Saturday, February 28, 2009

Many friends I know have watched the SAM & ESTHER video since I posted it here and at facebook and some of them have been deeply moved. They've been so deeply moved that they have asked me what they can do to help children like Sam, Esther, and Jane.
First off, I am so encouraged that they are asking what they can do. Crying and feeling intense sympathy can be the beginning for change, but it mustn't stop there. The Bible over and over again tells us that love is demonstrated by action and shown most clearly by the love the Father had for us that He sent His precious only begotten Son Jesus to a world filled with danger, strife, and poverty to not only show us the Way, but then to give the ultimate sacrifice by His death on the cross. That death and then His subsequent resurrection, makes it possible for all of us to be delivered from spiritual poverty into a life filled with immeasureable riches both here on this earth and in the eternal life to come.
He set the example for us.
Those of us who call ourselves Christians are literally calling ourselves "little Christs".
And as followers of Jesus, people who are supposed to be HIS representation here on earth, then it is just logical that we would be willing to give up our riches & comforts in order to live a life of sacrifice so that others will know His love and have the opportunity abundant living here and beyond.
But this truly flies in the face of what most of us have grown up knowing here in the affluency of America.

I've been a Christian nearly my whole life. I personally decided that I needed Jesus in my life as a child. Over the years, I've stumbled and grown lukewarm at times, but I never turned my back on Him. I've been your stereotypical "good girl" Christian for the most part. I've tried to basically follow the ways of God and help do a good deed every now and again as I could. I've even been a fairly faithful tither most of my adult life. Rarely have my husband and I not given a tenth of our income to the church and we often gave special offerings over and above that for missions, parachurch organizations, etc. But to be honest, most of the time, we were given out of our abundance and usually I was "doing my good deeds" in areas that were comfortable for me. Rarely did I do anything that required sacrifice on my part.
But as many of you know, that changed two years ago. God started opening up our eyes to the fact that He'd let us have a time of rest and healing spiritually, but it was time to get back the spiritual was time to leave our comfort zone and seek out those who needed us. God used the AMAZING GRACE movie and the books QUAKER SUMMER and IRRESISTIBLE REVOLUTION in particular.
And, as anyone who has spent any time around me recently or visited my blog before knows, last year God made the way for me to go to Swaziland, Africa, with my two daughters.
I was already aware of the fact that God wanted something different from our lives, that just confirmed it in no uncertain terms. In fact, didn't just confirm He wanted something different, it totally turned my life upside down.
When you look into the faces of scores and scores of children and know the dire poverty, perverted exploitation, horrible diseases, violent abuse, and gnawing hunger that they've faced, it messes with you. Basically, you've got to just force yourself to turn to stone, or you have to act.
And act was what I had to do.
I came back and I knew that I couldn't keep on just blithely living life for me and my family. I knew that God wanted me to do what I could for those precious little ones. After all, He states clearly in James that pure religion that HE finds acceptable is that we take care of the orphans and widows. And Jesus made it abundantly obvious that if we don't provide food for the hungry, clothes for the naked, water for the thirsty, help for the sick, comfort for the imprisoned, then we are also NOT doing those things for Him.
How could I say "no"?
My love for Him and my love for those precious Swazi children compelled me to change.
But how? And what?
It all seemed so overwhelming.
There are millions of children in the world who need help. And in Swaziland alone, there are hundreds of thousands of children whose lives are being destroyed by HIV/AIDS and poverty. What could just little ole me do in the face of so much need?
Well Tom Davis of Children's HopeChest, who led our trip to Swaziland, helped me see some really practical steps to take.
His organization presented a way of changing the lives of these precious ones called 5 FOR FIFTY.
5 FOR FIFTY says that there are 5 things that every one of us can do to help the 50 million people in our world suffering from HIV/AIDS. Here's how it works:
*Give 5 minutes a day to pray for those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
*Give 5 hours a week to fast for those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
*Give 5 dollars a month to the Five for 50 Fund and support worthy causes.
*Give 5 days a year to travel overseas and help alleviate poverty and suffering.
*Give 5 people an opportunity to join you on your journey. Tell them about how they can be a part of ministering to the "least of these".
So after praying and thinking and discussing this with my family, we started taking some easy, practical steps to get involved more.

First, we take time every day to pray for Swaziland and the orphans, widows, Christians, missionaries, and leaders of that country. Each morning during family devotion time, we pray for them. Then through out the day, as I read about a prayer need on a blog or through facebook, I stop right then to pray for them. And over time, I have found myself praying more and more. I'll be taking a shower and I'll be reminded of how blessed I am to have clean, warm water and I'll take the time to say a quick prayer that the orphans in Swaziland will have plenty of clean water. Or if I get sick and I'm crying out to God to please take away the pain, I'll be reminded of how many of them are in pain and I'll cry out to God on their behalf as well. I find that the more I pray, the more I pray.

Second, my two oldest daughters and I decided to fast one lunch a week. We figured the cost that would save our family and then made the commitment to donate that amount of money to Children's HopeChest each month. For us, that means we give $20 since we are homeschoolers and our lunches primarily consist of soup and sandwich type meals. By the way, $20 can go a long, long way in Swaziland. In fact, $20 will buy lunch for 400 kids! That's a great return on an investment.

In fact, 5 FOR FIFTY gives these figures:
$5 a month can:
  • Feed an orphan for a month (100 meals)
  • Educate one orphan for a year
  • Buy new clothes for one orphan

So you can see how almost ANYONE can afford to give an amount of money that will make a HUGE difference in the life of an extremely impoverished child. And it takes only some simple math to figure that if $5 will feed 1 orphan for a month, how much more $15 or $30 or even $100 will feed.

Up to now, I've been pretty okay with the $20 a month plus a bit extra here and there that I'd give. But after doing this for a year, I've decided it's not enough and I've begun to ask God to show me ways that I can give more. It's been really cool in just the last two weeks to already see Him making the way. In a couple of instances, we've had money brought into our household on top of our regular income. That's made it possible for us to give more. But what He's doing now, is calling me to make further sacrifices so I can give more and He's also motivating me to pray and seek ways of making money that I can pour into ministries in Africa.


There are times when God just miraculously provides the money (like when a teenager I know asked God to please give her enough money to cover a financial need she had plus money to help children in need and a man at work gave her a $700 tip and said God told him to give it to her) and there are other times when He works by showing us what we need to do to be the provider of the finances.


There are some of you who can financially afford to write good-sized checks on a regular basis. But for the majority of us, especially with the economy hitting many families hard, we just don't have the extra money. So it boils down to this. We just see these children dying from hunger and diseases that could be prevented or treated by simple medical care and living lives in spiritual darkness OR we determine we're going to do all that God would have us do to make a difference in their lives.

For some of us this will mean sacrifice. It will mean doing more that others can simply live. For some of us it will mean asking God to give us creative ways of raising money. And then for others, it'll be mean doing both. Giving up and creating more.

