Willing Spirit, Weak Flesh

In January 2017 when asked if we would be willing to return to Swaziland for a second year our spirit was willing. Our yes was followed by immediate action; new passports, TB tests, preparations to teach Biblical Principles at South African Nazarene University, plans for domestic things during our absence.  On Sunday night May 7 with many friends we gave a sacred concert at Bethany First Church to raise money for our going.

On May 16 Emmalyn and I were sitting in my cousin’s home in Delaware with my brother and sister-in-law. We all commented how healthy and well we felt in our 70’s and 80;s.  I for one hardly knew what illness felt like.  Two days later I broke out in a hot sweat and went to bed.  Feeling cold I put on a sweater and got under covers with my clothes on shivering cold.  Emmalyn took my temperature at 100.7.  Before returning home to Oklahoma I went to two clinics.  Once home my illness progressed into excruciating pain in my legs and feet.  For two weeks I could not sit, lay, or walk without pain.  My feet became numb.  Walking was torture.  My vision became misty like looking through fog.  I can’t lift my left arm above my shoulder.

A visit to my primary doctor, three trips to the emergency room followed by many visits to specialist doctors and many blood test have all to this point resulted in inconlusive and unknown reason for my illness.

We kept in close communication with our Swazi Director Barbi Moore and Pastor Rick Harvey. It became obvious I was not physically able to go back to Swaziland in July as planned.   Our leaders were marvelous in assuring me my health was most important and that their faith was in God to provide for Swaziland.

Our first agreement with BFC was for Barbi to look for someone else to go in January 2018 but if no one else volunteered Emmalyn and I would go assuming I was well. However that changed as every doctor I visited advised me not to go back to Africa.  My illness is still unknown.  Better stay home where health care is available and better not to need evacuation should something happen in Africa.

I am writing this on June 29, 2017, the evening of the day Emmalyn and I were to leave with Barbi for Swaziland. God did provide for Swaziland in the person of Jess Jenkinson available to fly out today with Barbi in no small part to do the work in Swaziland we were going to do.

I wish you could have seen the airport scene this morning. It was a time of affectionate love and appreciation for our opportunity to go back to Swaziland and our leaders understanding to let us not go back.  It was time of genuine gratitude for Jess and his willingness to venture into the unknown in a critical time of need.  We all felt right and good about the way this has worked out.

After a time of prayer as Barbi and Jess walked away from us toward security clearance and the waiting airplane and we walked the other way back to the parking lot to drive home, I could not help but sing in my heart, “be my store great or small I surrender it all to my wonderful, wonderful Lord.” We have peace believing our work in Swaziland will be just fine without us.  We believe Jess is perfect for his work ahead. Our love for Africa and Swaziland lives in our hearts now and always.

With gratitude I thank all those who prayed for us and contributed to our cause. Those funds will still be used for Swaziland and the purpose we all intended.

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A Night to Remember

It was An Evening of Music Featuring the Germans at Bethany First Church April 30, 2017.

My heart is filled with gratitude and appreciation for all the people who helped us make a concert and all who came to hear. The atrium was full. Extra chairs were brought in.  And what a supportive loving generous audience it was.  Emmalyn and I are inexpressively appreciative.

You gave us a life memory that will last long after July 2018 when our second year in Swaziland is over. We will forever remember the sense of love and kindness in the church that night.  I stumbled on the first notes of my first song explaining my pages of music were out of order.  The memory I take from that is something I spontaneously said.  “I should be nervous but I’m not.  You are family.”  That was extra.  My blooper gave my genuine feelings a chance to pop out.  Somewhere along the way I have heard and often repeated, “Bethany First Church is the largest small church in the Nazarene denomination.”  What that means is that our church of 3,000 members, big as it is, somehow has the feel and intimacy of a small church where all of us are friends whether we know each other or not.  It’s just a great big lovable family.  That’s what I felt the night of our concert.  And by the way, if wasn’t out of order pages after all.  Since cataract surgery it takes time to figure out which trifocal to look through!

It was generous of Pastor Harvey and Lewis McClain to give us a Sunday night service.  It was generous of Harlan and Barbi Moore to help us plan it. It was generous of the Get Real Classic Singers and hand bell ringers to give us hours of rehearsal time and then perform so beautifully.  It was generous of Marilyn White to accompany us three days after becoming a new grandmother again.  It was good of the audio and visual people to give us sound and pictures, and good of ushers to be there for us.  I think about 35 or so people helped us present our Evening of Music.  Thanks again to all.  Thank you for the offering you gave in support of the Swaziland Partnership and our year coordinating this Partnership.

