eSwatini Blog 2019

 August 16, 2019
It’s really been too long. We’ll sum up when we arrive in the States. Can’t believe it’s over!
August 9, 2019
This morning W looked out the window and said it was raining. I didn’t believe him. Asanda with her umbrella will confirm who was correct. It’s the first rain we’ve experienced since our arrival. Z and W are pictured below with two of their close friends at our apartment building.  Bonkhe and his sister just departed for a month long holiday in South Africa. We, too, will be leaving soon. We have nearly completed our assessment of the Kukhany’okusha Cares for Children Project. We’ve visited our last NCP. Sunday will be our final worship service followed by a meeting with the board. Monday we depart for our own holiday in South Africa on the Eastern coast. W said it yesterday. “I am going to miss eSwatini.”
August 5, 2019
July 29, 2019
Today we traveled about an hour to Mbabane, the capital, to renew our visas at the Immigration Ministry office. Once cleared to stay through August, we hit the grocery store to buy goodies for our next care point visits. We learned the hard way that we had better bring lollipops to distribute to the children after they have been served lunch. You should see evidence of the treats in one of the pictures below.
Yesterday we shared an epic worship service in Manzini. Sara and I both addressed church school groups, she the Women’s Fellowship and I the Men’s. Kukhany Okusha Zion Church differs from our tradition in that men and women sit separately in the sanctuary. As ministers, Sara and I also sit separately from our kids. We are up front with the elder leaders and pastors. A couple weeks ago, I preached what turned out to be the longest sermon if my career, 30+ minutes, given that every word I spoke was translated into Siswati. Rev. Sandile doubled my effort! We now know that our kids can manage 4 hours of worship in addition to an hour of education. Wow, they are amazing!
On Saturday we traveled to Shewula, a distant care point that educates and feeds about 55 children. We delivered donations from Indiana and New Hampshire. Nelson Elementary students will recognize the homemade cards we offered. The care givers were especially thrilled to receive the first aid kit and cooking utensils (including plates for each child).IMG_20190727_111722386IMG_20190727_111500122_HDRIMG_20190727_112028585IMG_20190727_114527127IMG_20190727_122335624_HDRIMG_20190727_124245130IMG_20190727_131051267IMG_20190728_112104050
July 26, 2019
Today we had a nice visit with the Bishop Emeritus Dhlamini, (he is known as Mkhulu Bishop which means grandfather Bishop) and his spouse, Gogo (grandmother). They welcomed us into their home with singing, hospitality and stories. Mkhulu Bishop founded Kukhany Okusha Church in Manzini in the 1980s and helped it grow into one of eSwatini’s largest deniminations. He is still passionate about the church and its mission and sends his well wishes to all of his friends in the United States.
July 25, 2019
It’s been too long since our last post. It hasn’t been for lack of trying though. Over the past few days I have written three epic posts only to watch them dissappear when I pressed the update button. Fingers crossed on this one!
Today, while W and I shopped for more cooking supplies in Manzini, Sara, Z and M visited Mgungundlovu NCP. They delivered the monthly food supplies, first aid kits, and other donated items care of Nelson Elementary School, Nelson  Congregational Church, UCC, and First Congregational Church of Wilmot, UCC. Nice job New Hampshire! This care point feeds 15 children daily and 40 over school vacations. Additionally, they planted maize on their property, harvesting over 300 kgs of crop.
Tomorrow we will visit the Bishop Emeritus at his homestead. He is pictured below in the blue clergy vestment. He was in attendance at church last week when I was asked to provide the Word of God (sermon). It was an honor to preach during worship, assisted by Rev. Sandile who translated my words into Siswati.
July 21, 2019
We attended the Braai (barbeque) Festival today after church. Thousands of people, hundred of grills, and a lot of fun.
Here’s a picture of W. getting a lift on Rev. Gideon’s back. They were enjoying live music and dancing.
