FLASHBACK FRIDAY....Swaziland 20 Years Ago
.A little over 20 years ago, I packed suitcases, a trunk, and two carry-ons and headed off to Swaziland to live for two years as a Southern Baptist Journeyman Missionary. In the two decades since my first time to go there and my trip last year, a lot has changed...though one thing remains constant...my big hair. I've shared on here scads of photos from the recent trip, I thought it would be fun to post ones from back then.
So get ready to travel back to Swaziland in the late 1980's...preppy styles and all. Sorry the quality is not better. It was pre-digital camera days and I have no idea where my photos are packed away. Hence, photos made of photos my mom has scrapbooked for me, except for the one below. This one comes from a guy who is now a youth minister, husband, and father of three, but who 2o years ago, was one of the missionary kids that made up my mission family. And family they really were for me. Chad Elliott, his parents, and the rest of missionaries and mks were there during holidays, on birthdays, when my car broke down, or when the crazy man tried to crash down my door. Most of them lived in Mbabane and attended church where I was assigned.My main areas of ministry in Swaziland were doing teacher training and curriculum enrichment at Mbabane International Baptist Church. I also taught Sunday School & helped with Children's Church.Because of cultural reasons, many of the church's youth group activities were divided by gender so I was the primary leader for the youth girls under the overall youth leader and boys' leader who was another Journeyman, Andrew McKneely from Texas.
Maureen Enderby was a pal from Scotland. She was a stay-at-home-wife so had lots of time to minister in the community. One way she blessed me was to help cut out the seemingly endless game pieces for the preschool.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of living in Swaziland was learning about the culture. Two of my friends, John Bedor and Denise Bouchard (now Gregson) were part of a wedding party. Swazi weddings are FUN! And they last a long, long time. They really are events that you want to be asked to attend. I didn't know the bride and groom well at all, but in honor of John and Denise, my friend Dee Harbath (now Kriz) and I were invited. We rode there dressed to the nines complete with high heels and hats on a very crowded public bus surrounded by boxes of beer bottles.
Dee was a Peace Corps. volunteer and staying with her in her small, crowded school faculty house that she shared with 2 Swazi women and their children gave me insight into that aspect of Swazi culture. It was a sturdy house, but with just a couple of gas eyes for cooking and often no running water (they had to haul it from a stream...or maybe a communal water faucet?), it made me grateful for my city living. I was a wimp then...big time! Of course my Peace Corps friends loved coming and staying with me and using all the clean, hot, running water that their hearts' desired.
When my mom and brother were visiting from the States, Dee took us down to visit another Peace Corps volunteer teacher. John didn't even have his own house. He lived in a converted classroom and had a makeshift kitchen in a storage room. He was very creative and we were impressed with how he hung shelves and a clothes rod from the ceiling. He lived way up high in the mountains and it was bitterly cold when we visited him in his unheated home. The thick, homemade, veggie soup that I brought with us and heated up on his little propane camp stove surely was good on that frigid night.
The first several days that I was in Swaziland, the Baptist Mission arranged for me to go out in a rural area and stay with an American Campus Crusade single missionary. Denise, who I mentioned earlier, became one of my dearest friends as a result. Her very humble, tiny home was nestled up on the top of a beautiful mountain at an agricultural training center that Campus Crusade partnered with.
Nearby lived Denise's Swazi "family". They had taken Denise under their wing and helped her learn the language and much about the people of Swaziland when she had first arrived. Though I didn't stay with them and have the chance to be with them nearly as much since I lived in the city, they still took me right in. They named me after one of their precious little girls, Thandeka, and the mother became my Swazi make, their word for mother. Since I was named after Little Thandeka Dlamini, I became known as Thandeka Lom Khulu Dlamini, which means literally translated, the big loveable one who eats at noon as Thandeka means "easy to love", Lom Khulu is "the big one", and Dlamini (the royal family's name) means "one who eats at noon".
The pictures below show us visiting at various times. The white house was the family's main house. The mud structure was the grandfather's house. Rural Swazi homesteads are usually comprised of several buildings clustered together often with extended family members living in different small houses. There will sometimes also be houses specially designated according to their purpose such as a kitchen hut or a storage building.
Isn't Thandeka absolutely precious? She was very, very small for her age. In part, probably due to not always having enough food to eat as she developed. But also due to a defective heart, though this was not known until she had become too weak to do anything about and she died about 2 or 3 years after I left Swaziland.