So, you're ready to sacrifice and use what you save to help others? Need some ideas? Try these:

  • One way is to participate in the 4o DAYS OF WATER I blogged about earlier this week. I basically drink only water and give the money I would have spent on soda, sweet tea, etc. towards helping people in Africa get clean water. How simple is that?

  • Eat low-cost beans & rice type meals a couple of times a week and give the money you're saving to a ministry that feeds hungry children.

  • When someone asks you what you want for Christmas or your birthday, ask them to make a financial gift in your honor.

  • Instead of taking that expensive vacation to DisneyWorld or Vegas, go on a missions trip.

  • Cut off your cable subscription and use that money to sponsor a child monthly paying for their food and education.

  • Put on a sweater, slip on houseshoes, and lower the temperature on your heater. Use the money save on your power bill to buy coats for poor children & blankets for homeless folks.

  • Brown bag your lunch every day, or at least some days, instead of eating out and use that money to underwrite a ministry that is helping families grow their own food and raise their own animals.

  • Live with the ugly carpet and "out of style" furniture and use the money you'd have spent refurbishing to build homes for families living in cardboard and sheet metal shacks.

  • Cut your own hair and quit buying expensive cosmetics and donate the money saved to organizations that minister to girls rescued from prostitution and slavery.

  • Walk , ride your bike, or use mass transit when going to work or running errands so you can donate the saved gas money to an organization that feeds kids who walk miles for the only food they will eat that day.

  • Don't buy that magazine at the check out stand and instead give that $5 to pay for an orphan's schooling for one month.

  • Find ways to cut your grocery bill. Buy your bread at the bakery outlet. Use old fashioned oats instead of instant, flavored oatmeal. Buy generic items. Eat less meat. Eat more lentils and beans. Buy what's on sale, not what you're craving. Use the money saved to donate money to an inner-city soup kitchen or an organization that ships food to impoverished nations to feed orphans.

  • Quit paying the pricey gym fee and instead walk & exercise at home. Use the money you save to buy tennis shoes for kids who have no shoes.

  • Instead of buying that new bestseller, check it out from the library and donate the $15 or so dollars to an organization that teaches inner-city kids and parents how to read
  • Wear last year's Easter dress and bathing suit again this year and use the money you save to buy clothes for those wearing rags.

And those are just a few simple ways that really can make a HUGE difference in the life of those in need without requiring you to spend any more money than you are already spending.


But let's say you don't want to just give a little. You want to give a LOT but you don't have a lot to give.
First of all, PRAY! Ask God if you're living a lifestyle that affords many areas to simplify in so you can give more. To be honest, most of us here in America have no clue how extravagant our lifestyle is compared to the rest of the world. The majority of us believe that as long as we're living within our means that we're living financially responsibly...not extravagantly. And that's true if you view all that you own as belonging to YOU. But if you view it as belonging to God and you are His steward, then that is a faulty belief. We are told to love others as we love ourself and to do to others as we want done unto us. So, if I was a widow in Swaziland dying from HIV/AIDS and my kids were starving and couldn't go to school from lack of funds and we lived in a falling apart mud hut, what would I want my Christian sister in America to do? If I, as a poor, dying widow, could look into the MacLellan home and see closets and bureaus full to overflowing plus cabinets and pantry shelves cram packed, what would I think? I would think that the MacLellans had plenty to share with me. And I'd be right. The problem is that I'm still selfish and still like my stuff.

Which brings me to the next way I, and you, can help others. That is by generating and raising money to give. I've truly, truly been convicted by the amount of stuff we have. Way too much. My husband has been after me for years to declutter. But I like my stuff. I'm attached to it emotionally. It's my security blanket.

But for the first time in my life, I'm finding myself wanting to let go. And it's because of my love of God and my love of His little ones. So I'm looking around my house and asking, what can I give away and what can I sell?


So here are some ideas of ways that you can bring in more money for the cause of "the least of these":

  • Sell stuff you own. I'm in the process of gathering up nice, used clothing to sell at a consignment store. The money I make will be sent to ministries in Swaziland. I'm also going to ask my friends and family to give me nice clothes to sell. Maybe for you it's not clothes but pieces of jewelry, books, furniture, or sporting goods. Consignment stores, online auctions, and classified ads are all venues for making money.

  • Crafts. My two oldest daughters, along with some friends of our's, make jewelry. We use the money we make to help ministries and to raise money for missions trips. A girlfriend of mine made some homemade pillows for us to sell as well.

  • Garage sales. This goes along with the "sell stuff you own" but a huge rummage sale put on by a church, youth group, homeschool organization, or book club can raise a lot of money. And in the process, you can educate the people who attend concerning the ministry you are donating to.

  • Road blocks. Some places allow groups to solicit funds at busy intersections for causes. Our church youth group has raised hundreds of dollars in just a few hours doing this.

  • Donation jars. Put a jar for donations (clearly labeled with the "cause") by cash registers at stores.

  • Babysit or do other odd jobs.

  • Pick up cans along roads and ask others to donate their cans and turn them into recycling centers. You clean up the environment and make money.

  • Hold a walk-athon, rock-athon, etc.

  • Give lessons. Turn a skill you have into a way to earn extra money.

So now I've given you a lot of ideas. But it boils down to this. Ask God to change your heart. Ask Him to put in you a deep love and passion for the things He is passionate about. And then ask Him to help you change your world. You can't feed every starving child. You can't educate every illiterate breadwinner. You can't provide medicine for every mother with tuberculosis. You can't build a home for every homeless family. But you can do something. And if a whole lot of us are doing something, then a huge, wonderful amount can be done and this world can be changed.

So what can I do now? What can you do now? A whole lot when your heart gets wrecked for good.

Here are some ministries that I've been involved with that will be very good stewards of your time and money:

But if you don't find one here that tugs at your heart, start searching. Pray and ask God to direct you to the one that you should pour your prayers, time, energy, and money into. You might just find that not only are you making the world a better place for "the least of these" but the world a better place for you as well. I can truly say that despite the pain and sorrow I often feel when I hear about the tragic stories, I'm also so very, very blessed and have an amazingly joy-filled life. I truly am never as happy as when I'm letting God's love flow through me as He provides for His precious little ones.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Please, watch this:

Sadly, this is not an isolated case. There are untold numbers of children across Africa and across the world who are suffering just as deeply. That's why I can't quit talking about the importance of ministering to these "least of these". That's why they haunt my thoughts in the day and my dreams at night. That's why I blog about Swaziland and missions so much.

But that's not enough.

How can I continue to eat so much that I'm overweight?

How can I continue to spend money on stuff I really don't need?

How can I hold on to so much stuff I can't even fit it all in my closets and drawers?

How can live a life that's so wrapped up in me and mine?

How can I not be willing to sacficially live and give so that these helpless little children can have just the basics of life?