July 19, 2019
 17 years ago, today, Sara and I married near the pinnacle of Mt. Monadnock.  I never would  have predicted  we’d celebrate our anniversary
in eSwatini with three kids in tow. I couldn’t have planned a better celebration. Happy Anniversary!
We’ve had some down time this week during which we’ve explored a bit of the country. We’ve witnessed cultural dances, visited historic villages and shopped in artisan markets.  We even went to the movies one evening at the only theater in the country (22 rands per person=$1.60).
Today we began planning our next site visits. We intend to interview caregivers, teachers and graduates of the KCCP as we assess the overall impact of the program. We will also deliver more supplies in support of their work.
A night time view of a controlled burn of dry grasses  along the highway.
Sunday worship
All ministers wear collars during worship. This was a first for me so I had to purchase some before we left. It was old hat for Sara as this was true in Zimbabwe as well.
July 17, 2019
A little teamwork hand washing our clothes in the bathtub.
Yesterday morning we explored Manzini. The boys read books in the public library while Z blogged a bit on his Google classroom; he was excited to find the ever elusive internet access in their computer lab. The library doesn’t have the resources of a typical American library. The books are well worn and several decades old. Sara and W visited the open air market picking up some fresh fruit. A couple vendors aggressively vied for their business.
Later in the day we met with Kahala at her office in the Council of Swaziland Churches. The director of the organization sat in on our meeting and provided more background information on the history of the neighborhood care points throughout the country. He offered us use of their landline internet connection, if ever we find an adapter for our devices. I may have mentioned that WiFi is unreliable here; compiling data and working on reports has priven a bit of a challenge.
July 16, 2019
The celebration Sunday was a lot of fun.  Caregivers and children arrived from a few of the sites to join us. They sang and danced. I was interested to see that parents respond universally, recording their kids’ performances on their phones. That gave us permission to record some pictures and videos of our own which I hope to post later.
After worship we met with the delegation from Indiana and the church board. We reviewed the past year of the care program, highlighting accomplishments and challenges.
Yesterday we visited the Swazi Cultural Village. They reenacted traditional dances and gave us a glimpse into what life was like in eSwatini years ago.
July 15, 2019
Today we bid farewell to the crew from Indiana. Janice, Ellie, Donna and Chris flew back to Indianapolis via Johannesburg, Amsterdam, and Detroit. Janice and her family have been partners in the care point venture from day one; it was a fortuitous movement of the Spirit that our visits overlapped. We appreciated their insight, guidance, and kindness.  We will miss their company and wish them a safe journey home.
July 14, 2019
This morning we were roused from sleep by the congregation next to our apartment. Their minister’s voice booms throughout the neighborhood as does their music at 7:00 a.m.  Typically we hear the Muslim call to prayer at 5:40 a.m., broadcast from the local mosque. It is a beautiful invitation.
Yesterday was our first site seeing day. We hired a man named Mkhulisi to drive us to Mlilwane, the closest wildlife sanctuary. We biked, drove in an open air safari, and hiked through the reservation. It was stunning. eSwatini is bordered by mountains and yesterday we had an up close view. In addition to the landscape, we saw a variety of wildlife including zebras, blesbucks, impalas, antelopes, baboons, vervet monkeys, warthogs, birds, and enormous crocodiles. Later in the month we hope to visit another sanctuary that has the big 5 animals
Today a huge celebration is planned for worship. Caregivers and children from around the country will join the congregation in Manzini. I am going to pay close attention to their opening ritual of the service. Members march, barefoot, in a circle, singing songs. At one point the worship leaders choose a walking stick that looks like a cross. The marching turns into a three step dance that involves spinning. The whole process lasts about 20 minutes, after which the entire congregation gets on their knees and prayers aloud their individual prayers. Perhaps we will join the circle when we are feeling more confident next week.
Here are some pics from another care point visit. The children shared some of their lessons with us. They shouted songs and words in English (this is the official language of government and commerce…all billboards, street and shop signs are in English) at the top of their lungs.
