Monday, January 31, 2011


Two children at Bheveni Careoint have gained sponsors over the last week and a half or so. That leaves just eight who need "special friends" to help feed them and provide for them in other very important ways.

If you have been considering sponsoring a child, just go to Danielle's blog and she'll give you the details:

By the way, maybe you've been wanting to sponsor a child but didn't think you could afford it. We'll, you don't have to pay monthly. With tax refunds coming in soon, you could use part of your refund to just pay out right for the whole year. That's just over $400. I can guarantee that you and the child you sponsor will reap a lot more lasting benefits than a shopping spree at the mall would provide.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


"What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like."


Saturday, January 29, 2011


By Muliro Telewa
BBC News, Nzoia, Kenya
26 January 2011

Most women would struggle to cope with six sets of twins but for Gladys Bulinya it is even more difficult - as many people in her part of Kenya think twins are cursed.

Her relatives will have nothing to do with her, and her husband left her, fearing she was jinxed, after the sixth pair of twins arrived last year.

So the 35-year-old lives alone with 10 of her 12 children in a one-roomed grass-thatched house, a few miles from the shore of Lake Victoria.

Sitting outside her small home in the village of Nzoia, she recites the birthdays of her children with ease.

"John and James were born in 1993," she starts, shading her eyes from the sun's rays.

She explains that she got pregnant at high school - but her boyfriend was too young to marry her.

Her sorrow then turned to shock, when her own family ordered her to leave the babies at the district hospital for adoption.

They told her that the Bukusu people, to which her family belongs, believe twins bring bad luck - and that unless one of them dies, it means certain death for one or both parents.

The Bukusu tradition of eliminating the second twin is no longer practised, though occasional cases of infanticide are still reported in rural areas of western Kenya.

Forced marriage

Luckily, Ms Bulinya says, when her boyfriend's father learned the twins had been abandoned, he took them in and has cared for them ever since. (He is from a different ethnic group, the Kalenjin.)

But her troubles did not stop there. Five years later she fell in love with and married a primary school teacher.

She was living with his family when she gave birth to her second set of twins, Duncan and Dennis.

Fearing she had brought them a bad omen - and that someone would die - her in-laws chased her away.

"I was put on a motorcycle taxi with my twins and sent to my father's home," she says.

Yet again, however, her family had no sympathy. Still considering her cursed, they did not allow her on to their property.

Instead, they quickly organised another marriage for her, to a man 20 years her senior.

He agreed to the alliance, she says, as he had not expected to marry at his age.

But more twins followed.

"Mercy and Faith were born in 2003 and Carren and Ivy in 2005, Purpose and Swin in 2007," Ms Bulinya says.

It was the arrival of Baraka and Prince last year, that led to her husband walking out.

"I now have to do lots of odd jobs to feed my 10 children because I do not know where he is, and he is also too old to work even if he were around," she says.
'No regrets'

A few of the children attend the local junior school.

The five-year-old girls take it in turns to care for five-month-old Baraka and Prince, while their mother is out weeding plots or doing washing for neighbours.

Eleven-year-old Dennis has been given a scholarship to a private boarding school nearby, while his twin Duncan looks after the livestock for a retired teacher.

"I have decided to sponsor one of them - that is all I can afford," Margaret Khanyunya, director of St Iddah Academy, told the BBC.

Duncan's monthly ration of maize for his herding duties is enough to feed the rest of the family.

So the family of twins, often ostracised by the community, just about scrapes a living.

But even Ms Khanyunya, a benefactor, is critical of Ms Bulinya's situation.

"The lady should have undergone sterilisation after discovering that men were using and dumping her," she says.

Ms Bulinya says she has no regrets and sees all her children as God's blessings.

However, she admits that she has now reluctantly been sterilised, "against the wishes of my church", as she could not cope with any more children.

"I am a Catholic. When I made the decision I asked for God's forgiveness and I am sure God understands and will forgive me for doing that."

The one thing that really upsets her, she says, is the absence of her 17-year-old twins.

She weeps when she recalls their last meeting, two years ago, at their circumcision, a ceremony which marks a teenage boy's rite of passage to a man.

At the gathering, each parent must hand over their son to the community elders for the circumcision.

"I was invited to the occasion and asked twice to pick my sons from among the crowd of 30 boys," she explains.

"In both cases I picked the wrong children and my heart still bleeds each time I think of that day."

The situation with multiple twins is obviously rare, but many of the other circumstances are all too common for children and women in much of Africa, including Swaziland.

Women struggling on their own to raise children without help from the fathers, very young children supervising and caring for babies, children separated from their mothers and practically raised as strangers, children not able to attend school because they have to work to support their family --- these are all situations seen regularly among the struggling in Swaziland and in the community surrounding Bheveni Carepoint.

If you'd like to be a part of helping lift the 'curse' off of women like Gladys and bringing blessings instead, please visit Danielle Brower's blog:

Because no child should ever have to be seen as anything less than the beautiful miracle of God that they are.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

Psalm 139: 13-14

Friday, January 28, 2011


Seeing as how it is the last Friday of the first month of 2011, I thought I'd hit you with some MacHappenings.

