Father and Son in Swaziland By: Scott and Evan Anderson

My name is Evan Anderson and in July 2011 I went with Heart for Africa to Swaziland.  It was an amazing experience.  One of the things that impacted me the most was the children.  When I first arrived I was so happy to see the children until one of them cupped their hands together and asked, “Can I have some food?”, it made me so sad knowing that I had no food to give them.  Another child asked me to read them a story from the bible, so I started reading the story of creation and before I knew it I had 40 kids surrounding me.  I felt like they all looked up to me.  Me, of all people!  I said to myself, “Why do they want to play and do things with me?  I’m just a regular 10 year-old boy, just like some of them.”  On the last day as we drove away the children yelled “bye!”  I was so happy.  I really liked my trip.  I recommend it to anyone.  It changed my life, now let it change yours.

By: Evan Anderson, age 10

What an amazing and proud feeling I have as a father to be able to follow up my son’s blog describing his first mission’s trip and first visit to Africa.  What Evan didn’t mention in his blog was that during this trip he came to the realization that he needed and wanted God in his life as his personal Savior.  WOW!  What a night that was to sit there next to my son and hear him literally cry out for God to save him and come into his life.  Even now tears again fill my eyes remembering that night!  What a true blessing and honor it was to a part of such an amazing 10-day trip and to be able to share it and serve God with my wife, my kids, and my father.

I remember one night sitting down in the restaurant with my dad and my son having a drink and bite to eat and realizing that there were 3 generations of Anderson men sitting there reliving the events of the day. We weren’t talking about the most recent sports stories, the current economy, Evan’s upcoming school year, but rather we were talking about the day we just had serving out in the community, what impacted us the most, what we wish we could do more of, and just how truly blessed we are back here in the United States.  Blessed we are, not just financially and with material possessions but with the fact that the mere possibility of 3 generations of any given family can actually sit down together and have a conversation.

For those of you that have been to Swaziland or any part of Africa really, you know exactly what I mean by saying that we are blessed to be able to have 3 generations sit down to talk.  That opportunity just doesn’t exist in Swaziland.  Kids are raising kids there.  The parents are long gone, and by that I mean passed away, victims of the horrific spread of AIDS/HIV across the entire country.  We knew all of this ahead of time but even while you are there you see all the kids and somehow still in the back of your mind you don’t really process it correctly.  You see all the kids and you somehow think “ oh they are just here during the day, their dad is out at work and their mom is home or also at a job.  When these kids get back home later tonight their parents will be there”.  NO!  That is not how it works in Swaziland.  When those kids go home, if they even have a home to go to, they go home to no parents.  I remember the exact moment distinctively during our trip when this fact became extremely evident to me and I no longer had that false sense in my head that somehow the kids went home to parents.  It was Thursday, the last day out in the community at our church #28, Vovovo Baptist Church.  It was shortly before lunch time and we were all outside in the school/church yard playing when my wife came up to me with a beautiful little baby girl in her arms.  The baby girl wasn’t more than a year old.  Candy then asked me how I thought she got there to the church.  I looked over at all the Go Go’s who were cooking lunch and assumed the girl was brought by one of them.  Candy said no, she came with her brother.  When I asked where her brother was, Candy motioned down next to her leg to a small boy, not more than 5 years old who was holding onto Candy’s leg for dear life.  I guess my puzzled and shocked look advised Candy that I was in disbelief, because Candy went on to tell me that the boy had walked into the yard a few moments ago with his sister strapped to his back with the girls blanket.  I just could not believe what I saw there before me.  Where were the parents and what kind of parents were they to leave their one year old child under the care of their 5 year old son?!   I will tell you what kind of parents – non-existing parents in the most literal sense! They are dead!  These two small children will now go through life with just each other and how long of a life can and will they honestly have like that?  The small boy would not leave his sister’s side. If Candy or I were holding the baby girl he was latched onto our legs.  His one year-old sister was all he had in life and if he lost her or lost sight of her he had nothing else in life. With the Pastor’s help we were finally able to convince him to let us watch his sister for a bit so he could go play and actually be a 5 year-old boy for a while.  To see his face light up when he finally realized it was ok to go play and actually be a boy instead of a father figure, that’s a smile I will never forget.  But I will also never forget the fact that him or his sister will never have the opportunity to sit down and be a part of a 3 generation conversation. They can’t even sit down with 2 generations – their parents – and talk.  And what is worse about that is that they aren’t the only ones!  There are thousands upon thousands of other kids just like them.

The next time you talk to your kids or your parents – even just talking, no special movement or accomplishment, just simply talking – remember how truly blessed you are.  Thank God right then and there for that conversation for there are so many kids in Swaziland that will never know the joy of a simple conversation with their parents.  Conversations that we take for granted all too much.  Shame on us.

