What exactly am I doing in Swaziland? By: Audrey Wright

The last three blog posts I’ve done have been sort of serious, so I thought I’d do one that simply describes some of what I’m doing here in Africa for my internship.

I am the writing intern. Yes, it is an intentionally vague title. I’ve done a variety of writing since I’ve been here: blogging, profiles, and reflections. My first assignment has been gathering information on each of the 35 little ones at the El Roi Baby Home and constructing uniform biographies. Since each has a unique story of how they got here and the amount of written information on he/she varies, it’s been a bit more challenging than I originally thought, but still a joy to put together. The biographies include their Christian name, the Biblical namesake behind it, who named them, their Swazi name and its meaning, and a short summary of the baby’s journey to Project Canaan. One of my most favorite parts of this whole project has been reading the Bible as I research the babies’ Christian names. For example, one baby was named after Anna the Prophetess from the Gospel of Luke. She only is mentioned in three verses, but she is said to have been a fiercely devoted follower of God and predictor of Christ’s coming. Though I have read Luke many times, I couldn’t recall Anna’s story prior to researching her. And it’s been that way with many of the other babies, too. I have a very neat job!

I’m also involved with TOMS & FMSC. Heart for Africa is a partner of both TOMS shoes and Feed My Starving Children. Once or twice a year, they send in reports detailing their outreach partnership and successes/hardships. I’ve been given the opportunity to put some of these reports together, which has proven to be quite awesome. In writing these reports, I encounter and get to tell some of the most precious stories of how HFA has been able to reach out to the community. Not only have they given away thousands of shoes just this summer, HFA in partnership with TOMS has been able to keep kids in school, furthering their education and benefitting the future of this country, since children must have a pair of shoes to attend school and some pupils would not have any otherwise. Feed My Starving Children, a faith-based organization, helps HFA distribute some 74,000 hot meals per week to the surrounding community. UH, THAT’S AWESOME! The manna packs are filled with nutritious food, which will keep the students wearing TOMS healthy enough to continue thriving at school.

I get to follow Mrs. Janine Maxwell around. Though I do love the writing part of my internship, perhaps the most incredible part of my time here has been being able to tag along with the superwoman who is Janine, the co-founder of Heart for Africa and “leader of the pack”. Talk about a woman after God’s own heart! She has followed Him thousands of miles away from her home country pursue His true purpose for her life. And boy is she motivated to do whatever He may ask. I told her last week when we were venturing into town to visit a pregnant girl (whose baby, Daniel, is now at El Roi) that it’s as if the hand of God just sits on her shoulder as she goes about her business in Swaziland, making a way for her in the darkness and connecting the dots of His will. She has a triple-A personality combined with a fierce love for Christ; Janine is absolutely fantastic at what she does. I am so thankful to be able to learn from her.

I am living with some awesome people. There are ten of us in total. Four interns: JD, Danny, Danielle, and myself. We all live at the Lodge, which is in a top corner of Project Canaan, with some other long-term volunteers. Danny is from Missouri and is the farm intern; he helps out with various things on PC, such as fixing engines, changing oil on farm equipment, burning firebreaks, and helping with harvesting. JD—from Pleasanton, California—and Danielle—from Missouri—are the trip interns. They spend half of their time at the Lodge and the other half at the Lugogo Sun Hotel with the trip participants who fly in every other week, helping out with trip logistics. Mike & Austin are here until December, and have been here since early 2013. Mike—from Wisconsin—operates heavy machinery, and he’s been clearing several spots for construction while I’ve been here. Austin, from my hometown of Alpharetta, Georgia, is here helping with carpentry; anything from baby cribs to kitchen cabinets. Shelby and Riley, recent high school graduates, just arrived and are here for six months working at the baby home. And finally, Jimmy (HFA’s president) and his wife, Chrissy, are also back-and-forth between the hotel & Lodge, supervising the incoming volunteer trips and planning for the next one in-between.It’s been an absolute blast getting to know everyone. We have some of the most entertaining dinner times I’ve ever been a part of (just picture 10 people trying to cook at once) and I’ve learned a million new card games since arriving (no TV means no after-dinner movie!). They are some of the most genuine, selfless, and joyful people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, and we all have bonded greatly in the span of two short weeks. We have wonderful fellowship times where we talk about our relationships with God, and we also have times where all we do is laugh at one another for being silly.
It’s a beautiful thing to know that God has purposefully brought us all together from various places and different walks of life for just short period of time to bond and serve together.

