June 27, 2011

go. be the bucket.

On one of our first days in Swaziland we distributed buckets of food to people with HIV/AIDS. We drove out into the rurals areas around Manzini and visited patients in their homes, talking with them, praying with them, and giving them these buckets. One night during devos, Joe gave us a bucket analogy. Why did we get out of the van, walk down these uneven dirt paths in the blazing sun,  into these small homes, for hours upon end, just to deliver a bucket? Why not just drop it off at their door or at the end of the path? They'd still get their bucket. So why take the time and energy to go to them?

The answer seems obvious in a situation like this. We go to show people that we care about them; that they are worth our time and energy; that they are valuable. Duh. In a situation as desperate as this, of course that's what we'd do. But...what about the shut-ins? What about the prisoners? What about the child in the hospital? Or the single mother looking for a babysitter? What about the millions of orphans around the world who need a loving family? Or the people who have never heard of Jesus Christ? What about the person you always see eating alone everyday? Or the student who dropped all of his books in the library? What about the homeless? What about the woman who just lost her husband? Why do we not go to these people?

We have to break down these walls that separate us from the world and answer Christ's calling. He wants us to be relational. He wants us to show love and compassion. To be that person who goes when no one else does. We need to take Christ, the food of life, to the world. We can't just drop off the bucket. We have to go and be the bucket of Christ. Willing and ready to love and serve.

June 24, 2011

June 9 (home)


It's crazy that I'm home right now. It sometimes feels like I never even left...that I was never even there. But I have the memories and pictures and feelings.

It's going to be interesting to see how I will change from now on. I am still passionate about the same things and a lot of people know already. Maybe I will have to make my passions more of who I am than ever before...or just be more vocal about it...

I think I did learn a good lesson on assuming things about people, which I've been praying about for some time now. I never expected to get as close to my team as I did. They really caught me off guard. I was so wrong. But I'm so grateful that I was because they are awesome people. I'm really looking forward to building up the relationships that I formed this school year.

I also think I drove the idea of simplicity deeper into my being. We do not NEED all of the things that we have to be joyful and content with life.

Being in Swaziland also just made qualities like joy, simplicity, love, servitude, and humility so much more real to me. I think for me, it's not trying to attain these qualities as much as it is working on things not to do so that these qualities can move forward. I feel like I've lived a fairly simple life, but I lose sight of things because of different distractions around me. I think by removing these distractions, everything being pushed inward can then be expressed outwardly.

I also learned so much from the Swazi people. They make me want to be a better peson. I saw real love, real hope, real joy, real servitude in them. They were so on fire for God and for serving people. Incredible examples.

[Swaziland was such an amazing learning and growing experience. You have my journal entries here to get an idea of everything, but I really cannot put the whole experience into words! You'll just have to go and experience it all for yourself! And I just want to thank everyone who kept myself and my team in their prayers during this trip. Prayer is really powerful, and I know it made a difference, whether we were aware or not. And thanks to whoever made it this far into my journal! I hope you enjoyed hearing all about my trip! Even though it's over, I'll probably keep writing about it, so keep an eye out for future entries.]

June 8 (day 17)


In Dakar, Senegal right now. Well, on a plane in Dakar, Senegal. So tired! Wasn't feeling well for awhile, but I feel fine now. Probably won't eat breakfast, though.

Still have around 8 or 9 hours until we arrive at Washington Dulles. Then we go through customs and what not, then board for Columbus. I'm going to be dead tired and so hungry. God, can you send me back to Africa where we stuffed our faces full of awesome food? Ha.

I wonder what the SNU team is doing right now...I really miss them. It's still so strange being with just the MVNU team. It almost feels surreal, like we never even met them at all. And being in the airport and on the plane for so long...it's like, I was in Africa for two and half weeks? Good thing I have all the awesome memories. God, please don't let me forget Africa and all that I felt there. I hope I always miss it.
Sitting in Dulles when I should be on a plane home. We arrived about an hour later than originally planned, so we had to seriously rush through immigration and customs to board our plane to Columbus. We had people running (no kidding) through the airport. I honestly thought they (the people who got pulled aside through customs) weren't going to make it onto the plane and that they would have to catch another flight home. We all made it on board, though! Praise God! EXCEPT...after all that we learn that we weren't going to be taking off anyway, because of some mechanical problem. So we had to deboard  the plane, and now we're waiting at our gate. Thanks United! We all ran here for nothing! Ha. Another first for me!

June 7 (day 16)


(to the tune of the chorus of the Ben Folds song "Hiro's Song") I DON'T WANNA GO HOME!

It's hard to think we're leaving today to go back to home #1. I don't want to go. I LOVE it here in Africa. Even though it's only been a little over 2 weeks since we arrived...I feel as if it's been months. I just want to stay! Everything about Africa is beautiful to me in some way.

I'm listening to an airplane fly by. God, can I just stay, please? I hope and pray that one day God will send me back to Swaziland or even just back to Africa. Or just somewhere that my heart will feel it belongs. I don't want to go back to the States. I don't want to have everything and more and become nothing for God. I want what I need, and to become everything for God. I just love the attitude of servanthood and it makes me so JOYFUL.

Yesterday while we were still in Swaziland, Joe, Brent, Amy, and Rich and Misty all told their stories of how they met their wife/husband. Brent and Joe were absolutely hilarious. And it was just awesome to hear how God worked in the relationships of Amy and Andy, as well as Rich and Misty. He's so good. Everyone tried to get Sezwe to share his story, but he walked out of the room. Ha. BUT...today he shared it with us! I feel so special. Ha. It was so sweet.
This morning Claire and I went exploring around Koinonia. It's so beautiful. We found this small chapel and went inside. There was this awesome stained glass window above the altar. Had to take a picture of it. There also were confessionals, and since I've never been in one before, I took a picture of those too. Ha. Outside the garden area is so pretty. There is this huge tree sitting right in the middle. It's seriously so big. That place is just so incredibly peaceful. I'm sad we had to leave it.

