Saturday, December 31, 2011


Hope 2012 starts as great for you as ours has here at Graceland!

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Thursday, December 29, 2011


...we'll be en route to Paris, France, for a 12 hour layover before re-boarding and flying to South Africa. Upon arrival, we'll rent a van and drive to Swaziland.

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When Jim and I returned from Swaziland last fall, we knew we wanted to take the kids to visit before we moved there, but even up til this fall, that trip seemed so far away. We even thought we wouldn't be going til next year sometime. And then God had other plans and everything upgraded to warp speed and here we are --- starting to pack for Swaziland.

I'm going to be working on a list of areas to pray about while we are gone. In the meantime, will you please pray for us as we make final plans for our itinerary, gather items that have been requested by the missionaries and Swazis, and as we do all those last minute things that have to be taken care of before we depart?

Thanks and hope you are all having a wonderful week between Christmas and the New Year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Blessings are just pouring out on behalf of our fast approaching trip to Africa.

P9241482 Resize of Phiwe and Ball

*A package arrived full of yoyo toys to take to some of the kids in Swaziland.

*Another package arrived full of children's clothes.

*Two of my MUW friends (including one of my Troubadour littls sisters) brought me books yesterday.

*One of those same MUW friends brought clothes for my kids as well as clothes for Swaziland and some various other items to take including construction paper for the preschoolers.

*A homeschool mom has given me books and clothes, including several skirts.

*Two people I only know thru facebook sent us money simply because they love God and the children of Africa.

*Two friends from church have conspired together to get me tons of PEOPLE magazine back issues for Inge Donaldson, the missionary we'll be staying with in Manzini. One of these friends also bought Twizzlers for Inge's husband Dudley.

*Three college friends plus a relative have promised us some luggage they no longer need.

*One more day of our Swaziland trip van rental is paid for thanks to an MUW/Troubadour Social Club sister.

And this is all within the last couple of weeks, but mostly in just the last few days.

We are so fabulously blessed, and considering they did all this during the busy Christmas season is doubly appreciated.


P.S. If you are interested in seeing items that are still needed, go to yesterday's blog post:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Some people have been asking what we still need donated for our upcoming Swazi trip.

Swaziland Elysa with little girls at Fikile's framed

They are interested in sending over items that the carepoint kids, missionaries, etc. need or have requested just to make life a little easier. For some of the kids, these donations are HUGE needs such as school supplies. For others, like the missionaries serving there, little things like a new book or chocolate chips, give them that loving boost when they are missing home or feeling discouraged.

There are also a couple of things that we need to help us with our trip.

If you are one of those interested in donating any of these items, please let me know so we'll make sure we don't get duplicates or too many of one thing and not enough of another.

I am putting initials or names by some of the items so I can keep up with who the items are for. I am also putting an X by the items when we have gotten them and no longer need them. There is still time to ship things to us if you don't live locally.

*pencils (Bheveni Carepoint)

*pens (Bheveni)

*loose leaf notebook paper (Bheveni)

*books by Francine Rivers (NM)

*pancake mix (NM)

*mint gum (NM)

*Clean, classic books such as ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, HENTY books, etc. --- NO references to magic, witches, the occult, etc. (Bheveni and others)

*Christian fiction --- young adult, children's, and adult (Bheveni and others)

*Children's picture books --- no references to anything magical (Bheveni and others)

*Christian music cds (for missionaries and Swazi staff)

*Colored Construction paper (carepoints and missionary kids)

*Mp3 player, any brand (TM)

*Twizzlers (DD) X

*Chocolate Chips (ID)

*People magazine --- this missionary says that old copies are fine, too (ID) X

*Elastic waisted skirts (HN, carepoint gogos, teachers, and others)

*Blue jeans in size 8 or 10 (HN)

*Solid Stick Deod/Anti-perspirant (HN)

*Pepperoni - the kind that doesn't have to be refrigerated til after it is opened (JP)

*Laptop Computer - To be used by house parent at an orphan home (HFNM)

*PS2 - for boys at an orphan home (HFNM)

*Pecan Roll --- that candy thing that is white on the inside and rolled in chopped pecans (HJS)

*Bananagram Word Game (HJS)

*Monopoly Deal card game (HJS)

*Baby dolls (especially dark-skinned ones)

*Small toys such as Hot Wheels cars, balloons, plastic animals, balls, jump ropes, Happy Meal prizes, etc.

