This time last year, I was traveling through Southern Africa with my
two oldest daughters on a Vision Trip with Children's HopeChest. Having lived in Swaziland as a Southern Baptist missionary in the 80's, going back to Africa and taking my girls with me was a dream come true. My life there as a missionary had changed me immensely, but that was to be expected after investing two years of my life. Little did I know that going back for just a week and a few days would shake up my life in unimaginably big ways...and still is impacting my life a whole year later.
When I first returned, it was often hard to talk about what we'd seen and experienced. I had absolutely loved my time there but it had also left a gaping wound in my heart when I had to leave Swaziland. It was a couple of months before I could even get up at church and tell about our time.
Now it's a whole year later. Tom Davis, leader of our trip, has just taken another group to Swaziland to learn of the stories there...stories of orphans raising orphans, stories of grandmothers literally watching their multiple children starve to death before their very eyes, stories of great tragedy and yet also of great triumph and love.
As I've read Tom's reports from the field, I've longed to be there with that team myself. But God has not given permission yet for me to return. Hopefully when I do, this time it will be with my husband by my side.
I never shared many of the details of our trip here on my blog but in light of the one year anniversary, I thought I'd transcribe my diary here. Much of it will sound like any tourist's journal. It was not a "missions trip" per say but a vision trip. The goal was to observe the work of Children's HopeChest, spend time with their staff, and then see how God would have us partner in the ministry there. We were able to do some hands on ministry such as giving out shoes and I tried to love on all those I could as I came in contact with them, but the main goal was to investigate and then act once we were back in the states. May it inspire you to love courageously and follow God's dreams for your life passionately. And may it remind me afresh to pray and live more sacrificially...to honor God and love His least of these to the best of my ability despite that fact that I'm way over here and they are way over there.
Wednesday, 1/23 2:00 pm
We have just taken off from the New Orleans Airport. I loved watching [12 year old daughter B's] excitement and anticipation as this is her first trip by airplane. [14 year old daughter A] is already an old pro having flown to Reno in August for Grandpa Vers' funeral.
I was up most of the night packing---finally crawled in bed with rollers in my hair around 4:00 only to grab a very restless nap as I suffered from pre-trip jitters. The discomfort of the hot rollers didn't help any. :)
Jim woke me at 5:30 and after last minute packing, dressing, etc. we managed to get off a little after 7:30.
After a stop about an hour of of New Orleans for donuts & the powdering of noses, we arrived at the airport at around 10:40.
We had a nice ticket agent---though she was fascinated by the girls' spots! She asked if they had had the measles. [They were recovering from chicken pox.]
We sailed thru security---well, as easily as you can these days w/ all the heightened security measures---looked thru a shop, ate lunch at a "cajun" place, powdered our noses again (my sweater coat belt fell in the toilet---EW-W-W) and then boarded.
B, A, and I are all writing in our travel journals. I really want to keep a good detailed record. I didn't the first time I went to Africa and have lost so many of the memories due to time.
We are in Africa!
As we flew over Africa today and I had my first glimpse of the landscape, I began crying happy , gentle tears. And as I walked down the corridor from the plane to the passport control and customs, I just couldn't help but grin.
I'm back---and it fells so natural, so right.
It's nearly midnight so I'll end for now but will add more details tomorrow. I am so thankful for being here.
...over the years I've regretted that I hadn't kept diaries---especially during my Swazi years and when the children were babies. Now I know in part why I haven't---because by the time bedtime comes around and I have the time to write in my diaries, I'm too tired!
I don't' have the energy to be eloquent as it's nearly midnight, but here are the quick highlights:
Supper at DOCKSIDE PORTERHOUSE in Witbank [Afrikaans for "White Bank"] . Daughter B ate SNAILS!
Stayed at guest house attached to [plant] nursery. Pen outside w/ chickens, ducks, and rabbits.
Breakfast at 8:00 a.m. at guest house. Power outage. Ate by oil lamps. My breakfast---boerewors (sausage),bacon (like ham), small sausages, o.j., RUSK dipped in ROOIBOS...OH MY!!! [B is pictured here with a South African girl who lives at the guest house. Her parents were either the owners or the managers. She was going through some sort of medical treatment thus the bandages. She was a real sweetheart.]
9:00 --- Explored "The Castle" guesthouse where majority was staying. Spent time talking w/ housekeepers (1 Zulu, 1 coloured from Cape Town) & Zulu's little girl. Ate grapes growing in back garden.
9:30 or 10:00 --- Drove to Swaziland. Sandile Lukhele was our driver. 1 stop in Carolina---bought toiletries at Spar [grocery store]. On way saw big antelope type animals [at a distance].