*Oldest daughter Anna is now 17 and has officially started her senior year this month. She will be finishing up school this coming December and has HOLY CROSS COLLEGE in New Orleans as her first choice. Her career goal at this point is to go to work for the FBI after majoring in Applied Behavioral Science and then hopefully move on to work for the International Justice Mission fighting human trafficking and under age prostitution. She is working for a local frozen yogurt shop and driving her very own truck compliments of her Grandma Chris.

*Anna, Betsie, and David are all participating in a production of Peter Pan that a local homeschool group is putting on. Anna is one of the Lost Boys, Betsie is Tinker Bell, and David plays Lone Wolf. This is their first big production to be in so they are excited and having fun meeting a lot of new homeschoolers.

*All three of the above mentioned kids are still in the throes of fundraising and preparing for their upcoming missions trips. Betsie leaves mid-April for 2 months in Northern Thailand with friends from our area who are missionaries there. Her best friend Candace, pictured above, is going on an AIM trip to Nicaragua and will be leaving just after Betsie gets back. They are already dreading the separation. In mid-June, Anna will be leaving for a month in Bangkok, Thailand as part of an Ambassador team. Later in the month, David will leave with his AIM Ambassador team for 3 weeks in the Amazon Rain Forest of Peru.

*Today was our homeschool group's spelling bee. Betsie had been the undefeated, reigning champion for the past 5 years. She finally "aged out" and so couldn't compete this year. All of the 5 younger kids participated to some degree. The 2 youngest were in the "Fun Bee" that is strictly an exhibition one and they, along with their parents, get to pick the words they will spell. This was 5 year old Miss M's first year to be in it. David, Patrick, and their sister LG were in the competitive bee and David came in 3rd place out of 13 contenders.

*Many of you know that my last remaining grandparent died a couple of weeks ago. Though a funeral is always sad in ways, it was good to know that she was no longer in pain but with her family, friends, and Lord in Heaven. It was also good to see my North Alabama cousins that I haven't seen in several years. All of the husbands were there and most of the kids along with my aunt and uncle. My Florida Aunt and Uncle were there with both of my grown Florida cousins and kids. And since my brother and his family were present, it was the very first time that many of us have been together ever.

*Next week, Jim and I will be celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary. We surely have been through a lot since then and definitely done some changing --- physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. What hasn't changed is our commitment to love each other "for better or worse" and I can honestly say that there has been a whole lot better than worse.

*I'm still working with Danielle Brower and the rest of the Bheveni folks to help recruit more sponsors for some very amazing but very needy Swazi kids. Thankfully, we've gained 2 more sponsors over the last couple of weeks. We now only have 9 more children that need special friends here in America. I was very blessed to have one of my Bheveni posts, the one with the HUNGER GAMES tie-in, featured on my college alum's blog today: I'm hoping and praying that this new audience will also bring in some new people who want to partner with us in changing the future for this community of kids. Pray with me for this, okay?

Well, that's it for now. We've got an African-missions themed evening ahead for us with friends coming over to talk about recent ministry trips so I'd better get off and start getting stuff done.

Hope you have a great weekend with those you enjoy the most and hope you get some time to dream those dreams God has for you!

With joy,
Elysa Mac

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Before we know it, the Super Bowl will be upon us. Now for some of you die hard football freaks, the main thing is the game. No matter who is playing, your main reason for watching is the sporting action on the gridiron. For others, the game is okay, but it is the half-time show that draws you. And for a very large group, forget the game. Go straight to the commercials.

But for all these types, Super Bowl food is a main attraction. Hey! We're American. We like food and love it if we can figure out some way to make an event a food event.

I'll be honest, unless the Saints are playing, the food and the commercials are my favorite factor....though Donny Osmond doing a rendition of PUPPY LOVE during the half-time show would be pretty freaking awesome.

But back to the Super Bowl snackin'. Over the years, certain foods have seemed to become as much of a food tradition as turkey is at Thanksgiving and chocolate is on Valentine's Day. Can't remember a Super Bowl party where wings and Tex Mex were not part of the munchie line up.

Now I love snackin' and parties. I also love healthy eating. And I love yummy healthy eating. Those elements don't always seem to easily go together. But here at Graceland, I'll be making the effort to do just that. I'm going to be presenting food options that are great for a Super Bowl party, taste great, and are made of mostly wholesome, good-for-you ingredients.

The kick-off recipe is one I discovered at a homeschool mom's food blog. Can I just tell you that some of her food photos look as delicious as the dish they are illustrating?


I don't have an interesting tale to tell about this avocado dip. It's creation came about due to one of many possible reasons or all of them. I'm new to guacamole, and boy is it green. Wow...this one avocado didn't go very far, we need more dip than this. I want it to be creamier. I sure do love sour cream....what if I just add some to this guacamole?

Whatever the family loves this dip; it's our favorite way to eat avocados! It's easy to make, there aren't too many ingredients, it's very versatile and great to take to gatherings and parties. It can be as spicy or as mild as you want it. Actually, I never make it the same way twice.

Denise's Spicy Avocado Dip

2 ripe avocados, mashed with fork
1 can mexican rotel (cilantro/lime), with liquid
1 to 1 1/2 cups sour cream (I prefer Daisy, full fat)
1/4 medium sweet onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt/pepper to taste

In medium sized bowl, add rotel to avocado. This mexican rotel is quite spicy. I use it to top tacos, tostadas and what not. If you aren't into spicy, you can use mild or original rotel. If you don't have rotel, you can dice tomatoes and add 1-2 Tbsp lime juice (it just won't have any kick to it).