*Vacuum-air-out bags so we can fit more stuff in less space (for us to use on trip)

*Rolling carry-on bags (for us to use on trip)

These items do NOT have to be new. Books still read even if they've been read a dozen times. GUM, on the other hand, needs to be UNchewed. ;)

Monday, December 26, 2011


For teachers, one of the best gifts they can ever receive is to know that their students are learning and implementing the lessons they are being taught. As a Sunday School teacher, knowing that the Biblical truths and missions lessons that are being taught at church are staying with the children, is an amazing gift.

I received such a gift this Christmas Day.

While at church for the time of communion, another mom stopped me. She shared that her six year old daughter is only allowed one piece of gum on Wednesdays and one piece of gum on Sundays. She looks forward to those days and wakes up excited, knowing that she gets gum on those special days.

For Christmas, she received two packs of Orbit gum in her stocking and, according to her mother, it seemed like the best present ever. She then asked her mother if she could "give Mrs. Elysa one pack to take to Africa" to give to the children there.

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Believe me, that child's expression of love brought bright tears to my eyes and true Christmas joy to my spirit.

By the way, I have to add that this child isn't just learning these lessons at church, she's seeing them lived out in the lives of her parents every day. I'm just glad that God has honored me with being a small part of her spiritual journey.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Today has been a wonderful Christmas Day filled with all the best elements that our family looks forward to each year. It has indeed been a very merry Christmas.

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But it has also been day that has reminded me clearly of why it was so important for Jesus to come to earth.

This morning, I read a message from Dudley Donaldson, missionary to Swaziland. He had gone to preach at the maximum security prison and had shared that God sent His son to us because of His great love for us. As a result, a young prisoner turned to God and accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

A few hours later, our family went into Jackson to celebrate Christmas with the We Will Go Ministry family.

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We ate a wonderful meal, sang songs of worship, talked and laughed, and shared testimonies. Among those sharing was another man who talked about God to an audience. But this time, the man wasn't a missionary. This man is a former drug dealer, one who was widely known for his hardness and hatred. He had often made curse-filled threats against the Christians at We Will Go when they would visit his home to pray for him and tell Him about God. Finally, the Word of God worked its miraculous way into his soul and he repented of all the sin in his life, turned to Jesus, and now passionately loves and serves the Lord. He doesn't just come to the worship services and Bible studies, but he is there every week serving and helping others and telling those around him about the difference that God has made in his life.

As I sat there listening to him, I thought about another man changed by the power and love of God. I thought of the young prisoner who, though he is held behind bars and high walls, is now free.

Both of these men are now new creatures in the Lord. Because God loved them so much and knew them before they were even born, He sent His only begotten Son Jesus to prepare a way that they could turn from the ways of death, darkness, and destruction and be made clean, whole, and His.

Thanks to the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, these two men are beginning new lives with amazing and miraculous potential.

Emmanuel --- God with us.

God for us.

God making us new.

Christmas....a time for new beginnings, for them and for us.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


...and all thru the house, not a creature was sleeping, 'cept maybe a toy mouse.

The dad's wrapping presents, the kids are a'playing, and Mama's sending Christmas greetings to all that they love!

Rejoice Bethlehem Religious Christmas Card
Creating Christmas cards has never been this easy.
View the entire collection of cards.

I hope that this finds you all enjoying your Christmas weekend and even enjoying the preparation of the day. I've been trying to not let myself get stressed out, practice saying "no" when I need to, and really enjoying the few things we did decide to do this year such as the Jesus Birthday festival last night where my kids manned the living nativity scene and the gingerbread people pancakes I made this morning. I really want this to be a season filled with celebrating and showing the joy and love of Jesus, and that's really hard to do when I let my to-do list get out of control.

So, to you and yours....Happy Christmas Eve!

Now go and make some wonderful. stress-free memories, remembering that every good and perfect gift comes from the Father in Heaven!

Friday, December 23, 2011


As I make Christmas preparations, I'm missing my two oldest girls. They are both working today and though I'm proud of their responsible natures and willingness to help support themselves financially, it is a bittersweet reminder that this is our very last Christmas all together before Anna leaves for college and not too long after that, Betsie will be at college and we'll be in Africa.

Christmas at Canton Framed and Resized

When this photo was taken years ago during our annual Christmas visit to the Canton Square, I just never imagined how fast time would go by.

Cherishing this season as I'll be holding tight onto these memories for many Christmases to come.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Whew! What a day. Jim woke me up while it was still dark this morning so we could get the kids up and out the door for a day trip to his folks' house up in the northern part of the State.

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There, along with his sister's family, we all ate amazing food, played games, took a very short and very cold walk to see the nearby farm animals, ate more amazing food, exchanged gifts, laughed a lot, and shared what God was doing in our lives including dreams that many of us share for living and serving in Africa and other places in the world. Yes, Jim and I aren't the only ones in this family who feel the pull toward full-time missions.

