It is the week before Christmas as I write this. The songs are declaring the love of God and the joy in our hearts as we anticipate the celebration of our Savior’s birth. We long to more fully experience Christ, not only at this special time, but throughout the year. I am flooded with gratitude as I reflect on all that the Lord has blessed me with financially, physically and spiritually. I am sincerely grateful to be a member of First Church and all that it affords me and countless others. We are a church family that is provided a wealth of opportunities to learn and grow as we journey with Christ and one another. We offer a beautiful sanctuary that serves as a beacon to those who are looking for hope or a church home. Our place of worship is large enough to hold many events in our community. We recently hosted the Annual Faith in Action Senior Access Concert. Choirs from ten churches in Round Rock performed songs of the season and then came together for a stunning finale of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus.
One of the offerings of First Church that has brought me much joy and gratitude is UMW (United Methodist Women). UMW is an organization here at our church, and is also found in many Methodist churches around the world. It is a driving, moving force that functions within the Church, as well as globally. UMW offers the opportunity to be in fellowship, study and serve with other Christian women. One of our primary focuses is on women and children throughout the world who are oppressed, abandoned, or struggling to exist and take care of children. It offers the opportunity for women of faith to be in supportive, creative fellowship with others. Another primary purpose is to share the knowledge of God and the freedom experienced through Jesus Christ. We work to expand the concept of service locally and worldwide. I have memories of growing up in the church attending UMW meetings and functions with my mom. I’ve had the pleasure of becoming a UMW member at First Church. It was through my active involvement that I learned more about what it means to “be in mission” with women around the world. It was at a UMW District Meeting that I heard a retired missionary speak about her work in Nepal. As I listened and pondered, I felt the spark ignite my inner-being and began to respond to the thoughts of “that’s what I want to do.”
As we fast-forward through a few years of years of my continued walk with Christ, I was privileged to receive many opportunities to serve God’s people through mission. I found myself taking an early retirement from my job and going to Swaziland, Africa. Through the generous financial and prayer support from UMW, individuals and other small groups I was able to serve as an “Individual United Methodist Volunteer in Mission”. It is here that I developed relationships with Swazi Methodist Women through the local church. They desperately wanted to provide outreach and support but didn’t have the necessary resources. I worked side-by-side with these women going out into rural areas where we visited and assisted some of the women and children with overwhelming needs. There were those who were sick, poor, abandoned and orphaned. We traveled to the people and helped to provide some of the much needed food and clothing. We were able to help families bury their loved ones. We prayed over and with multiple families, individuals, situations, and even houses. We were able to assist children with the some of their countless needs so that they could receive an education. This included school including shoes, tuition, transportation and more. We also helped build a school and provide housing for its teachers. An additional, highly spiritual outreach was the finishing of Mahlatsini Methodist Church. I wish each of you could have been present with me the day the church was consecrated. It was a very humbling worshipful experience to say the least.
Some of you were quite present with me as you sent your donations to assist in these outpourings of Christ’s love. In addition, I was able to host several mission teams from Methodist Churches in the US. These teams helped dig ditches, lay foundations, put up fencing, painted and taught VBS for children who had never experienced anything close to a VBS. Seeing the delight of precious children hearing about Jesus and finger-painting for the first time was truly inspirational. These groups provided all of their own costs and brought money to assist with the projects. Much was accomplished through these dedicated groups. It was not only life-changing for the Swazi’s but for the teams as well.
I lived in Swaziland for 4 years. The church in Swaziland provided me with a small cottage and it truly became my home. My goal now that I am back in Round Rock is to provide continued support for this ministry. I am in frequent communication with the woman facilitating this mission while I am in the US. She is my dear Sister-In-Christ, Thoko Khumalo. She is extremely devoted to this cause and is a true servant of the Lord. In addition to her many roles to keep the ministry going, she leads a prayer group that includes prayers lifted for the lives of those here in the US that are requested through me. What a gift it is to receive the power and love Christ Jesus!
I can’t begin to describe what it means to once again worship and be a part of my church home. I’ll be returning to Swaziland for three weeks beginning the middle of January. Word can’t describe how excited and blessed I feel to be able to go “home” to my Swazi sisters and kids. Stay tuned to this website for future updates on our kids and to be introduced to new ones.