Archives For Bheveni

Could I have about 7 minutes of your time today? I want to tell you about some friends of mine, who just happen to live on the other side of the world.

One of the sweetest girls on the planet, my friend, Siphiwe.

One of the sweetest girls on the planet, my friend, Siphiwe. This moment when she put her arm around me: Priceless.

There’s about 150 kids who are not only my friends, but I am their friend. I genuinely believe they know the Browers and hundreds of others in North America as their friends. We’ve laughed, danced, ate & cried together. (If that doesn’t define friendship, I don’t know what does.) Isn’t friendship built on a common bond of interest in each other’s lives, trust and concern for each other’s well-being? Yes. I love the kind of friend you can call in the middle of a crisis and you KNOW they’ve got your back, no questions asked. We all need people like this in our lives, that show up saying ‘I am pulling for you! Your joy is my joy! Your pain is my pain! WE are gonna get through this.”

This is the kind of friendship that has formed long-distance between our connect community of sponsors through Children’s HopeChest and the children of the Bheveni community in Swaziland, Africa. A partnership. It truly isn’t one-sided. And we truly aren’t the heroes. Ask any member of one of the teams my husband & I have led… the kids & their caregivers are the heroes of their own lives. We’re the loud, obnoxious, over-zealous cheerleaders.

The B-Team worked tirelessly to paint the playground! The children LOVE it!

The B-Team & discipleship team worked tirelessly to paint the playground! The children LOVE it!

 

The children help tend the garden everyday. We were blessed to help a little while we were there.

The children help tend the garden everyday. We were blessed to help a little while we were there.

 

There are several ways we maintain this long-distance partnership:

Sponsorship impacts everyone's lives!

Sponsorship impacts everyone’s lives!

1. Sponsorship – through sponsorship a child in the Bheveni community is guaranteed a hot, healthy meal, clean water, discipleship & life skills training. Through sponsorship, they know they have a friend in North America who knows them by name, prays for them, and wants them to have a successful, fruitful life both here & into eternity. It’s $38 a month per kid, but all the money is pooled for the entire community so no child is left without their needs met, even if they don’t have a sponsor. We often say as a Children’s HopeChest sponsor, we get to mentor a child, but sponsor an entire community of children to band together & lift themselves out of poverty. It’s brilliant & God-inspired because it works – we see the fruit of sponsorship and it’s a beautiful thing, y’all! We currently have 30 new kids who have started coming to the carepoint who need a sponsor.

2. Dreaming Together – And we Dream BIG! Our online community of sponsors, advocates & supporters listen very closely to the vision the Bheveni community members have and do what we can to assist. We don’t do it for them, but assist and simply provide opportunity; whether that be through paying school fees (they have to pay to go to school! I still shake my head at this one. If they don’t have parents and barely have food, how are they to pay for tuition? ugh.) or giving a little bit extra during the holidays so they can build a new, safe community center and finally get electricity, it’s a complete joy to watch their dreams blossom & their futures brighten!

The Dream Building is going up!

The Dream Building made possible by GIVERS like you!

This multi-purpose building will be complete soon and will have electricity!

This multi-purpose building will be complete soon and will have electricity!

3. Visits – We’ve been to visit our friends in Swaziland four times since 2010. We’ve watched them grow up. We’ve led 4 incredible teams. I mean, I can’t even describe to you how amazing our team members are… they are just ready for it all & love the kids as if they were their own. It’s beautiful each & every trip to see the bonds of friendship forged and deepened.

This year, 2015, we are not able to send a team to physically be with the kids, or to physically pray & laugh & dance with the bomake who cook for hundreds of rambunctious kids everyday over an open flame. And it’s sorta crushed us to know a team trip isn’t happening. I pray that the children of Bheveni understand, but I have to put that in the Lord’s hands because otherwise it breaks my heart a little to think they may think we don’t care anymore. One blessing in this? We no longer have to put our time & resources towards funding a trip, but now we can JUST focus on supporting their dreams! Hallelujah for that! It would’ve cost the team a minimum of $20,000 to fly there for 10 days. Let’s imagine this money instead going into the long-term development of the children in a variety of other ways. And it can happen easier than you think.

Even though we aren’t having a team trip, we can & are still being a support to the Bheveni Community… and that’s where you come in.

Today, besides sponsorships, the one way my readers can help is…. drum roll, please…

Buy A T-shirt.

Really.

When you buy a Create Hope T-shirt, the extra funds will be invested into the kids’ lives. And the shirts are rad. Really. One of our 3-time team members designed it and she did a great job! So you’ll get a fashionable Tee and DO GOOD IN THE WORLD at the same time.

A rainbow of gorgeous, tangible hope.

A rainbow of gorgeous, tangible hope.

Your T-shirt will help ensure the kids stay in school, have the necessary school supplies & uniforms, have medical attention when they need it, and who knows, we may even surprise them by having the staff bring a meal with meat in it!

There’s a meal called ‘Chicken Dust’ – it doesn’t sound good but it makes my mouth water just thinking about it . Because meat is expensive, the kids only get this meal when our team comes. Once a year. And if we’re not coming… we gotta get them their Chicken Dust somehow, y’all! The hype around Chicken Dust rivals that of Chick-Fil-A. Now you get me. For all the kids to have a meal with MEAT, it costs appx. $600 US.

And if we raise another $400 beyond that, we can have the staff show up with a 30-day supply of food to the local homesteads. Often these are child-led or grandparent-led homes that are struggling the most. Two years ago we took one of these 30-day supply bags to Grandma Dlamini raising 5 grandkids (because all their parents had died). She burst into tears and said just that morning she begged God for a miracle. They had run out of food that morning. THAT morning… and THAT evening God sent some clueless Americas to show her His faithfulness.

The faith of a grandmother is a powerful thing.

The faith of a grandmother is a powerful thing.

Buy a Create Hope Tee, y’all. 

It’s $30 total shipped to your door. There’s even kid sizes. If you don’t want another Tee but wanna help the Bheveni kids out, click my paypal button on the top right column, and your donation will go towards providing some of life’s most basic needs (like food & education) for my friends.

We need to sell at least 100 Tees. As of yesterday, we’ve sold precisely 11. Eleven. So yeah, we’ve got some catching up to do. Shirt sales end July 27th.