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After several hours, we piled back in the car, drove home looking for seasonal lights along the way, and arrived back here tired but content.

Tonight we should all sleep really well with our happy bellies and contented spirits. I'll be going to sleep hoping that I can sleep in a bit extra before waking up to cook a big ole Southern-style breakfast in honor of my husband. It is his first day off for the holidays and he deserves to be pampered a bit extra.

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Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas Eve Eve tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


God grant you the light in Christmas which is faith;

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the warmth of Christmas, which is love;
the radiance of Christmas, which is purity;
the righteousness of Christmas, which is justice;
the belief in Christmas, which is truth.

--Wilda English

Photo taken at the square in Canton.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


He who has not Christmas in his heart
will never find it under a tree.

~Roy L. Smith

Christmas with 5 oldest kids Resized

Hoping that you are experiencing Christmas in your heart this year and that your finding your days filled with love and joy.

By the way, this photo was taken several years ago when our 10 year old was just a little thing and the baby of our family. Times have changed. The rest of my children --- just little kids here --- are now all teenagers, but I pray that despite getting older, that they've not lost the joy of Christmas. In fact, I pray that as they continue to grow up that their appreciation of what God did for us will cause their Christmases to only get richer and more precious.

Monday, December 19, 2011


A lot of people have asked us about our upcoming trip. Folks have asked what is the purpose and what we'll be doing, so I thought I'd share a little more with y'all today.

P9180516 Africa trip map Re-sized

First of all, the purpose is two-fold. We hope to bring the love, joy, encouragement, and provision of Jesus to many while we're there as well as introduce our five younger kids to their future home. Our oldest girls have both been there before. They will go with us to minister and be a part of our family, but the getting-to-know-Swaziland aspects are primarily for those who will still be living with us when we move there in two years. Moving to another country can be pretty stressful and hard on missionary kids. We want to do all that we can to ease that transition.

P9200669 Anna and Ellie Re-sized

While we are there, we are making plans to do some things that will help our kids see what every day life will be like for them such as going to grocery stores, visiting in the homes of families (including missionaries whose lifestyle will be much like ours), going to a couple of different Swazi churches, exploring the town we are praying about moving to, and meeting lots of kids their ages who can tell them about life in Swaziland. I will have the blessing of introducing my family to some of my Swazi friends from when I lived there in the 80's, as well.

Swaziland Scene re-sized

We will also do some fun things to introduce them to the traditional Swazi culture and geography of the nation more in depth such as going on a safari, taking a canopy tour (think lots of zip-lines), hiking to caves with ancient bushmen paintings, swimming in waterfall pools, shopping at craft markets, staying in a rondavel (round hut), visiting Swazis living in traditional homesteads, and going to various artisans' shops.

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And we're really excited about the ministry activities we have planned so far. We will be attending a traditional Zionist church service the first Sunday we are there where the whole family will sing a couple of songs, one that David will accompany us on the guitar while we sing in English, another as we sing in siSwati and dance to Siya Hamba ("We are Walking"). This will be at a special youth service. We are also hoping to sing and dance at at least one or more hospitals and an orphanage or two. We will spend one or two days at Bheveni carepoint giving gifts to the children, singing songs, perhaps telling stories, playing games, and doing whatever else they want us to do. We pray we'll get to see both of our sponsored girls then. At Big Bend, we'll be staying at the Moriah Centre for several days where we'll also just do whatever else they need us to do. And other than that, we'll just wait and see what ever else God has planned for us.

For truly, whether we are doing an official ministry activity or just doing something "regular" like eating at a restaurant or looking around the crafts market, we want to be a blessing to those God sends our way. We want the folks who come into contact with us to feel the love of Jesus and be drawn closer to Him. And if that happens, then we'll have made the most of this amazing, amazing opportunity. We will have turned all those "regular" things will really be "eternal" things.

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Please keep us in your prayers as we prepare to leave over the next few weeks and thank you so much for all of you who have supported us in various ways as we walk out this path that God has put before us.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


One way is to keep up the thanksgiving that began last month.

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"Joy is rooted in gratitude. A grateful heart is a joyful heart; a joyful heart is a grateful heart – they are inseparable." ~ Kay Warren

Saturday, December 17, 2011


My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action. I John 3:18

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"Throughout history, an authentic faith has been marked by a compassionate response toward those the world tends to forget." --- Gary Thomas

During this Christmas season with all the busyness and the buying, let's remember those who are often forgotten or even avoided. Let's go out, as Jesus urged us to do, into the byways and highways, the hospital halls and nursing home rooms, the shelters and the shacks, and bring the love of Jesus to those hurting, lonely places.