I can't keep living like this, thinking like this, consuming like this, buying like this.

I've got to change. I've got to be willing to die to self. But I can't do it on my own strength. My selfish flesh yearns for more food, and new clothes, and cute accessories, and, and, and! But my heart wants to have the heart of Jesus....Jesus who was willing to leave all the riches and glory of Heaven to come and live a humble life here on earth, a life of service, and then die on the cross. For me. For me. How can I give Him less than my all?

God, change my heart. Make me willing and able. Show me areas I can do without. Show me things I can sell to give my money to the poor. Show me ways I can love YOU as I serve them.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


...that today is Ash Wednesday and the first day of the Lenten season? I didn't...not until today when I started seeing it written about on my Lenten-observant friends blogs and facebook status updates. Growing up as a Mississippi Southern Baptist girl, we just didn't have Lent in our churches and I really don't remember Ash Wednesday being talked about. Once we moved to the coast where there were lots of Catholic classmates, I started hearing about it a bit more, but still didn't get it. Just thought it was some strange traditional thing that Catholics did and it meant we'd be eating fish on Fridays in the school cafeteria. I really had no idea it went beyond that.

I'm still pretty clueless where it is concerned. I started getting a little bit more of a glimpse into it's meaning during the one year I was a member of an Evangelical Presbyterian church right after I got married. But after that, we joined a non-denominational church and over the next 15 or so years, Lent just didn't even cross my spiritual radar screen.

But then I started meeting many wonderful Christians through the internet who would write about their how they and their families were observing Lent. And my husband and I started asking more questions about it and wondering if it should play a role in our spiritual lives. We're still learning and still asking that question, so in light of that, I was very pleased to see Tom Davis of Children's HopeChest write exactly on that subject:

Begin a Season of Reflection

Today is Ash Wednesday and marks the season of Lent - 40 days of preparation before Easter. I didn't come from a Christian tradition that celebrated the church calendar, but I have found practices like this deeply spiritual. It's a time of reflection, fasting and prayer that helps me to focus on spiritual things I typically neglect. I would encourage you to take part in this season, even to a small degree. Here are some places to help you: Sacred Space - Lent 2009 and Per Christum - Lenten Resources Online. Here's a prayer by Henri Nouwen to start you out:

Dear Lord Jesus,
Today the Lenten season begins. It is a time to be with you in a special way, a time to pray, to fast, and thus to follow you on your way to Jerusalem, to Golgotha, and to the final victory over death.

I am still so divided. I truly want to follow you, but I also want to follow my own desires and lend an ear to the voices that speak about prestige, success, human respect, pleasure, power and influence. Help me to become deaf to these voices and more attentive to your voice, which calls me to choose the narrow road to life.

I know that Lent is going to be a very hard time for me. The choice for your way has to be made every moment of my life. I have to choose thoughts that are your thoughts, words that are your words, and actions that are your actions. There are no times or places without choices. And I know how deeply I resist choosing you.

Please, Lord, be with me at every moment and in every place. Give me the strength and the courage to live this season faithfully, so that, when Easter comes, I will be
able to taste with joy the new life which you have prepared for me.

So do any of my Graceland visitors who observe Lent care to tell me why I need to observe Lent? Why is it important to you and how does it help draw you closer to God? I would very much appreciate your perspectives.
From the blood:water mission website:
We have the gift of choice: Freedom to choose on any given day what clothes we will wear, what work we will do, what food we will eat and what we will drink. In nearly a third of the world injustice threatens to take away these basic kinds of choices that we take for granted. In these places a woman can choose to drink the unclean river water or the unclean puddle water. She can choose to walk once for four hours to get water or walk twice for eight hours to get more water. She can choose to give her children something to drink that she knows may make them sick or she can give them nothing at all. She can persist or give up. You can help give her a real choice.
We challenge you to make Water your ONLY beverage for 40 DAYS starting MARCH 1 and ending APRIL 9 in conjunction with the Lenten Season and World Water Day (Mar. 22). Gather your friends and join in solidarity with our African brothers and sisters in an effort to provide clean water for communities in need. As you do so, we ask that you keep track of what money you would have typically spent on other drinks throughout the day and save that money. At the end of 40 days donate what you saved to Blood:Water. Imagine, if you saved $5 a day just by cutting out a visit to your local bar or barista, then you’d save $200 in 40 days. That’s enough to provide clean water for 200 people for an entire year!
So ditch the morning coffee and o.j., leave out the lunchtime soda, and cancel the evening beverage. You won’t need an ark for this 40 Days of Water, but you will need a little self-discipline. But we know you can do it, because you know who you’re doing it for. Make the choice. Visit to find out more, download materials, and get started.
I'll be taking the challenge and drinking only water in these precious days leading up to Easter. Will you join me? Even a little bit of money goes a long, long way in Africa.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I saw this picture today that was taken of a Swazi carepoint child by Adventures in Missions staffer, Casey Wells. I wanted to use it on my blog so I asked my 3 year old daughter Merry what she thought about it. Here is her response:

Me: See that little child? Do you know where that child lives?

3 year old "M": Swaziland. Swaziland.

What's that little child eating?

It's eating an orange. Like we do.

Do you think the little child likes the orange.

Uh-huh. It's sad about it's mom.

Why is it sad about it's mom?

He loves his dad and mama.

But why is he sad?

Because he wants to go home. And the sister wants to go home, too. And his brother. He wants to go home, too.

What else do you think this little child likes?

Dolls. And baby dolls. Boy baby dolls. Not girl baby dolls. Only the girl African girls can like girl baby dolls.

Is there anything you think this little child needs?

It needs food. It needs chicken. And eggzzzzzz to carry back in his house.

Anything else?

Uh-huh. He likes rubber bands. And he makes rubber bands for his mom. And his mom makes a robot for him. An African person robot.

Would you like to be friends with this little boy?

Yes. Cause he's sad. And I'm friends with him.

You wanna pray for him?

Yes, let's pray for him now.

God, please help that little child to be friends with me. And God, he wants some food. More food for him to eat.

Is that everything?


So how do you end your prayers?

I'm done!

Agreeing with her, Lord. Please let it be done.

*The photo of this Swazi child is compliments of Casey Williams of Adventures in Missions. To view more of her photography and learn about her life, go to her blog:

A Franciscan Benediction

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

Photo compliments of Tom Davis, Children's HopeChest, taken in Swaziland in January 2009.

Monday, February 23, 2009


A Beautiful Day, Involving Shoes from katie rowland on Vimeo.

A month or so ago, a group of mostly Americans spent a day in Nsoko, Swaziland, loving on some very precious children...and caregivers. They washed feet, treated foot injuries when possible, read prayers over them that had been posted on the internet, gave them new shoes, and just loved, loved, loved on them. This video, posted originally on World Racert Katie Rowland's blog, gives a glimpse into what a glorious day it was. I cried, I even laughed, but most of all, I grinned from ear to ear.

