What a Wonderful Journey We are On!

Hello friends and family of team Swazi!  All is well here and we’re continuing to dig in with all we’ve got to finish well.  We’re all still trying to figure out how 3 weeks has passed so quickly!  This week is our last week of ministry before we spend all day Saturday traveling back to South Africa to fly out that night.  Thank you for your prayers for all of us as we close up what God has done in and through us here this past month.   
Love from team Swazi!!
He loves us!

Hannah Russell

    Salbona! Greetings from Swaziland! The trip has been amazing so far, and it’s hard to think that it will be over in just a week! I’ve learned SO much since we’ve been here in Swazi! We’ve been going to an orphanage (the Sandra Lee Center) a few times a week, and there’s around twenty children presently living there. The mothers caring for the children are so kind, and the children are absolutely adorable! About a week ago, I was talking with a boy there named John. We were talking about some cars that were passing by, policeman, school, just anything that came up randomly in a conversation between an eighteen-year-old and an eight-year-old – interesting conversations! And out of nowhere, John says, “You know – the devil just throws you out! He is bad and doesn’t love you. But God wants us, everyone, and He loves us!”
    It was a simple expression of love, and God used it to turn my heart upside down for these people! To be perfectly honest, I thought I would come to Swaziland to change hearts for God – but instead, God has used, and is continuing to use, the beautiful people of Swazi to change MY heart. Sometimes God has a funny way of speaking to us. And the message that would do us all some good to listen to is the one that I learned from John: “God wants us, everyone, and He loves us!”

Never Let Go
Shannon Cooper

For me the best part of ministry is going to the hospital, but it has also been the hardest part. We’re only allowed into the children’s ward, and at the end of the hallway is a room for abandoned children, some who are mentally disabled. The Lord broke my heart over one boy in particular in that room. His name is Sena and he is seven years old. When I first saw him he was outside in a wheel chair. In his eyes I saw a lot of fear, frustration, and loneliness. He couldn’t walk or talk. Many times he would bite his hands, throw his head back, and kick his feet. When I grabbed his hand, he clung on to it tightly. When he would get frustrated or start to cry I would sing Amazing Grace to him, even though I know I can’t sing, but I guess it didn’t matter because he started to calm down, smile, and laugh a bit. Every time we go back to the hospital I go straight to Sena. My heart both breaks and is filled with joy when I see him. When we went back to the hospital a second time, he was sitting on the floor and the nurses had me feed him and clothe him after they gave him a bath. That in itself filled me with joy. Sometimes when he gets frustrated he pulls my hair or hits me on the head. I realize that all I can really do is be there with him, and I won’t even be able to do that for much longer. God has been showing me so much through the time I spend with Sena. God has been teaching me about His own love for His children and how we are completely dependant on Him, just like Sena is dependent on others. There is great comfort in knowing that God will never leave us nor forsake us. He will never let go of His children.

It’s not about the physical body
John Luke Laube

    Walking through the hospital room seeing one child at a time sitting devastated on their beds as they lay there either to heal or to die. Watching HIV take it’s toll. As I spent time with one child bringing joy to their spirits with not necessarily words just a simple song or simple … touch. Just to be in the arms of someone who cares, someone who loves… someone like Jesus. Walking through the hospital rooms I got to the end of the hallway as a mentally challenged kid is with a girl from my team (Shannon). As I approach the child fear came through his eyes. So much pain so much fear it seemed beyond nature. I walked closer to this child who seemed to be tormented. I touched his arm and he pulled his right arm out and pulled my hair with a unnatural anger and with his left hand he tried to push me away. For some reason the song “Jesus Loves Me” came to mind.. I put my hand across his chest and just sang Jesus loves me. Then as this moment happened I won’t forget he gasped for air and breathed with a soft breath again.  He looked at me and let go of my hair and brought his hand in a gentle smooth way and held mine. It was like he was in peace finally. As this happened I became weak both physically and emotionally, but spiritually I felt stronger than ever.. It’s not about the body.. it’s not about a disease.. beauty is only skin deep.  It’s about Spirit..the Spirit is what will last forever.