I’m gonna choose to have the faith of Grandmother Dlamini. I’m praying the audacious & desperate prayer for our God to show up STRONG on their behalf through broken, yet willing vessels such as ourselves.

Thank you!!!

Shine On!

Danielle 

#createhope2015

Created to Inspire

June 21, 2015 — 2 Comments

FullSizeRenderFor years now, the words ‘Create Hope’ have been a passionate force which helps me live my life. What else are we here on this big blue ball for other than to create hope & inspire others, and to do it all for the glory of God?

All. Everything we are, everything we do, every talent, even every tragedy can somehow inspire others and ultimately show God’s love. I truly believe this. It’s the way I try to live my life. I don’t always succeed & I get it wrong often, but I want to briefly share with my readers & this community how the Lord has given me a new avenue to inspire people!

I work with elementary-aged special needs children during the school year. Knowing I’d need a summer job, I began searching & praying. I wrote in my prayer journal, “God, how am I gonna juggle everything? I can’t leave the kids alone all day, nor do I want to. You are the Father of creativity. Will you share some of it with me so I can have income and still spend the summer with my family?”

So, that prayer sparked a series of events that has led to this. Live4ChangeArt.

My family & I (and a portion of our town, ha!) are constantly on the search for old leather belts. Why? Because I’m upcycling them into leather cuff bracelets to sell locally & on Etsy. Yep, we are having a blast with this summer gig. And guess what? Somehow God is blessing it – people actually like my bracelets and are buying them almost as fast as I can make them. Even a well-known jewelry maker, Beki Hastings of The Rusted Chain whom I greatly admire shared our bracelets on her Facebook Page last week! Thanks Ingrid Olson for that connection!

What makes Live4Change Art Leather Cuffs different from the rest are the personalized inspirational words I inscribe into each of them. I’m thankful to say not all of my training came from google, youtube or Pinterest!! Through some trial, error & prayer, God showed me a really cool way to add lace & jewels; a technique that is all my own. Hallelujah for creativity! Even had someone try to copy it from my page, so imitation IS the highest form of flattery! ha!

I love the entire process – finding the belts with my family, recreating them into bracelets, added just the right inspirational words, sharing my story, selling them and providing income for my family!

One thing I haven’t shared with anyone is that 10% of Live4ChangeArt proceeds are going to our beloved Bheveni Community in Swaziland, Africa. The proceeds are going to their education fund. In Swaziland, tuition must be paid in order to learn to read & write. If a child is orphaned or multiple children being raised by a single mother, how can they afford literacy when meeting life’s basic needs are already a challenge? So our B.E.S.T. (Bheveni Educational Scholarship Trust) Fund is set in place & is helping to keep nearly 200 kids in school every year! Praise the Lord!

So each time you buy an inspirational bracelet, not only is it inspiring YOU, it is teaching a child to read & write & to value their potential!

See why this is bracelet making gig is so fun!?!? 🙂

And the idea was God-given, He helped me find a talent I didn’t even know I had, and He guides my hands through each step of the process. Leather stamping isn’t easy & sometimes my fingers get pounded instead of the stamp (ouch!), or a snap flies off & hits me in the eye, but hey, I’m still loving it!

One more thing: I’ve been blown away by how many custom/personalized orders coming in. Nearly 75% of my sales are all custom orders. Wisdom. Serenity. Radiant. Shine Your Light (for a whole family!) Proud of My Marine. Attraversiamo (Lets Cross Over). Worth more than Gold. Be still & know I am God.

All words chosen by people who want to wear inspiration on their sleeve. Because we all need reminders of loved ones, reminders to keep moving forward, reminders to pray, reminders that we CAN live this life and all its fullness. Words are special. Just ask God, that’s how He’s chosen through the ages to communicate with us – through His Word, both written & spoken. So yeah, words have power. And meditating on the right words have even greater power.

Did I say this was going to be brief? 🙂 Ha! Impossible.

So that’s my exciting news. Bracelets that create inspiration & bring education!

If you like what you see in these photos, check out my ETSY store. Want a custom order, there’s an option for that too. And be sure to like Live4ChangeArt on Facebook!

 

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Thanks for going on yet another adventure with me!

Shine On!

Danielle

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 9.00.12 AMTake my hand

We’ll make it, I swear!

Ohh! Ohh!

Livin’ on a prayer!

{Bon Jovi, chapter 1, verse 3, Hard Rock Version}

If you are a product of the late 1980s, early 90s, you know this song. Even if you were raised holy… you know the kind of home that did not allow Halloween costumes, rock music, Smurfs or especially the sounds of Scooby Doo to permeate the peace of your home. You may not have been allowed to trick-or-treat, but you knew the chorus of Livin’ on a Prayer, despite your parents best intentions to protect your virgin ears. Bon Jovi was everywhere. *swoon*

And for the record, your parents were probably listening to it when you weren’t in the car!  I know this because my radio station is set according to when the kids are or are not in the car. Can I help it that I like P!nk? Or Usher, usher, usher? Murderous love songs by Bruno Mars? Yes I’m sure I can, but sometimes you just need to cut loose and feel the beat… it doesn’t have to be your life’s anthem and it doesn’t mean you’re going to hell if you still know 98% of the words to Ice, Ice Baby. Alright Stop. Collaborate and listen…

Wait, what was the point of this post?

Oh yeah, prayer.

We need prayer. I need prayer. (if you didn’t already figure that for yourself, after reading the first two paragraphs!)

The Bible says God uses the foolish, ordinary things of this world to confound the wise. I think of this verse so often because I am foolish and ordinary. I really am. Only my closest family & friends know how true this is. Apart from Jesus, I have nothing to offer. And thank GOD for that! Jesus really is the only One worth living for anyway!

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Right click to save this to your Mac desktop!

Now that you are armed with the knowledge I just shared… I beg for your prayers as Mike & I follow Jesus where He’s called us (& our team) once again… to the other side of the earth for 12 days to Swaziland, Africa. I woke extra early this morning with the realization that all of this preparation, all the gathering of supplies, all the coordinating of sponsor letters & cards Here are a few!… it is all because of prayers answered by our Heavenly Father who has brought us all together. Glory to God!

