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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

2014 - Day 7 at Ludlati Carepoint

Don's photo

Today was the last day at Ludlati Carepoint for this year’s visit.  We made the most of spending as much time with the kids and Bomake as we could.  At the afternoon gathering, we sang a couple songs with the kids and thanked them for making us feel welcome and being our friends.  We told them we love them and we think about them everyday while we are gone.  We look forward to the possibility of visiting again next year.

We also took a chance to thank the Bomake once again for working so hard and being faithful to the kids at the Carepoint.  We enjoyed sharing some gifts to show our appreciation.  They also thanked us for coming and for blessing them so much.  We said that they were and are an amazing blessing to us!

It is painful to say goodbye to such wonderful friends.  We are happy to know each other, grateful for the fun time we shared together, and sad to leave our friends behind.  There is so much more detail to share about the closeness of friendship we now share together.  I hope to write more about this after we return.  We have laughed and cried together about wonderful and terrible things here in Swaziland.  Our prayer for each other is thankfulness for His love that binds us together in friendship and that He will keep us safe, provide for us abundantly, and bring us together again.

Enjoy the pictures.  I hope to post more after we return home.

Monday, July 14, 2014

2014 - Day 6 at Ludlati Carepoint

Don's photo

Yesterday was Sunday and the team took a much needed rest.  We went Pastor Sam’s church in Moneni near Manzini.  I met Pastor Sam on my first trip to Swaziland in 2009.  He was and still is focused on helping the needy, serving others in the community and sharing the gospel through deeds and words.  His sermon was amazing.  A good reminder that when we give up our earthly life to Christ, He gives us real life in return.  If we try to hold onto it ourselves, we will lose our life.  We can love and serve God and others in everyday life.

Today is Monday and we were back at Ludlati Carepoint again.  Today we had special plans. We had a special donation seperate from team funding to give each of the Bomake $100 for shopping.  So the ladies on our team took the Bomake into town for a shopping trip.  They used $50 for clothes and $50 for shopping at the grocery store.  What a fun and exciting day it was!  You can see from the pictures that they were really excited!  They purchased some clothes and shoes for themselves and for their kids.  They also purchased a lot of food for their families.  It is a wonderful pleasure to bless these hard working, dedicated, faithful ladies with a small token of our appreciation for all the do for the kids at Ludlati Carepoint.

Since the ladies went shopping, that left the men to take care of the kids at Ludlati Carepoint.  We were up to the task!  We fed the kids as they came in after school.  They kids were really excited to see us serving them their lunch.  It was a pleasure to serve and share this simple activity together!

I had a special moment with one of our family’s special friends named Namsile.  She came up to me today and asked in English, “Where is King Barbra”  my wife.  This is a big deal since Namsile is relatively shy.  I told her she asked a very good question, and that my wife could not make it this year.  I will tell her hello for you.  It is beautiful to see the kids getting more and more comfortable with us each year.  The relationships continue to grow between us and the kids!  It is making a real difference in our and their lives.  We are all blessed to be connected to these kids to live life together in a seemingly small way.  It turns out to be bigger than we may be tempted to think.

I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as we enjoy being here with our friends!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

2014 - Day 5 at Ludlati Carepoint - FUN DAY!

Don's photo

Today was FUN DAY!

We have a rule we like to joke about and that is “No crying on FUN DAY!”  We feel it is important to put aside the challenging issues and the burden we feel in our hearts for some of the kids in more difficult circumstances.  We focus on making up fun activities to do with the kids and have as great a time together as we possibly can.  And we always do have a great time.

Due to the cooler weather (it is the middle of winter here), we opted NOT to do the blind folded water relay race.  This years games are Ameba Tag, Bean Bag Toss, The Blanket Game and a 15 minute Ludlati Movie shown inside the main building.

After the game time was completed, we gathered everyone together and sang songs.  The kids presented a specail chorus to sing us a song they had been working hard on.  The harmonies and rhythms were strong and their song sounded amazing!  Aidan and I played the two acoustic guitars while Greg lead the group to sing “Forever and a Day”.  We taught the kids to sing an echo of the line “you called me beautiful”..and they are beautiful…and it was a beautiful time!  Greg asked the kids if they had a request song they wanted us to do, and “Nobody No NO” was called out.  This song has stuck with the kids and they seem to love it and want to sing it often.  Greg has received a Swazi name as a result of this song.  From this day forward we shall call him Babe Nobody.  Samkelo came up and sang a solo song for the group at the end.  He has a great voice, and we are proud of his courage to share his gift and song with us all.