We got dropped off at the airport around 2pm, even though our flight isn't until like 10:45pm. We just wanted our driver to be able to make it across the SA/Swazi border before it closed. So for the past few hours we've just been exploring the airport. It's really nice. There are so many shops and restaurants. It's seriously like a mall. So yea. It was kind of fun walking into all the shops and looking around with everyone. A couple of us got separated from the rest of our group for awhile, but it was fine. I had the chance to get to know them a little better.

For once I am actually ready to get home. If I can't stay in Africa, then just get me home! I don't want to sit around in an airport or on a plane for 24 hours. But if I could stay here then I totally would :)

P.S. I hope my feather that I found at the game park doesn't get confiscated when I go through customs. I already had to throw all of my flowers away because we're not allowed to take them with us...Wait, actually I gave them to Katie. Wonder if she'll make it through with them?

June 6 (day 15)


Last day in Swaziland. BOO! I honestly do not want to leave at all! I love it here in Africa.

My prayer is that God will continually speak into my heart things He has spoken to me while here in Swaziland. I never want to forget how He changed me and transformed me. His power is so real here, and I want to feel that same power back in the States. And I hope I don't forget my experiences here in Swaziland...with the land, with the people, with my team, with God... It was incredibly life changing and I want to keep on changing this way forever.

Right now we're sitting in the chill place after having an incredible breakfast. Rich and Andrew came up at 8 this morning and made everyone french toast. How sweet of them. And it was so good. My team is seriously so awesome.

Today we drive back to South Africa and will see off our SNU half at the airport. What am I going to do without them?! I'm really going to miss every single one of them :( God was so present with each person here and I never want to forget how we all grew together and transformed together.
Just pulled out of the flatt for the last time. I don't want to go. I started to cry when we were pulling out and waving goodbye to Andy and Amy. I'm really going to miss it here and the people I've been with and the ways God has been moving in our hearts and lives. I'm going to miss fellowship and serving. All the laughter. The beauty. The people...the children.

The countryside, the flowers (that I'm not allowed to bring back with me), the colorful birds, the rolling hills that completely surround you no matter where you are, women walking around with babies tied to their backs, riding in the vans, our great drivers (which way?! Sezwe!), Pick-n-Pay, granadilla, lemon creams, grapetiser, Ntondoze, cows roaming everywhere, the beautiful blue sky, the stars, TLC, the SIFE team, Manzini, real church, true love, strong presence of the Spirit, impalas, PB&Js.

I'm just dreading going back!

P.S. Got to make sure to say hello to everyone in the family for Andy and Amy.
Sitting in the chill place #2 at Koinonia in South Africa. I don't want to think about going back to the States and to the lifestyle there. I don't want to lose focus on what I've learned here, but I know I will. There are just so many distractions back home.

We had to say goodbye to our SNU half today. I hated to see them go. It's not the same without them here with us all the time. It makes me sad...it really just isn't the same at all! It's almost surreal that they're gone. It's so wierd being here without them. But I just thank God for them and how we grew together throughout our time here. And I thank Him for my MVNU team and I pray that we can continue to grow together back at school. I just love MVSNU so much.

I just pray that God will continually break my heart. I don't want to forget about the devastation all around me or become numb to it. And I don't want to forget the joy of the people, either. I pray that God continues to keep the spirit of community alive as we all seek to serve Him. I just thank Him so much for this experience and for all the many blessings. I thank Him for His presence among us. And I thank God for His love. God, you are awesome and I love you for everything that you are.

I've heard so many people say that they're leaving a piece of their heart here in Africa. It's the same for me. I pray that one day I will be able to return to get it back (or I could just stay here). I love Africa!

June 5 (day 14) - part 2


Tonight was so incredible and inspiring. After our devo, Joe told us that Andy and Amy wanted to take Communion with us through the act of washing our feet. WOW. How incredibly humbling, God. I 've never experienced this before, and honestly I was so adament. I did not want them to do it. What am I worth compared to them? These people are awesome. They're doing incredible things here and Swaziland. They're following after God and serving Him because they truly love Him. Why God? I felt as if I was the one who should have been washing their feet. I just don't understand...I don't know how I am supposed to react or feel. I understand the servanthood. I understand the act of Christ becoming a man to serve man. But as the person getting their feet washed...What should be my attitude? I can't even imagine how the disciples felt when Christ washed their feet. WOW. I can't even put that moment into words.

I just pray that God will give me peace. I don't have to understand the action completely, but I just pray that I will always keep in mind the act of love and discipleship. That's really what it's all about, even if it seems jumbled up. Just so truly humbling. What an incredible, incredible night. WOW!
A few notes from devos tonight:

The towel deserves nothing; it's takes the shape of the foot.
As Christians, as the towel, this should be our attitude. We should serve others without seeking reward and we should become the very person we are serving so that we can serve them better.

[Reminds me of the passage in 1 Corinthians 9 where Paul says he has "become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings."]

Live your life with a reckless abandon and have courage.

June 5 (day 14) - part 1


I'm sitting here in church at Ntondoze. Their worship and love for God is so real and pure. It's incredible. The power you feel when they sing and pray together is so overwhelming and amazing.