It’s not the prayer alone. It’s the One-Who-Answers-The-Prayers that has made all the difference, who is orchestrating this particular mission & is seeing to it that children of Swaziland, who once thought themselves forgotten, can no longer wonder if they are loved with extravagant, reach-across-the-world kind of love. God goes to great lengths to show His love, doesn’t He? He asks no less of us. For some, it’s a great length to knock on the neighbor’s door and invite them over for a bonfire. For others, it’s a farther distance, but the same faith & boldness are needed for both, so that God’s love can shine through us; not as ones who come to rescue, but simply come to build relationship.

Our team leaves for Swaziland, Africa this week. We hail from Texas, Alabama, North Carolina, and even Minnesota! Will you pray for us & the children?

I’ve made this snazzy daily prayer bookmark. I know, be jealous. I’ve had no professional training in the graphic arts. Yet, this Word document bookmark exists somehow. Jesus.

Here it is…. please, if you haven’t already, start praying cuz

Ohhhhhh! We’re halfway there!!! Ohh-ohh! We’re Livin’ on a prayer!!!

Shine On!

Danielle

Hope Is Rising

August 30, 2013 — Leave a comment

It brought so much joy to my heart to read the following post. I love reliving last month’s memories of our first moments with the Bheveni children & bomake. It was such a precious time – as Margo describes – we are no longer strangers, but family. Not only are their names & faces becoming more familiar to us, but their awareness of why we are there is highly evident. We are forming relationships – trusted relationships.

This has been my heart-cry for over three years now, that God would pour His love through us – whatever it takes – so the children would have not only the opportunity for a brighter future, but be filled with a sense of hope, knowing they are valued & are not standing alone. I believe that is happening. Especially when I hear other team members’ experiences, as I’m about to share with you. In a country whose statistics are grim, even threatened by the extinction of the Swazi race – Hope is Rising. Joy is Abounding. God is moving. To the ends of the Earth, the hope of His love & salvation IS growing. 

Many of you are a part of creating that hope. You give. You pray. You write. You go. {You even buy T-shirts & take #selfies just so you can show the children half a world away how much they are loved! More on that subject in a later post.} For now, read the amazing first-hand experience of a woman whose heart has been captured, yet set free to love the children of Swaziland!

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The planning for my trip this year pretty much started almost 2 years ago – the day I got home from Swaziland the first time. I knew with the very first smile, the first hug, that it was not if but when I would return.

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The B-Team (B for Bheveni… pretty clever, right?) really doesn’t get serious planning done until the last 6 months or so before we leave. Danielle and Mike, our fearless leaders, do the hard part with the planning – the dates, logistics, the contacts with Children’s HopeChest, setting up the conference calls. The rest of us get to wait for the details. Once the technical stuff is set we get to jump in and start planning the fun stuff: what we’re going to do with the kids. We also discuss what sort of things we can bring to bless the carepoint and the kids. This can sometimes be tricky for us; our first inclination is to try to collect anything and everything that we can. Who wouldn’t want to drop an entire Super Target right smack in the middle of a field and let them loose? But we have to limit what we bring – not only because we have limited baggage space, but more importantly because our visit is not about stuff.Hygiene supplies and underwear are very helpful but they only last so long. Smiles, hugs, laughter – those memories are permanent.

With that being said, I have to say that I had the most awesome time collecting supplies. Each member of our team signed up to bring different items that we planned on handing out. It’s a collect-what-you-can-and-buy-the-rest sort of deal. I put the word out with the items that I wanted to collect and every single item was donated. EVERY SINGLE ITEM. My facebook friends rocked my world – I had stuff shipped to me from different states! I had a trunk load of candy dropped off at my house! I had people contacting me asking what else I needed. And when I came up with the idea of collecting yarn and knitting needles to bring with I had people donating bags and bags of supplies!

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I also felt like this time around I had so much support from friends and family just in general. Not that I didn’t get support during my first trip but this time I really felt the love. Maybe it’s because people realized that it wasn’t just a one time thing for me, maybe (hopefully) people felt connected to my journey and to Swaziland, maybe it was to make me shut my trap because I can’t stop talking about how much I love Swaziland – I can’t really say. I had a lot of people send me encouraging words, people generously blessed us financially, and there were people praying for me, my family, and the entire trip. At the risk of sounding ridiculously corny, I felt like I had my own little “village” cheering me on throughout the whole process of preparing for, and while I was on the trip.

I’ll skip the details of the travel time (a day and a half? two days?) and get to the good stuff: Bheveni Carepoint. We left Johannesburg, South Africa in the morning and drove the 5-6 hours to get across the Swazi border and to where we were staying. We basically dropped our luggage off at the Guest House (that’s where we stay – it’s like a hotel only much smaller) and headed to Bheveni so we could see the kids for a couple of hours. Our team this year had 17 people and of the 17, only 6 had been to Bheveni – but everyone was equally excited. As we approached the carepoint my heart sped up. I couldn’t wait to see everyone again! My mind was racing… would I recognize the kids? It had been almost 2 years since I had seen them. Would they remember me? Surely not. Will the Bomake (Bo-MA-gay – the women that keep the carepoint running) be the same? Will any of them remember us?

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We had discussed on the drive to the carepoint that we were not even going to take our cameras out during this first visit – mostly because we wanted to get (re)acquainted with our friends here and not have it turn into a circus. Also, we Americans can sometimes forget with all of our technology to actually live the moment instead of just recording it.

I tell you, as I stepped out of our bus and got the first real look at the beautiful blue building and all of the children running around it, I got goose bumps and tears in my eyes. I remember thinking ‘I’m home.’

It didn’t take long before we were surrounded with children – giggling, whispering, hands reaching out for hands. We made our way over to the “kitchen” area so we could greet the Bomake and I was surprised and in awe that most of them remembered me. My highlight from the day was when Gcebile, (Nay-BE-lay) the preschool teacher who I bonded with during the last trip, walked up to me and said “Margo!” as she embraced me. That she remembered my name after all of this time – it was awesome.

We spent the afternoon playing and talking and holding and hugging kids of all ages – it was heaven. We got to see the Bomake in action and even help a little – cooking and serving the kids. We got our first look at the garden that has become the pride and joy of the carepoint.

Even though it was only a few hours at the carepoint and it was just a taste of the joy that we would feel throughout the week…. it was an incredible day.

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Shine On!

