the Sandra Lee Centre in Mbabane.  (To learn more about the Sandra Lee Centre visit their website at:  http://www.sandraleecentre.org)  While at Sandra Lee Centre the team played with the children, read books to them, and some of the team members baked chocolate chip cookies with the older kids.  It was a fun afternoon.

The kids at Sandra Lee Center gathered around watching and waiting for their turn to help make the cookie dough.

John and Dolly with Becky showing off the first batch of cookies. They were yummy!

Team members Jane (l) and Aileen (r) reading books and talking with the kids. The kids love to be read to and loved having so many adults around to read to them.

Unfortunately on Monday morning it was raining very hard.  To get to Lomngeletjane you have to go up a hill using a dirt road for about 10 kilometers.  It is pretty much impassable when it rains a lot.  So we delayed the start of VBS until Tuesday.  When we pulled up to the school on Tuesday morning there were only a handful a kids waiting for us, but before the morning was over the number increased to 40.  On Wednesday we had 60 kids, on Thursday there were 75 kids and on Friday we had almost 100 kids.  Considering the fact that the VBS was held during a school break between terms and that there were only 150 kids total in the school, I would say we had very good attendance.

The theme of VBS focused on the principles behind Three Simple Rules of John Wesley's teachings: do no harm, do good and stay in love with God. Each day had a different theme verse which was added to the list on the Chalkboard.

Each day also had a story. To handle the language issues we had volunteers from the church and community to translate for us.

There were games each day. The kids in this picture were learning about relay games.

The kids in the rural areas don't get to play these types of games. Everyone had fun, including the adults!

What would VBS be without arts and crafts? These kids also don't get the opportunity to do arts or crafts. For many, if not all, this was the first time they were encouraged to express themselves.

The Swazi adults and translators wanted an opportunity to do the projects as well! They were as focused as the kids were!

On Thursday the groups were introduced to Play Dough. The kids thought this was really fun.

It was so fun to watch the children laughing and giggling while creating masterpieces.

We also introduced finger painting. It was amazing how many of the kids, especially the older ones, didn't want to put their hands in the paint. They have never experienced this and are never given the opportunity to just role up their sleeve sand get dirty for fun. It was fun watching their reactions and then seeing how creative many were.

After the first day, we started splitting the groups by age. We had four groups that rotated through all of the activities. I was so amazed at how still and quiet all of the kids, regardless of how young or how old they were, sat during the stories.

Each morning the children got in a big circle and we sang the Hokey Pokey. They thought this was hilarious especially since we (the crazy Americans) were doing it with them. After the Hokey Pokey they lined up in their normal before school "assembly" lines and we sang a few songs.

Friday's story (Daniel in the lion's den) was acted out by the team using pictures of the characters in the story pasted onto sticks. Guess what? The kids liked that too!

We had the kids color on Friday because we had to leave as soon as possible after VBS to go on home visits. Kids in the rural schools never get a chance to just color so it was a treat for them.

By Friday, most of the kids knew what was happening next. They had fun playing with the parachute.

The last thing we did each day before our closing assembly was to give the children and helpers lunch. Each child and adult received two sandwiches, a piece of fruit and a glass of fruit juice. We made the sandwiches each night for the next day and we had to estimate how many sandwiches we would need. Praise God we always had enough.

This little girls, Buhle, was about 18 months old when I first met her in August, 2007. Her mom said one of her first words, certainly her first English word, was Chris. She would say it when she would see me driving up to the school. In January, 2012 she started grade 1 at Lomngeletjane!

One last photo, just before dismal on the last day. The team is in the very back of the group. I think everyone had a good time and learned a lot. The head teacher couldn't believe how creative his children are.

After VBS we rushed back to St. Paul’s and gathered up food parcels and items of clothing to take with us on homestead visits.  We divided into two groups, each going to a different homestead.  Each group had at least one translator.  It was an eye opening activity for all.  Seeing the obviously poor kids at school and then seeing how the poorer people in the rural areas live are two very different experiences.  The later is overwhelming and makes one take stock of what we have and how much God has blessed us.

This was the homestead that my group visited. It was a gogo and seven grandchildren. Thini and Sibongile translated for us which gave the team the opportunity to ask questions while they were listening to the family's story.

Gogo with her seven grandchildren, all orphans. The kids are wearing the clothes we brought them.