The reason I'm writing right now is because I wanted to make sure I didn't forget to ask myself a particular question. Coming here to these churches and among these people has been so inspiring and fulfilling to me and I'm completely and utterly amazed by their love for God. The question is, how would these same people respond if they were sitting in my church back home? Is the Spirit ever-present at Marysville Naz? We come here to worship with these people and they are so grateful for our presence. Why? What do we have that they do not? When we go home, will we be the people that others see Christ's power in? Can we ever see God the way these Swazis see God?
Just a minute ago we got up and introduced ourselves to the congregation. It was so awesome  to be up at the front and seeing a sanctuary that is packed full! Pews filled, people sitting along the sides, standing in the doorway, kids sitting on laps and kids sitting up on the platform....Awesome, awesome, awesome.
After church everyone stayed for tea and cookies (the English thing to do, even though we're not English), which was just so enjoyable. Not often do people stay after church and drink tea, play with the kids, play soccer or netball, or just fellowship with one another. It was awesome and a great example of God's church. I wish churches in America were like this one, even though I know I'm guilty of rushing out of church to get home as soon as I can. There is just something about a church that feels real that makes me want to stay longer...

I'm sitting here now thinking about how my heart has changed for this country. More and more I think I could come back here and serve. I DON'T WANT TO LEAVE! I cannot even describe how much I am not ready to go home yet. I'm going to miss being in this beautiful country. I'm going to miss the kids and the people. I'm going to miss the fellowship and community. I'm going to miss serving. I'm going to miss raw, ginuine love for God. God, please at some point in my life, send me back here or somewhere like it. I don't/want to stay in the US.

Before church we went to Melendela's for brunch, which was so good. We all sat at this really long stretch of tables and it made me so happy because it reminded me of home and my family :) It's crazy that when I think of my family (from being reminded of them through the people or the experiences), I don't actually miss them. (These people are my family too). I'm happy when I think of them and of how blessed I am to have my family, but I'm not ready to go home to them yet. I do wish they could come here, though, and experience all this. That would be the best life ever.

I just don't want to leave. I don't think I could say it enough to really show how much I mean it. There is something about the simple aspects of life and faith here that are just so compelling and that make life in the US seem so unattractive. It almost makes me sick thinking of going back to all my stuff and all the distractions back home or at school or wherever. Life is more peaceful here, more meaningful, and more valued.

June 20, 2011

June 4 (day 13)


Today was NYI Sports Day, which was held at the University of Swaziland. 3 regions of the Nazarene church in Swaziland came together for a day of fun, fellowship, and friendly competition. The day started with us arriving bright and early...long before anyone else got there, but that's ok! Everyone just sat in the vans for awhile until we started to wake up. Eventually most of us got out and sat on the field or kicked about. Some went on to the restrooms, which were really big and open and well lit! Ha. Actually the bathroom consisted of mother nature and a tree. But again, that's ok!

Soon enough people started to show up to set things up and eventually we had all 3 regions represented. Andy asked most of us if we'd be willing to join in with the Swazis and play some sports. I said yes, even though I was kind of dreading the thought of it. I really just wanted to watch, but I'm glad I said yes because it turned out to be fun! We watched JT run with the big timers (they're so fast!) and I think he actually ended up placing. Nice work! Then a few of us went over to the courts for some volleyball. Diane, Nick, and I were placed on Manzini team A with these Swazi guys who were sweet at volleyball with their Liverpool kits on and all. We ended up winning our semi-final match and went on to play the championship match against Manzini team B, which Zach, Hillary, and Robbie were on. Unfortunately Manzini A ended up losing. But what was funny is that none of the Americans even played during the final. Guess we're no good at volleyball. Ha. But it was fine. We just sat in the grass, talked, and watched the match. We met this one guy and listened to him talk about Swazi dating, which was interesting.

Later on they held an awards ceremony and gave out trophies and medals. I got a participation medal, which is something! All in all, today turned out to be a lot of fun. Got to watch some amazing athletes in the track, soccer, and volleyball events. And it was nice hanging out with the Swazis and the MVSNU team as always. So grateful for the opportunity to come together with our Swazi brothers and sisters and just enjoy each other's company!

Tonight we had breakfast for dinner, which was just great. Sharyl and I were the Bacon Makers! It tasted so good. Everything tasted good, actually. Props to everyone who has had to slave over the stove and griddle to make dinner for 26+ people! We then had another awesome devo, where we just reflected on the experiences we've had. One thing Joe told us was to make sure that we're engaging in true ministry. Not just doing this or that FOR the people, but doing this and that WITH the people as well. It made me think of what Andy and Amy are doing here in Swaziland. They've gotten to know the country and it's people, and have been working alongside of them doing awesome things for Christ. It's amazing, and I was thinking about how much I would love to do something like that. I think I would learn so much about myself, others, and reliance on God. I love being here in Swaziland and I honestly do not want to leave yet! I could stay for soooo much longer. I really hope and pray that God gives me an opportunity to come back here (or go somewhere else) where I can learn, serve, and live for Him. It would be such a fulfilling life to be engaged in true ministry.

June 3 (day 12)


Got up and went to the market in Manzini to buy some gifts. I'm the worst at bartering. I felt really bad trying to lower the prices and I failed miserably. But I got some neat things for some people, as well as myself.

 Then we went to the Milwane game reserve, which is beautiful. You're allowed to walk around there, which is cool, but that also means no elephants, giraffes, rhinos...We did see hippos and crocs there, though, as well as wildabeasts, water buffalo, wart hogs, impalas, and zebras. So we got there a bit before lunch, so a few of us just walked around the main area and reserved a time slot to go horseback riding! Lunch time eventually came, but the university students had not. So we waited for them to come and they finally did. By that time, our time slot was very near, so we had to shovel food into our faces and get over to the horses! Lunch was still great though!

Finally we got on our horses and headed out with our tour guide into the reserve. It was seriously so awesome. And so incredibly beautiful! Really just a great experience being out in the open plains with wild African animals around you. So peaceful. I wish it would've never ended.

About an hour or so later we headed back and rejoined the team. Talked with some of the university students and a few of them gave us Swazi names! My name is Nokulunga, which means kindness. It was amazing how Nathaniel (his American name) could just look at us and give us a name with a meaning that fits who we are! I really felt so flattered and I'm so grateful for that moment. It really means a lot to me.