Well, the concert is over. We’re down to eight weeks before leaving Oklahoma.  As we anticipate leaving for Africa we’re savoring our last weeks home in Bethany with our cat Kodai.  We can Skype with Dale and Laura, but how do you explain to a cat that you’re the next BFC coordinators taking off to Swaziland for a year?

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The Lamb Was Sure To Go

Mary had a little lamb its fleece was white as snow.

And everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to go.

 

“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”. John 1:29 KJV”

Mary’s lamb went everywhere Mary went. So does mine.

He went to the depth of my sin with his white fleece washing my soul white as snow.

He went with me to school, to college, to seminary, to post graduate study guiding my formative years.

He went with me to war in Vietnam. Why he kept me from harm I do not know.

He went with me through 30 years of pastoral ministry.

He went with me through 3 years teaching seminary students in Australia.

He went with me through my first year in Swaziland. He will go with me there again.

A poem has been thematic throughout my life:

He does not lead me year by year

Nor even day by day.

But step by step my path unfolds.

My Lord directs my way.

Call it miracle coincidence, luck, or anything you like, but here’s just one more assurance that the Lamb is going back to Swaziland with Emmalyn and me.

A Swazi man traveled a long distance to talk with me. He had a story and a request.  Decades ago a missionary taught this man how to play the accordion.  When the missionary retired and left Swaziland he gave him the accordion.  The Swazi took the old missionary’s accordion to remote villages to play in churches where there was no electricity and no keyboard.  He played his accordion until the bellows gave out.  Now the congregations sing without accompaniment.  He asked if I could find him another accordion.  That was three years ago.  When we came home for Christmas break I asked around for an accordion.  I returned to Swaziland without one.

We’ve been home for almost two years now. But I have not forgotten that man and his need for an accordion.  A few weeks ago I had the idea to ask for an accordion on my Facebook page.  In no time two people responded.  Lois Hayes and LaNell Shores both offered me an accordion.

LaNell had her own story. Thirty years ago her mother bought an accordion from a professional musician named Vep Ellis who played it in Oral Roberts and Billy Graham Evangelistic Meetings.  Since LaNell’s mother passed away years ago her accordion has been sitting in a closet.   Just before reading my Facebook post the Shores had been wanting to find some way for their mother’s accordion to be used again in the Lord’s work.  When Emmalyn and I visited them and told them LaNelll’s mother’s accordion would be going to Swaziland with us and given to a man who has been waiting longer than three years so he could play for congregational singing, the Shores were overcome with joy and praise and gratitude that God had answered their prayer.

He went with me to Swaziland the first time.

He is going back to Swaziland with me the second time.

Everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to go.

And everywhere we go the Lamb is sure to go.

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Here We Go Again

We first went to Swaziland in July 2014. On June 29, 2017 Here We Go Again.  I am writing four months before we leave.  Here is how our returning to Swaziland has come about.

Barbi Moore asked us to come to her office at 2 p.m. January 17, 2017. The drive from our house to her office was less than five minutes.  It was not unusual for Barbi to want to talk to us about Swaziland, since we lived there for a year as on site coordinators for Bethany First Church.

On the short drive to the church I casually said to Emmalyn, “I wonder if Barbi is going to ask us if we would be willing to pray about go back for a second year.” And that’s exactly what Barbi asked.  We were not prepared to give her an immediate answer.  Yes, we were open to the idea, but first we needed to discuss this opportunity with each other and our son and daughter-in-law.  Our leaving imposes responsibilities on them to care for our house, mail, cat, and more.  The Financing for BFC’s coordinator’s in Africa for a year is a challenge we needed to consider as well since the first year we had money and wrote a check to BFC to cover our salary.  We can’t do that this time so there will be fund raising in one way or another.

Dale and Laura encouraged us to do it. They thought it was great at our age (75 &70) that we would be offered another opportunity for full time ministry.  In the process we agreed that they would visit us in Africa in November if their schedules allowed.  What an opportunity for them.  On Sunday morning, February 19, 2017, Pastor Rick Harvey brought us to the platform and introduced Emmalyn and me as the 2017-18 On Site Coordinators for BFC’s Partnership With Swaziland.

