Thursday, January 13, 2011


Three years ago today, I was preparing to go on my first trip back to Swaziland after leaving it in 1990. I had served there for two years as a Journeyman Missionary with the Southern Baptists. Those two years were wonderful. They were truly two of the best years of my life. And I'll be honest, though it sounded hard core to be serving as a missionary in an African nation, I had it so easy.

At that time, Swaziland was called the "Switzerland of Africa" due to its prosperity and peace. It was one of the easiest places on the planet that anyone could serve as an overseas missionary. Everyone pictured me living in a mud hut, suffering in the heat, all alone and tragical.

Instead, I was living in a cozy 2 bedroom house with a microwave and carpet and a nice big fireplace because Mbabane wasn't someplace you suffered from heat, instead, up in those green, green mountains, I learned to appreciate thermal underwear, thick socks, and my space heaters.

I worked at a wonderfully nice church and had a great preschool full of fee-paying, beautiful children and dedicated teachers. My youth group that I helped lead dealt with many of the same kind of issues that American teenagers dealt with. Most of the kids lived with one or both parents, the exception lived with an extended family member. Almost all the kids I knew had plenty to eat, sufficient clothes even in the winter time, and could go to the doctor when they got sick. Sure, there were some extremely poor children even back then and there was a limit to medical care, but over all, most folks in Swaziland had what they needed. Maybe they weren't even middle class by American standards, but they were doing mostly alright. As long as they worked hard and were motivated, they could make ends meet usually. And because of the role that extended families played, if one family member was suffering or having a hard time making it, the other family members would step in and help.

Fast forward seventeen or so years. God led me back to Swaziland through a series of fortunate events. I took my two oldest daughters with me on a vision trip to Swaziland. There I saw firsthand the negative changes that had occured in my beloved Swaziland. This beautiful nation went from having one of the best health and economic situations on the continent to being one of the worst in the world where infant mortality, life span, HIV/AIDS rate, etc. were concerned.

And it broke my heart.

It also changed my love.

I had loved Swaziland from the very beginning as a young, single, fresh-from-college missionary. The love had never gone away.

But now the love was different. It was a mother's love. It was a love that had been forged from what I saw and experienced. I saw mothers who didn't know how they would feed their children. I saw young girls who were prostituting their bodies for just a candy bar. I saw a mother begging on the street corner for school fees. I saw children whose bodies were ravaged from disease and malnutrition. I saw young men who had no hope of getting jobs and being able to provide for their younger, orphaned siblings. I saw churches overwhelmed with the dire needs of their congregation. I saw men, women, and children digging with their hands through the city dump's garbage heaps in the hope of finding something they could eat or sell.

I came back from that changed. I came back knowing that in order for my love to truly reflect the love of God for these "least of these" that it was going to cost me something, after all, it had cost Him.

Today I heard a song for the first time that was written after the artist visited Haiti. Meredith Andrews met a boy that inspired her to write these words. It so perfectly reflects what I've experienced and what I know so many others out there have experienced when they've fed that starving child or held that dying grandfather or rocked that suffering baby.

Those lives have taught us more about the Father's heart than any Sunday School lesson taught in a comfy classroom ever could. Those lives have shown us in ways we can't deny, the reason we Christians must be willing to set aside our own wants and desires and love not just in words but in deeds.

How could I forget Your face
When all it took was just one day
For me to see it wasn't ordinary
I could never be the same

You took my hand and led the way
I didn't even know Your name
But something happened deep inside me
And I knew life would have to change

So how could I go back to life as usual
And how could I return to who I once was
I just want to take your story to the world
‘Cause you have shown me what it means to love

You healed the sick, You calmed the sea
But Your heart was for the least of these
You came to love the lost and broken
Your cross has set the captive free

So how could I go back to life as usual
And how could I return to who I once was
I just want to take your story to the world
‘Cause you have shown me what it means to love

Now I no longer live for myself
Your words are so clear
Help me live it loud enough so they can hear

So how could I go back to life as usual
And how could I return to who I once was
I just want to take your story to the world
‘Cause you have shown me what it means to love

One of the ways that I have been shown to love is by sponsoring children in Swaziland. Right now, God has me here in America. I can't be there with them doing all for them I wish I could do. But I can give my $34 a month and I can write them letters and I can pray for them. By doing so, I know that at least my child's bare basic needs will be met and that she will know that is because she is loved.

There are still more children like her that need sponsorship, like little five year old Zinhle. She lives with her grandmother and five other children. Her name means "beautiful, good". What a loving name to grace a child.

If you'd like to be a part of ensuring that Zinhle has a "beautiful" and "good" life and future, please contact Danielle Brower at or her website at I'll also be glad to answer any questions you might have.

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