It doesn't necessarily cost a dime. Hugs are free as are carols sung with good cheer. Just let them know that God loves them, sees them, knows them.

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Let's remember.

Friday, December 16, 2011


Tonight, I had a wonderful time with my hunky hubby. He took me to see THE MUPPETS at the cinema followed by supper at FIVE GUYS and Christmas shopping at my fave big store, TARGET.

As I said, it was a wonderful time --- fun movie, good supper, and all of Jim and the kids' presents bought. So when I came across this video tonight, I thought it was only fitting to share:

Thursday, December 15, 2011


It has become a tradition in our family to interview each child on or near their birthday. Patrick, since he just turned 13, is now up for this special occasion post.

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Patrick, can you tell my readers how you celebrated your birthday?

A week before my birthday, we had my birthday party. We played games, watched CAPTAIN AMERICA and PSYCH, wrestled, and played hide and seek in the dark. We ate pizza, cake, and icecream.

What about on your actual day?

We had icecream for breakfast, mac and cheese for lunch, and I didn't have dinner with y'all because I was at a [homeschool group] youth Christmas party.

What are some of the gifts you received?

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Lego Ninjago, money, CAPTAIN AMERICA dvd, Heroica, and Oreos.

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Okay, so how do you think you have changed the most since your last birthday?

I'm more mature. I can watch more movies.

What thing happened this past year that you are the most proud of or was your favorite memory of the year?

Becoming the [Boy Scout] troop chaplain.

What are your favorite things to do now?

Play with Legos, watch movies, sleep, play video games.

What are your favorite foods?

Mac and cheese, hamburgers, Cheetos, icecream, and Oreos.

What are your favorite books or kind of books?

Star Wars books, Tintin books, Lemony Snicket, Left Behind Kids.

What is your best or favorite school subject?


What are you looking forward to happening the most in the next coming year?

Going to Africa.

What do you think you want to do when you become an adult?

I don't know. I guess I'll just find out when I become an adult.

Well in the meantime, I'm enjoying watching you grow up. It'll be fun to see where God and this life takes you.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011


What's got me smiling today?

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Making Christmas cookies with my kids using some of the same cookie cutters that my brother and I used growing up.

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Its beginning to taste a lot like Christmas!

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Yeah, that was the attendants at our annual homeschool moms' Christmas party getting good and giddy!

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And though we look pretty calm and polished here, you'll just have to use your imagination where the crazyness is concerned...either that, or wait til someone starts posting and tagging on facebook! Aye-yi-yi.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Okay, let's be honest, I know I'm not the only procrastinator out there. And I'm sure I'm not the only mom in America who hasn't put up a tree, decorated cookies, hung a wreath, or sent out Christmas cards.

Elysa and big smile

Yep, I see those hands.
..and those other crazed faces.

And for those of you who have been on top of all of this for weeks (or even months) now, you can just sigh, send sympathetic thoughts our way, and generously offer to let my children come over to your house to participate in beautiful craft making and other seasonal traditions.

But for the rest of us, who might be freaking out just a bit with the realization that Christmas Day is in less then two weeks --- oh wait, you didn't know that? ---- this post is for you.

I've wanted for years to send out photo Christmas cards, but there was always one thing or another that kept me from going that route.

Either we were broke and Dollar Tree cards were all we could afford or I just didn't know what I'd do for a photo or we were broke or I waited too late and ended up sending out Christmas cards just before Valentine's Day or we were broke.

This year, I found an offer that Shutterfly was making available for a limited number of bloggers that made it possible for me to dream about Christmas photo cards. Then, it was a matter of actually getting the family together for the photo, getting the photos to my computer, etc., etc. so that dream could become a Christmas card reality. Needless to say, the great put'er-offer that I am is just now getting around to ordering said cards.

But thanks to Shutterfly and their fast order service, you can still order Christmas cards (as well as photo gifts such as calendars and mugs) and get them before Christmas! That's good news for a last-minute-Mrs. like me!

I ordered our cards today and found the system simple to use with a fabulous variety of cards to choose from --- in fact, 1,004 items showed up when I clicked on Christmas cards --- ranging from the very traditional to the uber trendy, from the totally secular to the seasonally spiritual.


For our cards, I chose a dark blue template with a nativity theme. No, that's not our family pictured above --- a few kids shy of our million --- but you get the general idea.

You're gonna have to wait a few more days til you see the real deal.

And because I signed up for a new Shutterfly account, I received fifty free prints. I used this sweet treat to order some photos that I doctored up a bit and they now have the potential to be used as both holiday cards and prayer reminder cards for our upcoming trip to Africa.

