Swaziland - Day 3

I apologize for my delay in posting! If I don't get moving on these Swaziland posts, it's going to be Christmas before I finish! Day 3, here we come...

We began the 3rd day by going to an outdoor market where we were able to shop for souvenirs. It is a huge place down in the valley outside of Mbabane, and vendor after vendor is set up side by side. We were there for almost 2 hours and I still didn't make it to every booth...but I was able to buy a lot of gifts for people at great prices!

After lunch Monica took us to the Sandra Lee Center, an orphanage in Mbabane that is directed by an independent missionary named Robin Pratt. Robin had the vision of starting this orphanage about 11 or 12 years ago, and through some gracious donors, she was able to do just that! They started with 1 building and now have 6 or 7 buildings on their property...all debt-free thanks to Sandra Lee and her family! After the way I reacted at the hospital the day before, I wasn't sure how I would handle the orphanage. God was so gracious, though, and I had no emotional issues there BECAUSE I could tell how loved and well taken care of the children were. There were 23 children living there at the time (she can hold up to 32), but I think Robin's going to try and get some more in the near future. Most of the children she brings home (and this will be their home until they finish high school) are abandoned children who are left at the government hospital. For whatever reason, their parents do not want them and just drop them off...can you even imagine?? I'm so thankful there's a place in Mbabane like the Sandra Lee Center where these children will learn that they ARE loved and they ARE wanted...not just by Robin and her staff, but more importantly, by a God who created them and loves them just the way they are!

When we walked into the first house, these cuties were sitting down eating some broccoli. I just had to get a picture because Riley loves broccoli! I knew he'd enjoy seeing this.
We took a bunch of toys with us to give out to the children. They, of course, loved them and kept wanting more! Children are children no matter where you are in the world! :)
This is Sibongile (See-bon-gee-lay). I met her when we first arrived at the center, and this was the welcome I received from her. :) I then decided to make it my mission to get her to smile. You'll have to keep reading to see if I was successful!
The preschool on campus. The older children leave to go to school each day, but the preschoolers go right here. What a great facility it was!
Inside the preschool building. I helped with the youngest ones during Bible study/craft time, and we felt it was best to sit them down at the tables inside the school. I think it was a wise decision. :)
Some of my teammates telling them the story of Jesus and the children
For the craft we gave them each a bandanna and they were able to decorate it however they wanted. We wrote "Jesus Loves Me" on each one so they would always remember WHO loves them!
The preschool team with all the kiddos
It was hard to get a picture of the entire facility because the buildings were pretty spread out. Basically, there's a large open space/playground in the middle and buildings surround it on every side.
SUCCESS! :) We became great friends, and I was even able to get her to record a message for Riley.

After leaving the orphanage, we headed to Sibebe Rock (the 2nd largest granite rock in the world) for a children's Bible study. Every Wednesday afternoon, children from the area gather with Maria (one of our translators) to sing, learn a Bible story and play games. One of the neat things for me about going to Sibebe was I had been there 8 years ago with my friend, Nikki, who is actually the one who started the Sibebe Bible study. Nikki was a journeyman in Swaziland while I was in South Africa, and when she left to go back to the U.S., Maria agreed to continue meeting with the Sibebe kids.

Sibebe Rock
Most of the children live across this bridge on the side of the mountain
Right beside where we taught the Bible story...gorgeous!
Waiting for the kiddos to arrive
Teaching the Bible story while Mr. Cow decides he wants a drink of water :)
Working on the bandannas
Yes, sweet child, Jesus does love all of us! (tried to turn the pic, but it wouldn't work...sorry!)
Watching the children head home after a great time of Bible study, songs and games


Swaziland - Day 2

Our 2nd full day in the country was our first full day of ministry. We left the mission house that morning - which is pictured below (the front building is a carport and one-bedroom apartment and the back building is the house where we stayed - 3 bedrooms, 2 baths - very nice!)

and headed for the Mbabane (capital city of Swaziland) Government Hospital. Our task here was to visit the 4 children's wards and pray with the children and parents who were there. We also brought a bunch of small toys from the U.S., so we gave those out to each family.

It doesn't look too rough on the outside, but looks can be deceiving! It's probably not a place where most of us would feel comfortable receiving medical care.
Each ward is lined with beds, and the mothers (or a relative of some sort) are required to stay with the children because they act as primary caretakers. The nurses do not feed them, administer medicine, change diapers, etc. That is all the mother's responsibility. There's usually one chair beside each bed, and at night the mother's just stretch out on the hard floor beside the beds. Food is not provided for the caretakers - they must either bring their own or purchase some from the hospital. AND they must pay their bill in full before being discharged. So, if you can't pay the complete bill for some reason, you are stuck there until you can...and each day you're stuck adds that much more to your bill. Absolutely crazy!

This is the first little boy I prayed for and his mother.
I had a feeling walking into the hospital that this might be a difficult task for me since I am a mother, AND I'm pregnant! :) I was right! I prayed for 4 different children, and as I prayed for each child, I wept. You see, I had just read an email the night before from Daniel about how Riley had been sick several days before. Daniel called the doctor, took Riley to the office, saw the dr. within an hour and was home with medicine in no time. Within a couple of days, he was already feeling better. Some of these children have been in this hospital for weeks and have shown no improvement, and I can't help but believe that part of that is due to the care (or lack of care) they are receiving. I couldn't imagine sitting with my sick child (some more sick than others) and waiting days just to see a doctor. In some faces I saw hopelessness. How thankful I am that the God of HOPE was with us that day! Oh how I pray that each family in each of these wards feels His presence on a daily basis and knows He is in control.

