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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