In closing let me encourage you, just as my son did, to make plans now to go on one of the many trips next year.  It will truly change your life, open your eyes and heart to a country in need, a country full of children who will never be able to sit at a table with 3 generations of their family and just talk about the day they had.  Stop taking life for granted, stop getting lost in your everyday conversations, decide today to give of yourself by serving on one of the mission trips. If you are a parent, especially a father, lead your family on the right path and go serve together as a family!  Who knows, you too might be able to sit around the table with 3 generations of your family and talk about the amazing day of service you all just had.  Or maybe, your son or daughter will come to you and ask you to kneel beside them as they ask Christ to be the Lord of their life!  Who knows unless you go and find out!

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Wake Up: Part 3 By: Chinua Hawk

So the morning of day two I hurried to get myself together so I could make it downstairs for 5:45 am  prayer time before breakfast. In my mind I wanted to start the day off right fully engaged and present.

This day was all about the kids, we brought bubbles, soccer balls and some much needed food for their pantry.  It seemed like we blew bubbles for hours but the kids just loved it! I admit that because my physical condition was less than stellar it didn’t take much for me to get pretty tired so I would retreat to the van and rest for a bit.  It bothered me a great deal that I couldn’t run with the kids the way I wanted to. Anyway back to the kids. I’ll whine about my own story later.

So while I’m in the van I’m still thinking about the words “just be here.”  I had stopped looking for that huge earth shattering, soul shaking, miracle to appear.  I grabbed one of the soccer balls and started tossing it back and forth with one of the kids and boy did this kid enjoy that. The next thing I knew we had a huge circle with a bunch of other kids and some of my teammates just tossing the ball back and forth. It was so much fun! The funny thing is that in this circle is where I saw God. Of course I know He’d been there all the time but I couldn’t see the forest fore the trees.

I was struck in that circle by how the children would smile when I or one of my teammates would toss the ball to them. They were so happy to be chosen. I was also struck by how attentive they were to each other and made sure that every kid had a turn to toss the ball.  I was reminded that day that God is in EVERYTHING, the small things and the big things.  I saw God in their laughter when they were trying to teach me their names and I kept getting it wrong, something I’d been doing ironically all of my life with others.

The head teacher told one of my teammates that we were a blessing to the children simply because we see them. When I’d heard that I remember thinking that that is what we all want. We all crave to be seen. We all want it known that we are here and we deserve to be acknowledged.  Think about that and then, think about how God sees you!  Think about it the next time you speak to someone without making eye contact if you even speak at all. EVERYONE deserves to be seen!

I never imagined I would care or become as attached to the kids and my team as I did. I find myself looking at the clock imaging what time it is there and what they are doing now. I wonder if there is more food in their pantry or if someone is hurting them. I find myself praying for them at random times.

I came away from this experience with two great lessons.

The first is that, things will not heal brokenness. We all have our temporary fixes for the broken areas in our lives but until we truly surrender these things over to the Father we will never be healed and able to move on past these things. I can’t say that I’m completely sure how to do this but I know I have to keep trying and praying and leaning on God to show me how.

The second lesson has a story behind it so let me tell that first.

The end of my trip was mind blowing! I had the honor of participating in an event called “Litsemba” which means hope. There were I believe 3500 kids from various places at this event including the kids from the school my team and I served. It was kind of like an all day festival for them with food and all kinds of music.

That day I saw what looked like hundreds of kids come to Christ and I was just standing on stage in tears. Here comes the second lesson.

As I’m standing there in tears God revealed to me that It didn’t matter what I thought I was coming to Africa to do. Soccer balls, soap, food, water, medicine, none of that was more important than what I was witnessing. I’m wishing I had millions of dollars to do more for these kids and that was all wrong. Their salvation was last on my list and it should’ve been first.  I cried tears of joy for the one’s that came to Christ and tears of sadness for the one’s that didn’t.

I want you all to know that I’m not telling you these stories because I want to look like a good person, I’m sharing because I want to inspire you to get involved. It doesn’t have to be Africa, there are needs you can fill in your own backyard.  Helping someone else may make your own situation appear less daunting.

I don’t like being hot. I don’t like getting dirty. I detest yard work with a passion and yet here I am wanting to go to Africa again.

God wants to do something AMAZING with your life. Don’t let fear keep you from where God is trying to take you! I’m a witness that God is not going to just drop you off in the middle of chaos and leave you by yourself.

My plan is to definitely go back again. I don’t know for sure that that is Gods plan but I’m hoping it is.