Danielle

Travel HotDish

August 25, 2013 — 2 Comments

Do you know what a hotdish is? Its okay, no one really does. I suppose one could liken it to a casserole (for my southern friends). All I really know about a hotdish is that it must contain a meat, a can of soup, three pounds of cheese, and a mystery ingredient that has the addictive nature of crack-cocaine, but good for you. sort of.

So here’s a lot of good stuff for you. My travel hotdish. Trust me, you’ll want more after you read it!

In the last four weeks, I’ve been out of town more than I’ve been in it. Last week, my boys and I took a road trip to visit my Mom in Kentucky. I hadn’t been home since my Dad passed away in 2010, so it was high-time for a visit. Plus, it was great to show my boys where I grew up – in the sweet town of Bowling Green; the birthplace of Corvettes and tighty-whities (Fruit of the Loom). Fast cars & clean underwear always available – a lil bit of heaven!

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Ten days before the trip to Kentucky, Mike & I arrived home from Africa. You may remember me talking about taking a third trip to Swaziland, right? I’m sure I mentioned it somewhere (okay, everywhere!).

My plan had been to take the online community ‘with’ us to Swaziland by posting & sharing daily team stories from Bheveni Carepoint. Fantastic plan, right? It would have been… except in order for a plan to be fantastic, you have to actually have time & energy to execute the plan!

Our team of 17 were simply incredible – in every way. I kid you not. They worked & played together as if they’d known each other their whole lives; except that they hadn’t. Most were strangers from different parts of the United States that somehow God knit together into an extraordinary team.

Before we left, we said time with the children must be paramount. And it was. We were able to keep the children our priority – playing, holding, talking & laughing with each of them every day. We couldn’t get enough of them and they couldn’t get enough of us.

Because the children were more comfortable with us this time, we were able to see their personalities come to life. It wasn’t unusual to walk across the yard and hear several groups of kids singing together (sometimes trying to out-sing the others!). The oldest girls, especially blessed us with several angelic songs, no longer embarrassed to perform in front of us. And I’m certain that our youngest team member, Michael, age 14 spent 90% of his time on the field, playing futbol with the boys! Thank God!

Pretty loves to be held. Yes, her name is really Pretty!

Pretty loves to be held. Yes, her name is really Pretty!

The littlest babies & toddlers seemed to readily find a favorite team member’s lap to snuggle into for a nap or tickle time. Such precious moments; realizing that just like our own children at home, all they really want is time & affection. Don’t we all?

Yet, somehow in the midst of futbol, singing & baby-holding, a lot of work was also done! The proof is in the pictures below.

Several team members have stories to share. God did a work in each heart. I think we’ve all spent the last three weeks trying to process what He did and what this ‘ache’ in our hearts means to our future.

One team member, Margo, was able to put into words what many of us are thinking. Thank God for her. She entitled her first post, “The post in which I try to put my thoughts together but just end up rambling like a nut job.” Ha! I think she’s done an exceptional job of communicating her heart! Should you ever desire to go on a trip to Swaziland, you will certainly experience some of these same raw emotions and aching to step into more of the life God has for you.

Without further ado, here’s Margo aka Sweet Brown!

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Margo and her special friend!

Margo and her special friend!

I’ve been meaning to write about my trip here but I’ve been putting it off – mostly because I’m not sure how to put into words everything that I’ve been feeling. This trip had affected me differently than my last.

2 years ago when I came home from Swaziland, I jumped right back into my “normal” life. The people I met and the places I went certainly made an impact on me and I wanted to share all about it. During the past week or so since I’ve been home I have had many people ask about my recent trip. I haven’t been able to respond with more than a “It was great!” because I’ve been struggling to find the right words… and to be honest, I’m not sure that I even know exactly how I’m feeling. Don’t get me wrong – it was a great trip. Even better than the last if that’s possible. I’ve just had such a wide range of emotions this time around. I’m not sure if it’s because I was gone for a longer amount of time or if it’s because I witnessed several different carepoints – some of which were in an absolutely desperate state – but my “re-entry” into day to day life back home has been tougher.

I guess I should start in a different direction, but stick with me.

What is your passion? What gets you excited? What is the thing that gets you started and the people around you give you the “Great…. here she goes again” look? Is it the outdoors? Music? Teaching? I found my passion – Swaziland – the very first time I saw the pictures from Danielle’s first trip to Bheveni Carepoint. Something inside me clicked and I KNEW that I had know more. More about the country of Swaziland (which, let’s be honest, I had never even HEARD of before), more about the people; about the kids, about what she and her husband Mike were doing there. The more I read, the more I listened to Danielle talk about Swaziland, I KNEW that I was supposed to go there.

Most people that know me at all were floored that I would even consider visiting Africa. It’s fair to say that I am not an outdoors type of person. I hate to sweat. I hate bugs. I hate toilets that don’t flush. I am a creature of habit and comfort. But none of that fazed me as I prepared to leave my family and travel across the globe to a tiny country that was completely foreign to me. God had put it on my heart that I should go and I followed suit. Now, I have many non-Christian friends that will scoff and give the eye roll when I say that God led me there but there is absolutely no other way to put it. I had complete peace throughout the planning of the trip – even when it seemed impossible to find the funds, impossible to deal with childcare, impossible to deal with my own insecurities and anxiety.

So, Swaziland – or should I say the people of Swaziland –  that is my passion. I’ve spent the last couple of years learning more about the tiny country – about the people there, the culture, the beauty and the hardships. I have cultivated relationships with native Swazis as well as Westerners that now call Swaziland home.

Fast forward to a week ago when I got off the plane in Minneapolis after being gone almost 3 weeks. I ran into the arms of Dustin and the kids and I cried tears of joy but also tears of sadness. Sadness because I had left people that I have come to think of as extended family behind. An online friend of mine posted a quote yesterday that now makes perfect sense to me: “You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” ~ Miriam Adeney.

As I’ve tried to process everything that I’ve experienced in the past month I have had people ask me about why I go to Swaziland. Why I spend money to travel instead of sending the funds to those in need and also why I go across the world when there are people in need here in the US. I’ll try my best to explain it here.

At least twice while I was in Africa I heard it said that “Swaziland’s currency isn’t money – it’s currency is in relationships.” That could be said of many places but I’ve found it very true while visiting there. The culture in Africa, at least what I’ve experienced, is not like our fast-paced, get it done now culture. Things there are much more relaxed time-wise. You slow down and get to know people. That’s how business is done. People don’t want your help – or your business – until you have a relationship.