Broken and Beautiful
Tawney Carlson

        “People do not come to this hospital to live they come for a place to die.” This is something I heard as I sat in the common room of our Ezulwini house. An AIM member told us what to expect while attending the Mbabane government hospital. The team was scheduled to visit the hospital two days later and I was now very unsure of how to come into this hospital and show these people the love of Christ.
        Two days later walking down the hallway of a dilapidated government hospital I knew not what to expect; little did I know that in Ward 8 God had placed a 9 year old boy named Mhlonishwa Mabuza who would hold a piece of my heart for all time. As I entered Ward 8 I briefly talked to a woman by the name of Grace who is staying with her granddaughter Dem who has TB. After saying goodbye to Grace I turned to leave the room and was drawn to a child in the corner. The child was a nine year old boy named Mhlonishwa Mabuza who had one eye swollen shut and his left hand was swollen to the size of a peach. Mhlonishwa was unresponsive at first and did not seem very happy to have a white girl staring at him. I felt God calling me to sit and simply love on this child as I began talking God brought the words to my lips and I began to whisper to this child how he was a child of the Lord and that God was going to heal his infirmities. I was amazed that God put these words on my tongue and Mhlonishwa began to nod ‘yes’. I sat with him for about an hour wiping his face and reading bible verses till the lunch cart came and the mothers asked me to feed him. I was very confused at where his mother or grandmother was for he had been alone all day. As I fed lunch to Mhlonishwa I learned from Grace that he was brought in by a Good Samaritan and orphaned at the hospital. No one in the ward knew what his illness was so I being the curious person I was I decided I was not leaving Swaziland without knowing what Mhlonishwa had. Unfortunately I could not find out that day because we left at 3 o’clock. The team returned a day later and I entered Ward 8 to find Mhlonishwa with two eyes open and his hand was half as swollen, but most importantly he lit up with a smile as I entered. I pulled up a chair next to his small crib and sat talking and praying for about three hours. I found his charts and medical records under his bed blanket and quickly read through about twelve pages of medical notes. I found out he has had many blood transfusions and has Anemia, but beside that I still have not found why he had hard knots all over his body and his trunk and limbs are like cement. Mhlonishwa has taught me more than I could possibly have taught him. Mhlonishwa is a broken child in his physical body but God has shown to me how he is constantly in Ward 8 with his child Mhlonishwa and will never forsake him. God has taken a piece of my heart and forever placed it within Mhlonishwa in Ward 8 of the Mbabane government hospital. I anxiously await a return visit to the hospital and ask all who read this to pray for Mhlonishwa Mabuza.

Peter Twigg

            As we enter our final week here in beautiful Swaziland, God amazes me in the ways He works. From the moment we all entered training camp to now, God has been proving new things to each of us in different, powerful ways, and changing each of us into the men and women He wants to work in His name. Though I can only speak for myself deeply, I know that God is working on each of us specially. For me, the trip has been all over the place, but in each experience, God has shown Himself to me. I am going to tell one story specifically, from training camp. We were having a night of worship, in an upstairs room appropriately called ‘the sanctuary’ (hence the title). After the worship, which I had the privilege of playing my guitar in, God had been labeling a couple of things in my thinking and life that I had not completely laid down to His will, which I needed to lay down to allow work in my life. More specifically, a previous relationship was sometimes a priority in my thinking. So as I went forward to pray and lay that down to God, I didn’t have the words to describe the problem. For me, that seems strange, because I often have the words. Nonetheless, I decided to pray for a proper way to describe it. While I was praying, one of the camp leaders named Luis came up and talked to me about a charge from the Holy Spirit. He said that God had told him to tell me (confusing, I know), that there was a calling on my life to be a pastor. One thing that confirms the truth that this came from God is that Luis spoke truths about my life that you could only know if you knew me previously. I had met Luis one time prior to this, and there was no way, except from God, for him to say those things. I am still getting a picture from God as to what that looks like, but God hasn’t particularly shown me that I need to be giving up certain activities that I enjoy, like skiing, worship, or sports. I am still thinking that I will continue with the plan for the coming year, but I am going always make sure I leave the option for God to step in, prove me wrong, and put another plan in my life. I am praying that God always reveals more to me, but I am also learning more and more every day that his timing is absolutely not my timing and that His timing is perfect, and mine is not. Prayers are always appreciated, particularly for the growing relationships we have with people in the surrounding community, and we are all missing everyone back at home. God is our constant companion.

