Because we care about:
Our Constitutional Ammendments
Today in SANU’s 5th graduation ceremony degrees were awarded to 245 students in disciplines of; Theology, Health Sciences, Nursing, Midwfery, Pharmacy, and Education.
The commencement address was given Dr. Dan Copp, Education Commissioner International Board of Education and Global Clergy Development.
*SNAU graduation program 9/24/14
As with the six Partnership Coordinator couples before us October was the month to attend all four Swaziland District Assemblies.
The Swaziland Church of the Nazarene is divided into four geographical districts; North, South, East, and Central. Presiding at the Central, East, and South assemblies was General Superintendent Eugenio Duarte with Filimao Chambo, Africa Regional Director at his side. Presiding at all the North District assembly was Rev. Mashangu Maluleka, Africa South Field Strategy Coordinator from Johannesburg. Rev. Mashango and his wife, Remember, also took part in the Central and East assemblies.
Each assembly met in a spirit of united Christian fellowship and each one welcomed us as special guests from Bethany First Church.
Of special interest to us was witnessing the election of the south district superintendent in just 3 ballots. Outgoing interim district superintendent Japhta Simelane was thanked for his eight months service with a love offering following the election of Rev. Sipho Ncongwane, a current pastor on the district.
On the human side attending these four district assemblies in four days offered us the opportunity to drive the length and breadth of Swaziland. We feel like we know our way around the country now. It was also sitting for approximately seven hours, four days in a row, made longer because everything had to be translated into English for the leaders to understand.
Saving grace was the Swazi hospitality of passing out candy, bananas, apples and bottled water throughout the congregation while assembly business was being conducted. And then women with empty baskets came along to collect the banana skins and carry them away. And oh my goodness, the district assembly lunches are to die for, in a manner of speaking. We ate pap, a corn meal that looks like mashed potatoes, smothered in hot beef stew, mixed vegetables, fried chicken, salad, fruit, and fruit-in-jello-pudding for dessert.
October is a big month in Swaziland. Next week Dr. Loren Gresham, Chancellor of Southern Africa Nazarene University comes to Africa from Oklahoma, U.S.A. for the University commencement on Friday October 24th.
He gave me his name, allowed me to take his picture, and authorized me to tell his story on line. But he has never owned a computer, doesn’t realize his story could get back to his boss, so I’ll tell you his story but not his name, not his place of employment, and I won’t post his photograph. I’ll just call him John for John Doe and let him represent millions around the world, male and female, caught in the torment of poverty. Here is John Doe’s torment of poverty pretty much in his own words and the tragedy of hopeless despair.
Walking through a large retail store the size of an American Wall Mart I passed a well groomed employee smartly dressed in his company’s uniform, green companyr shirt and kaki pants. Swazis are super friendly people. John said hello to me in English and I said hello in return. I would have kept walking but John loves Americans and wanted to talk. I suppose we talked a half hour standing in the aisle of his store.
“I love Americans,” he said. He especially loved President George Bush because resident Bush gave money to Africa to combat the AIDS epidemic. John was interested in what I am doing in Swaziland and he caught the concept of a Coordinator. He loves all Americans, he said, because Americans leave America and come to Africa to help the people.
I expected him to eventually ask me for money but he never did. Instead he asked me if I could post a letter from America to the rap singer Eminem. Before I could say Eminem is a pretty vulgar rapper John’s next words are why I’m writing his story.
John loves Eminem because Eminem is angry and he sings his anger. John said, “I don’t just want to write a fan letter from Africa”. He said he understands Eminem’s anger because he (John) is filled with anger too. He listens to all of Eminem’s CD’s because the words Eminem writes are like prayers. They comfort John. “If I can post it in America his secretary can give it to him and he will read it and maybe Eminem will send me some money”.
I asked John who looked so sanguine, clean cut, smiley faced, and content why he was angry and this is what he said:
“I work seven days a week from 8 to 5. Sunday is the only day I rest my tired body because I get off work at 1 instead of 5. But on Sunday I have to do all the house work, yard work, and all the other things needing to get done. I work every day and my monthly pay is E$1,000 (about $100 U.S.). I live in a shack. I don’t have electricity. I am 30 years old. I don’t have enough money to get married. I live in a house built when I was 2 years old. The wood is rotten. When it rains snakes come in as they wish. To stay dry I sleep standing up when it rains. My father deserted my mother when I was a baby. My mother died. My sister died. Everybody died. I take care of my grandmother and she has a heart disease. I live in a neighborhood where my neighbors have electricity, cars, food, and nice things. My house is an embarrassment in the neighborhood.