I can only imagine that Daddy God was doing the same.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


"I believe that in each generation God has called enough men and women to evangelize all the yet unreached tribes of the earth. It is not God who does not call. It is man who will not respond!"
-- Isobel Kuhn, missionary to China and Thailand
Photo by Katie Rowland, World Racer with Adventures in Missions.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


My long time friend Stacy has a beautiful soul...and because of this, an appreciation for music with words of haunting truth. She shared this song with me this weekend by Brooke Fraser:


I am sitting still
I think of Angelique
her mothers voice over me
And the bullets in the wall where it fell silent
And on a thousandth hill, I think of Albertine
there in her eyes what I don't see with my own

Now that I have seen, I am responsible
Faith without deeds is dead
now that I have held you in my own arms, I cannot let go till you are

I am on a plane across a distant sea
But I carry you in me
and the dust on, the dust on, the dust on my feet

I will tell the world, I will tell them where I've been
I will keep my word
I will tell them Albertine

I am on a stage, a thousand eyes on me
I will tell them, Albertine
I will tell them, Albertine

My regular Graceland visitors will have heard by now that I'm a part of an online community involved with getting a Swaziland carepoint totally sponsored. We want each child to have a family, individual, group, or church that is actively praying and giving on their behalf. Deb Gangemi is heading up the Beveni Carepoint Community and I received this message from her today:

I wanted to update each of you on the Beveni Challenge. We have just finished the second week, and have 17 days left to go. For those of you who are just joining in our community, you can read the details of the challenge on our blog at:


In addition to the following update, we want everyone to know that there are now 38 sponsored children! We continue to pray and reach out to others to find 64 more families, individuals or groups to sponsor the remaining children. I know we would appreciate you sharing the info about sponsorship and the Challenge with people you know, along with our email address: bevenicarepoint "at"

Here in the Gangemi household, we have moved out of the Book of Esther and into the Book of Nehemiah. And once again, we have found a treasure! It is this treasure we want to share with you as we also share this week’s Beveni Challenge update.

From earlier studies, we had become aware that during the Exodus journey, the Israelites made 42 stops along the way, with the 42nd one being the one into the Promised Land. We had also learned in the book of Matthew that there are 42 generations from Abraham to Christ, with the 42nd one being the one of Christ, the Promised One.

We know it is a good idea to not make too broad a generalization but “42” and “promise” seemed like a pattern worth keeping in heart and mind!

So when we read through Nehemiah, and got to the part where he lists all the sections of the wall that had to be repaired or rebuilt, we thought the list looked like it might be another “42 and Promise” story. Fully anticipating finding 42, we made a chart, listing every people group and every section they worked on. Imagine our surprise when we could only list 41! Where was the 42nd section and the promise?

It was then that we were reminded of a detail in Isaiah 58. I would encourage you to read the entire chapter, and perhaps even create an “if-then chart” from what God teaches us there. But for now, I want to point out the “if/then” taught in verses 10-12:

If you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then: (partial list of the promises) your light will rise in darkness, your night will become like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you always. He will satisfy your needs and strengthen your frame……

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up foundations

And you will be called Repairers of Broken Walls!"

There it is, the 42nd section of wall to be repaired! We will be called Repairers of Broken Walls and He will guide us and satisfy us when we spend ourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed.

In Nehemiah 4:19-20 we read his statement to the representatives of each of the “building groups”. It is true even for us, the 42nd, today. Listen to his words and be encouraged:

“The work is extensive and spread out. We are widely separated from each other.
So wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there…….and God will
fight for us!”

Truly the work of caring for orphans is extensive and spread out! And we are separated from one another geographically (the group receiving this message includes people from Africa, South America, North America and Europe!) but connected by the thread of hope created by being a faith community agreeing to care for orphans. We are so grateful that when we shared the needs of the children of Beveni with you, our “sounding of the trumpet for them”, you did join us in prayer and in giving.

And in joining us there, God has been and will continue to fight for us, and for them!

As of today, $1085 has been gathered for the children of Beveni. The Beveni Challenge will continue until the second day of Purim, Wednesday, March 11. Every single gift matters to these children. There is not one gift that is too small! So if you are thinking the amount you are able to give is not worth giving, please disabuse yourself of that thought. Every dollar given becomes part of a hope and life for these precious children!

May you and yours be blessed with His joy!

In Him and for the children,
Tom, Deb, Anthony and Aidyn Gangemi

Friday, February 20, 2009


"A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.”

Thomas Merton

Thursday, February 19, 2009


I received this update from Bev Gangemi about Beveni Carepoint, a center of ministry that the girls and I were able to visit last year:

Here is an update to the Beveni Challenge I shared with you last weekend (read about it here:

As of Friday, February 13, just 6 days into the challenge, CHC has received $350. That amount, added to Anthony's pledge, brings the total to $550! As the Master said in the Parable of the talents, well done, good and faithful servants!

Donations can be made online at Children’s HopeChest by going to (please put Beveni Challenge in the note section) or sending a check with a note requesting the money be given to the Beveni Challenge to:

Children’s HopeChest
PO Box 8627
Pueblo, CO

Please remember to pray for the children and caregivers of the Beveni Carepoint, and for the remaining 23 days of the Beveni Challenge.

So many people have sent emails and messages to share a blessing for Anthony. Tom and I thank you for that! We have shared each one with him and watched him take in the message of grace. In turn, we pray that our Father richly blesses every one of you reading this with the joy that comes from following Him!

In great anticipation of what He will accomplish through His big kids for His little ones!

And in joy!
Deb, Tom, Anthony and Aidyn Gangemi


A day or so ago, I received an email from Adventures in Missions describing a crucial need. One of their on-the-ground ministers in Swaziland is Pastor Gift. He is a Swazi pastor with a heart for bringing life to those who are walking in the valley that is shadowed by death. The area that he and his family live in is one of the poorest, hardest to survive areas of Swaziland. Despite that, this is what Gift says:

"We live in Nsoko, Swaziland where we witness the beauty of the Lord day-in and

He can say that despite the dark and desolate surroundings. For truly He and others, his wife included, are seeing lives transformed in amazingly beautiful ways by the power of Jesus daily. They minister in the homes to those who are too ill to get out, they help provide food for destitute widows and orphans, they disciple many, and they are partnering with others to build a village for orphans...a village that will not only provide them a loving home, but a place to learn about God's great love for them as they get an education, learn life and job skills, and get medical care as needed.

Plus Pastor Gift has a crazy-fun sense of humor.

I've grown to really appreciate this man and my children and I pray for him almost daily. One thing we pray is that God will provide for his family and also, my children often pray, that he'll have enough food to give the orphans.

So when I rec'd the missive stating the financial needs of Pastor Gift, my heart immediately responded. I wanted to give. But give what? I am already giving all I am free to give to Swaziland thru some other avenues. I say this not to brag on myself but to brag on God's provision.