Here’s an analogy that I’ve used to explain why people travel in missions work rather than just send cash. Say you have a garden. Your neighbor has an area that he wants to turn into a garden but he needs your help. You could just give him $100 and tell him to buy the supplies that he needs and hope for the best. Or you could take a Saturday, get some of the supplies, and go over to his house and work along side him to get the garden planted. Working together and sharing ideas will make his garden better than what it would be if it were a solo project. More importantly, you will have a shared experience and a relationship to build on.

You see, the people of Swaziland don’t need me to fix them. They don’t need Westerners to swoop in and solve their problems. What they do need is what all people need; someone to come and stand beside them and give them a hand. They need a support system. One afternoon while I was at the Bheveni Carepoint I was talking with two teenage girls. Daylight was starting to fade which meant that it was time for them to head out so they could walk home before it got dark. I had said good-bye a few times, trying to get them to start their walk home, and I was starting to get nervous that they might be out later than they should be. One of the girls pointed to my shirt (that had a picture of my 3 kids on it) and quietly asked “Those are your children?” I answered yes and she sat for a few moments before asking “Where are they now?” I told her that they were back home in the US. She looked dumbfounded and asked “But you are here? You left them to see us?” In that moment she understood something that actions can prove more than words and more than money: that I value her. That I care enough to travel to see her and her community. That is what it is all about. Creating hope.

So why Swaziland and not here in the US? There are people in need everywhere. Literally everywhere. I don’t know why – but the people, the children especially, in Swaziland have grabbed my heart. Everyone has the capacity to reach out… some will do it in their back yard and some will do it across the globe. I choose to be an advocate for orphans and vulnerable kids in Swaziland because I believe that is where God wants me. That’s why He has given me the passion for these kids.

So, in a round about way, this is how and why my journey began. If anyone out there actually reads here, please bear with me. Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to do my best to put my thoughts and feelings about my latest trip down here. Just like me, it’s a work in progress.

—-

Margo has written several more posts that chronicle the first few days of our time at the carepoint. I will be sharing them soon because they are just TOO good to not share with the online community that loves the children of Swaziland as much as we do! You need to see the fruit of the seeds you are planting!

Shine On!

Danielle

 

The Incredibles.

July 20, 2013 — 1 Comment
The Incredible B-13s

The Incredible B-13s

Incredible. I’ve been using that word so often lately its become the new ‘cool’, the new ‘awesome’. One or two syllable words just no longer cut it! This has been a 4-syllable season, indeed! In. cred. i. ble!  

The past six weeks, especially, have been full of incredible encounters that didn’t happen because of my husband’s good looks (though, seriously he is incredibly handsome – see photo below!), nor did these things happen as a result of my organizational skills (ha!). God showed up. He heard our desperate prayers for mountains to be moved, for heavenly provision to be made, for doors to be opened, and He has flooded us with answering above & beyond what we thought we needed. Glory to God!

One of these incredible answers to prayer came in the form of sponsorship.

151 children now have an advocate who cares, prays, and provides specifically for their well-being!

151 children now have an advocate who cares, prays, and provides specifically for their well-being!

As of last Monday, the 15th, all 151 profiled children at Bheveni Carepoint became sponsored!!!!!

I’m REALLY resisting telling the whole story here! As of a month ago, 49 children at Bheveni were waiting for a sponsor, an advocate. That number, 49, seemed HUGE, but the Lord put the desire in us to have ALL of them sponsored before our trip.

We started praying, knowing that in ourselves we could not make this happen, God had to move. We prayed like it depended on God, but worked like it depended on us – our online faith community stepped up and began talking to their friends & family, their churches, their co-workers, and as a result every single child profiled at Bheveni has a sponsor!!!! Glory to God!

Side note: there are still thousands of orphaned & vulnerable children in Swaziland who need an advocate. One such community of children attend Lesibovu Carepoint in rural Swaziland. Out of 84 children who daily rely on the carepoint for food, 37 still need an advocate. Follow this link to find out more!

In 3 days, Mike & I embark on another journey across the world to a land of people we love & a group of children we’ve come to know as family. This will be our third trip to visit, love & serve the Bheveni Carepoint Community in Swaziland, Africa, and we are taking the biggest team yet.

Our team of 17 adults & teens have been planning and praying for months, all leading up to this trip. A handful of this incredible team went with us in 2011 to visit the children, but the majority of the team are strangers.

Imagine that, going across the world with a group of people you’ve never met, to a place you’ve never been, knowing you can’t afford it, not knowing what you’ll encounter… so, if I know anything about the individuals on this team, it is that they are full of faith. And that’s enough for me. I count it a privilege to have them a part of the B13’s (Bheveni Team 2013).

Perhaps you wanted to come on the trip too, but couldn’t make it happen this year. You can STILL come… through the incredible power of the world wide web!

Throughout our trip, we will have an online diary, of sorts, for the team to share their experiences from the day, as well as photos of the children & the beautiful country, right here on Live4Change.net. Please subscribe via email (right column) so you can be a part of the journey. 

I want to introduce these incredible world-changers one by one. And I ask you to pray for them one by one.

Regina Anderson

Regina Anderson

Regina Anderson is a life long resident of Fort Worth, Texas. She is a licensed attorney and currently represents child protective services in child abuse and neglect litigation for the State of Texas. She is a sister, daughter, aunt and child of the Most High God.

 

 

Sterling Brawley (right)

Sterling Brawley (right)

Hey yall, my name is Sterling Brawley. I am 22 years old, a recent graduate from the University of North Texas with a degree in Criminal Justice. When we return from Swaziland, I will be starting a new job with AmeriCorps partnering with Habitat for Humanity. I enjoy spending time with my family, friends and love sports!

 

Margo Brown

Margo Brown

Margo Brown from Minnesota. I have an amazing husband, Dustin, and three great kids: Miles who is 13, Linus who is 11, and Greta who is 9. This will be my second trip to Swaziland and I can’t wait to see the everyone at Bheveni again!