So what about this?  How do I feel?  People ask if I’m excited and I say no.  I’ve been there, know the land and people, understand inside and out the job description.  Actually, more than getting on an airplanes and flying 21 hours to Africa it feels more like getting on a bus and going back to work.  That’s my matter of fact answer to how I feel.  But, of course, there’s the ministerial cross-cultural, and spiritual part of it. There is the sense of being in God’s divine will for our lives. Having been home for a year and a half when I talk about Swaziland I still well up with emotion, and wipe tears from my eyes.  I realize I could not be going back again except with a heart for Africa and a love for the Swazi people.  I have a soul stirring compassion for the most helpless and vulnerable of the world; AIDS infected orphans, sick, homeless, and hungry, until people like those of us at BFC who give money and send coordinators to find them and care for them.  There’s an old saying and I’m finding it true for me, “When you leave Africa you never get the dirt of Africa out of your heart.”  To my own amazement I find even now when I talk about Swaziland my heart is beating Africa, Africa, Africa.

The first year there I wrote about 68 blogs. Before I went I wrote blogs about my heritage that brought me to ministry.  I wrote about the flight over.  I wrote about first impressions.  I wrote about people, places, pleasant things and pestilences.  I wrote about BFC’s partnership, how it ministered to AIDS victims, orphans, churches, involvement in nursing, education, dentistry, farming, Celebrate Recovery, and pastoral leadership.  The reach of our influence is incalculable.

I don’t know what I’ll be writing in volume 2 of germansinswaziland.com. Enough people are telling me to keep writing, so I will.  I’ll just tell you what I see, what I feel, what I think you should know, and trust what I write will inform, inspire and entertain.

Thank you Pastor Harvey, Barbi Moore, and all BFC for the thrilling experience you are intrusting to us once again. My only regret is that by our going a second time there may be another couple who could have had this privilege had we not taken it from them.  If so, tell Barbi today that you’re considering volunteering for next year.  I highly recommend it.  You won’t be sorry.  Special recognition goes to Laura German for her assistance with the blog site.

So now then, Here We Go Again. Let’s share the second half of 2017 and first half of 2018 together.  I expect we’ll laugh and cry along the way and through it all I hope you always feel intimately involved in BFC’s Partnership With Swaziland.

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Meet Ron & Sara Willard

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When Ron and Sara Willard sat in the morning worship service April 19th and heard Pastor Rick Harvey announce the need for new Swaziland Onsite Coordinators for 2015-16 they both felt a divine rightness about answering that call and volunteering to go. That is what happened to us last year on April 20th!

As your out-going Coordinators Emmalyn and I assure the Willards  their next year will be fulfilling, fruitful, faith increasing, and finishing too fast.

They come to Swaziland not as rookies, but as seasoned African missionaries, pastor and wife, district leaders, and have already been to Swaziland in earlier years.  Here is how Barbi Moore introduced them in her Swaziland Partnership Newsletter:

“The Willards served 14 years as missionaries to Africa, serving in the countries of Zambia and South Africa, and also opened the work for the Church of the Nazarene in Botswana.  Ron and Sara have been in pastoral ministry and just retired in October 2014 after 42 years of ministry.  They depart the United States on July 15th for their year of service.  Ron and Sara felt their hearts were burning when pastor Rick Harvey announced our need for coordinators in the April 19th service.  They knew that God was calling them to serve.  We praise God for providing the Willards for this important and timely service in Swaziland.  Please keep them in your prayers as they prepare to depart.”

The Swazi leadership has graciously invited the Willards to join them in Partnership and once the Swazi people meet them, they will welcome them and love them.

Thank you Ron and Sara Willard for answering the call.  There is no way to tell you what a great year you are in for, but we’ll have two weeks to try when you get here in July.  We welcome you to the team.

CDG, EG, BM

First Six Months of 2015

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This is a long blog.  I know because I have just written it and come back to the top to change my introduction.  I sat down to write a few facts to keep you updated.  I ended up summarizing the BFC Partnership during the whole first half of 2015.  At the end I realized how close we are to the end of our 12 months here.  I realized there may not be time for writing more blogs before time runs out.  So I began thanking people.  Now I’m feeling emotional.  Sentimental.  So let me get myself out of the way and let you read on.  If you don’t stay with it to the end, I understand.  I skim read too.  But perhaps different people will be interested in different parts.