If my stories have touched you and you want to travel to Africa, I suggest going with Heart for Africa.  Check out their site www.heartforafrica.org

They are doing some incredible work so please support them in anyway you can.

Thank you so much for reading my blog and for helping me get to Africa.

Love and Peace,

Chinua Hawk

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Wake Up Part Two By: Chinua Hawk

Wowzers I’m in Africa! Now what?  God you called me here, I came, now show me some neat tricks!

I know this sounds disrespectful but it’s not meant to be. I’m just trying to illustrate how I felt on the first day. I spent the whole day looking for some “cloud by day, fire by night” type of stuff.  I wanted to see the hand of God move, literally!

After that first day I spent the almost two hour ride back trying to figure out why God

hadn’t shown up.  I was disappointed to say the least.  Later that evening I bumped into Janine Maxwell and expressed a little of how I felt to her and her response was “ stop looking for something and just be here. God brought you here so just be here.”   I recall thinking “ okay, I get it, just be here” but I still felt like I had been invited to dinner and the host hadn’t shown up.

The words “ just be here” resonated with me that whole evening. I got back to my ro

om and started to think about the whole day.  This day started with my ever so lovely and energetic Team 8 and our driver “Sim” whom we’d later discover on the last day that his name was actually “Sam”. LOL I’m still finding it hard to refer to him as “Sam”.

( I tend to drift when I’m writing but try and stay with me.) :-)

Anyway, after about two hours we arrive at the Ebholi Primary School and we meet the principal, head teacher and the other teachers.  Our team leader Grace Livingston explained what we wanted to do and we got the okay to get started. First order of business was to expand the garden that the team last year had built. We grabbed our sho

vels, hoes and rakes and went to work clearing the tall grass, weeds and rocks that seemed adamant that they were not leaving.  Back home I described digging in this soil to trying to dig through concrete. It was hard and these 400+lbs I took with me didn’t make it any easier but we got it done!  We planted orange trees, red beet, spinach, green oinion, cabbage, lettuce, bell peppers and moringa (the miracle tree).  To learn more about this amazing tree and all of it’s benefits please click on the following link to view the video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXDSksjGNCA&feature=player_embedded

I think I’m going to plant a Moringa tree in the back yard. Seriously!

Not long after we started to working some of the children were released to us and they happily helped us in the garden. I didn’t interact with them much that first day because I was busy looking for “God to come and take me by the hand and lead me up a mountain to commune with Him.” ;-)  I wonder if God thinks I’m funny?  Drifting again , sorry.

I laid down that night thinking about Janine’s words “ just be here” and the faces of those  beautiful children started to cross my mind. I couldn’t wait for day 2!

I’m going to stop here for those of you with short attention spans like myself. I don’t want you to miss anything!

Part 3 Coming Soon!

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Part One: Wake Up By: Chinua Hawk

So here I am about a month out from my trip to Swaziland and this is the first morning I’ve had to really think about it.  Months have gone by filled with task after task leaving me exhausted and completely out of gas and ideas.  Consumed with these “tasks” I put the important things aside and focused on just getting it done.  Frustration ensued and chaos arrived soon after, and it never occurred to me to seek Gods direction. I just needed to get “it” done.  I hadn’t read my bible in a few months and almost completely stopped praying, and the worst part is that I didn’t even realize it.

Two days ago I was convicted for not praying before I went to bed which was something I never failed to do until recently.  So I prayed. The next day I opened my bible up and read. I prayed again. This morning I woke up with a clear mind and more importantly I felt Gods presence again.  So I laid in bed for awhile reading, praying and thinking. I started thinking about my childhood and it hit me that I never wanted for anything.  I was never hungry. I was never without clothing or a comfortable home.  I have a mother that loved her children and worked her fingers to the bone to make sure we had what we needed. I had pets, toys and a bedroom decorated with my favorite action heros.  I could go on but one might get the idea that I’m bragging.  Trust me I’m not.  What I’m understanding this morning is that when something is your normal experience you don’t always look at it as something special or a blessing, it’s just what you have.  Some of us can go a life time without realizing how blessed we are.

My thoughts then drifted from my own experience to the reality of the orphans of Swaziland. They don’t have parents, no mother or father to love , protect and care for them. How long will it be until their next meal? Where do they sleep at night or keep warm? Who shields them from the predators?  I don’t know this world and the thought of growing up like that breaks my heart.  My grandmother used to say “God always sends somebody by.” I get what she means now. God is sending me and countless others from around the world to go “by” and represent Him by helping His children.  So for now I’m listening for the Fathers voice. I’m going where He has directed me and that place is Swaziland, Africa.

To be continued…

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