Archives For Mike Brower
This post is written by my husband, Mike Brower.
It is really resonating with people who are also trying to reconcile what they have witnessed & been a part of when they return from carepoint ministry. To God be the glory!
Often since our return to America from Swaziland I’ve been asked, “How was your trip?”
The answer is typically some form of “Good” or “Great!”
And that’s the truth…but in so many ways it’s not really the truth either.
The trip to Africa went extremely well. There were so many ways that it went good. We made the trek to Swaziland without trouble. Our team of seven found each other in Atlanta, arrived in Johannesburg with all of our luggage intact, met our contact from Adventures in Missions right on schedule, had zero issues with Customs Officials in any country throughout our journey, and none of our planes crashed in flames!
The technical parts of our journey, the travels and schedules and connections, went perfectly!
Had this been a dream vacation, or business excursion, we couldn’t have asked for more.
But something more happened in our trip, something beneath the surface, a thing that was unexpected and without a nice little box for me to check off.
In the words of one of our team, I was “wrecked.” I experienced a sense of brokenhearted living that I cannot explain. In talking about the mission, I can relay the experiences fairly well.
It’s the transformation happening within me that is challenging to express.
On our first day with the beautiful children of Bheveni, we were able to bring new outfits for each of the children. This was something that we were so excited about. Delta had assisted us by waiving our additional baggage fees, allowing our team to transport 28 large suitcases from the United States to Swaziland. We carried many changes of clothes for the young boys and girls. Our goal was to have at least one new outfit for each, and thankfully we were able to have all that and more!
As the team set out the clothes and prepared for the children to come through, we were anxious about the hours ahead. Would we have enough clothes? Would we have the right sizes? Would the children enjoy these simple gifts? The questions came and went as the children began to arrive.
I watched the boys and girls begin removing their old, tattered, dirty clothing, be washed by members of our team, and outfitted with new shirts, shorts, or skirts, I was overcome with emotion. I could not stay in the room for long without tears welling up in me. I didn’t want the children to wonder why the guy with the camera was crying his eyes out, so I’d wander out every few minutes. As the emotion would subside, I’d return to the scene of the cry for a few more minutes of torture in my soul.
What I saw in Swaziland didn’t fit in my central Minnesotan box. I had an expectation of extremely different life, but I was not prepared for the dramatic shifts in physical poverty I would encounter. I was not prepared to see children barely old enough to walk wandering alone through the countryside. I was ill equipped for the barefoot masses, the distended abdomens, and the barren landscape dotted with homes that could not exist in my life in the States. What really rocked my world though was something I expected less than all else…the smiles.
On so many faces, and behind so many pairs of eyes, was an emotion that I couldn’t make sense of. Joy. In the midst of the most limited existence I could imagine, I met grateful hearts. I saw lives torn apart by disease, divorce, and economic disparity, and so many of those lives were marked with joy.
It made no sense. I couldn’t reconcile the extreme difficulties with the beautiful smiles. My breakdown was complete one afternoon as I noticed a young woman, perhaps eleven years of age, strolling to the outhouse. She appeared cautious. I saw her furtively glance about as she travelled the well worn trail toward a bathroom facility that most of us in America would be disgusted to visit.
And then it happened…my heart was in my throat and I couldn’t stop tears from flowing.
This young woman jumped into a hole. I wasn’t sure what I was seeing, but she casually jumped into what looked like a future, or possibly historical, latrine hole. As I stood in stunned observation, she climbed out of the hole carrying a crumpled up bit of cellophane plastic. My confusion cleared when it dawned on me…she had just found something suitable for her immediate need in the restroom – old, dirty, cellophane toilet paper. And with the realization, I was wrecked again.
It wasn’t fair.
It made no sense.
What could I do?
I was lost in a swirl of tears, prayers, and once again…joy.
In spite of the overwhelming need I could see around me, I had an element of joy as well. I knew that I knew that I was smack dab in the place I was supposed to be. God had brought me on this journey so that I could see and know and be wrecked by these moments. There was no quick fix. There was not a three point, formula sermon that would bring hope, heal the hurts, and provide the kingdom of Swaziland with wealth and toilet paper. There was nothing I could do.
But I could respond with love. I could choose to be broken. I could choose to grieve with the grieving, I could laugh with the laughing, and I could cry with the crying. I could offer myself to those in need. I could be salt and light to the world around me.
I could be wrecked, but not destroyed.
I was reminded of Esther and her uncle’s encouragement that she “had been made Queen for such a time as this.” I had travelled to third world Africa for such a time as this. Not only could I encourage the children with hope and love, I could be transformed by their joyous, grateful hearts as well.