Around Noon --- Border crossing at Oeshoek. Much more modern and bigger, nicer buildings [than when I lived here]. Parked and walked across border.
Drove thru Mbabane. Passed Checkers neighborhood where Int'l Baptist Church/Preschool was located when I lived here.
Mbabane has changed in many ways. Lots of BIG fancy looking buildings & homes.
New bypass highway makes traveling VERY fast & efficient. Only 10 or 15 minutes from Border to Mbabane & then approximately 15 minutes from Mbabane to Manzini. This used to be a 30 to 45 minute trip.
I cried when we entered Mbabane Town Centre area.
Manzini is much as I remember it only bigger and more buildings.
Checked into George's Tum Hotel.
B & I are in room 212 . Daughter A next door with Andrea an editor w/ David C. Cook publishing.
Had lunch at Jumbo and Krieke's, a young Afrikaaner couple who works w/ Adventures in Missions & Children's HopeChest. Dennis, another AIM guy, talked about cultural issues.
Back to hotel at around 4:00 so walked w/ A, B, & Dany Norelle (CHC staffer along on trip) to market. Met very sweet lady, Prisca G. Mavuso. She gave me a Christmas card with her name and address. Bought many items for around $30.
Back to hotel. Sat by pool w/ [author]Lisa Samson, her friend Jennifer Hagerty, etc. while B swam in pool.
Supper at 7:00. Ate w/ Claudia Mair Burney [another author on the trip], Lisa, and Jennifer. I had steak.
After supper (here at hotel) hung out w/ Mair & Dany for a while. Then spent about 3 hours washing clothes, taking a shower, unpacking, etc.
Now I need to roll my hair, read my Bible, & SLEEP!
I guess I ended up writing more than intended but even these highlights missed so many details.
Saturday, 1/26 5:20 pm
I'm sitting by the pool while B swims.
YIKES! She just forgot I was here & kicked water on me. Anyway, I'm here to keep her...
OH! Mair just said I might can use a pc. Let me go check. Later!
[Our hotel had a computer at the front desk w/ internet access that we could pay to use.]
Just after midnight.
B & I are talking---she keeps saying she's going to sleep. She and I are sharing a room. Anna is next door with Andrea.
Today we spent about 4 to 4.5 hours at Mdonsa Carepoint.
We played and sang with the children, we watched them sing and have Bibletime, [the kids were all given new underwear while we were there and it was fun to see their thankful joy], we ate mealie meal w/beans (FUN!), and I spent time having good conversations with 2 young women who are on the Swazi Discipleship Team (both Swazis) and teach the children about Jesus plus talked with Krieke, an Afrikaaner who lives here with her husband and is in charge of the carepoints (both her & her husband Jumbo) plus a young American woman named Jodi who is also married to an Afrikaaner. They will soon be joining the AIM staff in S'land.
After we left the first carepoint, we went to the care center where Pastor Walter & his family lives. There were only a handful of children present as no organized activities were going on .
This carepoint is about 30 minutes from Manzini towards Big Bend. The Mdonsa Carepoint was only a few miles away [from this location].
I spent my van time talking w/ Christi & Kevin [Bowman] from Chicago. I enjoy them.
After returning to the hotel, we relaxed & freshened up. B went swimming again---had swam last night. I spoke with Mair some about her day---she & the other writers had visited a homestead and hospital. Mair was having a hard time dealing with what she witnessed there.
Mair sent a quick email to Jim for me.
We then drove up the old Ezulwini Valley road to the Calabash Restaurant. It is a very nice one. I think I might have eaten there 1 time before [when I lived in Swaziland] but I can't remember.
I had vegetarian green curry. So did Christi. It was very good. Brave daughter B had oxtail . She really liked it. She said it tasted like my roast. Anna had steak. I sat at a table with Sandile, Christi, Kevin, Erin Wilson [from Canada], Kay Bertschi, & Dany. We had lively conversations ranging from church abuse to evolution & creationism.
Back at the George's Tum I paid Emalangeni 40 (approximately $6) for 30 minutes of computer use. I emailed Jim and the kids, sent them Ecards, posted a short greeting at FIAR, and an even shorter one on my blog as I was out of time. A & I might get back on tomorrow evening.
Tomorrow we can sleep in til nearly 9:00 (which is good as now it is 12:49). We will eat a delicious, deluxe breakfast here at the hotel before attending Pastor Walter's church. After church the plan is to visit Hwane Farm run by Pastor Kevin Ward, a white Swazi citizen.