Add in sour cream, diced onion, garlic. Mix well. Salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate. It tastes great right away, but even better if it's refrigerated an hour or so. I place the avocado pits into the dip to keep the avocados from turning brown. Stores well for several days.

Serve with tortilla chips or Food Should Taste Good chips.

So, give it a try. And while we're talking Super Bowl recipes, share your favorite with me.

To see more of Denise's wholesome, delicious recipes, visit her blog at:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


A gal I know on the FIVE IN A ROW boards was asking for advice about going to New Orleans with kids. She wanted to know what were the highlights and how to make things safer and easier.

I waxed so eloquently on the wonders of the Crescent City, that I decided to share my recommendations here.

We live about 3 hours from New Orleans and have frequently gone with our kids, their friends, and over the summer, with my visiting friend and talented author Claudia Mair Burney. When we first got married, we visited NOLA a couple of times and then we didn't go back for several years. It just seemed so seedy and dirty and creepy when we went in the early 90's. When we returned right before Katrina, the atmosphere had changed markedly. The city has really made an effort to clean some things up and become more family friendly. Yes, there are still some really raunchy and occultic parts, but there are many, many wonderful elements, too.

Some of our top favorite spots and things to do include:

1. DEFINITELY beignets at Cafe DuMonde. If you are going to be there on the weekend, either get there super, super early or shoot for going late morning if you must go in the morning. We often wait and go mid-afternoon when the it usually isn't crowded.

2. Walk along the river walk which runs alongside the Mississippi River where it borders the French Quarter. Along the river is a nice, not-crowded spot to be. You can watch the boats, listen to sidewalk musicians, and just relax.

3. CENTRAL GROCERY! Home of the world famous muffalettas. My oldest daughter fantasizes of marrying the heir she loves it so much! It also has a lot of very interesting grocery items to look at such as jarred octopus. If you go right at lunch, the line may be out the door --- but not to worry, it moves fast. Their menu is very, very small and much of it is carryout so even though the line may look outrageously long, you won't have to wait but 10 or 15 minutes. It is worth the wait and as I said, you can look at the cool stuff as you anticipate that first bite of muffaletta amazingness. Visit this website for more information on this N.O. landmark:

4. MASKARADE --- this is THE best mask shop in N.O. in my humble opinion and unlike most of the shops, the shopkeeper is absolutely delightful, actually acts like she's glad you are there, and is a fount of knowledge about masks AND New Orleans. We took my daughter and her friends there when we went for her 16th bday. She not only didn't have a problem with us trying on all the masks, but allowed photos. Many shops do not allow this. It is just a block or two from Jackson Square, the heart of the Quarter. If you go, tell the shopkeeper (if it is the distinguished lady pictured here) that the "Mississippi lady who homeschools her 7 kids and has a daughter that is going to attend Holy Cross College" sent you. Here is a link:

5. Sometimes visitors who only have a short time in the city don't want to do the zoo or aquarium. They figure they can do lots of zoos and aquariums in other parts of the nation. I do understand this but let me add this plug. Both attractions have worked hard to include some elements unique to Louisiana and the Gulf Coast so this does make them special. The zoo has a special Louisiana section featuring lots of swamp animals and the aquarium highlights many of the creatures that live in the nearby Mississippi Gulf Coast as well as some of the swamp critters. But that said, if I had to choose between spending lots of time exploring the French Quarters and do other uniquely New Orleans things and those two things, I'd skip 'em, too.

6. RIDE THE TROLLEY! You can get on it several places around the French Quarter. In this photo we were loading up one block off of Canal Street in order to ride to the Garden District which is a lovely, mostly quiet area filled to the brim with beautiful architecture, lovely gardens, quaint shops, great eateries, and other charming elements. When we took our daughter and her friends, my husband had gotten a map and some information for us. We rode it out to a historic cemetery (Lafayette) in a gorgeous neighborhood and spent time exploring it before doing a walking tour of the surrounding area. Anne Rice, who has written some wonderful books about the life of Jesus Christ, lived there growing up and we wanted to see her home, the chapel she attended, and other places associated with her life.

7. Peruse the artists, listen to the musicians, and watch the performers on Jackson Square. There is so much to soak up. One time a couple of the girls with us got beautiful henna tattoos.

8. THE FRENCH MARKET has a lot to look at as well as fun things to buy and regional yummies to try. CAFE DU MONDE & CENTRAL GROCERY are part of that district. There is a flea market and farmer's market and always musicians and artists. There is one regular vendor we discovered last time who sells a lot of things from Africa. Of course, I spent a lot of time there.

7. BENNACHIN'S! Okay, so this place is not cajun, creole, or even Southern, but how can this African loving girl resist eating at a fabulous West African restaurant nestled in the French Quarters? But bring cash! They don't accept the plastic stuff. Oh, and make sure you use their bathroom. I know, I know, sounds weird. But it is the only place I know of where Mona Lisa peers at you from the wall above the toilet. Yep, they share a bathroom with the next door pizza place.