Yeah, you'll have to wait a few more days to see those, too.

Anyway, to check out some of their other holiday offerings, follow these links:

christmas card love sfly

Christmas cards:

Christmas Card New Year invitation Shutterfly


Christmas card thank you sfly

Thank you cards:

christmas card photo blanket sfly

Photo blankets:

As I said, you're going to have to wait a while before I reveal our cards here, but if you'd like to receive a real, live, not-just-on-my-blog, beautiful, Shutterfly, Christmas card, let me know. I'd love to exchange cards with you. Receiving Christmas cards in the mail is one of my favorite traditions of the season.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Inge and Dudley Donaldson live in Swaziland where they are a part of the Zion Bible College, dedicated to training Zionist pastors and other church leaders as well as doing whatever God brings their way. Sometimes that takes the form of providing food for widows and orphans, sometimes it is giving clothes to those desperately in need.

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Inge and Dudley just sent out their Christmas newsletter and Dudley shared something from his heart that I wanted to share with you:

Long, long ago, in a faraway land, I did a foolish thing. Hard to believe, but true. The time long ago was when my son was about five years old (he turned 35 last month). The faraway land was America (it’s now far away from me). And here is the foolish thing.

As I walked through a shopping mall one weekday, I saw two young men demonstrating a new product. It was a glider made of Styrofoam. It was a huge thing—a wingspan of about five feet! These two guys stood fifty feet apart in the center of the mall and threw this huge glider back and forth. It serenely floated on air from one to the other. They did not even have to move. Then they performed loop du loops and other tricks. It was all so smooth and effortless, I was mesmerized.

There was no need for a sales pitch. I thought to myself, I have to get this for Benjamin! He would love this! Isn’t that what a loving father does for his little boy? He gets him a glider bigger than he is. Are you with me, guys? So, I got the glider. Judging from the price, you might think an ounce of Styrofoam rivaled gold in value. But I quickly pushed down the buyer’s remorse and looked forward to the joyful expression on Benjamin’s face when he saw what his dad had brought home.

There was just one little thing I had failed to consider—where was I going to fly this erstwhile Spruce Goose? I tried to fly it in the house, but was strongly encouraged to stop it this minute! I tried to fly it in our back yard, but the smallest wisp of a breeze sent it crashing to earth. I quickly realized there was a reason this glider was being demonstrated in a shopping mall. That is the only place this thing would fly! It required lots of space and no wind. The thing I was so attracted to and had to have—and paid too much for—was a waste. It was absolutely worthless.

Today it is easier than ever to accumulate worthless things. The problem is, we do not realize they are worthless. The world leads us to believe they are essential. But the world is controlled by Satan. And Satan is a liar. And so the world urges us and manipulates us, through promotion and peer influence, to keep acquiring more and more worthless things—and to purchase worthless things to give as gifts to others.

This Christmas alone, billions of dollars are being spent on worthless things. The latest toys, fashions, electronics, sporting goods, appliances, computers… Wait a minute! How can you say these are worthless things? These things enhance our lives. They bring enjoyment and even make us more productive. How can you say they are worthless?

I know, I know. I’m not trying to ruin your Christmas. Really, I’m not. I am only saying this because Jesus Christ repeatedly warned of the foolishness of accumulating things that would rust, rot, fade, break, disappear, or get left behind when you die. In light of eternity, these are worthless things, because they will not last and they have no lasting value. And pursuing such things reveals misplaced affections of the heart (Matthew 6:21). Instead, Jesus urges us to invest in things that are eternal. Like what?

Living in Africa, I cannot help but wonder what would happen if just a portion of all the money Christians spend on worthless things would instead be invested in building the kingdom of God. New missionaries are desperately needed around the world. The number of people willing to go grows smaller every year. But worse yet, literally hundreds of missionary candidates are about to give up on ever getting to their mission field because they are unable to raise the needed financial support. This is a travesty, especially in light of all the things to which we give a higher priority.

This is why I am so thankful for the many people who make up our support team. These are people who understand what Jesus meant when he said, “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Through the committed acts of giving financially and praying faithfully, they are investing in eternal things much more valuable than gold. They are helping to win souls for the kingdom.

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I want to join with the Donaldsons in saying "thanks". So many of you are giving to support missions and ministry around the world, including the ministries that our family is a part of. God is using your gifts to do amazing things and for this I am forever grateful.

Merry Christmas and may your days be filled with pursuing and giving those things that really matter!