I am angry because I am trapped in poverty. I don’t have enough money to fix the house or even buy food. I have bills. I am in debt. I am angry because life is not fair. I don’t have an education. I can’t afford to quit my job and look for another one. My whole life is just working in this store and never getting ahead.
I look to Eminem because I am angry and he is angry and the only way I cope with my anger is listening to his angry songs. Sometimes I get angry at my grandmother and it is not her fault and then I get angrier at myself for taking my anger out on her. She is old and sick and needs me to support her. Then I listen to Eminem and his songs are like praying because I know somebody else is angry too and that helps me not feel so alone.”
My mind whirled. We are here bringing all kinds of help to needy people but finding in this encounter with John that AIDS and orphans out in the bush are only part of the poverty epidemic of Swaziland. Average looking people we pass everyday are seething with anger at the injustice life has dealt to them through no fault of their own. They are born poor. They stay poor. They see other people living well and are tormented by enslavement to their own poverty and ignorance, and see no way out. Their only comfort is knowing they are not alone in their misery.
My heart aches for John. I know there is release from his anger. We are here with a message of love and mission of hope. But it takes time and friendship and some kind of temporal help and support to reach John Doe with spiritual hope. William Booth who started Salvation Army said, “Empty bellies cannot listen to words.” But standing there in the aisle of the store needing to be somewhere else, all I could do was listen to his heartache and see justification for the anger eating at him.
I can accept John, a Roman Catholic in childhood, turning to Eminem for solace in adulthood. In fact, John has given me a different view of Eminem. I don’t understand this culture but I get the concept. Misery loves company. I remember Rev. Morsch, who once pastored Lakeview Park Nazarene in OKC and later became a district superintendent in Florida, saying he once met Elvis Presley. He said Elvis gave him a Christian testimony as clear as it could be. I remember Rev. Morsch’s exact words. He said, “Don’t try and understand it. These people live in a different world.” And I remind myself ours is not to judge. We leave that to God.
John Doe like millions is looking in the wrong place for the right answer. Comfort and rest are found in relationship with God and only God Himself can give that glimmer of faith to believe He is real. Once realized, the love of God transcends even poverty and fills the life with hope. Thousands of Swazis living in poverty have found this hope and peace in spite of poverty. We work with them every day. They are not happy being poor but they are happy with themselves in spite of being poor. Marx called religion, “opium of the masses,” but this was wrong. People who blame Christianity for the Crusades, Inquisitions, the Salem witch hunts always get it wrong. They ask, “If there is a loving God why is there so much misery in the world?” That argument can be answered with an equal question, “If there is no devil the opposite of a loving God, a devil why is there so much misery in the world?” They call faith in God a myth, ignorance, intellectual poverty, a psychosis, a placebo for reality, opium of the masses. They laugh at faith in God comforting themselves in a hopeless faith of their own that life and all that is has no creator, no intelligence behind it, no eternal purpose. Not believing in God they neither believe in the evil one who’s purpose it is to destroy and kill. Denying the existence of both God and Satan their answers to life are not all bad but their ultimate faith is in a faith in Nothing. Their ultimate answers to life is limited earth bound do goodism after which… Nothing. Better schools. Better food distribution. Health care for the poor. Improved sanitation. We do all of these but in themselves they are not enough. John Doe exists and people like you and I search them out with a message of new spiritual life. They are not happy in their misery. They are looking for something, someone, anyone, Eminem, to lift them out of their anger and misery.
My encounter with John is one of the most significant encounters I have had over here. His poverty is real. His anger is understandable and even justifiable. He confronts me with my purpose for being here. If there is a God can he reach into the depth of misery and pain and anger of this John Doe? And if he can, can I be the channel of love. And if I can, will I?
Flying over here from Atlanta, Ga. in a center seat on the Delta airplane the lady to my left was a South African national. I asked her if she could say anything at all to help prepare me for what I was about to find in Swaziland. Her name was Lynn and I will never forget her for what she said. Lynn said, “You can’t fix it. The problems are so big and complicated and heart breaking that no one person can fix it. What you are doing is small. But it is big. You will make a difference. But you can’t fix it. Don’t feel guilty for having more than they have. Do your job and just know you can’t fix it.”