We have found it is best to park in the one of the to-pay lots next to the JAX BREWERY building. This was a huge beer factory that now has been converted into shops and restaurants. We've never had any safety issues there and it is within walking distance of all the attractions in and around the French Quarter. Another plus is that there are good, clean public bathrooms located inside the brewery which makes a nice last minute stop before hitting the road for home.

We have been probably 5 or 6 times over the last few years with some or ALL of our 7 kids and both with and without my husband. We've never had anything unsafe happen...well, except for me almost getting run over by a trolley car because I was taking a photo and not paying attention. But other than that, as with any big city, you have to be careful, but if you're out in the day time and using your common sense, you should be fine.

WE LOVE NEW ORLEANS!!! In fact, we love it so much our oldest daughter is planning on moving there to live in a year and a half and I KNOW we're going to be making plenty of road trips down to the Big Easy.

Enjoy your visit and as the cajuns say, laissez les bons temps rouler!*

*Let the good times roll.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011



Folks that know us in real life can testify to the fact that my hubby and I are very different. Over the almost 20 years of marriage, we've rubbed off on each other a bit and have smoothed away some of the differences, but over all, we're still pretty opposite in many ways.

He's an introvert, I'm an extrovert.

He's task-oriented, I'm people-focused.

He's strong, I'm a wimp.

He's a hard worker, I'm fairly lazy.

He's self-disciplined, I'm self-indulgent.

He's a former paratrooper and green beret, I'm a former preschool teacher and mental health case manager.

He's an engineer, I'm a stay-at-home-mom-and-homeschool-educator.

He's a native Californian, I'm a Southern Belle.

He's excels at math and science, I'm prefer art and music.

And if you know anything about the Myers-Briggs Personality test, he's an IN/STJ, I'm an ENFP.

But despite all our differences, we do have a lot in common. We both are followers of Jesus We both are committed to serving in Swaziland. We enjoy traveling and learning about other cultures. We love our big, crazy family. And we both love reading...a lot.

Of course, opposites that we are, our reading tastes are usually very divergent. But over the years, we have come across books that the both of us have liked.

Here are some of those mutually admired tomes:



ZORA AND NICKY --- Claudia Mair Burney

FOUR SOULS: A SEARCH FOR EPIC LIFE --- Sklar, Medefind, Peterson, Kronberg

THE GREAT DIVIDE --- T. Davis Bunn

THE LIST --- Robert Whitlow

THE MESSAGE --- Eugene Peterson

JERUSALEM VIGIL --- Brock Thoene



THE VISITATION --- Frank Peretti

THE LAST JIHAD --- Joel C. Rosenberg

BABY BLUES --- Rick Kirkman


DEEP BLUE --- Tom Morrisey

ARENA --- Karen Hancock

THE RECKONING --- James Byron Huggins

THE ONLY ROAD NORTH --- Eric Mirandette



TEA WITH HEZBOLLAH --- Ted Dekker and Carl Medearis

So what books do you and the man in your life agree on?

Monday, January 24, 2011


...of my blue-eyed girl.

My five year old blue-eyed girl, that is.

I promised Miss M a few nights ago, that I'd do a blog post all about her. Since she got a new, happy, twirl skirt in the mail today from Poppy Dips, it seems like an appropriate time to let her express herself.

First of all, Miss M, what are your favorite blue things since I know blue is your favorite color?

Blue Baby Doll, Blue's Clues, my blue Tweety Boyd [bird] shirt that I got on my 3 year old birthday, blueberries, and my snowman shirt I love, and that's all I love about blue.

Well your new skirt doesn't have much blue in it but it is still very pretty. Why did you pick that particular pattern for it to be made in?

Because I likeded the colors and how boydie [birdie] it is.

You like Poppy Dip skirts don't you?


And you like visiting the Poppy Dip website, don't you?


How come?

Because I like it.


Because they have awesome beds, because they have good kids, and their daughter Esther has a baby doll. And their family name is the Couches.

Why does Miss Sallee make and sell these adorable clothes?

Because she knows it will nice for other people's families.

And what does she do with the money?

She keeps it so she can get her new little brown boy from Ethiopia.

She's adopting him?


He's a cutie pie isn't he?


If you could tell him one thing about his new life in America, what it would be?

Well, he'll like that he has a house [instead of an orphanage] and he'll like his family.

I think that Miss M is absolutely spot on. The best thing about living in America for Samson Jude is going to be his new home and family...because I know they already love him like crazy. And every child deserves to be part of a forever family willing to go to the ends of the earth for him. And that's just what they are doing.

If you're interested in reading about the Couch Family's adoption journey (Samson Jude is their 3rd child to adopt from Ethiopia) and seeing photos of Sallee's darling creations, visit her blog at:

And if you think about it, say a prayer for them and all the other adoptive families out there working to bring their children home. The adoption road can often be a hard and long one filled with upsets and detours. But it is well worth it because as that famous, red-shod girl was apt to say, "there's no place like home". There are a lot of homes out there just waiting for that special smiling child to enter the door that brings them into a family united not by ancestry, but by love.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


One of the very best aspects of Swaziland is the children...and their sweet, loving hugs.