Eventually it was time to go and we headed back into Manzini and up to the flats. Right now we're just hanging around the chill place until dinner.
Devos was good tonight. I've been thinking a lot about how I would respond when people ask, "How was Swaziland?!" I don't just want to answer with, "It was a lot of fun! It was such an amazing experience! I made a lot of friends! I learned so much!" I want to answer with something that goes beyond all of that...Something that God has put on my heart and that I can apply deep into my everyday being. Things like, "How have I transformed spiritually? How has this trip changed me and defined me? What can I actively do?" So much has happened during this trip that I wouldn't even know where I would begin. And I have no clue exactly what I would say. I  just don't know if I could put this experience into words!

June 18, 2011

June 2 (day 11)


Sitting at Piggs Peak right now, locked inside the gate we drove through to get to Prayer Rock. We drove up here to visit the first Nazarene church in Swaziland and the wagon that Harmon Schmelzenbach rode up in all those years ago. The prayer rock is this massive rock overlooking this absolutely incredible view of the countryside. It's beautiful. But this was the rock that Schmelzenbach would sit on and pray and this was where God told him that he needed to build a church here. So we came and visited this rock and now we're locked inside. Ha.
We just off-roaded up a hill and through someone's barbwired fenced garden to find a way out of here. I thought we we're going to just roll down the hill and die. But we made it out!
Suprise of the day. Instead of digging a ditch, we ended up going to Hlane wildlife reserve for the afternoon. It was really fun! We got to see giraffes, elephants, rhinos, wart hogs, zebras, and whatever else. My convey even got charged by an elephant, which was awesome! And Gina, there were so many sweet looking birds!

The only thing, though, is that technically yesterday was our last day of work :( It makes the reality that this trip is going to end much more real. That makes me sad. I'm not ready to leave everyone or to leave Swaziland!

On the ride back Holly and I were talking about the gaps in society between Swaziland and America. We somehow got to talking about how much we lower our expectations when we come to places like this and then raise them sky high when we go home. It's crazy how we can be so laid back about a flat tire here, but so ticked about the same thing back home. It's such a hazard zone that I want to steer clear of. Christians, especially, should have the attitude of Christ at ALL times, wherever they are. I really just want to be able to appreciate everything the same.
Had a really good devo tonight about compassion and how we can take what we're compassionate about back to the US to share. Katie, Zach, and I were talking together and one of the main things we brought up was that a passion would so consume you that your whole being would change. It would change your thoughts, attitudes, actions...Things in your life would be different, maybe simpler, and people would probably notice these changes and ask you about them. When people see compassion that runs so deep, they're so much more likely to want to share in that same compassion. It rubs off onto them and onto others. Your actions really can go a long way and make a huge difference.

Brent also brought up a really good point. People automatically view a missionary as someone who goes overseas to impoverished or dangerous places to speak God's Word and start churches and what not. But a missionary is just someone with a mission. An ordinary, average person with a calling from God. I think that's awesome and so incredibly true. To go along with compassion...We can use the things we are passionate about, no matter how different from others, to make a difference for Christ. We all have a part to play in God's kingdom and we're all important components to His will. Just something awesome to think about...

June 1 (day 10)


Went back to Ntondoze today to play with the kids. After they left Hillary and I heard some singing coming from the church so we went in to check it out. We went in to find some of the Swazi ladies sitting in the pews singing away and praising God with all their hearts. So we just sat in behind them with Niri (one of the Canadians) and listened to them. They were so filled with the Spirit! It was so incredibly real and inspiring. They then got up and took an offering. That was just so humbling to me. It's midday on a Wednesday and these women willingly come to the church to pray and give offering. Awesome. So I gave all my coins to the kids who were sitting with us to put in the offering. Precious. We then stood with them in a circle and held hands and sang and prayed. Even though I couldn't sing their songs, it was still such a spirit-empowering moment being with those women. As Hillary and I were leaving, I just told her that things just aren't like that anymore. All she said back was that there's just nothing to say after something like that. And there really wasn't. We just sat in the grass in silence. I cannot even describe how it felt being in that church. It was awesome and I just praise God for that time with them. I pray that all Christians can one day be filled with that same Spirit.

Tonight we led an NYI service down the road. Andrew, Josh, Kelsey, and Rich all shared their testimonies. It was awesome to hear their stories and how God has transformed their lives. It was a really great service, even if we weren't 100% prepared for it. God still moved. And even if it seemed like we didn't do well, the Swazis still welcomed us and were excited that we came to worship with them. It's awesome to see how God bridges the distance between us.

Tonight was also our last night with Niri, Marg, Stacy, and Campbell. I can't remember if I really mentioned them or not, but they are the team from Canada that are here to receive a shipment of books and supplies to install libaries in schools here in Swaziland and South Africa. Two years ago Campbell felt like God was telling him to do this, when he was just 14 years old, I think. How incredible. But anyway, they leave for Durbin tomorrow, so I pray for safe travel and that God continues to bless all they're doing. Next year Swaziland is expected to receive TONS of school supplies, thanks to their efforts!

It's going to be so sad when we have to say goodbye to our SNU half! We've all gotten so close during our time here and I'm going to be heartbroken when we have to say goodbye! I just pray that God blesses our remaining time together and that he allows us to grow closer and serve Him in bigger and better ways than before.

My biggest fear right now is that I'll come away from this trip with nothing but fun experiences/memories. This trip has been awesome, but the one thing I want to remember forever is how God stirred my heart. I just pray that I'll sense His presence through all that I do and experience and that He'll continue to speak into me. I want to take everything that I've learned and felt here in Swaziland back home with me to share with others.