The meal was cooked by the AIM staff and the Bomake.  We had pap, grilled sausage meat (kind of like brats) covered with a delicious tomato, green pepper and onion sause.  We heard many of the kids saying they love to eat meat!

At the end of the day lovely cupcakes were passed out to all.  I was requested by kids and the Bomake to take a picture of them with their festively decorated cupcakes!

Thank You Lord for our fifth FUN DAY together!

Tomorrow is Sunday and we plan to go to Pastor Sam’s church in Monenee which is close to Manzini.  We went to his church last year and really enjoyed it.  The team will not visit the carepoint this day, and will take a much needed rest.  The team has worked hard and put a lot of energy into spending time with the kids all week.  I think they did a great job building on last years relationships to continue to grow more and deeper relationships with all our friends here.

Enjoy the FUN DAY pics!

Friday, July 11, 2014

2014 - Day 4 at Ludlati Carepoint

Don's photo

Here are a few highlights from today.  The Bomake invited me to eat lunch with them so they could show me how to eat with my hand.  I enjoyed eating the rice and chicken and practicing Siswati.  It is the same meal they feed the kids.  It tasted good to me.

At the end of eating my special friend Samkelo walked up and said Hello Mr. Don.  He is a 15 year old boy now whom I met when he was 10.  We had a long conversation about being glad to see each other again and enjoy hanging out together and becoming friends.  When you are friends with someone in Swaziland you stand and hold hands in a hand shake which we did.

Another special friend of mine named Bhonke lived with his Grandma near the carepoint.  He has moved to her sister’s homestead so he could go to school.  She asked me if I wanted to see her family pictures.  I sat and looked through her old faded envelope of family pictures.  She showed me a picture of her mother, herself when she was young, her father in Swazi dress, and a few pictures of Bhonke growing up.  One of the pictures included a picture of myself and Bhonke waking together on a trail to his homestead.  She said here is a picture of you and Bhonke together.

Below you can see a home visit picture.  It happened to be the homestead of the man named Babe Mkahbela.  He did a lot of work around the carepoint in the early days.  I have not seen him the past two years.  It was good to catch up with him today.  When I asked if I could pray for him and his family, he told me they are competing with the cows for water from the river and they need more water to grow food.  So we prayed and asked God to provide water and food for their family.  If you are praying, please pray for provision for all the families in Swaziland.  It is a tough year for trying to grow crops.  Our solution to this problem is likely different than what God will provide.  I have seen God answer prayers for Ludlati kids and families in miraculous ways.  It will be fun to see how He does it again for this family.  We also bring some food and treats as a gift to the home visits.  The family was very thankful and I was very thankful they allowed me the honor to visit.

In general I am seeing and sharing in even more growth and depth of relationships and friendships which is amazing and beautiful.  I am very thankful to God for our Swaziland friends.  It is an honor to hurt with them and share the joys of life as well.

The other team members have their own highlights.  I will be glad to write more details when I can.  I hope you catch more of the stories and details from the pictures below.  Enjoy!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

2014 - Day 3 at Ludlati Carepoint

Don's photo

Today was another great day!  The winter days are short and we have to get done with the kids by 4pm so they can get home safely before dark at 5pm!  So that makes the afternoons a bit busy.  This morning I made it a point to spend time visiting with the Bomake (ladies who cook).  It was fantastic.  We brought some pictures to share from the past four years.  We had a great time remembering together and laughing at some of the funny pics.  I and all our team can feel we are old friends now.  We talked about preparing to come and raising money.  Siphiwe said she prays for our safety on the dangerous airplanes.  We thanked them sincerely for all their hard work to cook for the children.  Jabu also teaches the preschool children in the mornings!  We miss Jabu since she is sick with a leg problem.  It is very difficult for her to walk right now, but she is getting better.

During our conversation I asked the ladies if it was hard for them to work all these years and to keep working.  They said it is hard work, yet they feel joy in their hearts when they cook and feed the children.  They also said they have noticed a difference in the children since we partnered with them and started coming to visit.  The ladies said the children are learning they don’t have to steal when they get hungry.  They can come to the carepoint to eat.  They have learned to show respect and care for ladies, younger children and the elderly.  We said we felt their daily efforts along with the young mentors and leaders are much more significant, and we are glad we can come be a part of the changes and improvements they see happening.  We told them we love them and they told us they love us.  What an honor to share an amazing relationship given by God to share in this life.  We are all thankful together!

