Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Larry Vann and his family live here in America, but like me, they have given a huge chunk of their heart to the children of Swaziland. Their church sponsors a carepoint, and on top of the support they can offer from here, they visit Swaziland on a regular basis ministering to the children and those who care for them on a regular basis.

They have seen first hand all too many times the devastation caused by disease and extreme poverty. This week, they were painfully reminded of how harshly these two factors impact the little ones. I read this post by Larry today and wanted to share it here at GRACELAND.


During Assembly this morning, I received a phone call from our daughter, Elizabeth. It’s not unusual for her to call me – but the timing was out of the ordinary. As I was closing the lesson on obedience, I encouraged the children to love and obey God. “If we all say we love the Lord, one of the best ways to show Him love is to obey Him.” Then my phone rang again. It was Liz... again.

When I answered, Liz was very distraught. In-between the uncontrollable sobs and cries of hurt, I understood what she was saying. “Tingetile is dead, Dad. She is gone,” she said. Tingetile was eight.

Ashley and Liz were able to spend three weeks in Swaziland before I arrived this summer. They had gone countless times to the local government hospital in Manzini, Swaziland. This hospital is nothing like you and I are used to. Not even close. There is so much death and sadness there. I promise you – evil preys there. In 2008, we actually experienced a demon-possessed man in the parking lot. He was angry. Very angry. We had just left the men’s ward where we publicly shared the Gospel and spoke life and love into and over some very sick people. I remember that day as though it was today.

So they went. Ashley, Liz, Amy McAdams and Allison Clyburn. They visited day after day..after day. During their visits they invested time with so many children. Some of the children had a family member with them – usually either a mom or grandmother. But many, like Tingetile, had been abandoned or orphaned. Those are the children these women focused their attention on. These women bathed these children. They crawled into the bed with them. They clothed them. They brought them blankets, stuffed-animals, [dolls], smiles and the love of Jesus. These women prayed over these babies. They rubbed their hollow tummies. They gazed into their little eyes as these sick little Angels dozed off. Do you know how quickly an abandoned child can go to sleep if they feel the love and protection of a caring adult? We take so much for granted.

Tonight Liz shared with me a dream she had around mid-May. She only told one other person about this dream when it happened. She told me it didn’t make a whole lot of sense then. But it does now. Her dream was about a little girl who was abandoned on the street. The little girl was very sick. Liz did her best to get the little girl to the hospital but she couldn’t get there fast enough. The little girl died. When Liz woke up, she wrote about it so she could remember. Tonight, Liz shared a poem she wrote. I am sharing it with you with her permission:

Innocent child, with life in your eyes

How can this be that you were disguised?

Found in the rubble with nothing to claim

I carried you so closely so I could refrain.

From the tears, the hurt, the anger inside –

I took this sweet child and swallowed my pride.

I am no superwoman, just a girl with a face

And you were God’s gift to the whole human race.

How can this be that this child might die?

But I clinged to Your word and held on for life.

And in that moment, that precious sweet moment,

I could see the stars in her eyes -

The warmth in her smile -

The faith….like a child.

No sorrow, no pain, no ill-gotten strife.

I could only see Jesus and His great sacrifice.

I wish I could put into words how excited Liz was the first time we skyped about Tingetile. The first time they met her, she was very close to death. She had been diagnosed with TB. Lord only knows what else this baby had going on. The doctors in Swaziland are very reserved. They typically do not have conversation with their patients or anyone else, for that matter – especially women. But on day three of visiting with Tingetile, she had shown a drastic improvement! She was actually able to lift her head and even mustered enough energy to sit up. When the doctor came to check on her, he offered the ladies a very encouraging word. He told them their love was making this little girl come alive!

Over the next several weeks, these women visited sweet Tingetile and countless other children and adults – all who have their own story.

I had the honor of meeting Tingetile and spending time with her on three different occasions. Each time, she would tell us how much she appreciated out visits. She would tell us how much she loved having us there to love on her and offer her words of encouragement. She would tell us these things and so much more without speaking a single word. I never heard her say a word. I only heard her whimper a couple of times. One time is when I picked her up from my lap to put her back in her bed. The other time was when she got upset when I took her oxygen tube off her nose so I could put a cute Hoover Bucs Cheerleading shirt on her. That little girl loved that shirt! We all oooohed and aaaahed over her that day. You would have thought she had won Miss Swaziland or something.

I will forever remember the last time I saw her. As we were leaving the complex, Liz and I went back over to her window and looked in. As we did, there were her eyes, gazing out the window at us. She nodded and waved goodbye to us as we turned to walk away. I think she knew she would die. A part of me wants to believe what she was telling us was that ‘it will be okay. This body is just a temporary shelter. God is going to heal me on His side of heaven. I will see you again.’

Time with Tingetile taught us all something. ‘Things’ really aren’t important; Love is the greatest gift you can give – and receive; and we have to trust that God is who He says He is.

Time with her also re-affirms something else. We need the McAdams and Clyburn families to remain in Swaziland. They believe God has them there at this point in time. We believe that, as well. All the hospital visits and trips to the countryside and into the bush is part of what they do. But it’s a small part of what they do. They are a part of something much bigger than simply providing ARV’s to countless children and adults; or the feeding of 5,000 vulnerable and orphaned children…daily; or the logistics involved with matching sponsors with children at the care points; or daily discipleship to so many people. All these things are good things. All these things must be carried out and carried on. God tells us to do these things. He commands all of us to do these things. We have to support these two families financially and in prayer. We do believe God will provide the financial stability needed for them to remain in Swaziland. Will you please consider supporting both families? No need to pray about it and seek guidance. God has given very clear direction for us to invest in sharing the Gospel and to care for widows and orphans. Please. Be a part of something that is life-changing. For you – and for the people these families can and do impact.

I picture Jesus reaching down to Tingetile and removing the oxygen tube. I can see him reassuring her that she doesn’t need it anymore. I imagine her little stomach is no longer bloated and she can take full, deep breaths. I also imagine she immediately forgot the hurt and pain she endured during her short time on earth. No more pain. No more suffering. No more hunger. No more going to sleep while laying in the dirt. No more wondering what love is and how to experience it. Now she is with Jesus. She is taken care of.

Until we meet again, sweet, precious Tingetile – we will keep the faith and share His love. Rest well our sweet angel.

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