Living on a farm in Africa is an adventure. Living at the Lodge, though extremely nice when compared to most living conditions here, has been an adventure in itself. It’s the middle of winter here, yet there are more spiders hanging from our ceilings than I’ve ever seen in the US. Being the nerdy girl I am, I don’t mind them (and think they’re actually pretty cool) but it’s still kind of unsettling when you leave the kitchen to go to your room and almost run into a large orb spider hanging inches from your face. Oh hey there!There isn’t heat or air conditioning, so it can get pretty chilly at night. I sleep with four blankets on my bed and I am dressed in pajama pants & a shirt, my Patagonia fleece + fuzzy socks, and still find myself getting cold sometimes. The wind is a bit unpredictable too. For a few nights during the first week, Danielle and I (the only ones living in the girls dorm at the time) would be woken up at night as our door was blown open by the wind. So, now we have to barricade our door each night with a chair…just to keep out the wind! We’ve had a few cold showers here and there, just to keep things interesting. There are occasional bad smells in the bathroom and surprising water pressure changes. And if you hang up your clothes to dry and forget them overnight, they’ll be wet again in the morning. Always an adventure!

Compared with the rest of the farm, though, the Lodge is a tame place. Last week at the Farm Manager’s Building, they caught a 20ft python that was just chilling in the bushes nearby. Don’t worry; it was escorted off of PC to go live on a reserve so the babies at El Roi need not fear.The walk to and from anywhere else on the farm from the Lodge is quite a hike, considering how we overlook most of the property up here. I definitely think I will come back to the US not only in better shape mentally and spiritually, but physically as well! If you read my “A Walk to Remember” blog, that experience really made me thankful for the phenomenal transportation system we have in the States. Dirt roads, though more scenic, definitely make walking & driving more of a ride than a drive.

I’m having the time of my life. Though I’ve been faced with tough situations and have been dealing with my own life problems, I could not be in a better place right now. Being surrounded by loving, Godly people who make you laugh on a daily basis is just the medicine a soul needs to heal and be renewed. I get to love on 35 of the cutest little ones you’ve ever seen and write about their stories. I get to learn about and be moved by the country of Swaziland. I get to reach out to the surrounding community with the love of Christ. And oh, it’s a marvelous thing to be a part of! I know God has me here for a reason and I take comfort in that when I get sad or homesick. I hope to return so filled up with purpose that I continue to serve Christ daily back at college, at home, and wherever I may go.

Thank you to all who have been keeping up with and praying for me…I am incredibly grateful to have such utterly amazing people in my life. I love you all!

XOXO,Audrey

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A Summer in Swaziland: An Intern’s Excitement By: JD Murphy

Last summer was my first trip to Swaziland and my first time serving with Heart for Africa. I had served on several mission trips to Mexico, but during the other trips my heart had not been affected as much as it was while serving with Heart for Africa. Jesus showed me what it truly means to be humble. He showed me that a missions trip is not always about building something, but just about getting on your hands and knees and placing a new pair of shoes on a child’s feet or just playing with them and seeing them smile or hold your hand. I have always wanted to serve on a missions trip longer then two weeks and Jesus has blessed me with this amazing opportunity. I am looking forward to getting to experience a long term missions trip and witnessing what other lessons God plans to show me this summer in Swaziland. I have also prayed about serving as an intern this summer to see if Jesus is calling me to serve Him as a missionary and I am looking forward to Him speaking to me while I serve in Swaziland. Since coming home from my trip last summer Jesus has filled my heart and head with the memories from my trip everyday. Until then I count down the days till I bored the plane and head to Swaziland, the place that truly changed my heart and my life.