June 16, 2011

May 31 (day 9)


Today we went to another primary school called Living Waters. It's a lot nicer than all the other schools we've been to so far. They all wear these blue and yellow windbreaker sweats...It's crazy the difference. So we put on a 30 minute or so assembly consisting of all the same things we did yesterday. It was funny to me how they had a pianist who tried to play along to our songs that we sang. Didn't have that at the other schools! Haha. It was different, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Right now we are at Ntondoze, a preschool for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). It's really sad that some of these kids, though most have a place to sleep, do not have parents and they just walk home alone...I think it would really hard to volunteer here, knowing that there is no guarantee that one of these kids will be back the next day. But I also think it would be one of the most rewarding jobs, because these kids are amazing. For me, with most of my sibling having been orphaned at a young age, being at a place like this surrounded by people who take care of you and love you is probably one of the greatest gifts ever. They need love more than anything else. These kids are just so precious.
Tonight was incredible. After an awesome dinner (chicken tortilla soup) we had an even more awesome devo. Joe has this incredible ability to speak the power of Christ. It's amazing and so incredibly convicting. He just talked about laying your life down and picking up your cross. It's no going to be easy by any means, but God will bless your life in so many ways. It was just an awesome time of reflection and prayer. We just sat in silence and sang praises...Christ was so present in that moment and I pray we will continue to sense his presence all throughout our days and in all that we do.

It just really made me think about my life. I know full well that I don't die to myself and pick up my cross daily, which needs to be done! It's just so easy in our world to become distracted and fall away from the Spirit and to be selfish. God easily becomes 2nd, 3rd, 4th...I pray for the day that He becomes 1st. I pray for the day that Christ becomes my everything.

Joe also asked us in who or what have we seen Christ during this trip. We answered with the HIV/AIDS taskforce, TLC, our drivers, the kids, our leaders, other students. All of these are great. But one that stuck out to me was Josh's answer, himself. For as amazing as it is to see Christ in other people, it's also so important that people see Christ in us as well. That really just put this question into a totally new perspective. Do I reflect Christ in the ways I act or the ways I treat others? And do I firmly believe that Christ is in me, ready and willing to do incredible things through someone as ordinary as myself? Really just an awesome, powerful thought.

It's seriously so awesome to be apart of such an incredible body of Christ. I'm so thankful that we're able to come together and fellowship, singing and praying and praising. It's such a blessing and I thank God for my new family.

Later on some of us went out and laid under the stars. The sky is amazing here! "Guys, let's sing the Star Spangled Banner right now." Ha. It was a lot of fun. I really have come to love my team. They're all incredible. I'm going to be so sad on the day that we have to part ways with our SNU half. I don't want to go home!

May 30 (day 8)


Today we headed to a primary school to put on an assembly for the kids. On the way a few of of us pumped up balloons to hand out to the kids. I think we had around 300 or so balloons in the back of the van? We were drowning in them. Ha. But anyway at the school we did some Bible songs, played a few games, put on a skit about Noah's ark, gave a short message, shared some testimonies, and played more games. It was great to see the kids sing along or laugh at funny things we did. And I had so much fun doing the hokey pokey with them:) Kids are awesome.

Once we finished we just hung out with the kids and took a ton of pictures. They love getting their picture taken! It's so funny. I took so many pictures today of the kids, some of them over and over again. But I'm so happy to do the simple act of taking a kid's picture. I really do think it makes them feel special and loved for once. Once it was about time to leave we took all the balloons and stored them in an office so they could hand them out to the kids once school was over. Then we headed back to Manzini.

The rest of the day we spent at the Vanderwals (the family that runs The Luke Commission). For a good while we filled vitamin packets, filled eye drops, sorted glasses, and some other stuff for TLC to distribute at the clinic that week. I absolutely loved being apart of TLC last week, so I was happy we got to help out some more. I really respect all that they do. For lunch we had an authentic Swazi meal! It was pap (mielie-meal), cabbage, chicken, and gravy. It was really good! So glad we finally got a real Swazi dish!

Then we played soccer with the Vanderwal boys and some of the staff. It was a lot of fun. Luke, Zeb, and Jacob (the older sons) really got into it! I felt bad everytime they tripped or got hurt or whatever. So usually they got to take a PK to make them feel better. Ha. So for much of the evening we played soccer or other games, like Ninja (my first time ever playing). Had a good dinner, talked with the team for a bit, did dishes, and then headed back up to the flats. It was really nice to just relax while the sun was out. And as always it was great hanging out with the Vanderwals. I'm so grateful that they invited us over and that they've allowed us to be apart of their team. I thank God for this family and their ministry and I pray that He'll continue to bless all they do. They're just awesome.

June 13, 2011

May 29 (day 7)


Today was awesome. We got to sleep in. Ha. We met at the trashcans at 10:45am and headed to church at Zhakele Church of the Nazarene. Church feels so real here. It was awesome to see the passion for God that these people have and their expression of that deep love. I felt so blessed to witness that and their willingness to give everything to God. I want to love God that way. I just feel like people in the US don't have that kind of love as much these days...

Kind of going along with the topic of love was Joe's message. He asked how much we're willing to risk for the sake of the gospel. How much am I willing to risk to see more people come to Christ? That really is a challenging thought because I really don't know the answer. I would like to say everything, but I know I'm too selfish. How I would love to love Christ so much that I would do anything to see that more people come to know Him...

After church everyone got yogurt. [Not until later did I think about how rude it was to not eat it. I felt so guilty. A lot of these people probably don't just have yogurt to give away to people who have everything they need that probably will forget that they even have yogurt and leave it in a van to rot away. I really wish I would have eaten it.] We then headed over to Swazi Candle for lunch. Unfortunately they ran out of food. How convenient. But it's all good, we got KFC instead:) And their KFC was actually really nice...Much nicer than any KFC I've ever seen. Then after lunch we headed over to the Pick-n-Pay. It was so funny because it was like none of us had ever been in a grocery store before. Ha.