Kirstie Appler

 As our time here in Swaziland comes to a close, I’m trying to identify a defining moment. A moment, that I can say not only changed my life but also my relationship with God. Throughout all that we have done here in Swazi, one event stuck out in my mind. Our first time visiting the Sandra Lee Center, an orphanage for abandoned children; I met a little girl named Deli. I’m not sure why but within the first minutes that we arrived, she grabbed a hold of my hand and claimed me as her own. Deli was taken into the center after years of abuse at the age of three. She is now five and very feisty. This might be the reason we get along so well. During the first few visits I learned that Deli can count to thirty, knows all the colors of the rainbow, and that she loves story books. Last Thursday, Robin Pratt the missionary who runs the center gave me and one of the other team members an assignment. We were asked to go to each of the three group homes and find out when each child started to sit, stand, crawl, walk, etc. Little Deli was happy to come along and help. When we reached the third and final house, Deli’s house, we sat down to interview the “mother” Lillian. She handed me the health records of each of the children. While Deli sits on my lap, I flipped through the records. I saw Deli’s name and my heart dropped. Her record was stuffed full with blue hospital slips. Confused, I asked Lillian what this meant. She plainly replied, “AIDS”. This was the first time that reality truly hit me. Three out of every four people in Swaziland are infected with HIV and the little girl sitting on my lap was part of that statistic. In my bed that night I asked God, why? Why did my little girl have to be sick? Then I realized, even through extreme hardship he is there. Deli was sick, alone, and broken before she was taken in the center. God provides. He brought her into a loving home and gave her all she needs to maintain health.  All is in his control.

The beauty of pain
Bekah Fernandez

 Our first time at the government hospital was on the 28th and when we first got there, I went into this one room and in the first bed closest to the door was a little girl who was super skinny. I talked to her and then Chris called me over to where he was. I walked over to the bed he was at and there was this little boy probably 2 years old lying there in so much pain. His head was swollen. His eyes were very puffy and swollen. His body was a little deformed. You could see the veins in his head. And he could hardly breathe. You could hear how much pain he was in… it was horrible. I just stood there in shock looking at this tiny little boy in so much pain not even a grown man could handle. He started crying from all the pain, and I knelt down next to him and grabbed his little hand. His skin was very soft and squishy because he had no muscle there. As this little boy looked me in the eyes, eyes filled with pain…. My heart was crushed, and I knew after that moment that I would never be the same. I tried smiling at the little boy, but it didn’t help. I walked out and my eyes teared up. Well, each time we went back, it got a little easier for me since I was getting used to it. Each time I would visit that little boy and just sit there with him. Well, we went back a 4th time to the hospital, and when I walked in that room to see my baby boy, the bed was empty. There was a woman sitting next to the empty bed, I said “Excuse me, ma’m… where is the little boy that used to sleep here?” She looked at me like it was no big deal and said “Oh, he passed away.” I didn’t know what else to do so I walked out the room, down the hallway and started crying. Just as I was getting used to it, God broke my heart again… in a good way. I was so devastated that my baby was gone, but deep down inside… I’m glad he’s in a better place with Jesus running around. No swollen eyes. No swollen head. No deformity. No pain. While it’s been hard, God has a reason for everything. He breaks our hearts in those ways so that we understand and appreciate what we have, when we have it. They say you never know what you have until it’s gone….. but I knew what I had. I had a beautiful baby boy who I loved, and I’m glad he’s gone… because he’s with my Jesus.. and he’s smiling… with no pain, any longer.

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