And so I prayed. I asked for God to work in the lives of these children. I asked that they far outlive the statistics. I asked that they be protected from the predators, human and otherwise, that are out to get them. I asked that they would know God’s love in their daily lives. I asked that God would continue to work on their behalf…and that He’d show me what’s next for my involvement.
And then I played. With the kids. I gave what I had. They wanted me…just me…to see them and give myself. My time, my smiles, my arms, and legs, and back. I became their “jungle gym” for awhile. I got down at their level and shared my smile with them too. And it was fun! We had a ball together. In spite of the difficult language barrier, and the disparity in backgrounds, and all the many differences in our lives, we connected for a time.
And it was good. Great even!
I know that there’s much more that God is doing as a result of this trip. I know that the times of connection and play were not overly unique to many of the children. There is a consistent stream of American missionaries that flow in and out of the lives of Swaziland’s children. For the children of Swaziland, “Hello” is often followed quickly with “Bye Bye!”
And I know that I was where I was supposed to be in that stream. I know that there were seeds planted in me, in the B-team, and in the lives of the children there, that are going to germinate and grow and produce good in all of our lives.
Statistically, most of the children I met in Swaziland will not live to see their thirtieth birthday.
Something should be done.
I agree wholeheartedly. I’m trusting God to show me, or anybody, what the solution is.
In the meantime, I want to be about sharing life and love with these young people. I want them to know that whether they live a long while on this earth, or they are in the middle of the statistics, that they are valuable, lovable, and beautiful. They have much to give. I want to share in their joys, and help in their hurts.
My central Minnesota understanding of life needed to be wrecked. I’m so thankful for what was begun. And I’m looking forward to all that is ahead.
To see more from Mike Brower, please visit & subscribe to his blog @ www.mebrower.com
Swaziland 2010 Mission Trip Prayer Calendar
First off, a huge thank you to everyone who has been praying for the Beveni children, care-givers, and all of us mission-trip participants. We are so grateful and humbled by all of the caring support that so many have lavishly given. We are believing for God’s hand to be evident in our work and relationships with the people of Swaziland in the coming weeks.
A brief introduction…my name is Mike Brower. I have been the very blessed husband of Danielle Brower for the past 15 years. I have also been increasingly proud of Danielle and her efforts toward Beveni in recent months. There seems to be a daily boost to our faith as we share the many wonderful testimonies of God’s faithfulness through you and the partners of Beveni. Thank you all so much for warmly receiving Danielle, and I, in this role of “leader”. We are challenged each day, but so grateful for these times. As each of us work together in obedience to the little things, I believe that great works are being accomplished in God’s Kingdom.
Danielle asked if I would consider writing a prayer request post for the “T minus” prayer countdown. I said I would…then I did something slightly different. Sorry for not following instructions but, “Please pray for safe travels” would have been a very short post…even if I could have found a really big picture to go with it! Instead I’ve put together a calendar of prayer for the duration of our trip. We hope to be able to connect and send updates often during the trip, but in case plans go awry, I figured having an advance calendar to pray for each day might be a good idea. Here goes…
Sept 18: SAFE TRAVELS. Our team will be flying to Atlanta from various spots throughout the country. We need 7 people, 28 suitcases, 7 carry on bags, and 7 computer packs or purses to all arrive safely and intact prior to the 7:25pm flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. It’s going to be a long 15+ hour haul from there. Please pray for efficiency, safety, tranquility, and ingenuity throughout the process. The list of supply needs is long. Thankfully we’ve found favor with the airlines and will have room for much…but we’ll need it all to get there with us intact and undamaged.
Sept 19: SMOOTH SAILING. We will arrive in Johannesburg on the same flight and need to collect our belongings, move through customs, meetup with our Adventures In Missions (AIM) hosts, drive 3+ hours to Manzini, and enjoy the endorphin high that the culmination of the past 6 months of efforts will bring. We are believing for favor all along the way. Hold up our pilots, our vehicles, our introductions, our sanity…and anything else you can think of!
Sept 20: GREAT FIRST IMPRESSIONS. There will be many first encounters, new relationships, and re-connections in the early days of this mission. We are believing for connections that will make a lasting impact. We are believing that we’ll be able to be a blessing to all that we encounter…and we’re thankful the many blessings we’ll also receive. We are believing for God encounters…and we don’t want to see these missed due to a cultural misstep or some other misunderstanding.
Sept 21: PHYSICAL HEALTH. I don’t believe that any on the team are Olympic athletes…perhaps Jim is? But even they need rest to remain healthy. We are believing that our bodies will function properly, and that our days will be filled with strength and health.