The rest of the day we just hung out with each other at the flat. We were later joined by the Canadian team and even later we were blessed to have Dr. Hynd with us. He has had an incredible life that he shared ALL about with us:) It was cool. So we had dinner and just enjoyed one another's company and then it was time to practice our skit and the songs we are going to do tomorrow at the school assemblies. It was honestly so hilarious.

One of the best parts of the day was just talking with Hillary and Courtney, as well as Sharyl and Katelyn who joined later on. It was seriously an awesome conversation...just talking about distractions on our lives and how God has been speaking to us and convicting us...our inner thoughts, struggles, praises. It was just so awesome seeing completely different sides of these girls. I thank God for fellowship and for being able to share with and learn from one another. It was so refreshing and rewarding.

May 28 (day 6)


Today we worked in the Epilepsy garden pulling massive roots so the epileptics can use the land to plant and make a means. Most of us girls really just felt useless, but it was nice just playing with the kids or watching the boys do all the hard work. Ha. The Swazi girls were so fun to watch. They have all these hands games that they play and what not and they're just funny:) And all the little ones are just so cute. I just never want to leave them.

The SIFE team will never cease to amaze me. They worked so hard today. They are so passionate about their work. So are our drivers. We didn't hire them to join in and lend a hand but they do. They all show so much love and compassion, and that reflects how dedicated they are to God's will. It's incredible and so encouraging and inspiring. I hope to reflect that throughout my life as well. Even though I felt so useless today, God can still use me in other ways. Andy was telling us that just our presence meant so much to the Swazis, which makes me realize that my whole being should reflect my love for God because nothing goes unnoticed. People see things. The Swazis see how much we want to be alongside them. They are so accepting of us and that is incredibly humbling. It makes me want to be a better person for them.

[Just have to say major props to all those who worked so hard on this day, Swazi and Americans alike. We got the job done for the epileptics and now they can plant and sell their crops!]

The rest of the evening we just hung out and had dinner...Luke, Zeb, Jacob, and Zion came over while their parents went to this dinner thing. They are so ornery! It reminds me of home and how my little brothers play with one another. I guess I do really miss my family, but in no way am I ready to go home!

I've been thinking a lot about something Joe has challenged us with. How am I going to carry over my attitude, thoughts, ideas, actions from Africa to America? It's so easy for us to go on a spiritual high that quickly burns out once we're home. How am I going to take everything I learned here back to the States?
How will I use what I learned to help make a difference?

I've also been thinking a lot about humility....about having nothing but fullness by the Spirit. Being here in Africa is so humbling. It's liberating to not have to worry about everything I have or could have. I think I could live this simply and be happy. But I know once I get back home, I'll go back to the same routine because everything is there around me. I just want to be able to rely on fullness by the Spirit just as many people here do. I want to be able to share everything I have without being selfish and to just put others before myself. I don't want to worry about the vanity of the American lifestyle. We're so selfish in America...If only everyone could live simply...Just something I'm trying to sort through...

June 12, 2011

May 27 (day 5)


WOW. WOW. WOW. Today was so incredible! By far my favorite day while we've been here. Today just brought to mind so many of the things I'm thinking about and sorting out in my head. [As in, where my life is going and will be going as a PA wanting to go into medical relief] It was just so enjoyable and it makes me so excited for what God has in store for me.

So our clinic site was only about 45 minutes away, back on all these dirt roads. Once we got there we helped the team unload the trailers and carry supplies to where they needed to me. We set up at this school that the Luke Commission (TLC) divided up into areas for eyeglasses, triage, prayer, counseling, dentistry, pharmacy, clothing distribution, and the Jesus film. Once we had unloaded everything we listened to Harry Vanderwal (the doctor) talk to the people and explain how everything was going to work. He also introduced his boys, triplets Luke, Zeb, and Jacob, and the youngest, Zion. They sang a few songs in English and Siswati and the crowd was so impressed! It was great. Then Echo (Harry's wife who is a PA) took the group on a short tour explaining everything and why they did it that way. She also kind of explained how they got started and just how God has provided everything they've needed throughout the years because they relied totally on faith. One thing that stuck out to me was when she told us that she'll never worry about the need for doctors or "whatever you are" to work for TLC and that God will provide them we they need them. And ultimately that God will provide Luke Commissions all around the world if people are faithful and willing. This just really made me think about myself and it reminded me that God does has a purpose for me and is going to use me to help people. He has everything planned out and will always take care of me if I have faith in Him.

So then we all split up and headed into different areas to work. I first worked in the triage unit. We measured blood pressure and blood sugar and tested for HIV. It was really awesome and it felt so natural for me. But it was also really sad and I didn't think about that until I left. There was one child who was 4 years old that I tested. She tested positive. Niel, one of the staff members, asked me, "So you know what this means for her, right?" And I was just like, "Yeah...yeah." I was just so immersed in what I was doing that I didn't think until I was done about how devastating this all was. This little girl, who is so pure and innocent, has HIV because of her parents and now she has to suffer the consequences of their actions. It was heartbreaking.

Once I finished in triage I went around with Niel and he showed me how to draw blood. He asked me if I wanted to do it and I really didn't want to try yet but he told me I would have to learn eventually. I didn't draw blood from any patient but he did make me practice on him once and it was terrifying! So that was a first. I then helped him as he evaluated this woman's broken arm and I had to give her a pain shot in the butt. So that was another first. And then I helped him as he pulled teeth, which just looked so painful...I never ever want to work in dentistry. Sometimes it was so indelicate but I realized you gotta do what you gotta do. It may seem really insensitive sometimes while they're working, but they do have a lot of compassion and really do want to help you.

Eventually when I had a break I went to go eat lunch. Little did I know that lunchtime had already come and gone and it was actually 5pm. I guess I was really enjoying myself! But I ate dinner, talked with some of my team, and headed back to help Niel. There was one girl, who was maybe 4-6 years old, who got a tooth pulled and she did not flinch once! What a trooper. She got a sucker for that:) Then as we waited around Chelsea an I talked with the Vanderwal boys and played around with them. They are so rowdy but so hilarious and fun to be around! I think it would've been awesome to grow up here and help your parents in a clinic.