When you reach out to each other and enjoy a big, ole hug, it doesn't matter that you don't speak much siSwati and they've not learned much English. The joy and love more than makes up for the language barrier.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Jim and I took the kids on a three mile walk down to the river and back again today. Like most Americans, we walk for recreation and to enjoy the scenery. We also walk for exercise. We need to make up for our over eating so we'll stay healthy and not die too soon.

In Swaziland, most people don't own cars. They walk because they need to get somewhere. Some also walk because they don't have enough to eat and want to stay healthy and not die too soon. They walk 1, 2, even 3 miles a day just to get to a carepoint for a meal, a meal which may be their only one of the day.

Five year old Sphamandla lives with his grandmother and five other children. Every day, he has to walk 45 minutes to get to the Bheveni Carepoint where he will receive a filling meal, a meal that means the difference between malnutrition --- and possibly even death from starvation --- and better health and life for Sphamandla.

But the food doesn't just fall from the sky. It is provided by donors and sponsors here in America.

Sphamandla needs a sponsor.

He needs someone who will partner with Children's HopeChest to help make sure that when he gets to the end of his long morning walk, he'll have life-giving food waiting for him.

If you'd like to be the one who becomes Sphamandla's special friend, someone who doesn't just send money but writes him letters and prays for him as he grows up, visit Danielle Brower's website at:

There are approximately 150 children who walk down thorn-lined paths and dirt roads every day to the Bheveni Carepoint. Sphamandla might not be the one that you feel pulled to, but Danielle will be glad to help you find just the right one for you to walk alongside from this side of the ocean.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Tonight, my 7 year old son asked me if I would write a blog post about him. I said I could, but that it would have to be a blog post related to Swaziland because I'm writing a series about kids there who need sponsors. Mr. T agreed, if later I would do one just about him (such a narcissist) and, of course, when his little sister Miss M heard about this, she said she wanted one, too.

Looks like I'm going to be pretty busy in the coming days writing posts about certain children who don't yet live in Swaziland. But in the meantime, let's see if we can write a post about this American kid and Swaziland and Bheveni at the same time.

Well, here goes---

So Mr. T, how long til your family moves to Swaziland?

About coffee years.

Uh, what does that mean?

What did you say?

How many years is "coffee years"?

Um....well, how old coffee gets, like us.

Are you trying to refer to something such as dog years?

No. Uh, maybe.

T, how many years til we move to Swaziland?

In coffee years or in human years?

Human years.

Okay, um...2. 'Cause remember Mom, next year we're going to Washington, D.C., and then the next year we're going on a trip to Swaziland, and then the next year we're going to Africa to move there.

Well, actually, that's more like almost 3 years.

Well, maybe.

So why are we moving to Swaziland?

Before I tell you that, the reason I say "coffee years" is 'cause I was drinking my coffee...

Your coffee?

[Laughs hysterically][more silly laughter].....[bounces off the wall once, literally]....[hops up and down a few times and then bounces off the wall some more]...the reason why I said "coffee years" is 'cause when I was drinking my coffee, I thought you said "how many coffee years til we move to Africa".

Okay, now that we have that settled...


...why are we moving to Africa?

'Cause my mom wants to drink coffee [more deranged laughter]....okay, I take that back....the reason we are moving to Africa is 'cause God's telling us to. And when God tells us to do something, we drink coffee. [And even MORE insane laughter erupts as well as wall bouncing and running] Okay, okay, okay...enough with the coffee. The reason God told us to move to Africa is 'cause He wants us to minister to the people that are doing witchcraft and that kind of bad stuff and kissing men that aren't their husbands.

What about the kids?

Well, we're ministering to them by coming to where they are and talking to them.

How else can we help them?

Well, we can go bring food to them. That's a good thing. We can do with a little bit of stuff or we can give all our stuff away. That's something good. its time for the exciting things.

What exciting things?

We're going shark diving!!!! We're going bungie jumping!!!!!!!!!!!! We're going sky diving!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We're going on a long, long zip-line. The zip-line is like 3 hours!!!!

WOW! As you can see, T has big plans for our future life in Swaziland.

And Godly plans.

Yes, T, and Godly plans. We're looking forward to having a lot of fun times together as a family and some of those fun times will be crazy things like shark diving, but a lot of the fun times are going to include some amazing Swazi kids, like the ones at the Bheveni Carepoint. I can't wait to see my kids playing with those kids.

My smile is going to be so big it'll probably cause face cramps!

Can't you just imagine my kids faces mixed in with these precious kids?

I am going to love watching them play with them, sing the Swazi songs I've taught them since they were little, praying with them, and even sharing food, clothes and toys with these kids.

Kids like Lindani. This little fun-loving 5 year old boy lives with his grandmother and 9 other children. He walks 25 minutes daily to the Bheveni Carepoint for preschool class, food, Bible teaching, and a safe place to play.

One day, my kids will have the chance to meet little boys like Lindani. They'll come to know them as in-real-life friends. Not all of you and not all of your children will ever have that chance. But, you and your kids can still be a friend to Lindani or other children at Bheveni Carepoint.

Through a commitment of $34 a month, you can become their sponsor. As a Children's HopeChest sponsor, you will help provide food, education, medical care, and Bible teaching to the Bheveni community. You'll also write them letters and receive messages from them.