July 11, 2019
Sawubona, unjani? (Hello, how are you?)
Ngiyaphila. (I am fine)
It’s been a few days since our last post. We have visited more care points, helped move blocks for the masons while they constructed a new bathroom for a preschool, and experienced the hazards of traveling rough roads.
While Sara and M. visited with Kahala, the Global Ministries Missionary assigned to the National Council of Swaziland Churches, I traveled to the care point in Thesalonika with  Z and W. Most of the journey was on “tar” as they would say. The final 20 minutes were rough gravel and dirt. A rock cut the fuel line and we left a trail of gasoline behind us for a few kilometers. The regional Bishop rescued us by delivering us to the site and, eventually, providing a temporary repair. The fuel line continued to leak for the 3 hour drive home; Z and W squished into the other vehicle just in case.
We have been visiting sites with a group from Indiana. They have provided most of the funding for the buildings, food and supplies that keep the care points running. Typically there is a presentation ceremony/gathering where greetings are exchanged and the supplies offered. After the children have eaten their daily meal of rice and beans we get out the soccer balls and bubbles. Many of the children are active and excited to play. In Thesalonika, some of the children appeared less energetic and a little more leary of strangers. This area of eSwatini was hit particularly hard by the HIV epidemic.
Today we have our first morning off to visit the open market. Later today we are off to the next care point.
(The goat given to us as a sign of appreciation for bringing supplies. It will be prepared for us at the church celebration scheduled for Sunday.)
July 8, 2019
Yesterday we experienced a wonderful worship service with our new friends at Kukhany Okusha Church. The Bishop, their pastors, and elders led the three hour service. The Marean boys were fantastic throughout! The congregation held an all night funeral service the evening before so we were told Sunday service was low energy. Still, there was a lot of singing, dancing and movement.
Today we visited another care point. It is taking us between 1.5 -2 hours drive each way to reach our destinations. We drove through a reservation and saw an elephant and giraffes near the road. When we arrived, the caregivers, teacher and children showed off their skills. They demonstrated lessons, sang numerous songs and prepared a nice meal for us which we ate by hand. We delivered preschool supplies, food and funiture.
July 7, 2019
Yesterday we had a busy day at one of the care points. It is a newly constructed building which we helped paint. We gathered with church leaders, caregivers, and about 100 children and youth. We worked, played, and shared a modest meal.
This morning we will worship at Kukhany Okusha Zion Church. The Bishop told me to “bring fluids” as the service begins at 11:00 am and may conclude around 2:00 pm.
July 6, 2019
Here we are outside our apartment. Dumile, organizer extraordinary, will take us to a new site for a visit and painting.
July 5, 2019
We arrived on Wednesday and were greeted at the airport by Rev.  Gideon. He drove us from Johannesburg, South Africa to our apartment in Manzini, eSwatini. After a relaxed day acclimating to the time change, we left early this morning to visit one if the eight care points supported by the Zion Church. We delivered supplies, shared a meal and games  with preschool and primary school aged children, and met another group of volunteers. Tomorrow we will put on our painting clothes and help spruce up another care point.
As you may have guessed, we have limited access to the internet at this time but we’ll keep posting as often as we can.
July 1, 2019

To our beloved community, on the day of our departure to eSwatini as short term volunteers for Global Ministries, we want you to know that we can never thank you enough for your kindness, your love, your support and your trust in us.  You have given us gifts beyond measure. Financial gifts that have lifted the burden of worry and anxiety that otherwise would have traveled with us.  Physical gifts in the presents you have given us to pass on to the children there. Spiritual gifts in your prayers, now and in the weeks to come. Emotional gifts in the ways you not only care for us, but have truly and fully become family, kin.  These indeed are gifts without measure. They are a mantle of protection that we will carry with us as a family as we go on this grand, but also slightly nerve wracking adventure. Thank you!