 

 

BushFamilyCreateHoperace2013

Brittany, Pam, Britt, and Missy Bush

Hi, my name is Britt Bush. I have been an N/C Programmer at Bell Helicopter since 2000. I have been a fan of Bheveni since right before the first trip in 2010. I was lucky enough to go on the next trip and was hooked for life! These kids are unbelievable! They have hopes and dreams just like us, just like our kids. And God is going to do big things with this group because of your love and support and hope you give these children. Thanks for allowing me to be a representative of this online Bheveni community!

My name is Pam Bush. I’m an accountant and live in Fort Worth, Texas. My husband went on the trip to Swaziland a couple years ago. He was really impacted by working with the kids and wanted our whole family to experience the blessing of serving at Bheveni! I can’t wait to get there and share with the kids and meet our sponsored girls!!!

Hey y’all, I’m Brittany! I am a nursing student and have a huge heart for others. I love my Jesus, chips & salsa, baseball (Texas Rangers), baking, fishing, and spending time with my family. I feel beyond blessed to have the opportunity to share God’s love with His precious children at Bheveni Carepoint!

I am Missy Bush. I am a college student majoring in athletic training. I enjoy playing sports and anything outdoors. When I was in middle school I began sponsoring a little boy in Kenya and ever since, Africa has had a special place in my heart. I’m so excited and feel beyond blessed to finally have the opportunity to go to Africa to love on the kids and share the love of Christ with them.

KimCarawayProfilePic2013trip

Kim Caraway

Kim Caraway: I am from the great state of Texas and I graduated from Texas Tech University with a BA in Psychology and a BS in Human Development and Family Studies. I love college football especially my Red Raiders. I have worked for Child Protective Services for 21 years. After reading Radical by David Platt, God called me to Swaziland, two years ago and I made my first trip then. I fell in live with the people especially the children. God has called me to be an advocate for the Swazi children and I am humbled and blessed by this.

DeniseCasonCreateHope2013b

DeNise Cason

DeNise Cason. I am from Alabama and had the opportunity to go to Swaziland in 2011 with an amazing group of people who came together through Children’s HopeChest. My reason for wanting to return to Bhevenni is two-fold. 1 – Out of allegiance to my Lord Jesus Christ it is my duty and privilege to share the gospel with the world. 2 – I want to continue to build and strengthen relationships with the Bheveni community. The people there have such kind and loving spirits. I want to encourage and further their thirst for knowledge of God and His love and reassure them they have friends around the world who love and care about them.

 

Bobbie Dyer

Bobbie Dyer

My name is Bobbie Jo Dyer. I am originally from Tennessee but I have lived in Georgia for 15 years and it has become my home. I have two children: Braden, who is 8 and Brianna who is 4. I have been divorced, after 15 years of marriage, for a very short time but this change has allowed me to receive God’s plan and purpose in my life more openly. I have always felt called to do work in Africa and through his divine appointments and persuasion, I am finally fulfilling this calling. I am excited and eager to meet the children at that care point and to spend time with them, by showing God’s love. And I am ready to receive what it is that God is doing in my life as he draws me closer to him.

 

HaidenFloydCreateHope2013b

Haiden F.

Haiden hails from Portland, Oregon. She is special friend to Sfiso, a young boy at the Mangwaneni Carepoint in Manzini. Haiden is the Children’s Sunday School Director at her church. An avid reader, she enjoys reading books about Jesus while slurping sweet frappuccinos on a warm summer day.

 

Audrey Hensley

Audrey Hensley

I’m Audrey Hensley! I’m from New Boston, Texas and a graduate from the university of Texas at Tyler with a degree in education. I will be teaching 1st grade at New Boston in the fall!!! I felt called to go to Africa so God can strengthen my faith and trust in Him. Throughout this summer I’ve grown to depend completely on Him and trust that He is guiding me in the direction I long to be going. He’s strengthened my servant’s heart while preparing myself for serving these children as well as the kids at camp, and that could only be done when I surrendered the reigns of my heart to Him.

Theresa with her husband, Larry

Theresa with her husband, Larry

Hello, my name is Theresa Schmidt.  My husband and I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  When our children were young I was very involved with the schools they attended.  Although my children are grown now, I continue to volunteer reading with children.  I have a special place in my heart for kids and there are no borders to children in need; thus, I am very excited about our upcoming mission trip to Bheveni Carepoint – Swaziland!  I pray that God abundantly blesses our 2013 mission trip.

 

Millie Snook

Millie Snook

Millie– orphan care advocate. ardent intercessor. washington wahini. northwest native. lover of all things creative. karate choppin organic vegetable shoppin mama. happy helpmate to honey of more than 20. thankful for more years than tears with my hubby. baby whisperer. good steward tho not quite martha stewart. skiing scouting scooting along running trails. flowing on the go yogi. dribbling on the basketball court and sometimes the dentist chair. life is not a slam dunk. we all need Jesus. He’s the only One.

Michael Snook

Michael

Michael– good sport in every sport. super sonics and die hard sounders fan. been called mr hops and by Jesus. reaching for the dunk jumpin higher than the bar. always striving for the PR. ultimate goal is the higher calling. child of the One True King. “A” student. BOOM! BACON.

 

Andy, Danielle, Mike, and Jonny

Andy, Danielle, Mike, and Jonny

Here’s our little family, too. We live in Kimball, Minnesota. 🙂 Our boys will be traveling with us to Swaziland in two years. We can hardly wait for them to meet the Bheveni children that have so captured all of our hearts! They get to be spoiled by grandpa, grandma & their aunties in Minnesota this time around!

 

 

Please keep this incredible team in your prayers! Wanna see those incredible prayers answered? You can! Stay up-to-date on the mission by virtually going with us – subscribe to this blog via email, watch for updates on the Bheveni Carepoint Community Facebook Page, and of course our HopeChest Bheveni Community Webpage.

Shine On!

Danielle Brower

ps. for the record, we are not, nor do we think of ourselves as heroes going to ‘save’ the children of Swaziland, even though I’ve got a super cool picture of ‘Incredibles’ at the top! Jesus is the Hero, and He’s already saved them. We’re going to serve the kids, the HopeChest staff, and the volunteers who serve the kids every single day of the year. Our prayer is that this trip creates continued hope that they are valued, loved, and not forgotten.

The Cost of Compassion

February 28, 2013 — Leave a comment

“Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to a place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it.” ~ Henry Nouwen

TheBIGifIn 2009, Mike & I read a great little book called  Red Letters: Living A Faith That Bleeds  It is not an exaggeration to say that God used the words of that book to change the course of where we thought our lives would go.