  1. The Partnership began in 2007 with an original goal to build one new church building from ground to roof somewhere in Swaziland.  The four Swazi district superintendents chose the English speaking Church in Siteki.  After 3 years of looking for and securing property construction began with successive years of construction.  On Sunday July 5, 2015 Barbi Moore and the Germans will be present to celebrate the fulfillment of BFC’s partnership in this project with a dedication service in the new nearly completed sanctuary.  Congratulations Siteki English Church!
  2. The Child Development Center in Ntondozi where BFC funds a garden provided by BFC, and a solar water well, has been feeding about 60 children five hot meals a week.  BFC has just received a gift of U.S. dollars for a new classroom building.  A member of the local Ntondozi congregation has just offered to build this building under market price making the gift of dollars enough to build to completion this new structure.  Plans are currently being drawn up for the new classrooms.
  3. In 2015 BFC monthly funds began arriving at the new Child Development Center in Nduma, Swaziland.  With BFC funding this latest CDC is feeding over 80 children hot meals three times a week.  Plans are developing for an eventual permanent building allowing it to move from its current building where there is no electricity or running water.
  4. Last year early in our arrival as coordinators we were tasked with looking for two new projects BFC could partner with to help local churches.  We traveled all four districts meeting with the district superintendents, pastors, preaching in the churches, meeting with church boards and building committees.  Limiting our recommendations to only two churches was heart breaking because needs are many as are deserving churches.  Ultimately we recommended helping two churches purchase steel fences.  Americans are not initially understanding of the critical necessity of securing property with a fence in Swaziland.  A church fence tells neighbors that this land given by the chief belongs to the church.  Therefore nobody can put a house on it.  Encroachment is a problem here.  Fences say, “This is mine.  You cannot have it.” This is critical when a community chief grants land (land is not bought here, it is given by the chief) for church construction and the church needs time to raise money for that construction.  A second critical reason for a fence is that in this poor economy where poverty and hunger area prevalent, churches can serve the congregation and whole community by planting a garden.  Gardens are literally lifesaving and it is crucial to keep wandering animals out of the garden where cows and goats would eat crops and chickens would eat the seeds.The BFC Partnership board and pastor approved our paying half the cost of two fences.  One for Soweto Church on the Central District where future building development is in process, and the other at Lugongodlwane Church on the North District where a new garden is being planted to feed the children’s ministry of the church and also people of the community.  Because this garden will benefit the whole community the city has promised a gravity flow of free water to the garden. In May we purchased the fence for Lugongodlwane Church.  The fence for the Soweto Church is pending.
  5. Speaking of Soweto Church, we took the BFC Go Team there on Sunday March 15 to worship.  One of the California team members left money for me to buy a guitar for the pastor’s son.  That is done and he is playing his new guitar every Sunday at the Nazarene church he attends in Siteki.  In that same service Rev. Jeffrey Johnson, S. Texas D. S. pledged enougn U.S. dollars for a sound system.   May 28 I met the pastor at Destiny Music Store in Manzini and made the purchase for this sound system.  On June 28 I will preach at Soweto, baptize new believers, receive new members into the church, and photograph the new sound system in use during the worship service.
  6. March was a most busy month for your Partnership in Swaziland.  Two teams from the states converged into one Team from California, Oklahoma, and also Texas and Kansas.  They worked on the Siteki English Church building and Manna Farm, while Dr. Terry Hall covered the whole country with his AIDS Free Swaziland in One Generation work.  Dean McGee eye clinic from Oklahoma City was here.  We sponsored a Pastor’s Day of Encouragement t and District Superintendent’s Retreat.
  7. In April Ellyn Marsh came from BFC speaking in one week to three groups of leaders:  Nurses, Nursing Students, and Local Church Celebrate Recovery leaders and future CR leaders.  Her message to the nurses was of the importance of extending compassion to patients and treating them with dignity and respect.  To the local church leaders Ellyn in two days gave training in CR leadership and gave the class participants opportunity to gain experience in leading group dynamics.
  8. May was equally busy.  A team from SNU was here for almost 2 weeks joined by Dr. and Mrs. Loren Gresham, Ds Bill and Ami Dillard, and Dustin and Amanda Hogan.  This team completely repainted the Siteki Clinic inside and out.  With help of painters from Raleigh Fitkin Memorial Hospital maintenance crew, and thanks to funding from American money donations, sinks with running water were put in every room (first time since 1936 when the building was built).  Also a new refrigerator, sterilizer, stethoscopes, and blood pressure cuffs were added to the clinic.  Other equipment is pending purchase.  This team also worked a day and a half at Manna Farm cleaning a water cistern and coupling underground water pipes and connectors.  The students from SNU were magnificent.  Self-disciplined.  Hard working.  Loving to Swazi children.  Spiritually mature. Kind and polite to everybody.  A total delight to have here!
  9. In addition to all the people-intensive work, Emmalyn has worked tirelessly in the flat keeping financial records, working on schedules, organizing events, communicating with everybody about everything going on here, learning to speak sing and pray in siSwati, and tending to the multitudes of minutia that makes things happen.  As for me, I drive the jeep.
  10. June will be a totally different kind of month for us from all the others.  While we are in Africa took a week to tour Cape Town, South Africa.  It was truly a travel highlight of our lives in overnight sleep cars through southern Africa.  We made the trip with Robert and Glenda Parker who called it a first anniversary celebration.  They call their entire first year in Swaziland their honeymoon..  The second half of June we must begin preparing for our final departure from Swaziland at the end of July.  We will begin the packing process because the next BFC coordinators will be moving into the master bedroom we have enjoyed.  Our last two weeks will be with them working together for a seamless transition into the second half of 2015 and beyond.