Well, we do fix much in many ways, but Lynn’s words are true. The problem will still be here when I leave Swaziland. But like throwing star fish on the sand back in the ocean, we can by all means save some.
I’ve been back to see John two more times to befriend him and let him know I’ll keep coming back I Googled Eminem’s address on Sunset Avenue in Hollywood and told John to write his letter and that I will mail it to Eminem for him when I get back to the States. I have a precious total of eight more months to keep going back to John with a better letter from the Book of Life with the hope and prayer of introducing him to a better Friend than Eminem. We both need your prayer.
These photos are extra. They have nothing to do with this blog, but we passed seven of these magnificent creatures on the way to our destination and I just can’t resist showing them to you. Terry and Suzanne, driving through an African reserve is Estes Park on steroids!
Having gotten that out of my system, now on to BFC’s Child Development Centers
BFC has two Child Development Centers in Swaziland. The one on the Central District is in Ntondozi. It has been operating 3 years since June 2001. The new one just starting up is on the East District in Nduma.
Ntondozi is pronounced En-ton-doe-zee. I counted 26 children there last week. We feed them. We teach them the alphabet, numbers, geography, basics, and Bible. We feed them healthy meals without which they would go hungry. At the end of the school day they go home. The CDC as we call it is a ministry of the local church pastored by Rev. Glory Dlamini who is responsible for the center. Physical, spiritual, emotional, social, and educational needs are being met.
While we were there we learned Ntondozi is trying to build a new building for class rooms that will allow the CDC to move out of the church sanctuary. Two small piles of rocks are outside the church. We learned that everyday each child carries a rock to school. It is their contribution to the building project. We suggested that they also carry one stick of wood for the fire that cooks their daily lunches.
Ntondozi Child Development Center is out in the country on a rural gravel road far from the main tar road.
This is the school Philiswa attended before she graduated to first grade in the government school. She showed up while we were there. She recognized me with a smile reaching her arms up for a hug. I still have not heard her speak.
Nduma, the new Child Development Center, is a long way from Manzini near the border of Mozambique. Getting there is a fabulous drive through a wildlife reserve in which we saw seven giraffes, a sugar cane plantation, and beautiful mountains. The center shares a community building with two other groups in a remote mountain top where there is no water. The closest water is seven kilometers away and must be carried up the mountain.
Nduma is a brand new center sponsored by BFC. The Nazarenes there have been feeding about 78 children one meal a week on Sunday because that is all the food they have had and also wood and water need to be brought in. The leaders liked the idea of asking the children to bring a stick of wood to school. Zakhele, the one I wrote about in a previous blog “Well, Well,Well,” who works with us for the NCM office in Manzini has been asked to investigate the possibility of putting in a well in Nduma.
I am telling you these things because those who support Child Development Centers will be most interested in the following:
On September 29 & 30 we traveled to these centers with Rev. Simbarashe Kanenungo, Child Development Coordinator for Nazarene Compassionate Ministries-Africa, who came from the regional office in Johannesburg for the signing of official papers called, “Memorandum of Understanding” or MOU.
The centers will feed a minimum of three meals per week. Records will be kept of the name of each child, how many are in attendance, absences will be followed up to know if there is a problem in the home, each child will write 4 letters per year to the donors (if a child cannot write a drawing will do), once a year the child will be photographed for the donors. Monthly allotments to run the center are contingent upon the center submitting a monthly finance report to the Nazarene Compassionate Ministries (NCM) office in Manzini, who then sends the report to Johannesburg. BFC funds go to the General Church Treasurer, then to the Regional Office in Johannesburg, to the NCM Office in Manzini, and then to the Child Development Centers.
The people running the centers are competent qualified and dedicated leaders doing their work under difficult circumstances. No water, children from dysfunctional homes, building via one rock at a time. The strength and support from the Regional Office necessitates an agreed upon Memorandum of Understanding to assure structure, funding, accountability, communication with donors in other countries, prayer support, and encouragement.