A snapshot into our life back then: We had a good source of income, a big ole house, great neighbors, even better family and spent most of our time indulging in things that would maintain our comfortable lifestyle. Sounds pretty good, right? Don’t get me wrong, we were/are not millionaires. Not even close. But hey, why not try to look like one, right? It’s the American way! But nothing – absolutely nothing was filling the aching inside both of us to live a life that would draw others closer to Him. For a while, we felt like all our extra time was spent just taking care & repairing the THINGS we had spent good money on, anyhow! Can I get an amen?

But He, in His lovingkindness, answered those aches… just not like we ever thought.

After reading Red Letters, we looked at each other and said, ‘WOW! Where have we been all of our Christian lives?” We knew we couldn’t go back to life as usual. We started simple enough though. We took one small step to sponsor a young lady in Swaziland, Africa through Children’s HopeChest. Just like when our own boys were born, God used this little girl to show us a deeper level of love & acceptance than we ever thought possible.

It wasn’t long after that an opportunity was presented to me to help other kids in Swaziland find sponsors too. I thought, ‘I know allll kinds of loving people, who when they find out what these kids are going through, will be moved with compassion and help however they can!’

And you know what? Its happened. Alllll those loving people have listened to us for over 3 years now, and been moved to empathetic tears, moved to fervent prayer, moved to action time & time again for children who would otherwise have NO hope of survival.

Did you know that compassion literally means, ‘to suffer with‘?

Another definition of compassion is ‘sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.’

Screen shot 2013-02-28 at 9.18.32 PMWhen we sing in church, “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord… I want to see You.” Compassion is His answer. You want to see God? Go to the hurting, sit with the broken, help the hungry. You WILL see & feel God all around you.

I am utterly grateful for a God who SO longs to intimately love & know His people that He allows for nothing besides Him to fill the void, to fill our longing hearts. Do you get that? How crazy He is for you… for those around you?

So we never saw this journey of ‘compassion’ coming, but I assure you we never feel God’s love more than when we empty ourselves, than when we throw aside temporal things to show His love to the wounded, the lonely, the hurting.

The above Henry Nouwen quote is so true. As wonderful as this journey has been, it has not been an easy one. That’s okay, because as my mother says, God did not call us to a ‘soft’ life. What on earth are we here for if not to love the lost, lean into the forgotten, and lay down our comfy lives for the broken, so that they may ultimately know Him?

For each of us, active compassion will take us down many different roads (not necessarily to Africa!). But all the roads lead to loving more, giving more, and ultimately leading a broken world into the compassionate arms of Jesus.

The cost of compassion…

If it means living a ‘smaller’ life…

If it means having less time for TV & less money for manicures…

If it means giving up vacation time to go extend His love to children half a world away…

If it means suffering with the forgotten & lonely…

I’ll humbly pay it over & over again, knowing that my Jesus paid the ultimate price.

Our journey moves on. We learn more & more every day about what it means to truly love: not for our own pat on the back, but to help transform lives that they may see His saving grace.

We were fortunate to partner with a ministry whose sole purpose is to see lives holistically transformed. The short video below shows some of the ways that the compassion of Jesus has been lived out. I say it so often, but Children’s HopeChest is not interested in creating a name for themselves. They aren’t giving hand outs and creating dependency on foreign aid. They are feeding, discipling, training, educating and giving people around the world the tools necessary to transform their own lives. The video shows a few ways that is happening.

VIDEO: Swaziland: Transformation

I hope you are encouraged to shine the light & love of Jesus, with His compassion as your guide. And in comparison to His great, crazy, all-consuming love for us, the ‘cost’ is not a ‘cost’ at all, but an invitation to further partake in the greatest love story ever told.

Shine On!

Danielle

Should you want more information on what sponsorship means, follow this link. We have over 15 orphaned & vulnerable children in the rural community of Manzini who need a friend & the security of knowing they will be fed, drink clean water, be taught about Jesus, have access to medical care should they need it.

Complete Unity

February 24, 2013 — Leave a comment
Mike & I with Kriek & Jumbo Gerber at the Children's HopeChest Africa Partners Conference

Mike & I with Kriek & Jumbo Gerber at the Children’s HopeChest Africa Partners Conference

 

“Charity will not eradicate poverty. Only education and opportunity will break the cycle of poverty.” ~ Matt ‘Jumbo’ Gerber

Saturday night, Mike & I returned from what will go down in our history as a monumental weekend in Colorado. We were blessed to attend Children’s HopeChest Africa Partners Conference in the Springs for three days of sharing, praying, praising, laughing and learning from like-hearted staff & other sponsorship coordinators from around the country.

As if all that wasn’t enough, we were able to have quality face-to-face conversations with Jumbo & Kriek Gerber who faithfully serve as CHC’s Country Directors in Swaziland. These were precious times to us. We saw at a deeper level the humility and passion they have for the people of Swaziland to be free from the cycle of poverty… and really, that is true of all the HopeChest staff and partners.

I invite you, as Kriek invited us, to make prayer a more central focus of our ministry. One unified, faith-filled prayer can bring more change than years of struggling for good ideas & programs. Creative ideas & programs are essential too, but let them be birthed out of the heart of God, not our limited minds & hearts.

A prayer card for the Gerbers & ministry in Swaziland

A prayer card for the Gerbers & ministry in Swaziland

I’ve met Jumbo & Kriek several times over the last three years and I have never seen them so excited, so focused, so inspired for the vision God has given them! At the core, the vision is the same – to see Swaziland full of people living abundant lives through Jesus Christ. While the statements below don’t show everything, they do prove that GOD’s HAND IS IN Swaziland, working through the HopeChest community-to-community model.

 *There are now 34 community carepoints in Swaziland where over 5,600 vulnerable & orphaned children are fed every day. Compared with 2008, there are now 10 times more children sponsored & being cared for.

*All of the children who come to their community carepoint have access to both crisis & chronic medical care.

*All of the children have the great resource of discipleship, lifeskill training and when needed (all too often) grief counseling to deal with the loss of parents & loved ones.

*There are now 20 native Swazi staff and only 7 Westerners (Gerbers count themselves as Westerners because they are from South Africa, which is in fact west of Swaziland!)