Once July arrives our schedule is full from July 1 until the day we leave July 30.  As I write a BFC Go Team in Bethany is busy preparing to come to Swaziland July 9-19. Before they arrive we work with Barbi finalizing details of their time here.  When they arrive we are with them until they return home leaving us with your next coordinators.

If you have lasted long enough through this long blog to get to the end I conclude with this:  It may seem like I am reporting a lot of work and I am, but it is your work, not mine.  The days are full, but we have full days in which to do it.  What I have learned this year is how much all the other coordinators have done and how much the next ones will do.  I have learned in microcosm how much our missionaries around the world do all the time.  We have loved every day of this assignment.  It passed so fast.  Knowing what I know now would I have made the same decision?   Absolutely yes! This year was a gift TO US.

Barbi Moore has been wonderful to work for.  My military training trained me to do what I am told.  Emmalyn and I agreed from the first that we would do whatever Barbi told us to do.  She has given us latitude to question what we have not understood, to figure out things for ourselves, and sometimes convince her to change her mind.  But in it all she has steered us in the right direction being gently forceful in keeping us focused on the most important things.  She has been graciously insightful and sensitive to working in cultural ways respectful of the Swazis and their time honored customs  and methods.  Her respect for the Swazi people is flawless and beautiful to witness.  Her example has been our pattern for any success with the Swazis we may have had.

BFC has treated us like royalty.  From announcing our assignment last year in April to granting us a 5 day layover in England as tourist on the way home in July BFC has been considerate in every way.  The kindnesses of Pastor Harvey, Pat Burton, Tim Brown, Ann Loper, Dr. Loren Gresham and the congregation never stopped all year.

The Swazi people, loving us as their own, have won our hearts.  We owe them every success for without them not much would have happened over here.  It takes living among them to really begin knowing how uniquely blessed their country is and how much at home it can feel to be one with them.

I don’t know if I’ll have time to write another blog before the end of July.  Other than introducing your next coordinators in time, this may be the last, but I rather think when I get home, detached from all the senses, sights, sounds, and people of Swaziland, I will want to write one final blog reflecting on our incredible twelve months in Swaziland, Africa as your BFC on site coordinators.

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SOWEGO

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SO-WE-GO is the name Southern Nazarene University gives to its student groups that travel throughout the world on special mission assignments.  My guess is SOWEGO is SNU’s response to Jesus’ command, “Go you into all the world preaching the gospel….Even so send I you.”  Jesus says, “Go” so we go! SNU has nineteen SOWEGO teams this year going to distant countries around the world.  One of them is on its way to Swaziland for two weeks in May.