To read more about the ministry of the Donaldsons and other ZEMA missionaries, visit their website:

Saturday, December 10, 2011


...we'll have landed in Johannesburg, rented the biggest van they have to offer, and driven the 5 or 6 hours to Manzini, Swaziland, where we'll be staying the first few nights of our two weeks with Inge and Dudley Donaldson.

This trip will be exactly four years after God took Anna, Betsie, and me to Swaziland. During that trip, he stirred up my love for Swaziland, showed me that I was "home", and put in Anna and Betsie both a desire to serve him thru missions.

This is a photo of Betsie at the Manzini market:

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And here I am with the same lady during last year's trip:

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This photo was taken of Anna when we visited the Timbutini church during our 2008 Children's HopeChest Vision Trip:

Anna at Timbutini Church Re-sized

It is amazing how much we Mac girls have changed in just 4 years. But it isn't just our physical appearance that has changed. Our hearts are different. All three of us are more passionate about God and more committed to loving His orphans, widows, and others who are oppressed and impoverished and alone.

Anna and Betsie are both really looking forward to the trip this January. They are thankful for what God started in them on the first trip to Swaziland and are eager to put into practice this time around all the things that God has been showing them and teaching them since.

What an amazing adventure this is going to be!

Friday, December 09, 2011


Today my son Patrick turns one year older. This birthday not only makes him a teenager, but makes me the mom of four teenagers! Wow! Four teenagers under one roof! And that doesn't count all the extras that are often here at various times through out the week.

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Parenting teenagers comes with its own unique set of challenges, but over all, I can definitely say that I'm having a fabulous time with this phase of their lives. God is doing amazing, crazy things in their lives and the lives of their friends. Guess its a good thing I enjoy life switched to full volume!

PC020361 Elysa and Patrick

Happy Birthday, Patch Man. I sure do love you, Dude!

Thursday, December 08, 2011


Go tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere,
Go tell it on the mountain,
Our Jesus Christ is born.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011


Claire Peterson is an amazing teenage girl who is living with her family in Swaziland as they minister to orphans, widows, and whoever else God brings into their lives. As the holiday season progresses, and all that entails, Claire reflects on spending Christmas far from Stateside loved ones and what answering His call means for her.

Swaziland Claire Peterson Christmas


I love Christmas. I absolutely LOVE it. I always have. The music and the decorations and the snow. All of it just makes me happy.

I’ve been trying my hardest to conform my Christmas this year to something exactly like what we would do in the States. I’ve been listening to Christmas music nonstop.(I’m actually listening to Josh Groban belt out ‘Silent Night’ right now =] ) I’m decorating my room with lights and ornaments. I’ve been convincing myself it should be freezing at night and wrapping up in my blankets, no matter how hot it really is. But no matter how much I do, I’m still not home. I’m not with the friends and family I love, watching the snow fall outside, curling up next to Grandma and Grandpa’s woodstove.

I guess maybe I have to stop trying to make this Christmas like an American one and just accept that it’s not and be ok with that, enjoying the excitement of spending Christmas in Africa. And I was doing really good with that for awhile. I was so excited to swim on Christmas and have a braii (South African BBQ ). Things we in Michigan never would do on Christmas. But today it sort of came flooding out. I was looking at my pictures from last Christmas and thinking about how wonderful it would be to go out and be in the snow.

Maybe all this time I thought I was fine, that I would be ok just having a wonderful Christmas with my wonderful family in a completely different (yet wonderful =]) place, maybe all this time I was just pushing down what I was really feeling. And, don’t get me wrong, I love this place, I love it more than anything. More than anything in the world. It’s amazing, and so hard emotionally, because lately God has been really speaking to me about a possible longer-term call for me here. Like, maybe after college or whatever he wants me to move here and start a family and live my life here. He was actually putting South Africa on my heart.

And it’s crazy, because I’ve been having this amazing peace about that, about living here. Like, it’s just been getting stronger and stronger and now it almost feels like a call, rather than just a feeling. I think more about South Africa because I don’t know how well I would do on my own. Swaziland is so isolated and there really isn’t anyone down here. I think if I did end up coming here, it would have to be if more people were living down here as well by then.

It seems far into the future that I’m thinking, about living here and starting my life here, but really, in less than five years I’m going to be an adult, starting college and seriously considering what I want to do with my life. And this seems pretty likely.

It doesn’t make sense, but it sort of scares me that I’m at peace with the idea of living here. Like I said, doesn’t make sense. Maybe I’m more scared of the call I think maybe God has put on my heart, I’m not really sure.

So what I’m getting to is that I’ve been feeling that call a lot lately, or what I think is a call, and feeling almost no opposition to the idea in my spirit. But when I look at pictures from home, and think about how extremely excited about going home I am after only being here nearly a year, I wonder if I could really do it.