And you will even have the opportunity to go and visit the Bheveni Carepoint and become in-real-life friends with a Swazi child...just like my little Mr. T and the rest of my kids.

For more information, visit Danielle Brower's website at:

Thursday, January 20, 2011


A year or so ago, moms of the homeschool board that I frequent started posting about a new book they were reading, HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins. I checked it out from the library but it was due back before I got to it and so back it went. Time went by and my oldest daugther Anna decided to read it. She checked it out and was quickly hooked. Loving it, she was frantic to read the sequels and have me, her dad, and her two oldest siblings read it so she'd have someone to discuss it with.

Her dad and brother both tore through it and her sister Betsie and I are reading it as quickly as we can, not wanting to take too long to see how the main character, Katniss, fares in the Hunger Games. In this post-apocalyptic world, a nation has emerged with a minority that rules and has plenty of food, medical care, expensive clothing, modern technology, time for entertainment, and iron-clad security. But the majority live in outlying areas where they labor long, rarely have enough to eat, live a style that is much more primitive, have very limited educational and vocational choices, and die all too easily. In these oppressed districts, people often go to extreme and dangerous ends to gain food illegally. Katniss is one of these people. After her father dies, she is forced to become a provider and hunt for her family. She daily faces death by going into forbidden areas to gather wild, edible plants; berries; and roots; as well as hunt animals for precious and rare meat that can be traded and sold in the black market of their society.

One way that the ruling minority keeps the districts under their control and at the same time provides "reality tv" entertainment is through the Hunger Games. Two representatives, always between the ages of 12 and 19, from each district are picked to fight in a prolonged fight to the death. Names are randomly selected on a "Reaping Day" and those eligible adolescents who are particularly hungry and desperate, can have their names entered extra times in the drawing in return for more food rations for their famiies. After a period of training and preparation, the contestants are placed in a expansive area for the actual competition. In the spacious arena that can include bodies of water, deserts, forests, rocks, hills, and meadows, the 24 participants must use both their survival skills and their fighting skills to stay alive. If they are the one, remaining competitor at the end of the challenge, their district and their family will be rewarded, in part, by receiving even more food as well as other perks.

There is a real life nation that sadly parallels this fictitious one in a few ways: Swaziland.

Swaziland does not have a Hunger Games competition nor does it have outlying districts that are oppressed by a central capital. But like the country in HUNGER GAMES, there is a minority of people who are financially secure and a majority of people who are struggling, sometimes simply to survive. Drive through the streets of the two main cities or some of the smaller towns and you will see signs of prosperity...beautiful homes, hair salons, fitness gyms, fashion boutiques, and plenty of food visible in the grocery store windows. But look around and you'll also see signs of extreme poverty. You'll see the squatter's village and homesteads comprised of battered huts and shacks, the children wearing raggedy clothes, and the stray dogs that are skin stretched over bones.

And spend time there talking to people and hear the stories.

Stories of...

...adolescent and elementary aged girls selling their bodies for enough food for one meal.

...old women who have survived off of water and wild greens for two or three weeks.

...children as young as 2 and 3 years old walking 45 minutes to an hour just to get their one meal of the day at a carepoint.

...fathers and mothers who leave their children alone day after day and night after night, sometimes for weeks at a time, so they can work at the only job they can find in a city hours away from home.

...scores of children standing on street corners, by bus stops, and near shop doors begging for a few coins.

...entire neighborhoods dependent on what they can dig out of the city dump's trash heaps to eat, and what they can't eat, to sell for money to buy more food.

...gangs of youth raised without a father and desperate for food and money who have resorted to robbery.

...elderly, arthritic grandmothers hoeing up the dry, rocky soil for hours on end in an attempt to grow a few ears of corn in a land hammered by drought.

...parents having to chose between feeding their children or seeking medical care for their children because unemployment rates are skyrocketing and there just isn't enough money to cover both the needs.

Too many people, including way too many children, are in desperate situations. Like the contestants in HUNGER GAMES, some will die of malnutrition and starvation before they will resort to acts that go against their principles. Others will resort to doing whatever it takes to get food, even if it means participating in dishonesty, theft, prostitution, and even murder.

In HUNGER GAMES, the competitors can gain sponsors to provide assistance for them during their competition. A particularly popular contestant might have water or medicine delivered to them at especially crucial times. These interventions by the sponsors make all the difference for the contestants. Sometimes, these interventions mean life, at least for a while, triumphs over death.

In Swaziland, there are thousands of children who can gain sponsors to provide for them during this desperate trial. This is no fictitious game. This is harsh reality. We can't close the book and it quits existing. Whether we want to think about it or not, thousands and thousands and thousands of children will not have enough food to eat today. They and their care providers will be faced with difficult decisions as they struggle to just live.

We have decisions to make, too. Are we going to step in and make sure that they have the food, water, and medical care needed at this especially crucial time? The intervention of organizations such as CHILDREN'S HOPECHEST and ADVENTURES IN MISSIONS make all the difference for the children they minister to. Sometimes, these interventions mean life, at least for a while, triumphs over death.

I realize that I am one person and can't feed every child in the world. I can't pay for every child to be educated or receive the medical care they need. But I can sponsor one or two. I can make a difference for them. And if others sponsor one or two or three, before we know it, a generation of children can be saved in Swaziland. A generation of children can grow up having to make the only kind of choices that children should have to make.

