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!
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!
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!
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!