We played with the children the rest of the morning and early afternoon.  The school kids come in the afternoon and we gather everyone together to talk, sing and pray.  Today we shared several videos from team members and Sunday school classes that helped work on the paper chain messages and decorations.  Everyone in the videos said hello or we love you or God loves you!  It went very well.  When Sierra’s video came up, most of the kids in the room said her name.  The last video all the kids called out “Make Liz!” when they saw her saying hello and she loves them.  It was a beautiful sound in the room.

Phedulile showed up around lunch time today and she spent the afternoon with us at the carepoint.  She was the Discipleship Leader last year.  This year she is attending college, but she is on break right now and came to visit us.  It is so good to see her again.

We are working with a great Swazi-staff.  Somandle, Hlobsile, and Vile are doing an awesome job of advising, supporting and guiding our steps as a team.  They are also our translators during the home visits.  We were able to do four home visits at the end of the day since we had an extra translator Phendulile to help us.  The visits went well.  Greg met a lady who was grateful for the visit and gifts he brought.  John and Ellie had a good time visiting a family with an older Dad and younger Mom sharing the blessing of having another child.  Tracie and Aidan walked along a trail with a man after their visit going to the river to collect water.  Greg visited a lady who was grateful for his visit and thankful for the gift package he brought to thank her for the honor of allowing him to visit her homestead.

I visited a family where a 14 year old boy and his 5 year old brother have lost both parents to death.  They live with an Aunt.  She was away looking for work during the time of the visit.  The boy was kind and enjoyed having some time to talk and attention.  You can see us in a picture below.  He asked me to pray to God that he can continue his education and complete it.  I was honored and humbled to do that.  A piece of my heart is left with these boys.  They are living in tough circumstances, and I trust and pray and hope God will provide for them according the His promises and keep them safe.  It will be good for me to connect with him as much as possible while I am here on the trip.  I hope to see God work through and around me to show His love to these boys.  I have seen His hand working in other kids tough circumstances.  I am hopeful for the same for these boys.  I appreciate your prayers for them.

Here are more pictures from Day 3 at Ludlati Carepoint.  I can confirm that cooking for 150+ children with a fire and a big pot is hard work!  Also, I am very grateful for each team member doing an excellent job together.  Though we are tired, we gather at the end of each day to prepare for the next.  Great job Swazi Team!  We could not do this without the support team back home as well!  The work you have done ahead of the trip helps us greatly while we are here.  Thanks again to everyone who gave time, money, energy and prayers!  Enjoy the pictures!

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

2014 - Day 2 at Ludlati Carepoint

Don's photo

During this years trip we have planned a lot of home visits with famlies of Ludlati children in the surrounding community.  Today we made exciting discoveries from past and present pictures that show a few historical connections of relationships with the Ludlati kids and community people.

Below is a picture from our first visit to Ludlati Carepoint in 2010.  During that visit, I met these ladies sitting on a log while they watched the Fun Day activities.  Two mothers are holding children on their laps.

The first child on the left is a picture of Samkelo as a baby.  He is well known by our team members as he runs up to be held and play with each one of us.  He is a fun boy with a great smile.

We also made a re-connection today with the third lady from the left in the 2010 picture above.  She is a grand mother (Gogo) who I met in 2010 on Fun Day.  Greg and Ellie happened to visit her homestead today.  They had a wonderful time with this Gogo as she had a lot of stories to tell and was open to sharing more details of her life with the team.  They also said she has a wonderful, pleasant character and loved visiting her at her homestead.  I remember in 2010 this Gogo asked me and our team to stay in Swaziland they enjoyed having us visit so much.  It is awesome to reconnect with her after four years, and we are blessed to know she is still alive and well.  Please pray for unity in her family and for her garden to grow (she is having difficulty growing food in the soil and sun burning up the seedlings).  Here is a picture of Greg, Ellie and Somandle visiting with this sweet Gogo at her homestead.