Besides having fun learning about the culture, Denise and I, along with a large group of Swazi and international young adults, were always up to something on the social scene. When you live in a country that at the time had only 1 movie theatre with one screen, only 1 tv channel, no internet, etc, etc, etc, you learn to be creative where fun is concerned. Numerous parties were thrown at my house and others' with often crazy games involved. Roadtrips were taken to Kruger Park, to visit friends, or to Johannesburg for big city life and a chance to wear bluejeans. Meals were shared at the Swazi Plaza restaurant or picked up at Kowloon's Chinese Carry Out, not to mention feasts we fixed ourselves like the time John Bedor (another American missionary) and Andrew made homemade pizzas. Here we are hanging out at the Flemings home. Ben and Cheryl--- along with their 3 children, Benjamin, Rebecca, and Amanda--- were amazing missionaries also with Campus Crusade. Their beautiful marriage did a lot to get me ready for one day being a wife and Ben was actually the one who helped me to decide that "yeah, I can marry someone who is not a Baptist preacher!" In the picture above with me are Denise in pink, John Bedor in the tie (a William and Mary College grad), and Dave Matthews who was with Overseas Crusade and I think is now a missionary with Calvary Chapel in The Philippines...though I'm not positive on that count. Denise and her family are missionaries with TransWorld Radio living on Guam.
Another dear friend was Margie Hynd, seen above holding my elephant puppet sent to me by my dad to use in my ministry. Margie was unique for many reasons but one very special one was that she was a citizen of Swaziland. She was in fact a dual-citizen also being a Scottish citizen. She had been born and raised in Swaziland and was in fact the 3rd generation of her family to live there. Her grandfather, Dr. David Hynd, was a medical missionary who came to Swaziland in the first quarter of the 1900's. He later became royal physician to the king and delivered many princes and princesses. Margie's father, Dr. Samuel Hynd, carried on the family tradition also working as a medical missionary in Swaziland and subsequently became the royal physician as time went on.
Through my friendship with Margie and the wonderful times I spent with her dad, step-mother, grandfather, sister, niece, nephew, and domestic staff, I learned about an entirely different side of Swaziland history. A side that they had a truly unique perspective on. Margie's Dad is still a practicing physician in Swaziland and her sister Elizabeth returned to Swaziland after I left and started a beautiful, high quality orphan home. You can read more about the history of this family at http://wesley.nnu.edu/wesleyctr/books/0001-0100/HDM0070.PDF .
My first Christmas in Swaziland I spent with the Flemings. My second was spent with Margie's family and it was there I experienced for the first time Christmas crackers and the wearing of paper crowns on Christmas Eve.
The stamp below is of Dr. David Hynd. He was greatly loved and respected during his lifetime. In the photo of me with Margie you can see me pulling a Christmas cracker.
You can see on this page me just goofing off...even missionary girls wanna have fun sometimes...and then another photo with Laura, a Journeyman from Botswana.
Yeah, life was pretty great during those years. God gave me the amazing gift of not just serving Him and His precious little ones in Swaziland, but also the huge blessing of so many dear friends, many who I'm still in contact with to this day.
I learned an important truth during those years. When we're willing to give up our own way and follow His way, the blessings are unimaginable. I fought going overseas as a single missionary. I told God when I was in college that I'd go, but to let me get married first. He finally convinced me otherwise. I was so scared that I wouldn't be able to handle being so far from home on my own and the loneliness involved. And I'm not going to lie to you, there were some hard days. And I got scared...a lot...and cried and missed my back-home friends and wondered if I'd ever get married and...and...and....
But it was so worth it.
I can honestly say that those two years were two of the best years of my life. God taught me so much and those years in Swaziland made me who I am now. They affected the kind of man I'd marry, the way I'd raise my children, the kind of church I attend, and they are now affecting my life in ways I'd never have dreamed of just a couple of years ago.
Twenty years ago, Swaziland was a daily part of my life because I was living there. Now Swaziland is a daily part of my life because God has stirred up my love for it and the passion for it's people is with me every single day...in my thoughts, prayers, dreams, hopes, conversations, and plans.
For now He has me stateside and I'll do my best to be obedient with what He's got for me in the here and now, but I'm hoping that 2o years down the road, I'll be posting a similar blog, but this time I'll be in Swaziland doing a flashback to my American life.