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We met this team last January when on a Sunday night after church they came to our home in Bethany for pizza.  Including four nonstudent adults, fifteen people are coming, ten women and five men.  They will conduct two one day Bible Schools at our Child Development Centers at Ntondozi and Nduma, take food and medicine to AIDS and TB patients in rural areas guided by volunteer Swazi women Task Force leaders, tour Raleigh Fitkin Memorial Hospital, Gassett Dental Clinic, meet with internet technology ENACTUS, worship in two Nazarene churches, work at Manna Farm, visit a wild animal reserve, and go to a Swaziland cultural village and native dance show.  Dr. Ami Dillard is among this group conducting free medical clinics.

SOWEGO’s main Swaziland project is painting the nurse’s clinic in Siteki.  Siteki is a town about an hour’s drive east from our main Nazarene station in Manzini.  Siteki has a long Nazarene history.  The English Speaking Church of the Nazarene BFC has partnered to build is in Siteki.  Our Nazarene School of Theology (part of South Africa Nazarene University [SANU] is across the street from the clinic.  SOWEGO will be housed at SANU.  A team of about ten nurses plus three professional painters from the hospital will join SOWEGO to paint the entire clinic inside and out.

As you can imagine much planning and work both in Oklahoma and Africa goes into an international project like this.  SOWEGO team members have been months raising their own air fare and other expenses, praying and planning together, anticipating cross cultural adventure and ministry.

As all of their activities in Oklahoma have been going on, Emmalyn and I have been working for their arrival here in Swaziland.  Before traveling a five hour overnight drive to Johannesburg to meet SOWEGO at the airport we have been busy since January coordinating every moment of the team’s time in Swaziland.  Our work has involved arranging transportation, lodging, food, paint and equipment, tours, worship services, financial details between SNU and Swazi venders, Skyping with Bethany to arrange the daily itinerary, visiting where the team will go to make sure everything is in order, and buying food in advance for the team’s sack lunches during work days.  We spent one entire working day in our flat’s storage shed sorting through absolutely everything left from other teams over the years, cleaning the shed, and labeling contents in every suitcase, box, bin, and bag.  We did this to know what we have here to add to what SOWEGO is bringing.  We have soccer balls, Frisbees, and Styrofoam cups, candy, three parachutes (for games), VBS games, gifts for kids clothing, and more in addition to things for other teams such as Celebrate Recovery, AIDS Awareness, Task Force, Construction, Medical bags, and a lot of miscellaneous stuff.  After a whole day in the shed I considered naming this blog, “Shedding Light on On Site Coordinators.”  It sure helps me appreciate what missionaries and other coordinators are doing around the world for their teams.

As we await the arrival of these dedicated students from SNU to join us in Swaziland, please remember them in your prayers.  Our desire for them is a life memory of Swaziland that forever makes them one with the international world family.  Our desire for Swaziland is that the love of Christ and compassion of the Global Church of the Nazarene will touch individual lives physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually.

They’re ready.  We’re ready.  SOHERETHEYCOME!

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Ministry to the Whole Person

 

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ministry to the whole person

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our healing ministry in Swaziland is to the whole person, body, mind, and spirit.

Ellyn Marsh came to Swaziland for a week focused on mind and spirit.  She is a Licensed Therapeutic Counselor.  Our plans for her week with us began last year and were fulfilled in April 2015.  In four days Ellyn spoke to 157 people with two messages.

Monday and Tuesday a class of 26 pastors and key laity came from throughout Swaziland to be trained in leadership of Celebrate Recovery (CR).  (I have written a whole blog describing CR)  They will initiate CR in their local churches.  Several of this class who received training in previous years will be the first to assume leadership locally.

On Wednesday Ellyn addressed nurses from the clinics and the hospital at Raleigh Fitkin Memorial (RFM) in a 4 hour seminar focused on mental health with a major emphasis on extending nursing care with compassion.

On Thursday Ellyn lectured student nurses in the School of Nursing at RFM with the same emphasis on nursing with compassion to those in their care.

Each day Ellyn invited me to give four character sketches of biblical characters who each illustrate particular psychological issues in Ellyn’s lecture.  The character Martha pleased people but missed fellowshipping with people then resented her sister Mary not helping her.  Esther faced fear.  Elijah experienced deep depression.  The woman with a twelve year bleeding issue lived in shame.