For this is what happened. Over the last couple of days I kept thinking, "how can I help Pastor Gift?"

Even last night I lay in bed with a messed up eye wondering how I could come up with some money to give him and his family and their ministry. I thought about my old record albums. Maybe I could sell them somehow, someway?

But nothing came to mind as being THE answer.

This morning, before getting out of bed, I once again pondered this question. But this time I asked the Lord. I asked God to show me how I could give to them. I asked Him to provide a way.

Just a short bit later I was sitting at the breakfast table with my children as they ate and I read them their morning devotions and had prayer time with them. Then it hit me...God's answer!

I'll be going with my husband to be on a customer panel for a restaurant chain. Basically, we go, eat yummy free food, talk about the food, tell them our opinions of their restaurant, and then they pay us! And they pay us generously. Not just the free food, not just free food gift cards, but also money!

And then I realized that I could give that money to Pastor Gift! WOW! Did I ever start praising God! My heart was filled with so much happiness. God had heard my prayer and was faithful to answer.

So I say all this to brag on God but also to encourage each of you. I'm sure most of you are like me, there are ministries that you care about or people you'd love to help financially but you just don't see how you can swing it. Ask God. Ask Him to either show you how you can make the money or ask Him to just provide the money. I read a very good, though very short, book on just this idea. It's THE TREASURE PRINCIPLE: DISCOVERING THE SECRET OF JOYFUL GIVING by Randy Alcorn. The basic premise is that the more you desire to give away to help others, and the more you do give away to help others, the more God will make way for you to minister to others.
And let me tell you, my heart is full, full, full of joy today!
P.S. I forgot to tell you that when my oldest daughter A heard what I was going to do with the money, she said that I did't have to pay her to babysit as I usually do for our date nights. She said I could use the money instead for Pastor Gift. AND, she said if I go out for my birthday in a couple of weeks, that her gift to me will be the babysitting money... again to be given to Pastor Gift. She made the comment, "What is wrong with me? Why am I turning so nice?" And I assured her that it was just the Holy Spirit working in her life. He has a way of making some pretty amazing changes.
P.P.S. Anyone in the market for some old John Denver, Donny & Marie, or GoGo's albums? I know someone who will cut you a real good deal. ;)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


What I just read:

Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall & Denver Moore with Lynn Vincent

What I am reading:

Watching the Tree Limbs by Mary DeMuth

What I wanna read:

Enough by Will Samson...because really, can you ever read enough books by the Samsons? Yeah...he's Lisa's hubby.

And let me just say, that I highly, highly, highly recommend the first two books and though I've not read the one by Will Samson yet, I'm sure I'll say the same about it once I've read it. I was able to meet Will when I visited Lisa back in the fall at their home in Kentucky. This family is not just talking the talk, they have made radical life changes to walk the walk. I can't wait to read what Will has written based on where he is spiritually and in his own life where the topic of consumerism and caring for the "least" is concerned.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I am listening to an amazing story right now on NPR's show THE STORY about Hal Taussig who gives ALL the profits away from his very successful millions-of-dollars business away to benefit the poor:

You can listen to it online at that link (scroll down near the bottom). He says he is not a Marxist at all (though he read THE CHRISTIAN MARXIST and gleaned ideas from it) but primarily got most of his inspiration from what he read in the Bible. He said that the more and more he read the Bible, the more he saw how he was supposed to be treating the poor.

Very, very interesting. Definitely someone who is choosing to live radically in a comfortable world.

Pondering much,

On Monday, I shared what my three youngest offspring had to say about the presidency. As a homeschool assignment, I had my two oldest daughters who are 15 and 13 look up presidential quotes, pick one that they like, and then blog about it. Their posts really reflected their personalities. Those of you who know them in real life, would have been able to readily discern who wrote what even if I didn't clue you in.

So without further adieu, here is 13 year old Daughter "B"'s post:

*Rolls Eyes*

Hey Bloggers, I know I'm supposed to be practically dead right now (OK, maybe that was just a little too dramatic. What I meant to say is, "I know that I'm not supposed to be on the computer right now, but....."), but my mom's making me Blog because it's President's Day.

She told me that I had to pick out a quote some president said
&& then I could either analyze or criticize it to my heart's content (no
joke). So here goes:

"The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted." -James Madison

Now, I don't really know that much about James Madison (infact, until about two seconds ago I didn't even know the guy existed!), but I do like this quote. And for a man ▬I admit it ▬ he has a pretty good head on his shoulders (&& that's a big deal since it's coming from moi ((I absolutely hate praising the opposite sex. (((Kidding! XD ((((Not really.)))))))))). OK, back to the subject before I, as I was
saying.....this James Madison dude had a gift at observing and then stating his
theories && observations in such a way that once heard is remembered
&& used afterwards for forever.

I admit it, I'm not really into the presidents, but I really like this guy.


I N D i G O

P.S. I would like to point out that in Jame's quote he said,
"The truth is that all MEN having power ought to be mistrusted." he didn't say
anything about WOMEN with power ought to be mistrusted. What?! I'm just sayin.'

That girl!

And to set the record straight, we HAVE included James Madison in our studies but...well...whatever.

On to the next one by 15 year old
daughter "A":

Presidents etc. etc.

"Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence."

~George Washington

'Cause if everyone's your best friend within minutes of meeting, you're gonna get hurt alot and badly! That's what I think he should have added.

But American presidents are strange people. They are people who---for whatever reason---want to lead the most powerful country in the world. And, they have enough appeal and popularity to get elected by the majority of that country's citizens. Then, they have to be strong enough to do things most of us can't even imagine having to do.

Send people off to war and sometimes certain death, all for a greater

Withstand the ridicule they get from their critics, and sometimes
even most of their citizens.

Deal with people, day after day. People that they don't necessarily care much for.
Annoying politicians. Insane dictators and generals. Suck-up journalists. Journalists who want to only find fault. The list goes on and on.

Whew! I am so not running for president!
Even if I could have the Jonas Brothers play live for my birthday.

So even if we don't agree with whoever is prez, why can't we respect and honor them
just 'cause their job is so hard on them already!

Right....and pigs can fly. *sigh* Ok, so people will never do that. It was a nice thought though! And I don't have those very often!

Monday, February 16, 2009

...I thought it would be fun to interview my younger kids to see how they view the presidency.

First off is T, my 5 year old son.

T, who is our president?


Who was our last president?

I can't remember. Mom, what is his name? What is his name?

George W. Bush?

No, that's not it.

Yes, that's the last president.

No, that's the one before.


So T, what does the president do for his job?

Protect the world.

Where does he live?

Alright... easy.....WASHINGTON, DC!

What would you do if you were president?

I would say "Get to work. No food and water for three days!"

I was just going to interview my 5 and 7 year olds, but my 3 year wants to be interviewed.
Hmmm...not sure how this will go.
Who is the president of America?