Below is a mother and son who desperately need His peace. This 6-year-old boy has TB and pneumonia. The mother didn't say, but I would guess he is dying of AIDS. She was so desperate for someone to come to his bed and pray. When I finished she was so grateful and smiled a huge smile. I'm actually kind of glad she wasn't smiling in the picture because it helps to show just how desperate this situation is. Please keep praying for this family! I don't know their names, but God does!
After leaving the hospital, we were scheduled to go to the Swazi Candle Factory to shop for handmade candles. This is one of my favorite places to go in Swaziland, so before the hospital visit, I was pretty excited. However, as I was walking away from the hospital, I kept thinking, "how can I go from seeing such great need to shopping for candles?!" I felt very unsettled about the whole thing, but then the Lord calmed my heart and helped me to see that each candle I bought to give away (which I was proud of myself because I didn't buy a single one for our home!) could serve as a prayer reminder. I did end up buying a bunch of candles, but they will be in homes all over Hughes Springs, and also in Arkansas, Tennessee and Maryland. My hope is that every time my friends and family see these candles they will stop and pray for the people of Swaziland.

After heading back to the mission for a quick lunch, we were on the road again driving toward two different churches where we led afternoon children's Bible studies. The team split up, so three of us and a translator went to Peace Baptist Church while the rest of the team and translators went to Nsintsa Baptist Church. We split up 3 and 5 because Peace was supposed to have 20 maybe 30 children at the most. Nsintsa was believed to have at least 50, if not more. As it turns out, we had close to 50 while they had between 30 and 40. :) It all worked out well, though. The children were SO well-behaved, so we didn't have any trouble teaching our 50.

The road to the church was very rough, so we had to park at this homestead and walk the last 1/4 mile...
UP a steep hill! :)
Peace Baptist Church
Rachel (center) and Maria (translator) are telling the story of Daniel and the Lion's Den
The children preparing to make Lion masks - the church also has a preschool during the week, so that's why there are small tables and chairs...very helpful when attempting to do any craft with preschoolers!
Roar!! Our goal was for the children to learn the story and then go home and tell their families. Before we even left the church, there were children outside telling adults the story of Daniel and the Lion's Den - love it! May God's fame and glory be spread throughout the mountains of Swaziland!
Outside teaching the children some tag games
The preschool teacher, Wendy. Please pray for her as she teaches the small children day in and day out.

A busy, yet very challenging and fulfilling day of ministry! Needless to say, after this first day, we were all pretty excited to see what the Lord had in store for the rest of our time in Swaziland! And boy did He have a lot! More to come soon!


Swaziland - Day 1

The thought of writing one big post about my trip to Swaziland is completely overwhelming to me, so I decided to break it up and do a post for each day we were there. That seems much more reasonable, and I won't have to sit at the computer for 5 hours trying to relive what occurred in a 2-week time span. Don't worry, today's post is not going to be about traveling from the U.S. to Swaziland. There's only so much you can say about a 15+ hour flight and a 4-hour car ride from Johannesburg to Swaziland! The flight was L-O-N-G, the luggage all made it (yay!), and we safely made it from South Africa to Swaziland.

So our first full day in the country, we went to Mkhaya Game Preserve and enjoyed an open-air game drive in which we saw LOTS of animals! At one point, I remember commenting to my Florida friends, "try going to Disney's Animal Kingdom after experiencing this!" :)

Here's the open-air vehicle that 10 of us squeezed into. The shocks on this thing were amazing, which was good because the roads were rough! (foreshadowing for the rest of the trip!)
I had to drive our rental van from the main road to Mkhaya's office building (think rough roads and a small river to cross)...this was the view in front of me. I was glad to finally get out of the van and into the land rover.The outdoor bathroom...it was very nice and "airy" :)Skulls of animals that have died on their propertyHipposFirst sighting of giraffes...if you know me, you know this made me smile REAL big!
ElephantsWanted you to see how close we were to the elephants!
Well hello there!
Quite possibly my favorite shot of the day :)Zebra
Warthogs (or "Pumba" as our driver referred to them)A whole family of giraffes!
A pretty sad-looking rhino. It makes me laugh that his lower lip looks like it's pooching out.Halfway through the drive, we stopped for lunch at one of the camps on the property. Loved sitting outside and enjoying God's awesome creation while filling my belly with delicious food!
Our meal consisted of Impala (a deer-type African animal), fried fish of some sort, rice, cole slaw, beets (which I thought I'd try to see if I had acquired a taste for...nope, still haven't!), and bread.
Very LOUD guinea fowl who spent most of their time walking around our table
Our team (L to R: Aarika, Jill, Anne - team leader, Ashley, Brooklyn, Mindy, Rachel and myself)
Our wonderful driver whose name I don't remember :) (a lot has occurred in my brain since then)

What an awesome day it was! At first I was a little disappointed that we were doing the game drive at the very beginning of the trip, but we all realized very quickly that it was a wise choice on the missionaries parts. We were jet-lagging so badly that I'm not sure we could have held a Bible right side up, much less taught anything it said! :) It was a great day of relaxing and enjoying some of the amazing creatures God placed on this earth. The real work would begin the next day!