Emmalyn ran Power Point for Ellyn’s lectures all four days.  Our week with Ellyn was totally different from anything we have done in our eight months here.  Ellyn Marsh brought to Swaziland’s leadership of nursing students and staff a message of compassion for the whole person, calling us all to serve others with humility, remembering the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

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They Know Not What They Do

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Jesus’ words, “They know not what they do,” awakened me at 2 a.m. compelling me to get up and write at three o’clock in the morning this April eighth, twenty-fifteen.  I know the context of Jesus’ words but they have different meaning to me this quiet morning hour in Africa.

Last night I fell asleep thinking about events of yesterday’s onsite coordinating.  It was a typical day doing what we do out of sight from folks back home.  Yesterday we drove out of the city far off of the tar road over rutted red dirt roads past little windowless square cinder homesteads, beyond fences and corn fields, eventually coming to a government school, wondering where children came from to attend this remote off the beaten path school.  Our Swazi guide walked us across the red dirt yard and play ground up a few cement steps to a first grade classroom.  She gently opened the door.  Inside was a room filled with perhaps 40 first graders where the teacher called for Philiswa out to meet us.  We came to buy her a warm winter school uniform.

From there we drove back to our mission station where we learned an elderly Swazi lady needs money for a second eye surgery but has no money.  We have money and gladly paid for her surgery.  While there I questioned about an infant we saw at a Task Force homestead visit.  The baby boy was born with a large protruding hernia.  With government subsidy the surgery is possible.  On the spot we pledged to pay the balance of medical bills and all other costs such as transportation.

We are not moneyed people.  We are only onsite coordinators.  All we can do is dispense what others have given.  That is why I am saying, “Father, bless them for they know what they do.”  I am not writing an appeal for money.  I am announcing what the money already given is accomplishing.  These accomplishments are unknown to donors who do not see, do not know, do not realize, and do not comprehend what their gifts are doing over here.  They know not what they do.

We are not here as rich “ugly Americans” flaunting money around in an arrogant superior “makes me feel good” way.  Not at all.  Our money comes from basically two sources.  One source is the BFC Partnership budget which is limited to funds available.  This budget is carefully designated for different projects.  We do not give away this money.  We partnership with qualified projects agreed upon by a Partnership committee at BFC, approved by our pastor and Swazi counterparts.  All of this money is carefully accounted for with receipts in monthly reports to BFC.  Rather than give cash to Swazis, when they have raised half of the money they need, we go with them and pay venders for fencing or whatever we are partners in purchasing.

A second source of money is what motivates this blog.  Caring people individually give.  When we were home for Christmas a few people put discretionary money in our hands and said, “Take this back with you and do something with it.”  Sometimes our monthly allotment from our international Global Mission in Lenexa, Kansas has money designated to the Germans.  This is money we have freedom of onsite judgment in spending. Go team members leave behind money after seeing how desperate the needs are here.  You get the idea.  Some money comes to us outside of the “system” and this is the money we gave away yesterday and so many other days.

Last week I bought a guitar and gave it to a pastor’s son who borrowed a guitar to play in church.  A member of the March Go Team put that money in my hand and said, “Buy him a six steel string acoustical guitar with electrical jacks.”  Someone else left money for a church sound system.  Another person sent over a box of vegetable seeds.  Yesterday I saw the garden growing radishes, beets, corn, onions, tomatoes.  The farmer there is also the cook at Ntondozi Child Development Center.  She is feeding about 60 children from that garden along with other food from BFC.  From the Partnership budget we have bought gravel for a church foundation, and steel for the roof.  Last year we bought fifteen mattresses for Waiting Hearts pregnant women to sleep on close to the hospital delivery room.

This Swaziland Partnership is in its eighth year.  Probably nobody really knows all the good that hundreds if not thousands of generous donors have done for the people in Swaziland.  Some gifts are as small as vegetable seeds, some gifts are as large as a new building.  Some are medical.  Some are nutritional.  Some are psychological.  Some are spiritual.  Some is just candy for kids.

You who give, your heart is big.  Your trust in how we coordinators spend your money is sacred to us.  Thousands of recipient’s lives are changed.  Often those lives are transformed by practical tangible ways; soap, shoes, eye glasses, blankets for infants, hugs for orphans.   Always lives are transformed by love, your love, our love, the love of God.

I have not yet said, “Thank You,” because I am saying more than thank you.  I am saying you are life savers.  You are healers.  You are providers.  You are life changers. You give hope.  You give compassion.  You give, and give, and give again.  You keep giving to endless needs in one of the world’s most impoverished nations.  You know your gift but you do not fully know what you are doing when you give, when you pray, and sometimes come to see where your giving is going.  It takes living here to even begin to fathom the depths and goodness and decency of your giving.