This blog doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending, a resolution I’ve found in my spirit, because I haven’t found any resolution yet. I was feeling homesick and needed to get it out on paper, or in writing…whatever[=.

Thankfully, I have many things to look forward to right now that I know will get my mind off of feeling homesick, and I’m praying about it. Please pray for me too… I love all of you who are reading this….I miss you. I wish I could be there spending Christmas with you, but for now, I’ll enjoy my top-of-an-aloe-plant Christmas tree, and swimming on Christmas day, and camping for the holidays in summer weather..etc. I really am blessed, it’s just hard to see that when all you can think about are the faces of family you won’t get to see during Christmas, and the flakes of snow falling to the ground, and the fire. It’s a melancholy sort of feeling.

And it must be God, in his gentle, daddy way, that made me to be listening to ‘There’s So Much To Be Thankful For’ right at this moment. There is, there really is. I guess all it took was a blog, some Josh Groban, and some love from our good, good God, because I already feel a lot better.
Merry Christmas everyone.
There’s so much to be thankful for.

To read more about Claire's life as a teenage missionary in Swaziland, go to her blog:

Tuesday, December 06, 2011


More news today from Swaziland about little Thanduxolo who just had surgery earlier this week. Amy McAdams, Adventures in Missions staffer, asks us to continue to pray for him. She says, "he just looks so sick and frail. Not sure how he is really doing medically, it's hard to tell."

She also shared a new prayer request:

"[Please] pray for Mukelo, a 17 month old who was abandoned by her mother. She is pretty severely disabled (maybe Cerebral Palsy) and there is really no one to take her or help her."

So many little ones in places like Swaziland are in similar situations. Please, please, please pray for them, pray for the missionaries and Swazi Christians who are working so hard on their behalf, and please pray about what role God might want you to play in the lives of children like these. Maybe it is to become a sponsor through an organization such as Children's HopeChest. Maybe it is to give up one meal a week and donate that money to a ministry that feeds children such as A Child's Hope International. Or maybe, just maybe, God wants you to actually go to a place such as Swaziland and spend time taking care of children such as Thanduloxo or Mukelo.

If you have any questions about getting more involved with the lives of the children or Swaziland, I'd be glad to answer any questions you might have and pray with you about God's direction.

P9231224 Elysa with Nkhosingphile

I can tell you that my heart has been broken many times because of the love that God has given me for Swaziland, but I can also tell you that the pain is worth it to know that God is using my one little life to bring joy and provision to the lives of some of His precious ones.

Monday, December 05, 2011


Wanted to give y'all some updates regarding Swaziland and our upcoming trip:

Van Rental Numbers Covered Resized

*A family friend who has known me since I was a baby just sent word that they are sponsoring a day of African van rental for us. Y'all, this trip is happenin'!

*And it is happening soon! We leave in just 5.5 weeks! Woo-Hoo!!!

*The kids helped me pull out all our luggage and backpacks this afternoon to inventory what we have and what we still need. We are going to have to come up with 7 or 8 more suitcases and 5 more rolling carry-on ones. Each of us are taking the maximum allowed so that we can take plenty of things over for the Swazi kids and missionaries. We are hoping that each of us will have one suitcase filled with nothing but school supplies for big kids, pjs for little ones, used clothes to give away, gifts for missionary families, etc. Each of us will also carry a backpack or purse with our things we'll need during the trip over along with a carry-on containing a spare outfit or two and toiletries in case our luggage doesn't make it to Africa as quickly as we do. If anyone locally has any luggage they no longer need and would like to donate to the cause, just let me know! It doesn't matter if it is pretty or not. If it will carry stuff without falling apart between here and Swaziland, then we can use it!

*Please keep praying for us as we plan our itinerary (I'm getting good at spelling this word). We're looking at different ministry options such as doing some mural painting at one or more of the carepoints, the kids performing some fun Jesus songs at various venues, and maybe even visiting hospitals...especially children's wards. Just pray that God will be in the planning and whether it be a "ministry" activity or a "touristy" activity, that it will all be used by Him for our good and His glory. I really want my kids to get a heart for Swaziland and sense His call in a strong way. He first spoke to me about becoming a missionary when I was around 9 years old and he used me even earlier than that to share about Him with my friends. So I know He can move in the lives of my children. None of us are ever too young or, for that matter, too old to be walk with Him and serve others in amazing ways for Him.

