Student Intern Blog By: Britta Jarvie

When life presents you with the opportunity to go to Africa you don’t say no… at least I don’t.  When I found out about the internship with Heart for Africa I immediately knew that I wanted to apply and I began to pray that I would be accepted. Serving the Swazi people was exactly how I wanted to spend my summer and I couldn’t think of a single reason why I shouldn’t. I had been to Africa before and it was an incredible experience, one that made me happy and at peace. I was anxious and excited at the thought of coming back.

I arrived in Swaziland on June 14 and each day since has been a testament to me that God is real, God lives, and God is always with us. I have visited over 25 families and their homesteads and served with hundreds of Swazi adults and children. I have heard story after story of heartbreak and suffering. I have had to walk away from people who I knew would not be safe and I often had to accept that there was nothing that I could do for them but pray. I’ve held babies on a weekly and sometimes daily basis that had empty bellies and aching hearts. I have seen, heard, and made witness to things I never wanted to believe were possible and wished could never happen. But I can’t and will not deny the things my eyes have seen.

But amidst all of the despair, I still have great hope and calmness in my heart, not just for the Swazi people but also for myself. I have true peace – not from money, possessions, or people. I have peace from God, a glorious God who understands our deepest fears and our smallest concerns. A God who picks us up, places us in the palm of His hands, and let’s us know He has all things within His control.

As I prepare to leave Swaziland I know that I can go with a peaceful heart and a cheerful countenance knowing that the great Creator has each of us, including me, in his tender out-reached hand. I leave with a hope for things to come. I have an understanding that all things will someday be made right, and that God will never leave us comfortless. So when my heart begins to ache for the people I have grown to love, or my heart saddens for the despair that I have witnessed, I will remember that God has all things in His control. He knows us, loves us, and will never leave us because He lives. He is always with us.

Isaiah 41: 10 and 13

10 Fear though not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

13 For I the Lord they God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.

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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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Student Intern Blog by: Kaylen Knepp

What a wonderful week!

Thursday was our first day of distributing TOMS Shoes. We partner with TOMS to help provide children with new shoes. TOMS is a company in Los Angeles that with every pair of shoes purchased, gives a new pair of shoes to a child in need around the world. One for One™. We started off our day with a 5:15 a.m. wakeup to get everything ready for the ride over to El Shaddai Children’s Home (partner home with Heart for Africa). Our first stop was the preschool of El Shaddai, which some of us had never been to before. We were greeted with warm smiles and laughter of the kids playing on the jungle gym outside, always a beautiful sight.

Being that it was our first distribution, things were a tad hectic, but NOTHING can ruin the smile you see on children’s faces from a brand new pair of shoes. We started off by measuring each child’s feet, marking their hands with the proper shoe size, pulling the shoes and then putting them on their feet to make sure they fit. After finishing the distribution at the preschool, we headed down to the primary school, which is kind of like an elementary in America. They gave us a precious welcome assembly, where Janine & Jana were able to tell them about TOMS and the importance of wearing their new shoes all the time.

A lot of times when children are given something new here, like a brand new pair of TOMS, they don’t want to wear them or scuff them up. We made sure kids understood that they needed to wear their shoes every day to keep their feet protected and could do everything in their shoes because we would be back with more TOMS Shoes in about six months. We also wanted the children to realize that their new black TOMS Shoes were like the ones that us interns had bought before we came. They thought it was really cool that we had TOMS on just like them! The primary school distribution was well organized, and we are very thankful for the practice run we had Thursday.

We ended our day with hanging out at the Gables (mall) where we waited to pick up Chloe from school. We always love being out in about throughout Swaziland, you really feel like you part of the community when you see it in so many different aspects.

Being able to see all the children’s smiles and hearing their laughter after receiving their new pair of TOMS Shoes was such a delight. Knowing that was some of the only pair of new shoes those children have ever received is a hard concept to swallow, but we are so grateful for our partnership with TOMS and the new shoes each child receives. We are also looking forward to distributing more TOMS through out the summer in the community!

Today, Friday is a much more laid back day, which is wonderful since we’ve been on the go all week! The girl interns had the day to clean and tidy up things, along with finishing a rock wall by the Lodge. I, Kaylen, was lucky enough to join in on the visit to the clinic with our eight beautiful babies for their check up.  They needed one extra person to help. It was super interesting to see how the health field is here, something I’ll never forget. Reece was in charge of trash, which I know might sound somewhat unfair, but he does get to drive the ATV around PC all day! So grateful for Reece! The other two guy interns visited their churches with Jimmy for the day to let them

know when they would be coming next week and to deliver maize & Manna Packs. Ally and Caroline made some yummy peanut butter cookies with their free time today, which we totally suggest trying at home! (1 cup peanut butter + 1 egg + 1 cup sugar) Yummy. Pictures below are of baby David J He’s getting so big & healthy!

Photos by: Garrett Lobaugh

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Student Intern Blog By: Reece Jennings

Our experiences in Swaziland thus far have been nothing short of incredible.  From the desolate and down-trodden living conditions of new friends to the most beautiful mountains, roadsides, and smiles, we have seen in one week more than we could in a year in the States.

The natural thought to people who have not seen this kind of life is that it’s “eye-opening” and “truly revealing,” but what about those of us who have seen this before? Multiple times? What about those of us who are on our third trip to Swaziland and have seen the starving children and the scared widows before and all we can think is “Has life gotten better for them?” We’ve met some families in the communities around Project Canaan (i.e. our neighbors) and heard their stories and learned about their lives.  The constant prayer revealing itself to us is “Dear God, come save these people. Be their comfort. Let us be the hands and feet of Your ministry and do Your will.  Let us love them, like You loved us. Please.”  We want to help – that’s why we came. However, only through God’s power and will are we able to do anything at all.

So what have we done? We’ve met beautiful people.  12 families will be reached by our teams next week – bringing love, support and resources to make life a little bit better for them.  Listening to them tell us their stories of death, abandonment, divorce, abuse and sorrow only strengthen the truth that we need to show them God’s love.  Food for a week will make them happy, and shoes will be a blessing, but the love of God will last until death and beyond.

We’ve met a wonderful and wise gogo who loves Christ and is a true gem on this Earth, but she fears for her own safety and safety of her grandchildren.  We’ve met a woman who has been ostracized by her surrounding community and the women are spreading rumors about her.  To make things worse, she has recently found out that she is HIV positive.  A blind woman struggles to get water every day for her children and grandchildren who live with her.  She believes her sight was taken by someone or something in a dream.

One of the grandchildren of the blind woman. Photo credit to Britta Jarvie.

We’ve met a family of young girls who live with their grandfather who is 90+ years old.  He can’t provide anything for them as he has lost all mobility and relies completely on them. They do not want to care for him because he is old and stinky and dirty, and they have had to resort to “alternative” income earning activities after dropping out of school in seventh grade.  There are so many stories similar to these that we have heard.  What can we do?

We can give them shoes! We can bring them some food! We can play with the children and make them feel loved! We can share God’s love with them! Absolutely yes! These hopeless situations are certainly more than we can fix in our own power, but if we just act as the tools of God’s will, the most indispensable and amazing value in life is available to them – and they may be comforted! Bringing hope is what we’re all about!

A mild case of “need-new-shoes.”

So now we’re at Project Canaan learning to love our surrounding neighbors and learning how to love each other.  We seem to be getting the hang of it, too! To all the volunteers coming over the big blue wet thing to serve, get ready. God has a lot in store for you all.

Even on cloudy days, God’s light shines through!

Love and Peace,

Reece Jennings

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