A Week Full of Magical Insight – Chris Cheek, Long Term Volunteer

Four adults, two 4 year olds, four 3 year olds, juice bottles hidden in one bag, the aroma of all the secret seasonings of the KFC that was hidden in my purse filling the lobby, tickets purchased & eyes wide open as we walk into the theater for the six oldest first movie on the big screen.

“There are trees inside!”

“Trees don’t grow inside.”

Through the eyes of children. A few months ago I would not have even noticed the trees decorating the theater lobby. Today I see the world from a much different perspective after a few short months in Swaziland.  There are so many things in my life that for years I have not thought about until my move to Africa – like large trees in a lobby.  Of all the things the kids could have been in awe over, I never saw the trees being one of them.  The journey to the movie was filled with eye-opening moments.  First stop was the bathroom and the kids discovered the world of warm air hand dryers. This was the beginning of what became at least 10 trips to the bathroom before the hour and forty-five minute movie was over.  Of course as each one had to go to the bathroom so did the other five and all six of them wanting to wash and dry their hands using the blower.  Each child got their own small size bucket of popcorn and for the first time I’ve ever been to the movies not a single kernel of popcorn hit the floor. The popcorn was well liked by all. Each time a song came on everyone was out of their seat and dancing in the isle.  The magical works through the eyes of a child making their first journey to the movie theater.

A toaster – an old fashioned, drop your bread in, push the button, bread drops down, coils heat up and then you have toast.  A kitchen appliance, like the trees in a planter, a few months ago I would have never given it a second thought. One day this past week I was looking for a snack and thought a piece of peanut butter bread would hit the spot.  We keep our bread in the refrigerator, I have never liked cold bread so I just dropped a piece in the toaster, pushed the button down and after a couple minutes up popped my toast. All that was needed was the peanut butter and my snack would be ready. As the bread popped up I heard a quiet gasp. I looked over and watching me was one of the young aunties that started cooking for the babies a couple of weeks ago. She is in her early to mid 20’s. Her eyes had a puzzled look as she was looking at me and the toast. Then I realized she had never seen a toaster. She wanted me to tell her what it did to the bread.  In our world of conveniences it never dawned on me that someone in the year 2015 would have never seen a toaster. I know in my head that about 70% of the population of Swaziland lives in rural areas out in the bush country with no running water, no electricity and there would certainly be no toaster. Even though I knew it I just had not thought about it. It was another magical moment as I taught her how to use the toaster.

A clear plastic cube and a squeal of joy & excitement. Peter and I were in the sitting room waiting for time to pass before we walked over to the preschool on Thursday morning. In the toy box he had found clear cube. Each side was about 1 inch by 1 inch, four sides smooth and the top & bottom with circles etched in the plastic.  As he picked it up, his squeal echoed down the plaster covered cinder block hallway.  There was such joy & wonderment in the sound. I looked over and realized he had his finger on one of the circles, a circle that has a small button the size of a pin head that when pushed down caused the cube to light up. It started out blue, then turned red and followed by green. He had no idea how the colors appeared but he jumped up & down with excitement and squealed as each color would cycle around. Soon after the squeals came his young voice, “Gogo, Gogo, Gogo – look, look, look.”

This journey for me everyday reveals new insights, appreciation for the small things, new joy & hope, and a reminder of what is really important in life. This week I learned life lessons through trees inside, a hand dryer in a public bathroom, to dance in the isle when the music plays, toast popping up is magical and every day I need to look for the tiny button that will light the clear cube to blue, red and green.

Each and every week of living with 92 little ones brings lots of laughter and great fun. Throughout the year we have groups of volunteers that come to Project Canaan to help out on many different projects by using their gifts to serve – it ranges from building projects, to painting, holding & feeding babies, making jewelry, planting gardens in the community and the list goes on and on.

This past week we had seven of the Children’s Worship team from North Point Community Church in the Atlanta area come to teach our aunties about their children’s program & to learn from our aunties about worship in Swaziland.  Our week was filled with African Spirituals, Children’s Services, dancing & praising God. If we are friends on FB I’m guessing you may have seen the pictures Janine posted of me dancing with the aunties during one of the services.  As we began the Tuesday morning service, the auntie leading the service turned to me and asked me to offer the opening prayer.  Those of you that know me well, know what a strong introvert I am in processing information and how I like to have time to think before I speak.  So this caught me completely off guard & I was quickly trying to pull my thoughts together. I began to pray. Now the other curve ball in this is that in Swazi culture they pray with their eyes closed. They even say, “let’s pray with our eyes closed.” This is all fine & good and not particularly out of the norm, but I most times pray with my eyes open. So I have worked very hard over the past few months to give honor to this tradition by changing my prayer rhythms and closing my eyes.  So we now have two factors impacting this opening prayer request – I had not had a moment to think about it & I was trying to keep my eyes closed. I took a deep breath and the words began to come when all of a sudden I felt a finger of the little one sitting beside begin going up my nose.  Paul had decided it was the perfect moment to check out my nose.  What better time – my eyes were closed & from his perspective my nose was waiting to be explored. So there I was trying to pray, keep eyes closed, move his hand & not crack up laughing.  My focus was gone – I was stumbling over words, forgetting what I had prayed & trying to keep those tiny fingers out of my nose.  The only thing I regret is that no one was recording the moment because I’m certain I could have won Funniest Home Videos.

The journey continues……


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