What does he do for his job?

He gets his tools and works. He works on a thing for little boys and girls to play with.

Okay, now go get in bed for your nap.

Now it's my 7 year old's turn.

L, who is our president?

Barak Obama.

What does he do for his job?

He helps people.

Where does he live?

In the....Mommy, what is it? I forgot.

Well, think.

I don't know. Mom....Mom....

[As she gives me a very intent, exasperated face]

Well, think about what it looks like when you've seen pictures of it or a cartoon about it. What did it look like? Was it a boat?

I can't, I can't.

Was it a tower?


Was it a space ship?


Was it a house? A big house?

No. It's not a house.

Are you sure?


It's not a big WHITE house?

No, it is not.

Yeah, it is.

No, it isn't a lighthouse.

The president lives in a white house.

No, he doesn't. I'm talking about a lighthouse. Does he live in there?

No, L, not a LIGHT house, the WHITE house. Does he live in the White House?

You said already "yes". I said my answer.

What was your answer?

The White House.

Okay. [Feeling very confused about this whole exchange]

Well, now that we've settled that...I guess...what would YOU do if you were president of the United States?

Can they get rid of movies?

What would YOU do if you were president?

I don't know what they do.
But what would you WANT to do?
Get rid of Yo Gabba Gabba*.
And there you have it folks, the skinny on the presidency as reported by the three youngest MacKids.
*A Nick Jr. Kid's Show that 3 year old M loves.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


From my pal Deb Gangemi:

Our older son, Anthony, is now 14 years old. His “love language” is the receiving of gifts. He looks forward to his birthday and Christmas with so much joy and anticipation! But this year, three days before Christmas, at the height of his excitement over gifts to be opened, he asked us to return his presents and give the money to Children’s HopeChest for Beveni Carepoint (this carepoint is the gathering place for 102 vulnerable and orphaned children in Swaziland and is the place where many of them get the only meal they eat for the day).

While we didn’t have much money to spend on gifts, any gift would have delighted him. But we also know he was hoping against all hope that we had bought a Nintendo DS for him. With that hope very much alive in him, his request that we return his presents represented an enormous sacrifice on his part.

As we have learned about the abject poverty the children of Beveni live in, and how many basic needs are not met, we began to dream with Anthony about how God could grow his $200 gift into something much larger.

Now we are studying the life of Esther. We’re aware you know the story, but want to share how it has come to galvanize our family to create the “Beveni Carepoint Christmas Sacrifice to Purim Challenge”. Yup, a mouthful to be sure, but also a heart full!

Purim is the festival celebrating Esther, her obedience to act in faith and the result of that obedience. In the spirit of Anthony sacrificing that which he waited an entire year for, and in response to the question Mordecai posed to his cousin Esther: “Who knows but that we have come to our position of royalty (as sons and daughters of the King of Kings) for such a time as this?, the Gangemi family invites you to be part of a BIG adventure, one in which He takes the offerings of many to create something large enough to make a difference for the children.

The challenge:

Beveni is in desperate need of basic infrastructure. They have no electricity, fence, latrines, water system, kitchen or garden. Many of the children cannot attend school because they aren’t able to pay the annual tuition. A significant number of them eat only once a day.

But together, we can make a difference!

$5 can provide 30 meals for a child
$75 pays for a year of school tuition
$600 would provide a water storage tank

Look how our gifts added together magnify the benefit to the children:

175 giving $50 each would result in a kitchen for the grandmothers to cook meals in.

375 people giving $10 each will provide a garden for the caregivers and children to grow fresh food.

500 people giving just $15 each would provide an entire water system, including a well.

Our request:

Specifically, we ask everyone receiving this note to make a one time gift of $5.00 or more to Children’s HopeChest for the Beveni Carepoint by going online to:

Please put Beveni Challenge in the note section. Or by sending a check (with a note requesting the money be given to the Beveni Challenge)to:

Children’s HopeChest
PO Box 8627
Pueblo, CO 81008-8627

If you are able to give more, please do!

We believe in God’s committed heart for these kids, and in the reality that we are His Body, the one He provides care through. Any gift you are able to extend to these children and their caregivers will be as life to them. Every one of us has the opportunity to be part of making the difference. Every gift given becomes part of something larger than what we can do alone. These gifts will make a lasting difference to all of the children and their caregivers by providing them with basics we take for granted but they can only dream about.

We also ask you to share this challenge with people you know. If you are involved in a church, small group, club, team or business, please consider asking them to partner with us in this challenge.

Please realize that when you share this information, you are giving people the opportunity to participate in the blessing of joy that comes when we care for the orphans and the widows.

We ask that you make your gift to the children by Wednesday, March 11, the last day of Purim. In reading Esther, we learn that Mordecai calls for two days to be celebrated every year, the days of Purim. He gave specific instruction on how to celebrate, and included in those instructions the giving of gifts to the poor. In giving to the children of Beveni, you will be giving to some of the poorest of the poor! In the giving, we participate in the celebration of God providing for His people in a way that is near and dear to His heart.

We are aware that many of you receiving this are already involved in orphan care ministry. We know the needs of orphans your ministry cares for are great. If you prefer to make your gift to that ministry and you don’t mind letting us know, please drop us a line so we can share the news with our son.

We thank each of you, for your hearts that have responded to the heart of the Father to care for His little children. We look forward in great anticipation to see what He accomplishes through His big kids for His little ones, and with joy in the journey!

We welcome any questions you have and we have provided our ministry email address below. You can also find us on Facebook at the Beveni Carepoint group, an online community formed to support the children and their caregivers with prayer. Since its formation in early December, over 300 people have joined, and 37 children have become sponsored. If you are interested in becoming hope to one of the 65 children waiting for a sponsor, please let us know. We are the volunteer sponsorship coordinators for the children of Beveni, through Children’s HopeChest. We would be honored to help you find “your” child and to begin a relationship that will give hope and a future to a child.

In Him, with faith and joy!
Tom, Deb, Anthony and Aidyn Gangemi
bevenicarepoint "at" comcast "dot" net

Whatever you do for one of the least of these, that you did for me. Matthew: 25: 40


From Adventure in Mission's Seth Barnes:

What could be more heart-breaking than to hear a woman ask you to take her baby so that the baby might live? There's something desperately wrong when mothers who love their children are unable to adequately care for them and would rather give them away than watch them die.

Seeing a situation like this can wreck you. Lisa Smith had that happen to her last week and shares this story:

I am sitting in the dirt in stunned silence trying to figure out how I ended up
in this situation. I look into Thabsile's tear-filled eyes and finally stammer
out a response, "I am so sorry. I can't take your son. I don't have a job or a
home or any way to take care of a child. I'm so sorry, but I just can't..." I
cannot fathom the despair a mother must feel in order to offer her child to a
complete stranger, but these are the desperate cries of many Swazi mothers.