The growth has been incredible in just the last three years… and you, my friends, have all been a part of making this happen by faithfully praying, sponsoring & giving when the needs are presented. THANK YOU!!!

We will continue to see the hungry fed, the lost found, and the captives set free. The children are not only being fed natural food, but are being raised up as disciplers to reach their generation with the love & hope of Christ. They will lead their country into true abundance & prosperity.

God has given greater insight to the leaders of HopeChest of exactly how this needs to happen.  I was (and still am) on the edge of my seat as I listened to them share some specifics at the conference. It will be my pleasure to share this with you in the coming weeks, so that you too can share in the unity & joy of seeing captives set free!

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to subscribe to this blog by entering your email address over on the right column. That way you are assured to not miss a thing!

Shine On!

Danielle

 

 

 

It’s All About Love

February 9, 2013 — Leave a comment
Lindani's joy is incomparable!

Lindani’s joy is incomparable!

Valentine’s Day is all about spreading & sharing love with those who are dear to your heart. This year we invite you to spread your wings of love even further by one simple, selfless act:

Join people all over the country who are giving up

ONE day’s lunch money*

to show real love to waiting children

in Swaziland, Africa.

 

Your lunch funds will go to the care of orphaned, vulnerable,

waiting children at Bheveni Carepoint in rural Manzini, Swaziland.

Click here to give!

 

Zinhle, Nomphilo, Siyabonga and others enjoying their only meal of the day behind the carepoint wall, away from the heat of the sun.

Zinhle, Nomphilo, Siyabonga and others enjoying their only meal of the day behind the carepoint wall, away from the heat of the sun.

 

Currently, 38 childrens’ needs are NOT funded, but walk miles every day to Bheveni and rely on the carepoint for clean water, nutritious food, and to learn about Jesus’ love for them… a child is never turned away  but until they are sponsored we must make sure they are provided for through events such as this.

 

The need is great.

Let our love be greater.

One Day. One Lunch. Feb. 14th.

Click here to give!

 

As you go into a week that celebrates love for all, I challenge you to give up your lunch money on Valentine’s Day – to go without lunch so they don’t have to. *Or pick something this Valentine’s Day that you can live without – coffee, flowers, or a special dinner (notice I did not suggest you go without chocolate – we gotta be realistic here!)

Shine On!

Danielle

P.S. Our ultimate goal is to get ALL the children to have a sponsor, giving $34 a month to provide for their basic needs… so if you are interested in consistently sharing the love of Jesus with the Bheveni children, go to this link: http://www.hopechest.org/community/bheveni/sponsor/

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Mighty Whispers

January 11, 2013 — Leave a comment
This summer you are invited to play, help, serve & GO!!!

This summer you are invited to
play, help, serve & GO!!

Perhaps this is the summer you set it all aside and answer that quiet whisper inside you that for years has been urging you to go beyond what you think you can do, to go beyond your world, to walk in the shoes of another…

This is your time. Saying YES opens the door for God to move mightily  in & through you.

Destination: Swaziland, Africa

Dates: July 23rd-August 4th, 2013

Cost: *$1724 land costs. This includes lodging, in-country transportation, food, drinks and travel insurance. It also includes an end-of-the-trip game drive in Johannesburg. *Cost may change slightly depending on the size of the group.

 For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment. Luke 1:37 (amp)

Itinerary: The exact itinerary is still coming together. After meeting up with our guide, our first night will be spent in Johannesburg, SA. The following day we will be traveling five hours by van to Manzini, Swaziland, where we will stay for the majority of our trip. Here we will meet the ministry leaders and receive orientation information, before heading to Bheveni Carepoint early the next morning. We will spend the next week working, playing, and loving at the carepoint, as well as walking to remote homesteads and delivering food. The last two days of the trip will include an opportunity to purchase souvenirs, and a game drive in Kruger National Park, before we depart for the US.

Trip Leaders: Mike & Danielle Brower, Sponsorship Coordinators for Bheveni Carepoint

Isaiah 58 - the BIG IF

Isaiah 58 – the BIG IF

Purpose: Our primary goal will be to provide ministry to orphans and vulnerable children suffering through extreme poverty. We will continue to build on the community-to-community model of long-term relationships with the bomake (grandmothers) and children who live in the area surrounding Bheveni Carepoint. We go to serve alongside these amazing people, not to observe or pity them.

Payments & Deadlines:

Application and $50 deposit (made to HopeChest) need to be sent to the trip leader as soon as possible.

April 30th – Deposit of $250.00 is due (10 weeks out)

May 28th – Deposit of $250.00 is due (6 weeks out)

June 25th – Final Payment of Land Cost is due (4 weeks out – minus initial deposits made)

Send all deposit checks to trip leader, but made out to HopeChest. To pay online www.hopechest.org under the “give” tab and fill out all the information for “trip payment” be sure to use the trip code SZ130704T in the “reference” section, and your name in the Notes field. Please email Trip Leader when you make an online payment.

Flights: Your Trip Leader will book their own ticket first (by appx. March 23rd) You will be told which flight to be on. You will book and purchase your own flight, but you must arrive and depart the same airport at the same time as the trip leader. Appx. cost of airline ticket will range from $1400-$1800.

Accommodations: You will stay in comfortable and safe Guest Homes in Johannesburg and Manzini, where wifi will be accessible so you can keep in contact with your family.

Medical: To have the most benefit, see a health-care provider at least 4-6 weeks before your trip. We follow the Centers for Disease Control guidelines for vaccination recommendation.  http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/swaziland.htm

Travel Insurance: Included in the land costs is basic travel insurance coverage.

Passport: Be sure that your passport is current and has at least 4 blank pages. You will travel with your passport at all times, leave one copy in your luggage, another with your trip leader, and lastly, another copy of your passport with your emergency contact person in the US during your travels.

Food:

Breakfast will usually be at the guest house. Lunch will vary depending on schedule (sometimes sandwiches and sometimes restaurant meals, sometimes rice & beans or pap with the children). Dinner will either be at a restaurant or the guest house.

Contact & Next Steps:

For more information, e-mail Danielle Brower daniellebrower@gmail.com

Go to www.moms4change.net/swaziland-missions-trip to find links to applications, vaccination & passport requirements, and pictures of the children we will be privileged to serve.