Eventually when every patient had been seen and when everything had been torn down and loaded back up into the trailers we all gathered together and sang a song! The joy of the Lord! We all stood in a circle, put our arms around our neighbors and sang this song while kicking our feet and laughing hysterically. It was awesome. What an awesome night. And the sky was so clear too! Gina would've so appreciated it:)

Working with TLC was so incredibly awesome and rewarding. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I think the rest of the team did as well. I don't think anyone complained once, but just helped out the best they could. Everyone did awesome. And the TLC staff are so inspiring. True dedication and commitment. I'm so glad I got to be a part of this ministry for a day and I pray that God will continue to bless what they're doing. Today was seriously so amazing.

May 26 (day 4)


Another awesome day! It started by getting a flat tire on the way to one of the schools. Kelsey brought it up later how funny it is how in the US we'd probably be so ticked off if we got a flat tire but today not a person complained once. We just played games on the side of the road and did whatever. It was nice just getting to know my team better. It's so crazy that we have a whole other team that we hardly ever see! But I'm so thankful for my team and how we've bonded over the past few days. It's really been a blessing and has allowed me to open up a lot more. Anyway, once we got the tire fixed we headed to the school to do the hygiene presentation with the SIFE team. The ride was so pretty. The hills completely surround you wherever you are. It's awesome.

Once we got to the school we headed into the classroom to present. I wish I knew what all the SIFE team said to the kids. But after we were done we hung out in the courtyard and played games with the kids. They loved playing London Bridge and we just had so much fun! I love seeing the kids smiling and laughing. We then headed on over to another school to present. We actually got to watch the full presentation this time and it was so awesome to see how the kids responded to the SIFE team and also just to see how passionate the team was about the message they were presenting. I really hope their message goes beyond the school room and really helps make a difference in a child's life. Afterwards we played some more and handed out candy, stickers, silly bands and took lots of pictures. I seriously love those kids and I wish I could take them all home with me! I just wanted to stay there with them.

On our way home we made a stop to see a lady that our driver, Sizwe, knew. This lady was in a bus accident and was the only survivor. She had seriously injured herself and was having a harder time making a means to live. Sizwe had saw an article in the paper about the accident and had a dream about this woman telling him he needed to help her. So he went out and bought a bunch of things for this lady that he didn't even know and took those things to her. When we went to pray with her she was just so thankful and praising God for all she was worth! It was so amazing and I'm so glad we stopped there to see her.

This evening we ate pizza at the mall (I know, a mall, right?!), courtesy of Dr. Grisham from SNU. Very nice of him to do that for us all. Then once we got back to the flat we all hung out on the porch and passed a soccer ball and played signs. Then later we all gathered  and had a time of reflection on everything we'd seen and experienced so far. It's awesome to hear everyone's thoughts and perspectives and it's really helpful in bringing my mind back to the reason why I'm here. I'm here to allow God to change me and use me. It's not just about the experiences and fun memories and making friends and doing community work. It's about God and what He's doing to me and through me. It's just so much bigger than me! It's really just been awesome getting to know everyone better and seeing how God is and has been apart of everyone's life. I couldn't ask for a better team.

Tomorrow we're with the Luke Commission! Kind of nervous because I don't know what exactly to expect and I know it will be a really long day but I'm also really excited to see what's going on. Hopefully I'll get a good glimpse of what my future has in store for me!

P.S. It's crazy but I've hardly missed my family at all! I'm constantly being reminded of them through the people I see so it's kind of like I'm always with them.

May 25 (day 3)


Today was incredible! The team met down at the trashcans around 8am and we walked down the road to the RFM Hospital located on the mission station. Amy took us on a tour and it's just unbelievable the difference between that hospital and the hospitals we have back home in the States. For the most part the hospital was outside, except for when you walked into the different units. She showed us the kitchen they are renovating, the pharmacy, the labor and delivery unit, and we also got to go into the children's ward and see the kids. They are so precious.

[By the way, Amy and her husband Andy are the on-site coordinators from Bethany Church of the Nazarene. They've been serving in Swaziland for the past year, doing basically whatever the church needs them to do, including organizing trips like this one, plus many other things.]

Once our tour was complete we walked down to the Hynd House to meet the ladies of the HIV/AIDs tasks force. These ladies go out into rural areas and check on sick patients who are unable to get out or who just really need support. They go and deliver food, check on health status, pray and just be an encouragement to these people. So, that's pretty much what we did as well. We organized some food (like peanut butter, corn oil, beans) into buckets and we took these buckets to the people and prayed with them and what not. Our group split into two teams so we could reach everyone that needed to be reached. It didn't hit me until later how much these women are sacrificing to do what they're doing. No matter how far they have to go or whether they have to climb up a rocky slope or not, these ladies go on and show the love of Christ to these people. It was just so incredibly humbling to be a part of that today.

And it was awesome to witness the joy and gratification of the people we saw. In one instance we went to see this one man, however he wasn't at his home. This older woman was there, though, and she tried to help us track him down (with no success). But she was so thankful that we had come to see this man, that she gave Joe Noonen (MVNU leader) a bed mat. These people have very little, but they are so willing to give up what they have. It was awesome.

We also got to see some kids, which just made my day:) I would just stick my hand out the window and wave and they would wave back and it was great. We went to one school to visit this girl and there were several kids outside that we all got to love on for a bit. I got to hand out some of the candy that I brought and I just wanted to give the whole bag to them, but I didn't so I could save some for later in the week. But they were just so joyful and excited to be loved and I just loved every second and I wish I didn't have to leave them.