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An Intern Summer Wrap Up By: Jana Franz

54 days in Swaziland

12 hour night shifts at El Roi Baby Home

46 homesteads visited in the communities surrounding Project Canaan

3 seasons of Flashpoint watched

THOUSANDS of TOMS Shoes placed on children’s feet

11 babies loved on at El Roi Baby Home

1 snake sighting

60 loads of laundry hand washed

23 rural churches blessed

2 fires fought by interns

10 hearts forever changed

I’m not sure that I, or any of the interns, knew what we would ultimately experience during our time here in Swaziland.  I know when we return home, we will need to be prepared to share our experiences and memories with our family and friends who will be curious about our time spent here.  Some memories will be easy to share such as riding in the back of the Isuzu on bumpy roads trying not to ingest too much dirt or chasing goats hoping to catch one.  But how do you put in words what we experienced when it is sometimes hard for us to understand ourselves?  I met a family of 18 at a homestead and none of the 6 adults had any permanent employment.  I held a child that is HIV positive.  I saw tears run down a gogo’s face as she explained to us that she often does not know where her next meal will come from because she relies on handouts.  I visited with a young blind woman who is often left at her homestead by herself and has been raped because she is vulnerable.  I stepped into homesteads where more people than I can count on one hand sleep in one room and hope that the few dirty blankets they own will keep them warm at night.  I met a man that walks 2 ½ hours to and from work each day and then does manual labor in the hot African sun.  And while these are only a few of the stories I experienced, I know that each intern experienced the same or others that are similar.

While it may be difficult to explain our experiences in Swaziland with the words that would give them the justice they deserve, I’ve realized that it’s not about trying to understand and explain specific experiences because some things are not meant to be understood by us.  But what I have come to clearly understand about our time here is that nothing we have experienced was by accident.  God invites us every day to join Him in what He is doing.  I love knowing that He was preparing each of our hearts to accept the invitation to join Him in Swaziland this summer and we did.  It was His plan to bring Ally, Britta, Caroline, Chris, Garrett, Jessica, Kaylen, Rebekah, Reece and I to Swaziland to experience specific people and specific places and specific events but most importantly to experience Him.  Our opportunity to be here was not because we are special or because we deserved it but because of the grace of God.  And because of His invitation and His mighty grace, ten hearts have been forever changed.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4: 12-13

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Student Intern Blog By: Garrett Lobaugh

Traveling into the communities around Project Canaan

By: Garrett Lobaugh

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Galatians 5:13

All decisions in life are motivated by specific reasons and objectives. I must admit that my decision to become a summer intern was somewhat selfish and was driven by my desire to feel good about who I was and the things I was doing. Little did I know that this single decision would, and has, changed my perspective and understanding of what truly is important in life and that the capacity to love is limitless. The Swazi people have taught me to grateful in all things – even when understanding and hope seem fleeting.

Today I met a woman, Lizzy, who is 91 years old. She lives in a large, run down homestead with just a 12-year-old grandson to help carry the burdens that life often brings. Although our time with her was short, her impact was great. Lizzy has experienced much loss, including both her husband and her child. She is now raising her orphaned grandson, but I can’t help but assume they raise each other. She relies solely on the help of her husband’s second wife’s son. She also just lost her kitchen structure because of a fire, most likely arson, while she was away at church. Her safety is in constant jeopardy and she faces the threat of someone coming into her home and stealing her things or causing harm. But even through her continual desperation and fear, she has and will forever be a beacon of hope for me. Although the words she spoke may fade from my mind, I cannot forget her open arms that welcomed me not only into her home, but into her heart.

Over the course of the past several weeks, I have had the opportunity to be welcomed into the rooms of many different homes. The picture to the right is the inside of a one-room home. At first glance, you may feel that things could not be much worse than they appear. I certainly felt this way. But as I have come to learn, that what you see is what you get. They have clothes, blankets, a candlestick, a raised bed, and even a teddy bear. Far too often this trip I have walked into similar shaped homes with empty floors and barren walls. As a typical American, I couldn’t help but look around and feel sorry for their living conditions. My heartstrings were pulled as I realized they had little more than nothing. But I have quickly come to understand that the Swazi people are not only proud of where they live, but are grateful for what God has provided for them. Although each day may not offer a peaceful night’s rest or thoughtful mind free of worry, they are confident in our God and in His ever providing hand.

As interns, we are often asked how we choose which families to help. Lizzy explained it so well today when she stated, “It was in God’s plan for us to meet”. As with all things in life, our actions should, and can be motivated by the gentle persuasion of God’s forever outreached hand. I have never felt the love of God more strongly or seen it as apparent than while I am with my Swazi people. As I finish the remainder of my internship and return back home, I pray for open eyes and a willing heart as God shapes and prepares the plans He has for me. As Lizzy so simply and purely taught, it’s all in God’s plan.

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