(Hello Everyone) Friends and Family and Happy 2019! I can’t believe it’s already April!!!
It’s hard for us to believe it’s been another year in eSwatini (formerly Swaziland). On King Mswati III’s 50th birthday, he celebrated by changing the official name of Swaziland to it’s original name before colonization, eSwatini which means “Land of the Swazi’s”. He said, “Whenever we go abroad, people refer to us as Switzerland.” (que me busting out laughing!)
We wanted to give you a short glimpse into 2018; the work, the hardships, the miracles and the life we now live here on Project Canaan!
-Nate continues to amaze us at every turn. He loves coming alongside the Swazis by learning how to weld, build calf pens, drive heavy machinery, and help build a playground for the older kids (ages 3-8 years). Because he makes friends wherever he goes, he has built friendships with the long-term volunteers, as well as, many of the Swazi employees. He continues to work on his studies and has just completed his sophomore year. He has already begun making plans for the last two years of his schooling. He loves holding and feeding babies and playing with the kids. He teaches PE to the school kids on a regular basis and they LOVE him! We are in awe of how he has plugged in and made Project Canaan home while serving the least of these!
-Sam is in the 7th grade and will be 13 this month. He is now taller than me and Barry and will catch up to Nate SOON! I asked Sam his highlight from this last year and he said, “Watching the babies, toddlers and kids grow up and move up to the older homes.” Sam makes his daily trek to the children’s campus to play with the kids and oh how the kids light up when Sam comes around! He loves Christine, 4 years old (we don’t have favorites, lol), and he has watched her overcome obstacles from baby home and now she is thriving at Emseni campus (big kids).
-Eli now being homeschooled with the other boys and is in the 4th grade and will be 10 years old this month. He's full of life, ideas, questions and inventions. And combined with his gift of gab (a trait he came by naturally I’m afraid) he doesn’t mind explaining these ideas in detail! We have a hard time keeping up with this one! He came home one day after a long discussion with Dennis, the head of maintenance, and announced that he finally had a job and was “officially” a volunteer! He loves getting up early and working with the maintenance crew laying pavers and other odd jobs and is always disappointed when it comes time to come home and get his schooling! Eli loves to walk Grace to and from school. She is 7 years old now and has Cerebral Palsy. We were told early on she would not see, crawl, talk or walk. She now yells, “Eliiiiiiiiiiiiiii!” every time she sees him. Grace is truly a miracle as she runs and dances with unspeakable joy! In his free time, Eli loves to draw comics and create new Super Heros with his best friend Danny. He will gladly share his truly amazing drawings and story lines!
-Barry had an exciting trip to town one day when he came upon a woman having a baby on the side of the dirt road and drove them to the government hospital. Mom and baby were healthy but not before he witnessed firsthand the numerous women laid on the sidewalk outside of the labor and delivery ward waiting for their turn to deliver. And inside he found crying babies with many women stacked in one small room. Quite an eye-opening experience! Although not glamorous, Barry continues to work alongside his Swazi friends in the office teaching and empowering them to do even greater things than they already do. He keeps a close eye on Heart for Africa finances and budgets, and remains diligent in his effort to be a good steward of the resources God has provided.
-Barry and I have spoken about budgeting to the entire staff at Project Canaan during their “lihora lekunfundza” monthly lunch and learn sessions. In addition, we have worked with several of the employees, individually, helping empower them to successfully manage their money. THIS IS HUGE! They want to be able to pay for school fees, food, electricity, buy a car or possibly build a new home (which is usually a one room mud hut or concrete block home), and now they have the tools they need to work in that direction. This very difficult as the average salary per month is E1500-E2000, which is $112.00-$142 USD. You read that right PER MONTH!! Some of the employees provide for up to 13 family members. With 70% unemployment, this, unfortunately, is the reality for most of the population of eSwatini. It seems unbelievable! Even with the odds against them, some are succeeding and the results bring so much joy.
-Shelly I am teaching 6 bible studies that rotate throughout the week along with prayer/counselling with the Kibbutz women and the Children’s Campus staff. I have several women who have requested baptism and I can tangibly see God transforming their lives. It has been so great to see the light come on with the caregivers and see God moving and changing them! We now have 90+ aunties and uncles (caregivers, cooks, cleaners) for our children. God has also opened doors for me to preach the Gospel in some of eSwatini’s rural churches. I LOVE my job! I have the honor of returning to the USA this month to speak at “The World Awaits Women’s Conference” at the First Baptist Church in Dalhart on April 26-27. If you haven’t already, you can sign up here. I am honored by this opportunity and would love to see you at the conference!
Through your support, our family has provided:
-over 140 bibles in the siSwati language
-20 pairs of shoes to a Gogo (grandmother) with 19 grandchildren
-one month supply of eggs, food, candles, matches and soap for 10 families
-school fees for one year for a boy trying to finish high school
-school fees for one term for a girl starting college to become a midwife
-medical fees and food for a young man with TB to be released from hospital and had no food.
-The house is finished! In December, our family officially moved into the long-term volunteer house, GOD built, through YOU!
-We currently have 225 babies, as of this blog. In 2018 alone, we rescued 40 new babies!
The year 2018 had its share of highs and lows. The heartache we experience day to day with the Swazi people is sometimes difficult to witness and difficult to walk beside. Sometimes it’s even difficult to share the hope of Jesus in the midst of their pain. It’s difficult to witness the grief from the death of a husband, mother or child that could have been prevented or the shame they feel when they are not able to provide food or school fees for their children. It’s hard to dry the tears of a mother as she says goodbye to her baby that died of an unknown illness or starvation. It’s difficult to witness the desperation of a mother whose body is failing from HIV/AIDS/TB, unable to feed her new baby, and tired of having to sell her body just to fill her belly and nurse her little one. And in that moment of desperation and brokenness she makes the decision to dump her baby in an outdoor toilet and walk away because she sees no other way. Sheer desperation.
There are days it feels as though we are drowning and not able to make it to the surface. But then God shows up in His glorious light and breaks the surface of the dark, deep waters and we are able to find our way to where water crashes into oxygen, burst out of the water and take a big, deep breath. We see a miracle. A baby rescued. A young, pregnant mom finds a safe place to live. A gogo (grandmother) of 19 children, who has not eaten in 3 days receives a month’s worth of food. Someone hears the cry of the newborn rustling in a dirty, torn, trash bag and is rescued and placed in a loving home. A child receives life-saving medical treatment. A young father finds employment, learns a trade and now has the ability to feed his family. It’s a new day and tomorrow we do it all over again!
WITHOUT YOU…We could not share the hope only Jesus can give! We could not rescue, feed, provide shelter to the least of these in eSwatini. We would not be able to provide life saving measures, employ, teach or share the love of a God who has NOT forgotten them. WITHOUT YOU…YOUR prayers, YOUR giving, YOU'RE encouragement. YOU enable us to do what God sent us here to do. Is it hard? Yes. Do we want to quit sometimes? Yes. Is it really worth it? Absolutely,YES!
Thank you, friends and family! We cannot wait to see what 2019 holds.
Much love and grace,