Without an African guide in the front seat telling me which way to turn the jeep we would never find our way through the remoteness of dirt roads leading through small villages on through bumpy trails over hills down through valleys beyond walking paths where out there all by itself we found on the side of a hill by a creek The Garden of Nkiliji
This is My Father’s World
“This is my Father’s world He shines in all that’s fair.
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass He speaks to me everywhere.”
How Bethany First Church ever found this hidden place in 2009 I do not know. What I do know is that BFC has found another place to establish a beautiful green garden growing vegetables for AIDS infected and AIDS affected people of Swaziland.
We went there on September 22 to see it, to inspect it, and to report back to you exactly what your Partnership is doing there. For five years you have found this place, fenced it in to keep roving animals out, built a small concrete shed and filled it with farm tools, bought seed, sent Go Teams, found needy people, administrated a farm/garden, provided water, and given families victimized by AIDS, work, food, and a product to take to market on their heads or in wheel barrels and sell for cash.
We saw perhaps fifteen women out there working in the garden. It was a hot day but the ladies wore long skirts, long sleeves, and carried babies on their backs as they worked. They had been told we were coming. When they saw us walking towards them through the rows of cultivated lettuce, beets, onions, carrots, they threw down their hoes, sickles, and spades to welcome us with those Swazi smiles and handshakes.
I’ve never written about those Swazi handshakes always with the right hand, of course. But you hold your right arm or wrist with your left hand as you reach out to shake. The shake is in three parts. First you hold each other’s hand firmly and shake, then you switch your grasp to, how can I say it, another kind of grasp, then back to the regular hand shake. It all happens quickly. Clerks handing you receipts give them to you in the right hand while holding their right wrist or arm with their left hand and sort of curtsey or bow to you.
After the greetings all the ladies walked over to a large shade tree and sat down in a semicircle to listen to what we had to say.
As I stood there greeting them from Bethany First Church I saw something that absolutely surprised me. Out there in this far out of the way off the beaten path place sat right in front of me an African woman wearing, of all things, a tee shirt and printed on her tee shirt were the words, “Bethany First Church of the Nazarene.” Can you believe it? When I commented how at home she made me feel everybody laughed and the lady in the tee shirt was more than proud to have her picture taken with me.
We found the garden in beautiful working condition. The crops were healthy and mature ready for harvest. In fact they loaded us down with gifts of vegetables that we put in the back of the jeep knowing we would distribute them through Task Force to needy people (but we did keep a few beets that we cooked for supper that night).
Our story could end here but it doesn’t. As we climbed back in the jeep and headed back to Manzini our Task Force guide told us that when BFC first came to Nkilijiin 2009 these very same women that we just saw were so sick with AIDS that they could not walk, take care of themselves, or even feed themselves.
BFC, you really don’t realize what heroes you are. Everything I said in one of my first blogs (Bostonian in Bethany) is absolutely true. You have the resources, the talent, the vision, the spirit to do something big in a destitute world of sickness, misery, poverty, sin, and utter hopeless despair…. and you are doing it. Not just doing it, but doing it in a way that makes a guy like me want to get away from it long enough to just weep and thank God for the privilege to know you and associate with you and come over here and help you get this job done to the best of all of our abilities.
It is not just a Post Script to add that at one point out there under the shade tree those ladies broke out into spontaneous singing as only Africans can sing. Imagine it. From sickness to singing, sadness to song, hunger to handing out food, lament to laughter. From feeling isolated and alone to fellowshipping with friends.
Ah, I’ve gotta tell ya, Bethany First Church of the Nazarene and everybody else pitching in, you are heroes. All of you. To these people over here you are answers to prayers of people who do not know how to pray for themselves. You just don’t know how wonderful you are. You do not see the length of your kindness and reach of your generosity.
I think when I get back to Bethany I’ll be walking through the crowded foyer of First Church or sitting in the sanctuary and I’ll be looking around and thinking, to myself, how did these people get this way? Do they really know how great they are? Through all their laughter and friendly chatter do they really realize what they are doing here in Africa and around the world? And then I’ll multiply what I see in Africa times missionaries, Go Teams, Work and Witness Teams of all the other countries and I’ll just sink low in my chair and rest knowing I’m home from the kingdom of Swaziland and back among the best of people in the Kingdom of God.
“Red and yellow, black and white, they’re all precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”