I’ve been told that it takes one year of processing for every month that you’re on the field. So perhaps that’s why, even now, nearly two months after my debrief, I still have a hard time processing all that happened in Swaziland.
When I come off the field, I know it’s best to have different versions of my latest adventure. I have the thirty-second version, the five-minute version, & the “let’s grab coffee & chat for a long while” version, & I decide which version to tell based on how well I know the person & how much they actually care about what I was up to. The things that happened, the love shared, the work of God is a very personal matter, & it is quite the honor to carry the reservoir of stories I’ve been given; therefore, I only tell them to the hearts who have a genuine interest. After all, few things are worse than a beautiful story going unappreciated. Fortunately for me, this is my website and those reading can choose how interested they are. So, I suppose I can write this story until the internet runs out of space.
There’s something addictive to the missionary lifestyle. Very minimalist. It requires a person to live simply with intent. & once I experienced it, I never wanted to stop. So, when I answered, “Yes.” to God’s offer to send me to Swaziland, I packed my backpack. Quickly.
Leaving was so hard. I’ve never missed the comforts of the States or the abundant food or the reliable running water. Swaziland had life-changing adventure and vibrant music and passionate people but the one thing I knew wasn’t there were my best friends. (Obviously, Molly.) I think one of the hardest things about the lifestyle is the fact that it calls you out into parts of the world and requires you to be vulnerable- physically alone and totally reliant on God. You don’t realize how much you need God until you wake up in a homestead in Manzini with fourteen strangers and a lot of questions about the trials of your heart and the hardships of the country you’re currently inhabiting. I’ve said this every time I’ve left and I’ll continue to stand by this statement: getting on the plane to set out is the hardest part.
The moment our seventeen-hour flight landed in Johannesburg was the moment the “You’re a part of something bold” feeling set in, &, soon after, the freezing cold of South African winter set in, too. Staying in Johannesburg is how I learned that hostels are awesome. I’ll never forget that feeling of warmth from the wood burning fireplace meeting the cold air above me as I lay pressed under a wool blanket and thinking, “I made it to Africa.” That. That is a feeling to be had.
Traveling into the beautiful, petite country of Swaziland felt almost like discovering a secret as we drove into the mountains of Manzini from the bustling city of Johannesburg. Swaziland lives up to all the stories. It’s a tiny country tucked away- hidden almost- amidst the rolling Lubombo mountains, and the children are abundant.
We arrived at our homestead after a five-hour “bus” ride (Our poor little vehicle just didn’t always want to run.) & unpacked in our bunk rooms; then, we set into our new way of life. Oh yes, Lord, to living the missionary lifestyle. Yes to the waking up early and never really knowing what your day held. Yes to helping and loving and pursuing. Yes. Yes. Yes.
Now that some time has passed since I lived out my Siswati adventure, I’ve had time to discern the most lasting stories. When I first came home, every story seemed to be the most important one. Now, certain moments stick out that I’ll never forget. I’ll never forget the sound of little Moshubi’s laugh or fifty children’s voices in unison to an old Siswati hymn. I’ll never forget praying and seeing the world in front of me change. I’ll never forget the beautiful experience of fourteen strangers shifting to sisters within weeks. I cannot forget the feeling of a tiny human threading his boney fingers through mine and peering up at me to say, “Un-tate” (Hold me). I danced in the first Siswati rain in months, and I worshiped unashamedly the creator of this universe in a four-walled, open-air, concrete room. I won’t forget standing on the side of a mountain and greeting the sun by twirling in the dirt road. I won’t forget that I was twenty feet from a lioness. I saw elephants and rhinos and hippos and chimpanzees in their natural habitat. It’s unforgettable that I fell in love with a culture that belongs to a very small part of the world’s population. July 2016 was important, and I cannot forget that.
The month was packed with experiences that shifted my perspectives on living and developed my understanding of how this part of the world works. I learned so much about my relationship with God and the strength of a strand of three chords. God taught me how the importance of saying “yes” when given an opportunity for adventure, how to accept that vulnerability enhances strength not diminish. I am beyond thankful for the life I’ve been given. I love being a part of something that is much much bigger than me.
To Swaziland and my team, thank you for being exactly who and where I needed to be this summer. Your heart & my heart are in this for life.