For some of you this will be just confirmation of something I had been hoping for, but for others it will be brand new. Regardless, I just HAD to share some very exciting news with you....
I just found out today that I will be returning to my beloved Swaziland, Africa, this coming January and February for several days and hope to take my 12 year old daughter with me. A few months ago, I was emailing back and forth with Lisa Samson, an author who I was just getting to know on a personal basis thru email. She had told me that she was going on a missions trip to Swaziland with an organization called Children's HopeChest. Because I love Swaziland deeply, this struck a chord with me. I told her that I was a bit envious of her getting to go because I missed the Swazi people and God had really been stirring up a new passion in my heart lately for missions and reaching those who are desperately hurting.
Lisa simply said "well why don't you come with us?" Initially, I told her that there just wasn't anyway. After all, I'm a mom of SEVEN KIDS!!!! And some are still quite small. But I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit to at least THINK about it and pray about it so I did. Jim was out of town on business so I couldn't immediately say anything to him about it so I mentioned it to my 2 oldest girls, asking them what they thought. After all, if I went, they'd be expected to carry an extra amount of responsibility around the household. They were both immediately enthusiastic about the prospect and told me they'd do anything they could to get me to Africa on this trip.
So that evening, I picked Jim up from the airport and told him I had something I wanted to ask him but to please not say "no" right away til he'd had a chance to think about it and pray about. I told him about Lisa suggesting I go to Swaziland with their group and what the kids' reaction had been. He immediately said he'd pray about it and was very open to it. That night I wept during our church's servant team meeting as I shared my heart for Swaziland and my desire to go back and then told God that I wanted to do whatever it took to obey Him, whether that meant going or staying, just make it clear.
Within days, Jim said he felt that God was telling me to go. We also prayed about taking one of our older daughters with me and after talking to them both, the decision was made to pursue having our 12 year old daughter go as well.
Fast forward a few months and today I rec'd official confirmation from the Children's HopeChest folks that we are going!!!! Of course, we've got a lot to do between now and January, but for now, I'm just revelling in the prospect of returning to the land I've never stopped loving, [praying for, missing, or dreaming about. Most of you probably don't know that Swaziland has THE highest rate of AIDS/HIV infection in the entire world. I've seen estimates ranging from over 1/3 of the population being infected to nearly 1/2. Out of a country with just over a million people, ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND are orphans! And its mainly related to the pandemic of HIV/AIDS. While in Swaziland, the main thing we'll be doing is just loving on those orphans and encouraging their caregivers. We will be visiting carepoints where the children are fed...many of them who are on the point of starvation. We will feed them, play with them, sing songs with them, pray for them, just try to show them love in tangible ways....letting them know that they are not forgotten and that their Heavenly Father is passionately concerned about them.
When I left Africa over 17 years ago, the Swazi teachers told me to go back to the States, get married, and then bring my husband and children back with me. I'm married, I've definitely got the children, and now I'm going back with one of them, even if for now, its just for a short time. Who knows what the future holds. For so long, Jim and I have been allowed to rest spiritually. We'd been thru some pretty hard times and God had let us heal up and stay out of the fight for a season.
Thanks to many things, including in large part IRRESISTIBLE REVOLUTION by Shane Claiborne, QUAKER SUMMER by Lisa Samson, and the movie AMAZING GRACE, God has told us that its time to get out of our comfort zone and get back out there where those who don't know about His mighty love and purpose are held in chains of bondage...chains of poverty, addiction, disease, abuse, and spiritual darkness. If we are true followers of Jesus, then we need to be willing to FOLLOW HIM! And that means that we need to be willing to lay it all down for His glory and purpose. Jesus came not to be served but to serve...so if we call ourselves His disciples, His followers, then how can we do anything less than to serve others no matter what the cost. I'm not there yet. I'm still pretty selfish and lazy. I still have fears. But I'm excited to be passionate again. I'm excited to once again be hurting for those who are hurting. I'm excited that I once again want Him and His ways more than anything else...or at least I do most of the time. There are still those days when all I want is what I want.
And of course, in this case, I'm thrilled that what I want...going back to Swaziland...is what He wants!
Please pray for my daughter B and me as we make plans and preparations to go. Please pray for my family as they support us and that they'll be encouraged. Often times, its harder on the ones who are staying at home.
I'll send updates as more details are known.
Thanks for sharing in my excitement!
AKA Thandeka Lom Khulu Dlamine (my Swazi name)
P.s. To find out more about Children's HopeChest and their ministry in Swaziland visit: http://www.hopechest.org/
Lisa Samson's blog: http://lisasamson.typepad.com/blog/
Shane Claiborne (IRRESISTIBLE REVOLUTION) and The Simple Way ministry: http://www.thesimpleway.org/
I'll also be going with my new friend and fab author Claudia Mair Burney: http://ragamuffindiva.blogspot.com/