This isn't a game. It isn't a fictitious story. This is reality. Now let's write the ending together.

For more information on sponsoring a child, like 7 year old Simpiwe who lives with 7 siblings, visit Danielle Brower's website at:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


To see a larger image of this photo, click on the image itself.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Swaziland is a unique place in many, many ways.

On a continent in which civil wars and tribal strife is often all too common, Swaziland has been spared, in large part to the fact that the people are all one tribe. Another factor that aids this peaceful state and adds to the uniqueness is its form of government. Swaziland is still a nation ruled by royalty. In this case, a king and the queen mother. Mswati III has been the reigning king since I lived there in the 1980's. In fact, I had the pleasure of attending his 21st birthday garden party and then the huge,public celebration at the national stadium in which all authority of kingship was given to him. His mother is not just a figure head in this nation but a woman with true power and authority. King Mswati and Queen Ntombi both have very specific roles that they fill. King Mswati is the Administrative Head of State and rules as a powerful monarch in Swaziland, while the queen mother is seen as the spiritual and national head of state overseeing many of Swaziland's traditional rituals and events.

As well as King Mswati's mother, there are other queens. King Mswati officially has thirteen wives. These women often take part in charity events, meetings with heads of state, and traditional, Swazi, cultural events.

But besides the wives of the king and the queen mother, there are many other "Queens" in Swaziland. These are girls who have been named Queen by their parents. There are also many little girls running around answering to the name of Princess.

In Swaziland, names are very important. Here in America, a child will often be given a name just because the parents like the sound of a name. They might not even know the meaning of a name. Not so in Swaziland. In this mountain kingdom, names have meaning and children and their parents know the significance of these names.

This teenager, who is part of the Bheveni Carepoint community, is named Queen.

Queen is a beautiful 16 year old girl who lives at home with 5 siblings and has a 60 minute walk to the carepoint daily for food, water, a safe place to hang out after school. She is also weekly taught by the Discipleship Team about Jesus and His love and plans for her life.

Danielle Brower, our team leader, took this photo of Queen and the Brower's sponsored child, Siphiwe. Queen is the one on the right. Danielle said, "She LOVED having her picture taken! With a name like Queen, of course she does!"

Queen already faces more responsibilities and risks than we here in America can imagine. And in just a few years, she will be facing adulthood and even more challenges. Through the ministry of Bheveni Carepoint, our community of support is trying to ensure that she is given all she needs to make wise choices and have what she needs to succeed and survive in the years to come.

But Queen needs a sponsor.

A sponsor helps ensure that Queen's physical needs are taken care of and that Queen will have a community to support her as she grows up, because unlike the king's wives and mother, this Queen has an extremely impoverished life with all the hardships that go along with that.

A sponsor is also a special friend who will pray for her, send her monthly notes of news and encouragement, and have the chance to even visit her one day. A sponsor means love to Queen. A sponsor means someone cares enough about her to give both their finances and emotional support because they believe that she is of value and has a future filled with hope.

If you would like to sponsor Queen or any of the other ten children still needing sponsors at Beveni, visit Danielle Brower's blog at:

And when you do, know that you are helping a Swazi girl know that she is true royalty, the daughter of the eternal King.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Today, our nation celebrates the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. and in reality, we also celebrate the equality and freedom that was brought about because of his life and the lives of so many others who were involved in the Civil Rights Movement.

Martin Luther King was an eloquent speaker with a big vision. So much of what he said then still stirs us today.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood."

As followers of Jesus, I believe we are all called to dream. We are called to dream of what this world would look like if we all worked together and truly lived as Jesus commanded us to live by His words and example.

One of my dreams, is that all the children of Swaziland would have enough food to eat, a nurturing and secure home, quality education that prepares them for the future, sufficient clothing to protect them from the elements, the knowledge that they are valued and loved by God, and that He has a plan for them in this life and the eternal one to come.

It seems like a crazy dream. But then, the dreams of equality seemed impossibly crazy for the black person living in America's Deep South a hundred years ago. One hundred years ago in my part of the world, a black man couldn't drink from the same water fountain as a white man, a black child couldn't go to school with a white child, a black woman couldn't sit down and eat in a whites' only restaurant, and a black man who fell in love with a white woman --- even if she loved him back --- could find himself beaten or even hanging from a noose.

And there were whites, too, who dreamed of a different South. Not all whites were racist. Not all whites were satisfied with the status quo. There were whites who also yearned for a day when their black brothers and sisters would attain the status and respect that they deserved.

In my book of COMMON PRAYER: A LITURGY FOR ORDINARY RADICALS, a prayer was featured this weekend in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday---

Lord, as we wake from another night's slumber, we are reminded that your dreams are given to us and not merely conjured up by our imaginations. Help us understand both that your dreams come at a price and that their rewards are immeasurable. Amen.

Those participants in the Civil Rights Movement got that. They yearned for the rewards of equal rights but they very clearly understood the price that they would have to pay. For some, it was loss of job, crosses burnt in their yard, food thrown at them, and vicious names spewed at them. For others, it was bone-breaking beatings, weeks spent in prison, and even the ultimate sacrifice of their very lives. There were those who were willing to literally die for the cause of justice and die they did.