Sept 22: LAUGHTER. There are many new relationships that are being formed on our team. We all like each other right now. We are believing that this trip will be filled with grace toward us, and toward each other. Pray that we all would be strengthened by the Lord’s joy, that we would bear one another’s burdens, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.
Sept 23: BEVENI CHILDREN. Our great hope is that somehow through our simple actions the love of Jesus is introduced to those who need, and that His companionship would be evident in their lives. This trip is not about us. We are attempting to be obedient to Jesus…but that’s pretty easy really. The great needs of the children are going to be glaring, and at times overwhelming. Pray that we would simply shine with the love of Jesus toward the people we encounter. Pray that they would be drawn toward Him in all that we say and do.
Sept 24: BEVENI CAREGIVERS. We don’t know how this will happen, but one of our goals is to be a source of strength, encouragement, and blessing to the men & women & teens who are doing the real work in Swaziland. Humbly we pray that we would in no way add to their burden, but rather lighten the load for a short time at least. Please pray that they would be strengthened for their on-going and important mission. Think about what you could do to lighten their load from home.
Sept 25: ENDURANCE. There is a potential that our endorphins will abandon us at some point in this journey. Pray that our strength would be sustained, that our joy would be full, that our light would shine bright, that we would be utterly spent…but not until we arrive back home safely in the USA.
Sept 26: EFFECTIVE MINISTRY. We will be conducting a VBS-style ministry with the children of Beveni throughout our mission. We will rely on the care-givers and AIM staff to steer our efforts properly, but we are believing the Holy Spirit’s anointing will be strong upon each of us and that He will know and lead us in exactly what we need to say and do to accomplish His work in the lives of each person we encounter.
Sept 27: FAMILIES AT HOME. For several this trip will be the longest time we’ve ever been apart from our children. We are believing that they will be kept safe, healthy, and fully aware of our deep love for them. We are hoping to communicate clearly and often through the many wonderful technologies available to us…but we’ll miss their hugs, laughter, and smiles for a bit longer than we’d like. Pray for wisdom for their caregivers, strength for each day, and constant reminders of Jesus in their lives too!
Sept 28: GOD-IDEAS. We are believing that God will “show up” in each day and encounter throughout this trip. As we’ll be nearing the end of the mission, we are hoping for God inspired ideas for how to continue ministry through the carepoint and care-givers, AIM’s efforts, capital projects, and increased awareness. Pray that what begins in these brief days would continue long after we’re gone, and build stronger with each day.
Sept 29: TRAVEL SAFETY. We will be returning to the USA after a long travel route once again. Pray that all would go well. That we would be properly rested and ready to reconnect with family and friends. Pray for us to be able to effectively communicate the stories and realities of life in Swaziland. Pray that we would remember those people that touched our hearts, and that they would remember Jesus in us.
Also, Danielle and I have a bit of additional adventure as we’ll be going straight from Atlanta to Colorado rather than home in Minnesota. We are participating in a HopeChest event for the Swaziland/Uganda Carepoint Sponsorship Coordinators on Sept 29 & 30.
Please pray for our continued strength and health in these final days of our travels.
Please pray for Children’s HopeChest’s efforts.
Please pray for AIM’s efforts and missionaries.
Please pray for the other Sponsorship Coordinators.
Please pray for divine connections.
Please pray for vision and wisdom.
Please pray that God’s will would be done in and through each one of us, including yourself.
Oct 1: A STRONG FINISH. This will be our final travel day in returning to Minnesota. Pray that all would go well, that we would be safely reunited with our sons, and that we would be already energized for the next leg in God’s adventure.
Thank you for praying! We are so thankful. It would mean so much to us if you would let us know in the comments of this blog, or in some other way that you’re supporting us through prayer. We fully believe that you are joining us in spirit on this journey. We could not be more proud of you and the team that God has brought together for this trip.
Blessings to you today,
Mike & Danielle and the B-Team!
You will want to read this… trust me! It’s written by one of the most gifted, gracious, & generous people I know – my husband, Mike Brower.Here’s an excerpt: In just a few days, my bride and I will be joining five others and traveling to Swaziland, Africa. If you’ve seen us on Facebook or follow my bride’s blog at all you are already well aware! Seriously, it’s been a 3 month, all-out, fund-raising bonanza going on. Join us in the journey!
~~~~~~~Did you catch that? He called me his bride – after 15 years together – I’m still his bride! Read the rest HERE on his blog and be sure to let him know how it blesses you!