*I also wanted to say thanks to those who prayed about Thanduxolo. As I shared in yesterday's blog post, he had surgery today. Amy McAdams, missionary to Swaziland, posted the update that "Thanduxolo was back in his room by about 4:30 this afternoon [Swazi time]. He had been picked up at 8:00 a.m., so it was a long day of waiting. When I left the hospital he was still pretty out of it but [the] nurse said surgery went as planned." Please keep praying for the little guy as he recovers.

*If you are on fb, we have a group that I update with news, prayer requests, and photos related to our trip. Just search for "Jim and Elysa's Swaziland Adventure" and you should find it with no problems. Send me a member request and I'll be glad to add you!

*We are still collecting items to take over to Swaziland. Among the items still needed include loose leaf notebook paper, pencils, and pajamas for kids 8 years and younger. Also, paint brushes (all sizes) and paint for the murals that Betsie and I are going to be hopefully painting.

*It is looking like we might be staying in a rondavel (round hut) up in the mountains for the last few days in Swaziland. I lived in the mountains when I was a missionary there in the 80's and know personally of the incredible beauty. I am looking to introducing my family to that part of my favorite nation.

Swaziland Elysa with little girls at Fikile's framed

*And by the way, did I mention that we leave in 5.5 weeks?!? Excited does not even begin to describe the way I feel.

Sunday, December 04, 2011


"Lover of peace"--- that's what this little African boy's name means and peace is just one of the things he desperately needs right now.

Swazi child Thando from Allison Clyburn

Amy McAdams, Adventures in Missions staffer in Swaziland, just posted a prayer request concerning this precious boy. Would you please take the time to pray for him right now?

Thanduxolo is a 9 year old little boy who is in the hospital now for at least the third time in his life. He has a disease that keeps his colon from working. It has expanded to the point that his belly is distended grotesquely. His diaphragm, liver, stomach, lungs and heart are displaced by the enlarged colon.

He can't eat, can't absorb nutrition from whatever he does choke down, so he is severely malnourished. I can easily touch my thumb and finger around his leg just below his knee.

But he is so beautiful! Smiling and smart, a 3rd grader who reads, colors and wants to play. He helps care for the younger children who live on his homestead. He lives there with his grandmother as his primary caregiver along with aunts, uncles, cousins and great grandparents. He has no father. His mother works in another town and only sees him occasionally.

Until a few years ago, he was in the care of his great-grandmother who only used "traditional healers" to care for his obvious medical problems. I'm not sure what that would have put him through, but I am certain it wasn't fun and it wasn't helpful.

But his experiences with "western" medicine haven't been all that positive up to now, either. He has a scar from his sternum to below his belly button from "exploratory surgery" since CT scans and other diagnostic tools are not readily available here. He has a scar down the back of his left leg from corrective surgery when he was an infant, a good thing, but also a big scar across the top of his foot which his grandmother says came from being cut by the saw used to remove the cast after the surgery. Seriously?

So, now he has been in the hospital for 6 days enduring laxatives, enemas and a "liquid only" diet in preparation for another surgery on Monday. The doctors will do a biopsy of his colon and create a temporary (hopefully) colostomy. This will give his intestines time to relax and hopefully shrink to a more normal size. It will also give him the ability (and desire) to eat and gain some strength and nutrition. The biopsy will allow a definitive diagnosis (probably Hirschprung's disease).

Then, hopefully, when he is strong enough and stable medically, he will have a surgery to "bypass" the diseased bowel and reverse the colostomy. This surgery will be difficult, and expensive, and most likely will need to be done in South Africa.

Through a long day of 3 doctors, 4 x-rays, an ultrasound, lab work and lots of poking and mashing (including 2 rectal exams), he shed only a few quiet tears and managed lots of smiles and a few giggles. He is really a special kid.

The first surgeon we saw reminded Thanduxolo's grandmother and me that Jesus has his hand on this boy. Before he was conceived there was a plan for his life. He doesn't have a "daddy" but he has a Heavenly Father who loves him and cares.

This doctor reminded me to feel and to see Jesus in these people. To learn from their faith and to see Jesus at work. I get so discouraged. It is so overwhelming. But He has been faithful to encourage me and show me love and joy and hope through the people He loves.

Please join me in praying for Thanduxolo tomorrow during his surgery and then during his lengthy recovery. Pray for his grandmother, Domsile, and family as they care for him and help him adjust to life with a colostomy. Pray for the surgeon a hospital staff. He will probably be in the government hospital for a couple of weeks following surgery. This is no American "Children's Hospital".... it is a struggling, African hospital with limited resources and grossly overworked staff.

Thank you for your prayers. They are crucial.

Amy McAdams and Baby

To read more about the ministry in Swaziland that God has called Amy and her family to, visit their blog: