Are you ready for the big reveal?
Drum roll, please....
Finally, after what seems like a super, duper, really long time but has really been only a little over a week, I am able to tell you what our family will be doing when we move to Swaziland at the end of this year.
When Jim sent me, Anna, Betsie, and Rhonda to Swaziland just a couple of weeks ago, it was to go do a lot of looking and listening. We had been asked to consider serving with two particular ministries and we also needed to look into housing options as well as some other details. At the end of our week in Swaziland, all four of us believed that we had accomplished what God wanted us to do during our time there and we all believed that God was telling us "yes" about the two ministries. We also believed He was showing how He would provide for the four areas that Jim was asking provision concerning.
You can read more about this process of seeking His will at a post I wrote a few days ago:http://elysasmusingsfromgraceland.blogspot.com/2013/06/yebo.html
After we returned, we shared with Jim what we had seen, who we had talked to, what we believed God was saying to us, and Jim also agreed. God really orchestrated it all so beautifully. He made the answer very clear for us and put within all of us a peaceful rightness about the whole thing.
So without further adieu, I joyfully share with you what we will be doing during the first season of our life in Swaziland. We realize that in the years to come, our lives will change and what we are doing in Swailand might look very different but for now, we are looking forward to two main areas of ministry.
Just as with our lives here at We Will Go, we want our lives to be characterized by loving our neighbors. We also want our lives in Swaziland to put to use the gifts that God has given us and be a fulfillment of the dreams He has planted within us. For me, that means loving on a lot of little children, especially orphans, and encouraging Christians in living out the purposes that God has for their lives. Jim is a teacher and has a tremendous heart for the fatherless. He wants to be a spiritual daddy for boys in need of a Godly man in their life and he wants to encourage men to be the fathers that God wants them to be.
For us, this journey of ministry will start in Manzini. For those of you not familiar with Swaziland, Manzini is in the middle of the country. It really is the hub. There are only two cities in Swaziland, the capital city which is Mbabane and then Manzini. Now by American standards, most folks would only call them towns. You can easily walk the length of the downtown areas of both cities in just 10 or 15 minutes. Manzini has a population of 73,000. You will find elements representing the modern side of Africa, such as the Kentucky Fried Chicken and a very nice shopping mall, as well as the more traditional side of Africa, such as the craft market and many people still living in mud huts. We will start out renting a house with hopes of building a place of our own in a couple of years.
As far as our ministry, much of it will be informal. We will build friendships with neighbors, pray for the market vendors, and just as we do in the States, throw many parties and constantly have the kids' pals in and out of the house for sleepovers. We want to take the principles that we've loved here at We Will Go, that of simply loving the neighbors that God brings into our lives, and apply them to Swaziland.
We will also minister through more formal channels as well.
Jim has been asked by Dudley Donaldson to teach Bible classes at the Zion Bible College for this coming year. While we felt that God was closing the door on us becoming official Zion Evangelical Ministries of Africa missionaries, we still really love the vision and work of this organization and we're excited that Jim will get to use his gift of teaching through this avenue. He will be part of a teaching team, comprised of Swazi pastors and other missionaries. This will give him the chance to not only teach the Word to Swazis, but also build friendships with Swazi men and learn the language more quickly. I'll get to build relationships with the women who attend the classes and the pastors' wives.
The second more formal ministry also involves the Donaldsons, bless their hearts. I guess they know what they're getting into considering all nine of us stayed with them for about a week last year, Jim and I stayed with them nearly three years ago, and we girls stayed with them on our recent trip. But can you really be fully cognizant of the awesomeness of this crazy menagerie until you've spent lots of time with us? Regardless, they've gone and asked us and even gave us permission to tell the whole world so they are stuck now. When we move to Manzini, we will be partnering with them plus a beautiful, Christian family that the Donaldsons have been blessed to get to know over the last few years. The relationship goes beyond friendship, they are family to each other. This Swazi family is truly walking out true religion as they care for the orphans and widows of their rural community located just a short drive outside of Manzini. The church that they lead is a strong, Biblically-sound fellowship full of true believers who are passionate about Jesus and passionate about loving each other. We will be there to just help however they need and the Lord leads, holding up their arms as they serve God and His precious "least of these". We have already met many of the people living there and I'm already quite smitten with several of the children. I also stand in awe of the strength and servant hearts of some of the women I've met. They will teach me much about obeying the Lord with joy and gratitude in the face of many trials.
Many have asked about plans between now and when we move to Swaziland. Jim and I will go for a week, probably in November or the beginning of December, to sign a lease on a rental house. Jim's last day to work for the State of Mississippi is December 1. We will, hopefully, get completely packed up during the month of November so when we return from our lease-signing trip, all we have left to do is spend time with family and friends saying good-bye and celebrating the Christmas holidays. Once Christmas is over, it will be time to load our suitcases up and drive to an airport. Some have asked if Anna and Betsie will be going with us. They are hoping to go over for a week or two when we first move over, but much will depend on their college holidays and when we get to actually leave for Africa. They will not be moving with us but instead will stay here to follow God's will for their lives, pursuing their university degrees. We hope that they will both be able to come visit us our first summer in Swaziland, but all that is just hopeful thinking at this point. Jim will start teaching at the beginning of the new school year which there, starts after the beginning of the calendar year. Their school years run January to December.
So there you have it! The big reveal of God's plan. I am very excited. It isn't what I thought it would be even just a few months ago, but now that it is shaping up, it is even better than I expected. And He answered so many of our prayers even faster than I expected. But isn't that like God? When we delight ourselves in Him, then He delights in giving us so much more than we could ever imagine.
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters
or father or mother or children or lands
for my name’s sake,
will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.
Thank you, Father, for direction, and calling, and goodness, and grace, and love. Thank you for answering our prayers and giving us even the ability to serve and love you. You are so good! We can never deserve Your goodness and faithfulness but I thank You for it. Use us, Lord. We are yours!