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!