Sunday, July 19, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Our third clinic was at a school named Vusweni. It was truly an incredible drive into the mountainous part of Swaziland, with incredible scenery everywhere. When we got to the clinic, we got to see the school kids sing a few songs for us. It's amazing how entire schools of kids in Swaziland can sing together in unison. Then it was off to giving medical care to the school kids. After seeing all of the kids and the adults, we got to give out two special things. First, throughout the day we got to give out some wonderful homemade baby blankets. We brought a duffle bag of blankets provided from a group of hospital volunteers in Nebraska, which fit perfectly in the more mountainous and cold part of the country. The other thing we got to give out is Bibles. One of the goals of the Luke Commission is to provide a Bible to every homestead in Swaziland. They grouped together the people into homesteads and whether they have a SiSwati (the Swazi language) or English Bible, and provide whatever they need. It was a blessing to provide the Word of God to the Swazi people.
The last clinic we did was at a school in Esulutane. This was back in the eastern part of Swaziland which is flat and more barren. It was a bit more developed than some of the other care points – it actually had a merry-go-round, something you seldom see in Swaziland. Our kids got to give the kids rides, usually with our kids in the middle pushing and about 25-30 students riding on the outside. We also got to give out pencils and jolly ranchers which we brought along with us. One of the most incredible things and two of the saddest things happened at this carepoint. The parents and the kids have the option of getting an HIV test before the doctors see them. One of the kids was tested who was 15 months old and was positive for HIV. That was just crushing – someone so young now essentially condemned to likely die before she became teenager. Second, we went to another home visit. This was at the home of a man who lived alone. His lungs didn't work very well because he had tuberculosis. One of the complications of his severe lung disease is that his liver had stopped working. In the US, he could potentially get all of this treated. In Swaziland, all we could do is give him some medicines to make him feel better for a while, but wouldn't ultimately get him well. Fortunately, the night ended with one of the biggest blessings in the trip. We had finished giving out Bibles to the people waiting when we heard a noise in one of the buildings. Some of the Swazis had started a spontaneous worship service on one of the buildings after getting God's Word. You could just feel God was in the room with them. It was such a beautiful moment.
Swaziland is a country with a mix of Christianity and traditional ancestral religions. One of the things that the Vanderwal's told us is that witchcraft is as common in Swaziland as materialism is in the USA. We did see many places where products for witch doctors were sold and where their craft was practiced. Obviously, witchcraft and Christianity can't really work together.
One of the workers with the Luke Commission is named Sipho. We call him "big Sipho" as opposed to one of the other workers, "little Sipho." He actually was on the Swazi national soccer team, so he's definitely big. He's a very kind hearted man who truly has a heart to see people in his country come to know Jesus. If there's anything that needs to be done for the group, he does it, from driving to setting things up, to translating for the doctor. When we went to visit his homestead, we got to meet his wonderful family as well. We also got to see a few of the gravesites on the premises, one for his brother and one for his daughter.
Sipho had become a Christian and went to work for the Luke Commission. Sometime after that, his brother became married to a witch doctor. When the witch doctor learned that Sipho was a Christian and was working for a Christian organization, she got mad. She started poisoning his four-year old daughter. For a few days, she got sicker and sicker until she finally died. I'm sure Sipho was very angry, but he didn't speak out against her, since it was his brother's wife, and it would be disrespectful. His brother eventually died of AIDS. In Swazi culture, when the husband dies, the wife has no claim on anything in the family, so they kicked Sipho's brother's wife out of the homestead. In his culture, I'm sure Sipho must have had to think hard about staying committed to Christ and the Luke Commission, but he did stay.