After a long but incredibly rewarding day we eventually made it back to the mission station. We dropped off the boys at their flat and Kayla Allen, Chelsea Connor and I decided to get out and walk back. So glad that we did because the kids were just getting out of school and we got to walk along with them and take pictures and hand out silly bands and what not. They were so fun and they loved getting their picture taken! "Shoot me, shoot me!" It was great.

This evening Team B has just been hanging around at the girls' flat, talking, what not. Team A is still away with TLC, so who knows when they'll be back. Today was seriously incredible and so exciting to see how God has been working through the task force and how He's already been stirring the hearts of our team. Tomorrow we're headed out with the SIFE team, so I'm looking forward to that, talking about hygiene, and seeing some kiddos:)

June 11, 2011

May 24 (day 2)


Sleep last night was rough. I was so paranoid that my phone alarm would set back to US time and I would never know what time it actually was or when to get up. But once I got up to use the bathroom, I concluded that it was actually 2am South African time and that put my mind at ease and I eventually fell asleep.

I woke up around 7 this morning...It was a little strange waking up in a different place. It really doesn't feel like I'm in Africa yet. But anyway, we had a great breakfast and got all of our things packed up and loaded into the conveys. While we were waiting outside I met this woman named Niri (I don't know how exactly to spell it). She is here with a group from Canada that will be receiving a large shipment of books and other things to distribute to schools. But she was really sweet and was just asking me questions about myself and what not. We finally loaded up and set out for Swaziland! I sat in the back with Claire Decker, Josh Lane, and JT. They are really funny and we had a good couple of laughs. The drive into Swaziland was beautiful. The hills go on forever...There is just so much S P A C E. It was awesome.

Once we crossed the border and went through immigration we had lunch at Ngwenya Glass. It was okay. I sat with some people from the MVNU group...Rich Humphrey and his wife Misty, and JT. Rich was actually in my Lit class this spring but I didn't know him at all then. He talks so much! After we ate lunch we just explored the shops for a bit and watched Josh Lane chase a peacock. Ha. But it was really beautiful there and the weather here is perfect. After a bit we loaded up once again and headed for our final destination: Manzini.

The campsite [which I now know is actually a Nazarene mission station] was not at all what I expected. I think I thought it was actually going to be like a campsite, similar to where I stayed in Belize. But it is really big and has several primary schools, a university, a hospital, and whatever else. But I mean I'm not disappointed by this, it's pretty and everything, I just need to try and not have any expectations whatsoever! The ride up to the girls' flat was so bumpy and I banged my head really hard on the window. Haha. The guys are staying down the road in another flat. They are much nicer than I anticipated. We have electricity, a kitchen, living area, two full bathrooms, beds. I really thought things would be much "simpler". But anyway, I'm in a room with Krista Hansher, Misty, and a girl named Katelyn who is from Point Loma, She seems really nice.

Before dinner [which took place in the girls' flat every night] we sorted through all the donated stuff we brought with us. We had a ton of stuff! Such a blessing. The SIFE team from the Swaziland Nazarene University also came over and we helped them put together their hygiene packs to hand out in schools, which we'll be helping with. We also got to meet Harry and Echo Vanderwal, who run the Luke Commission (TLC). TLC is a mobile clinic that travels out into rural areas and provides some medical care. They have such an incredible ministry going on and I'm really excited to get to work with them. Echo is a physician assistant [what I'm in school to be], and it's just cool for me to see her doing what she's doing.

Once things were wrapping up our whole group split into two teams. Tomorrow Team A [AKA Team Awesome] will be going with TLC. Team B [AKA Team Better/Best] will be going around with the HIV/AIDs Tasks Force. I'm on team B. I'm really excited to start working with the people and I really hope God shows me some incredible things. I'm also looking forward to getting to know my team better and hopefully we'll all have a lot of fun.

May 22 & 23 (day 1)

Sunday & Monday

We all met at the airport in Columbus around 11am. It was kind of awkward waiting around because I didn't know anyone that well. But once we passed through security things did start to loosen up some while we waited at our gate. After eating lunch and waiting awhile we eventually boarded our plane to Washington Dulles airport. [I forgot how much I love to fly!] In Washington Dulles we had about an hour and half layover until our flight out. So we just waited around some more until we boarded for Senegal.

The flight to Dakar, Senegal was probably around 8 or 9 hours? [Can't remember.] I sat next to Holly Peffer. She is super nice. We didn't talk much though, as everyone was trying to sleep as much as they could. Before we took off we halfway met the SNU team! I can't wait to get to know everyone. But anyway, we only stopped in Dakar to get fuel, so about 1 or 2 hours later we took off again, this time for Johannesburg, South Africa.

The flight from Senegal to Johannesburg was another 8 or so hours. We arrived around 5:30pm local time, got our luggage, exchanged American cash for South African Rand [1:6.8], and headed for Koinonia. Koinonia is a Catholic guesthouse that we're staying at for just the night.  Then we're driving into Swaziland tomorrow morning. So we arrived at Koinonia, unloaded our luggage, got settled into our rooms, and had a nice dinner with the team. I got to meet some of the SNU people and I'm really looking forward to the next few weeks with everyone. After dinner most of us dispersed and headed to bed.

So far everyone seems pretty nice and fun, so I hope we'll all be able to open up to each other and grow together during this awesome experience. And I hope I'll be able to open up a lot as well. I hope God will movie in me and I hope I come away from this trip changed and more willing to bring change.

P.S. I read my notes that my apartmentmates wrote to me. So sweet! Can't wait to tell them all about this trip!


Sanibonani! I'm back from Swaziland safe and sound. The trip was incredible and God was so real and so present the entire time! Too much happened to describe right now, so for the next few days I'm going to write out some of my journal entries so everyone can get an idea of what we did and how God moved among us. Thanks to everyone who prayed for our group! Hope you guys enjoy reading:)