Ntondo is another boy who runs to greet us with a great big smile and has a very funny sense of humor.  Sierra and Aidan spent a lot of time with him last year, and Aidan is getting plenty of time with him again already this year!  AND we have learned that his mother whom I met in 2010 has recently joined the ranks of the Bomake to help with the cooking duties.  Her name is Precious and her personality seems true to her name.  She seems like a wonderful lady always quick to smile and talk like Jabu and Dudu.  We are thankful she has joined the team!  Here is a picture of Greg and Ellie at a homestead visit to Precious’ home.

Overall we had an excellent Day 2 at the carepoint.  As we have a wonderful time with the kids and Bomake, please keep us and our Swaziland friends in your prayers.  Whether doing well or struggling, everyone faces great challenges here.  They and we value your prayers.

Here are more pictures and a video of a great moment of bubbling excitement from Day 2 at Ludlati Carepoint.  I also had a chance to see and talk with our old friend Make Matsebula (last picture below).  She is doing well and we were very happy to see each other again.  Enjoy!

Bubbling Excitement at Ludlati Carepoint from KnownToMe on Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

2014 - Day 1 at Ludlati Carepoint

Don's photo

It is a good sign of growth in relationships from foreign strangers to friends when children run and jump on you when you show up at a Carepoint.  That was our experience and gift this morning after we arrived.  One toddler boy in particular (Phol’sile’s son) who cried and ran in fear last year is all smiles and in the mix this year!  This is our fifth visit to Ludlati.  We know we leave another piece of our hearts here everytime we visit.  It feels like coming home to meet old friends…Eish!...because we are!  (Eish! is a common expression of excitement and emphasis here grin

The Bomake were very excited to see Pam B. again.  So excited they yelled when she came around the corner of the building into the cooking pavilion.  We all shared warm smiles and greetings.  It is so good to be back.

The Bomake use the new cooking pavilion a lot!  More than any other carepoint I am told.  They communicated the need for it, showed the builder where they wanted it, and they are making good use of it!  After talking with them about it, I can see now why they put it next to the building.  (Bias statement coming) I believe we are friends with the smartest Bomake in Swaziland!

We are beginning to get updates on several of the kids as we get caught up on news and updates.  There is always a mix of good news and things that are harder to hear.  Your prayers for one of the Bomake, Jabu, are requested.  She has been sick with something in her leg for 3 months I was told by another Bomake.  She hoped she might be able to come out.  Well she did.  She came walking in later in the day still showing her great big smile.  I am amazed at her tenacity and capacity for joy in the midst of life challenges here in Swaziland.  We all feel honored to know her, be inspired by her and call her friend.  Pray along with us for her leg to be healed and overall health in her physical body.

Thanks to all of you who took time to decorate a paper chain link.  We stapled the links together the night before, and hung the chains in a wonderful pattern in the rafters and along the walls.  It really does transform the room with beauty and a festive feeling.  We love how it makes the room feel as we share time together inside the room.  Your messages will also be viewed by and read and understood by many who learn English in school.  We have several pictures for you to enjoy below.  Maybe you will see your link?!

We have many home visits planned for this years trip.  Our hosts are Mark and Allison Clyburn and daughters, the full time missionary family, who we love and enjoy working with.  Not to single them out because we love all our hosts.  Each or our past hosts hold a special place in our hearts.  But we were able to visit three homesteads today and each went well.  Visiting in person is a great honor for us and treated as a huge blessing by the homestead family.  Some visits are tougher than others as we witness a variety of living circumstances.  Some are much worse than others.  It is very good to meet in person and get to know people better in a personal way.  We will remember to pray for them as we feel and know their burdens a little.  Please pray and agree along with us for requests of safety from criminals, provision, employment, healing from sickness and life in general.

We met and played with the kids throughout the morning and afternoon.  We gathered as we do in the afternoon to greet the kids, sing some songs together and pray before it is time for the kids to go home.  The pictures tells some fun stories as we play, and take pictures to show the kids.  This generates a lot of laughter that is good for us all.

Enjoy today’s pictures!

We look forward to Day 2 as the excitement builds and we spend more time getting to know the kids and families in the community better!

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We have begun to ask ourselves...What would we do if our neighbor was starving right before our eyes? Would we not help? Today, their plight is not hidden from us. It is known. We believe there is a clear mandate that we must care for societies most vulnerable members, the widow, the orphan, those in extreme poverty. If you are stirred to a similar belief, if you know there is more that you must do,
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