Their example forces us as followers of Jesus to examine our hearts and ask ourselves, "would I be willing to sacrifice and even die for what God calls me to do?"

I am afraid that all too often my answer is "no". Oh, I may say with my words "I am willing, Lord" and I may sing "all to Jesus, I surrender, all to Him I freely give", but do my actions show that I really, really mean that?

It isn't just enough that I say it with my words, but my actions need to back that up.

Am I truly willing to follow Jesus in His life of sacrifice and servanthood? Am I willing to do without so others can have? Am I willing to suffer so others will not suffer? Am I willing to go into dangerous places to rescue others from danger? Am I willing to die so others might live?

I want to be. Oh, I want to be.

At least, a part of me wants to be willing and then to do it.

But a big part of me is a spoiled, pampered, safety-is-my-god, American Christian.

For most of my life, being a Christian meant being a nice person who follows the moral laws of the Bible.

It is only in the last few years that I've started getting a hold of the truth that to be a Christian means to be a little Christ and that to be a little Christ means I need to do more than just be nice, tell people about Jesus, and do good things. It means I must become a servant, a radical servant, one that is willing to leave it all. It means I must not just be willing but seek to go into the darkest, hardest places and risk my life and the life of my family.

My family. My children.

Risk their lives?

South Africa has recently gone through their own racial civil rights movement as people struggled against the apartheid form of government that institutionally discriminated against people and legally controlled who could marry, where a person could live, and what a person could do for their job all based on race.

One of those who struggled nonviolently against apartheid in South Africa was Albert Luthuli. He said:

"It is inevitable that in working for freedom some individuals and some families must take the lead and suffer: the road to freedom is via the cross."

When I read this, I was faced with the realization that to follow this dream of bringing freedom to the children of Swaziland --- freedom from extreme poverty, freedom from spiritual darkness, freedom from death and disease --- that our family might suffer. For an American mama who has safety as a key mantra, this is hard. I don't like pain. I am a scaredy cat about so many things. I double check my locks and always wear my seat belt. I am careful about where my kids go and what they do and who they are with. I pray everytime I drive them anywhere that God will protect us.

And yet, I'm saying that I will willingly put my kids in danger and take them on a journey that will bring about suffering?


Yes, because I believe that God is calling our family to fight for his precious "least of these" in Swaziland.

Yes, because I believe that He has put a supernatural love in my heart for that nation and the Bible says that "greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends". (John 15:13)

I want to have that kind of life. I want to have that kind of love.

The price might be great. But the rewards? Oh, the sweet, sweet rewards.

To see a tiny baby live and thrive and grow.

To see a sick child healed and running and laughing.

To see an abandoned teenage girl transformed into a princess with hope for a beautiful future.

To see an orphan brought into a home and loved.

To see an old woman able to enjoy the fruits of her labor knowing that when she passes, her grandchildren will be cared for.

To see a young man walking strong in the Lord and leading his family, community, and nation.

To see a nation following the Lord in truth and love.

These are rewards that are worth suffering for. These are rewards that require Christians to take up their cross and follow Jesus.

Fifty years ago, people were faced with a decision:

Would they fight for the freedom of their fellow man, stand on the side and do nothing, or fight against justice for their fellow man?

If you are a Christian, I am asking you today, will you fight for the oppressed, sick, and starving "least of these" or will you stand by and do nothing?

Dr. King said ---

"Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness."

The children of Swaziland might not be who God is calling you to fight for. He might be calling you to the prostitutes in your city, the immigrant community in your town, the lonely residents of your neighborhood nursing home, or the homeless you pass everyday on your way to work. It might be a neighborhood in a Mexico border town, a city dump community in Central America, the sex tourism areas of Thailand, or an orphanage in Ukraine.

The Bible makes it very, very clear that ALL Christians are called to care for the orphans and widows. ALL Christians are called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, comfort the sick, visit the imprisoned, care for the homeless.

But this is a big, big world with many needs and not every person can be involved in every need.

But we must all be involved in meeting the needs somewhere, somehow.

Fellow follower of Jesus, what is the fight God is calling you to?

Who does God want you to lay your life down for?

If you don't know, ask Him! He will show you.

If you do have that pulling on your heart but you don't know where to start, ask Him!

And if you know where to start but you don't have the strength or means or even the willingness to do it, ask Him!

These are the kinds of prayers that He promises to answer.

If you think that the children of Swaziland might be one of the "least of these" that He wants you to fight for, sponsorship through the Bheveni Carepoint sponsor program is a good place to start.

A child like four year old Nomphilo, who lives with her grandmother and nine other children, deserves the chance to dream of a good life filled with amazing possibilities. A child like Nomphilo needs someone like you to help these dreams become a reality. Her name literally means "life" in siSwati. By sponsoring her, someone will be helping her live out the fullness of her name.

Today, join with me as I stand with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, a man who layed down his life for his fellow man, and dream about a better world.

Dream with me about a world that was prayed for by Jesus when He said ---

"Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven."

Crazy? Yes.

Impossible? No.

Nothing is too hard for God. Nothing is too hard when His people say "yes" to His call.

For more information on sponsoring Nomphilo or other Bheveni Carepoint children, visit: