The following are excerpts from the journal I kept while in Africa.
Day 6 // July 6, 2016:
I woke up to Casey tapping my arm. Disrupted from a dream I don’t remember aside from the joyful residue left in my mind, I pulled myself out into the cold South African air. African winters are a little more brutal that I anticipated; did I pack right for this? Our hostile host set out various things for breakfast, & I took pictures while my team ate. Casey told us to get used to corn flakes on the field. We packed up & left for Swaziland at 8:30. Our bus ride through South Africa was beautiful- a terrain comprised of rocky, rolling fields disrupted by the occasional town or patch of trees. When we got to the Swazi- South African border, we had our passports stamped & crossed over into Swaziland on foot. The land changed almost immediately upon entering Swazi. It went mountainous. I couldn’t stop taking pictures. I’m trying to take everything in all at once- the terrain, the feeling of African air in my lungs, the beautiful relief of overcoming homesickness. It’s funny because as we’ve been driving through Swazi, I’ve seen so many children & few adults- it really is true to the stories.
We arrived at our homestead &, to our joy, it is much nicer than any of us expected. We have bunk rooms & electricity. Yes, Lord. We unpacked in our rooms- I’m bunking with Shannon, Sierra, & Carrie. Then Xolani, our contact, gave us an orientation. We learned that there are 33 care points in Swaziland, caring for over 6,500 children daily. Schooling is free from 1st to 7th grade. Then, secondary education is expensive. Mpendulo, our Swazi brother, attempted to teach us how to speak SiSwati.
Casey & Emily went to the store to get food for the week, & we had some down time. I sat on the front steps of the homestead with my team, listening to Jacque play ukulele, & was witness to one of the most beautiful sunsets the Earth has to offer. As the sun set in Manzini, I fell in love with this new home I’d be inhabiting for the next month. Thank you, God, for the subsiding homesickness & for pushing me to Swaziland. I think I’ll end up leaving my heart here. Hamba kakle (Goodbye for now).
Day 11 // July 11, 2016
Today, we went to the AIM hub for morning devotion. The way the Swazis worship is unbelievable. Yes, Lord, to the power in their song. After devotion, we drove the rugged trip over to Bhevini Carepoint on our bus that, as Noelle put it, runs on prayer alone. One of my favorite sights is the children lined up in anticipation of us climbing out of our vehicle. I brought my camera today, like every day. I love seeing the kids light up when they see themselves captured in my lens. Sitting in the dirt under an old playground, I couldn’t help but let loose a few tears as the tinies all danced & sang together. One of them found a piece of fruit, & a little pack gathered around to share the treasure- everyone gets a bite.
Day 13 // July 13, 2016
At our lunch break today, Casey turned to me & asked if I wanted to share my testimony. So, I stood up & told my story on a bus in the middle of the Manzini mountains.
Day 14 // July 14, 2016
I find that I feel so exhausted from the days but in the best kind of way. I am a part of something much much bigger than myself & that is my favorite thing to do.
Day 15 // July 15, 2016
Today was a brilliant day- even if it didn’t start out that way. I woke up from a nightmare again but I refuse to let the malaria meds win this one. We readied ourselves for the day in our usual fashion, & headed out for another day at the carepoints. Our team split at the beginning of the day today. The fourteen of us can overwhelm a space easily so it’s best in terms of impact if we separate. Casey’s team (Sierra, Bernadette, Courtney, Hannah, Caroline, Casey, & I) headed back to Ludlati for another day of service there. My heart is so deeply connected with that carepoint so I was so happy to return. When we arrived, Mpendulo handed us the machetes & rakes, & we took to the field again. The whistling thorns are brutal- some of the thorns were longer that our fingers. But (good news) we’re making great progress on clearing the field. Xolani has faith that we’ll have it cleared before we fly out, & I want to believe him. We all shoved into the tiny stock room in the back for lunch which actually turned out to be quite fun. It’s good to laugh until your sides hurt. After lunch, Sierra & I taught discipleship. Teaching with a communication barrier is difficult. I fell in love with a little boy named Xombelo. I sat under a tree holding him & listening to the older kids sing. It was truly spiritual. We drove home, &, on the way, we picked up Chicken Dust & Pap for dinner. There’s nothing like being a part of another culture in every way. While Shannon & I cleaned up the dinner mess, we had a surprise visit from Lindo & TK- good souls.
Day 20 // July 20, 2016
Harper, Bernadette, Sierra, Casey, & I were asked to stay back from Timbutini & do administrative work in the AIM hub. The team dropped us off in downtown Manzini. Kriek had an entire stock room full of school supplies, & we had to organize supply kits & lesson plans for 18 of the carepoints. I don’t know if my hands will ever stop smelling like crayons. I helped Casey with the blog, & she told me I had a natural ability for it. I think it’s time I start my website when I get home.
Day 23 // July 23, 2016
Today we went on a safari, & we were 20 feet from a Leibubese (lion). All in all, we saw lions, rhino, hippo, antelope, okapi, & elephants. For so many reasons, this life is a brilliant life, & today I’m reminded of that.
Day 24 // July 24, 2016
WE WERE IN SWAZI FOR IT’S FIRST RAIN IN 5 MONTHS. How amazing. Yay God. Yes, Lord. As we drove to church, we stuck our hands and heads out the windows & felt the icy rain hit our skin. It’s such an overwhelmingly joyous moment.
A Compiled List of Things I Miss:
My People, Pants, Mirrors, Hiking, Coffee, my Dog, Driving, Phone Calls, Google, Feeling Clean
Day 25 // July 25, 2016
We did listening prayer again tonight. How amazing is it that we get to hear from the creator if the universe? God uses us to talk to one another. Oh my goodness, it gives me such joy my heart might combust. Okay. Okay. So obviously, we couldn’t just go to sleep. We needed to dance. If ever there was a time to dance, it was now. So, we plugged in our headphones (because quiet hours) & headed for the front yard. We threw the most incredible silent dance party. I’m sure to an outsider, we looked crazy- eight women dancing their hearts out to a seemingly silent space. But there was no better way to worship in that moment. We danced our hearts out in the Swazi rain.