Every class of people lives here.  There are the rich and middleclass.  We mingle with all people.  But our focus is on the poor.  When I say poor, I am saying the poorest of the world’s poor.  Orphans wandering on their own with no one to care they exist.  A.I.D.S. patients lying on grass mats on dirt in one room cinder or wooden houses with no electricity, no water, no sanitation, no food, and no hope.  We give food but a simple jar of Vaseline is the unaffordable luxury that sooths their cracked lips and puts smiles on their face.

I fell asleep last night and woke up this morning overwhelmed with the knowledge that for this one brief quickly fleeting year of our lives Emmalyn and I are the privileged ones to be the go between, between what you have placed in our hands and the hands reaching out to us in need.

I fell asleep last night and woke up this morning overwhelmed with the knowledge that all the compassionate work going on everyday here and on other mission stations all around the world is only possible because of the legion of people faithfully praying, giving, and sending large really-really big monies and things, and really-really small-tiny things like seeds.

There are no words adequate for saying thank you to those who give.  The best I can come up with is…

“Father, bless them for they know not what they do.”

cdg

Beautiful Swaziland

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We are in our ninth month now that April is here.  Last July we arrived in the winter, enjoyed the spring, experienced summer, and now it’s turning autumn in April.

Red trees dotted landscapes when we arrived in July.  Those flowering trees turned green, and beautiful purple trees filled mountains and valleys: a kaleidoscope of color.

I think you can see whatever you want to see here in Swaziland as with any other place on earth.  Gorgeous flowers bloom in unlikely places out of rocks, from red dirt, gracing cinder home doorways, and over slats of wooden homesteads.  Above it all are big white puffy clouds like soft cotton balls gently floating through a clear blue sky.  Sometimes ominous dark gray storm clouds hover over distant mountains and come our way behind a warm wind promising heavy rain.

Thinking she saw a lizard at the base of a tall tree just outside our flat window, Emmalyn ran for binoculars and saw it up close.  A shy foot long chameleon lizard skittered away, but not until we both had a good look at it.

Perhaps we have all been people watchers waiting for a flight at an airport or standing in line at a grocery store.  People watching is irresistible here in Swaziland.  Totally fascinating is watching men and women but especially women walking in front of my stopped jeep in downtown Manzini.  Women nonchalantly walk across the street with a baby tied in a blanket on her back, a bag of groceries in each hand, and a whole sack of oranges or a heavy square box of something perfectly balanced on her head. Sometimes there are two or three boxes balanced on her head.  She floats across the street in front of me as gracefully as those white fluffy clouds in the sky overhead, seemingly obvious to the impossibility of what she is accomplishing.

How could I spend a year in Africa and not mention Africans are black and I am white?  And how could I live here and not realize what brain surgeon Dr. Ben Carson says, “When I pull back the skin everybody looks the same.”  I remember seeing in the U.S. posters and tee shirts saying, “Black Is Beautiful.”  And so it is.  We sang in my childhood, “Red and yellow black and white they’re all precious in his sight.  Jesus loves the little children of the world.”  My year in Africa will send me home to America with a brotherly love for people of color.  My year in Africa, if nothing else, has made me a citizen of the world, color blind to difference and celebrating diversity.  As we walked through the exit of Nelson Mandela Museum in South Africa there were dozens of three foot wooden flowers in a rainbow of colors.  Visitors were encouraged to take one out of one pot and put it in another pot.  Eventually all the colors were mixed together and all the pots represented peoples of the world living together in peace.

The music of Swaziland is beautiful.  Emmalyn, overcome by spontaneous four part harmony of a congregation singing “Happy Birthday,” was moved to tears.  We had never heard Happy Birthday sung like a choral anthem unaccompanied.  How they sing like that I do not know.  They just do it.

The work we are doing here is beautiful.  Hungry people are fed, sick people are doctored, poor people are taught wage earning skills, unlearned people are educated, people with bad eyes receive surgery from ophthalmologists, people with dental needs go to dentists, people in conflict are counseled in conflict resolution, those bound by witchcraft and superstition are freed by faith in Christ, and we who minister and work among them find new purpose and fulfillment in life.   How beautiful is that!