I fell in love with Siyabo my first day in Nsoko. He is a precious
7-year-old boy who radiates joy as his huge smile lights up his face. Every
morning when I arrive at the carepoint, Siyabo comes to find me, smiles, and
reaches up and grabs my hand. We aren't able to communicate much; only enough
for me to know his name, age, and that he lives with two sisters and his mom. I
spend my days hugging him, pushing him on the swings, or just letting him sit on
my lap.

On Sunday afternoon after church, Siyabo was sitting on my lap
as we played little games and laughed together. Then a woman comes and tells him
to go and get some food (pap, beans, & small pieces of goat entrails). As
Siyabo jumps off my lap and runs away, this woman looks at me with a huge smile
on her face and says, "He is my son." I could see the resemblance immediately.
She has the same joyful smile and bright eyes as Siyabo. You can see her love
for and pride in him. I smiled back and told her, "I just love him! Your son is
so precious!"

This simple confession gave Thabsile, Siyabo's mom, the
courage to share openly. She looks at me with a fierce determination and says,
"Please take him. Take him home with you..." I sat in stunned silence unsure of
what to say. She continues, "His father is dead. I am sick; I have HIV. I am
working, but it's just not enough. I have nothing to give him. Please, please
take him with you." My heart broke. I asked with bated breath if her children
were also sick. She told me that she doesn't know; they haven't been tested. She
fears that she will die and her children will be left with no one to care for

What do you say to a mother who wants so desperately to give
her son a better life? I know I am not ready to raise a child (even if my heart
is scrambling for a way that I could actually make this work). I hate looking
into the eyes of a desperate mother and not being able to do anything other than
listen as she shares her pain.

There must be more that I can do...

Lisa has done a lot just in sharing this story. The irony is that so many childless couples in America would love to adopt a child like Siyabo. God has put the desire to parent in their hearts. The opportunity to go and be a parent to not just one, but to a large group of children like Siyabo is always there. My suggestion is that more of us need to pray about going to places like Swaziland in order to become a mom or a dad to the Siyabos of the world. My challenge to you is, don't assume that your destiny lies in suburbia when the world's need is so great.

To read more of Seth's postings, go to his blog:

Saturday, February 14, 2009


When most of us think of Valentine's Day, we think of fancy dinners, red roses, and slurpy, sentimental cards. And often, that's what my Valentine's Days have looked like.

Not this year.

For the last week or so I've been feeling really overwhelmed. I've been going a lot and I've just been tired. Yeah, as a mom of 7 I'm always busy, but this past week or so has been different. I've desperately needed some down time. I've been whiny, grumpy, emotional, fearful, negative, and just feeling worn plumb out.

And my husband knows that's how I've been.

So this year, he decided that he was going to give me something special. And what I wrote on my facebook status says it all:

Elysa 's hubby is giving to her this V-Day a day to do whatever I, pray, sleep, blog, fb, etc. I praise God for such a good & loving man.

My friend Drewe Llyn commented:

How sweet! We want a report on what you accomplished today with this precious time! :-)

So I made her a report:

Well so far I have:

*Slept til nearly 9:00
*Brushed my teeth
*Brushed but not rolled my hair
*Eaten a big breaky fixed by afore mentioned hubby
*Had Bible time with family
*Listened to my online Steve Brown grace-filled Bible teaching
*Super-poked people
*Answered email
*Listened to music via AccuRadio
*Talked to God
*Gave chocolate to ... Jim & the kids
*Talked to Rhonda, not Robin
*Hugged kids
*Read notes and blogs
*Went thru all my friends status updates
*Wrote messages
*Cried a little
*Smiled a lot
*And wrote a "report on what I accomplished today with this precious time!". :-)

And then later I started thinking about an email I received from my pal Jeff Goins. I participate in a synchroblog group and every now and again we get together and all post on a common subject linking to each other's blogs.

Jeff wanted us to post on "what is love?" since it's that time of year when our thoughts turn in that direction. Well, at first I thought I'd post about how real love casts out fear...and I may still do that. But then I got to thinking about this amazing gift that my husband has given me. It's really an incredible one. It's just what I needed and it's requiring a lot more sacrifice on his part than just simply going out and getting me some dark chocolate m&m's and a card. He's running the household and caring for 7 kids...including one whose on her second round of the stomach virus.

He's already told me that he is not expecting anything out of me for this gift. He's even okay if I decide that I don't want to go out and eat later on. He truly meant it when he said I could do whatever I wanted with this day.

And see...that's true love. Romantic love is amazingly fun and chill-bump-inducing and all of that. It's great. And don't get me wrong...I love dark chocolate and eating food prepared by folks who aren't then going to ask me to do the dishes. But TRUE love, REAL love, the kind of love that reflects agape love, GOD'S UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, is the best.

My husband is giving me what I need. What my heart desired. What is best for me. He did it with no strings attached. He offered this gift to me when I wasn't feeling or acting very worthy of something so wonderful.

He did it because he really, really, really loves me.

And that's what God does for us. He gives us what we need, sometimes even what we want, not because we're worthy, but just because He really, really, really loves us.

And that is mind-blowingly amazing.

Check out Accuradio's LOVE SONG channel. It's an online radio station of nothing but romantically themed music.
But wait!
There's more!!!
You can actually choose which type of love songs you want from these offerings:
Broadway Love Songs

Country Love Songs

Love Songs Radio

Modern Love Songs

Oldies Love Songs

Popular Classical

Power Ballads
So let the language of love play on!

Friday, February 13, 2009


Here's an update from Tom Davis at Children's HopeChest:

"You did it.

In just four days, you provided 120,000 meals to children in Ethiopia and Swaziland. We've received at least $13,125 toward this project, and we are so extraordinarily grateful for your generous response. You did it! Mission Accomplished!

These meals will keep thousands of kids alive and participating in Children's HopeChest programs to help them with education, healthcare, and Christian discipleship.

I'll continue to provide updates as I get them. Until then, please continue to pray for these shipments. There are a variety of logistical hurdles to jump, so please pray for a smooth delivery.

I want to invite you to consider another opportunity with Children's HopeChest.

This year, HopeChest is looking to double the number of sponsors in our program. If you want to start a life-changing relationship with a young orphaned child in Russia, Swaziland, Ethiopia, or Uganda, please consider signing up today. All of the details are on our Web site. CLICK HERE TO SPONSOR A CHILD .

Thank you so much for your participation and your continued prayers."

Pictured above is Tom Davis on his January 2009 trip to Swaziland, Southern Africa.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

URGENT! Help Feed Hungry Kids in Ethiopia and Swaziland

I received this a couple of days ago from Tom Davis at Children's HopeChest, the group we traveled to Swaziland with last year. I wanted to give some of my Graceland readers the chance to participate in something huge:

Friends, I need your help this month to deliver 120,000 meals to Ethiopia and Swaziland. The food situation in both countries is dire, and I'm asking you to help today with a gift.