For over six years BFC has been the sole support for Ntondozi and BFC’s only Child Development Center. Now BFC has two Child Development Centers. You can be sure both of these centers are being run not just compassionately but efficiently with oversight, accountability, and support from the regional office in Johannesburg, their District Superintendents, and Onsite Coordinators who keep you informed through our Partnership Director Barbi Moore.
On October 4, 2014 the General Church of the Nazarene honored the Prime Minister of Swaziland at the Sabane Hotel in Ezilweni, a brief drive south of the capitol city Mabane. Our invitation read as follows:
The Church of the Nazarene International Honouary Event for the Right Honorable Prime Minister Dr. Barnabas S. Dlamini.
Dr. Dlamini addressing the United Nations General Assembly
We entered the hotel banquet hall early. An usher dressed in black escorted us to the front of the room and sat us at a banquet table directly in front of the head table. As the guests gathered we happily knew many of them from our work and travels.
An announcement was made that the Prime Minister had arrived and would be entering the room eminently. We were instructed to all stand. A large procession of dignitaries filed in. Then came a uniformed body guard followed by the Prime Minister followed by another body guard who never left his side. Behind him came his family whom he likes to take with him when he speaks.
I instantly recognized the Prime Minister because, as in America the president’s picture is prominently posted in all government buildings, so in Swaziland pictures of the King, Queen Mother, and Prime Minister are posted not only in all government buildings but also in private businesses throughout Swaziland. The photo above is the official photo of the Prime Minister posted throughout Swaziland.
His entrance caused excitement in the banquet room. I had heard Dr. Dlamini is a gracious and humble man and this was confirmed even in the way he walked to the head table. Seeing friends he stopped along the way to greet people, reach out to hold their hand, briefly talk to them, and then move on.
The banquet hall adornments and food were fit for a king and indeed Prime Minister Barnabas S. Dlamini is the highest government official serving directly under King Mswati III.
Many speeches were given thanking the Prime Minister for his exemplary Christian character, loyalty to his family and church, and public service. A letter of appreciation and commendation from the Board of General Superintendents of the Church of the Nazarene was read and then the Prime Minister spoke.
Beginning his remarks he thanked the Church of the Nazarene for coming to Swaziland 109 years ago when one man, Harmon Schmelzenbach arrived. He told how that one man, Harmon Schmelzenbach changed Swaziland’s future history with his vision of establishing a school and clinic next to every church. He said his father and father’s brother were converted in the Church of the Nazarene and both became Nazarene pastors. His father and father’s brother were Nazarene pastors. He grew up as a P.K. in a Nazarene parsonage.
He thanked all of the many Christian ministries in Swaziland and the Church Church of the Nazarene for its 150 local congregations throughout the nation, Swaziland’s major hospital in Manzini (in which the King was born), the schools and clinics, and work with AIDS and orphans. He told us Swaziland is working to become a first world country and the ethic and values of the Christian ministries contribute greatly to this end.
When the event was over as the Prime Minister and his wife Joy mingled freely with the guests on his way out of the banquet hall.
Since arriving here I have been increasingly impressed with the realization that one man, Harmon Schmelzenbach, changed a nation. He did not do it alone. Many followed to make it happen. And now this work is on our watch.
You give him a year in Swaziland and have him celebrate his 73rd birthday with some of the highest leaders in the country including His Excellency Dr. Barnabas S. Dlamini, Prime Minister of Swaziland. Not only that. You get the Prime Minister to allow that birthday boy to tell all of his friends in America that the Prime Minister himself sang Happy Birthday to him.
The perfect birthday gift to me this October 4th is the gift of being (with my wife) the onsite coordinators for BFC in Swaziland. The friends we are making are priceless gifts. The experiences we are having money could not buy. The sense of accomplishing something worthwhile gives meaning and purpose to a whole year of my life. For a whole year we are gifted with the compassionate ministry of caring for orphans and AIDS infected and affected people.
Today I am gifted with the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 25;37-40.“Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, and needing clothes and clothing you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? …I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these my brothers of mine you did for me.”
What better gift for a birthday present than to be here in Swaziland, Southern Africa working to change destitute lives and finding my life changed as well.
Thank you BFC for the Partnership. Thank you Pastor Harvey for sending me. Thank you Barbi Moore for leading me. Thank you Emmalyn for accompanying me. Thank you Swaziland for accepting me. Thank you God for your never ending gifts, ‘For out of His infinite riches in Jesus He giveth, and giveth and giveth again.”