The death of Sipho's daughter is truly tragic. I can't imagine his pain, especially since I have two daughters of my own. He remained committed to serving those he loved in his country despite losing his daughter. It reminds me so much of the love of another Father who loved me so much that he gave his son, Jesus, up to die. I want to have that kind of level of commitment to Jesus – one that stays strong despite any hardship because of my love for God and others.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Manzini is a very unique city. It is the economic and transportation capital of the country of Swaziland. It is also the home of the only airport in Swaziland. The city itself is fairly sprawling and full of lots of what I would call little shacks for homes. We were fortunate to live in a Seventh Day Adventist guest house that had two bedrooms, a living area, and a kitchen. One day we got to take a short walk to the Vanderwals. It seems like everyone had a roadside stand in that small stretch, including fruit (lots of oranges and avocados), peanuts, chips, pop and other assorted goods. We walked past the local hospital and the Nazarene school. You can tell lots of workers by the blue suits they wear. There are also lots of dogs in Manzini and in other areas we saw, but rarely were they as pets. Evidently there are packs of dogs which roam the country and city. Manzini is perhaps best known for its local market. Now it's not like the kind of market here in the states. It's much more like a massive"farmer's market" except with all kinds of goods. There's a downstairs with all kinds of produce being sold. The upper level of the main market is more like a tourist's playground with all kinds of curios and trinkets available for sale. The rest of the market is full of a variety of people selling clothes, tin, baskets, and other things. There's also a few shops set up where witch doctors sell their wares, including the stuff needed to do their work and others to actually do the spells in the market. Thinking of the various things in town, a few come to mind. First is the trash. I don't know why, but it seems like there's no such thing as trashcans in Manzini. The other thing is smoke. When they do something with the trash, it's usually burning it. Despite this, there is such beauty in the surrounding community as the city is surrounded by rolling mountains. The people are also so kind and gentle. They are always smiling, laughing, and easy to get along with. It's a city mixed in goodness and darkness. Pray for the city and the people in the city, that God would continue to shine his light there.
Monday, July 6, 2009
Our second clinic was at a new location for the Luke Commission, but was familiar for us. We visited the Mahlabeneni care point that our church sponsors and where we have a child we support through Children's Hope Chest. The area driving to the care point is beautiful, with mountainous ridges and green sugar cane fields. Unfortunately, where the care point is located is also in one of the poorest sections of Swaziland. As we drove up the dirt road, it struck us how barren and almost desert-like the area at the care point was, with lots of rocks and brown and yellow grass. The care point didn't consist of much – a brick kitchen, a water tower, and a covered tin area used for a church. Surrounding it were several homesteads, the areas that entire Swazi families live. So we set up the clinic and started seeing people like the previous clinic, but with less people. Evidently, there are usually smaller numbers the first time the Luke Commission visits a place because the people aren't sure they can trust the doctors. After one clinic in a location, the word spreads that the doctors are trustworthy and the medicines work, and the numbers grow by word of mouth.
After seeing patients for about an hour, we were asked to go see some people in their homes by the local pastor, Themba. The first home was truly heartbreaking. We visited a man who was 36 and had cerebral palsy. He could not move his legs and they were essentially folded up underneath him in a kneeling position. To get around, he had to use his arms and pull himself. He also had some mental delays, so he needed help caring for himself. Unfortunately, all of his family had died and he was left to himself. He had a wheelchair near his home, but it was bent up and broken. Fortunately, the local sugar cane plant decided to sponsor him, so he had someone who would come to his house daily to help him with food and getting around. Still, he spent most of his days sitting outside his hut with nobody around. We did what we could for his medical problems and hopefully will be able to get him a "bush-ready" wheel chair which the Luke Commission has coming. At our second stop, we say a lady who had shingles on her face which kept her from getting out of the house. It also blurred her vision, so we referred her to the eye doctor in Manzini, the town we are based in. We also met Christiana, a boy who was about Caleb's age. He and Caleb started up a quick game of soccer and he came with us back to the care point.
When we reached the care point, we got to do a special thing – hand out Operation Christmas Child boxes to the kids. If I have ever been a Scrooge about doing the boxes, the experience I had will never let me be one again. The kids all get in line and get a box based on approximate age and gender. They all sit in a small area and are told they are getting the box from people overseas who want them to know that Jesus loves them. They then all get to open at the same time. The looks on their faces was priceless! Kids were shouting for joy for everything they got, lifting it in the air for everyone to see. Everything from underwear to shirts to pencils got loud yells. It was truly amazing to see their gratitude for a small box of prizes and to know that it was used to express God's free gift to them in Jesus.
One special thing about the day was that we got to see Caleb's sponsor child, Lwazi. He was a very sweet fourteen year old who Caleb hit it off with easily. Caleb was able to talk to him a bit through an interpreter, give him a Christmas Child box, and give him some clothing. It was a real blessing to meet him, and will make our prayers for him much more vivid and real. All told, we saw about 280 patients that day and left knowing that we provided clothing, healthcare, and lots of joy to the care point. We pray that as more gets built and Pastor Themba continues to preach, more lives will be changed there.