Last month, Children's HopeChest walked right into the food crisis in Ethiopia. While I was leading a team in Swaziland, I received this urgent message from our staff in Ethiopia:

Tom, I've just gotten back from Moses' Children's Home here in Ethiopia. Their needs cannot wait and the food situation is beyond critical. I'm doing what I can to get food to the kids, but we need money right away to secure regular food for the next few months. If not, many of the kids here will risk starvation. Please help.

Moses' Children's Home is one of the orphanages in line for sponsorship. Until two months ago, their private funding was supporting this work. Now, those funds are gone, and the kids are hungry.

I was in Swaziland in January, and it's the same story there. So many hungry kids. We're launching several new carepoints, and want to make sure they are set up for feeding as many kids as possible.

Children's HopeChest has crafted rapid intervention to get food to Ethiopia and Swaziland. Here's the plan and how you can help:

$3,125 is needed immediately to send 20,000 meals to Ethiopia. This food is bound for Moses' Home, Abenezer's Home, and some of the orphanages where Ryan Brown and Gladney are working.

An additional $10,000 is needed to purchase a container to ship 100,000 meals to Swaziland for use in the CHC carepoints there. The container will remain in Swaziland and our staff will use it as a storage container for ministry items.

$13,125 for one container and 120,000 meals. Can you help us?

Use the DONATE link below to go directly to the giving page. Put "FEBRUARY FOOD PROJECT" in your note.


To read more about the ministry of Children's HopeChest, follow this link:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I finished up all my trip diary entries last night, but there are some great photos from that Saturday (2/2/08) as we traveled from the Nelspruit guest house to the airport and then as we headed back to the United States and I just couldn't resist posting a few.

On our way out of Nelspruit, which is located in the Mpumalanga area of South Africa, we stopped to get petrol and let everyone buy some eats & it gave camera-happy folks like me another opportunity to torture their trip-mates with cries of "smile for the camera". Above is Daughter B letting the malaria know that she is not interested in taking it home as a reminder of the trip. By the way, isn't this a nice and cheerful sign for something so not nice and cheerful?

Right by the petrol station (for all you Jackson, Mississippi was even nicer than a MADISON gas station!) were a few shops and eateries.

The meat pie I snagged at Sanway's was amazingly good! Or as the South Africans would say, very "lekker"!

Daughter B with Jennifer Hagerty on the porch of the Wimpy Burger place...after all, who could say no to a wimpy burger?!?
And do any of the paper products of product photos look familiar to you? If they do....'s because McDonald's has invaded South Africa! During the apartheid days it was no where to be seen. But now it's gotten a firm foothold in the fast food niche of the South African landscape. And yeah...McDonald's in South Africa is pretty much like McDonald's in America. And according to what you think of Mickey D's, that's either a great thing or a not so great thing.
Above is one of my favorite couples, Kevin and Christi Bowman. Ain't they cute? They loved McDonalds of South Africa so much, they're planning on heading back over there as missionaries. No, really. Okay, so not due to the Golden Arches factor. God moved on their hearts tremendously during our time there and God is calling them to work at a new orphan village in SE Swaziland called Nsoko. If you hang around Graceland much, you've heard me mention them and you'll see them around more as they continue to work towards the goal of getting back over there.

These beautiful murals decorated the wall of the terminal we had to go down to get to our departure gate. Daughter B was being a good sport and letting me take her photo yet again.

Here we are getting in some last minute hugs and chats before our planes departed for the U.S. and Canada.

And last of all, Daughters B and A as our plane flies away from my beloved Africa.

It really was a tremendous trip. I hope you were able to get a better understanding of why I love Africa and the people there so much, especially Swaziland. That area is such a crazy mix...on one hand you'll find mud huts with people living not much differently than they did decades, even centuries ago in some really remote areas. But then you have other places, some not too far away from the mud huts, where you find fancy hotels, modern highways, sophisticated shopping centers, and even McDonald's hamburgers. You see women living in huts with cellphones tucked in their bosom, businessmen wearing traditional garb (complete with animal skirts) carrying briefcases, and I promise, I once saw a young man wearing a Mickey Mouse shirt above a traditional Swazi man's skirt.

It's crazy and full of paradoxes. It's beautiful but hurting. It's wild and scary. It's a jumble of languages and ethnic groups and varying colors. It's the old and the new. It's desert and jungle and savanna and mountains and beaches. It's Africa. And I absolutely love it.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Friday, 2/1/08
Today is not only our last full day in Africa,
but also my & Jim's 17th wedding anniversary. I'm really missing Jim & so badly wish I could communicate with him.

We've had a break in at our guest house. Daughter A witnessed part of it so we are waiting up til she gives her statement to the policemen.

The thieves were interrupted so only got away with a couple of cellphones. It seems they were also attempting to break into our room as it's window was partly opened & I know I didn't open it --- neither did the girls. Almost everyone was gone tonite including the owners. A, B, and I had gone over to Bobby and Jo Carol Elliott's house for supper & when we came in, A saw the thief in Jennifer, Lisa, Ty, etc's room. She didn't realize it was a thief til a few minutes later when the rest came home & found stuff disturbed & missing. As we were going in our room, A heard footsteps behind our room.

As we wait for Anna's turn to testify, I'll write more about our day.
We left the guest house a bit after 5:30 this morning in an open-sided bakkie. It's the kind of safari vehicle seen in movies, etc. There were no seatbelts which freaked me out a bit...okay...MORE than a bit. Here we are, NO SEATBELTS as we race down curvy, hilly, African highways with nothing between us and the road but a low wall that came up to our mid-torso. So I'm praying and trying to be okay with the whole set-up while A & B are loving it.

We arrived at Kruger around 7:00. Immediately we saw waterboks go racing across the roadway just at the entrance. Our driver/guide Hiney was in his mid-twenties --- very knowledgeable and personable. He grew up a t Kruger as his father was a park ranger. He was able to tell us much more about the park it's, animals, and the details of life there than I ever got on the two times I did Kruger unguided during the time I lived in Swaziland.

Among the animals that we saw were hippos, crocodiles, baboons, bats, giraffe, 2 kinds of rhinos, elephants, tortoise, antelope, and many others.

A great day but we were totally wiped out by the end. A & B passed out on the way back to Nelspruit. I was too excited and busy taking pictures. Surprised?

Hanging out with the Elliotts at their home in Nelspruit. They are Southern Baptist missionaries and lived in Swaziland at the same time as I did in the 80's.

Well, that's the end of my diary entries concerning the happenings of our Swazi trip. There are a few pictures of the day we left (of course) but I didn't journal about them. I may or may not post some of them later on. But for now, that's the story. We had some incredibly wonderful times and I'm so very, very thankful that God let me have this time together with my girls and the incredible fellow travelers. Though that trip is over, I have a feeling that the REAL journey will go on for a long, long way before it's completed.