Light in the Darkness

I recently returned from my inaugural trip to Africa, specifically Swaziland.  It was an eye opening experience for me in many ways, and one that has greatly shifted the paradigm through which I see the world.  I was shown things that I did not know existed, perhaps because I chose to believe they did not exist.  I went not really have any expectations, other than I wanted to see what God wanted to show me.  He did.

On Sunday morning, my third day in the country, we attended a small church in the rural country side.  Some of you may be familiar with Church 24 and Pastor Percy.  The church consisted of four walls that were poorly put together.  (They let in enough light to read a book.)  It had a tin roof that kept out most of the rain, but not all of it.  The dirt floor had turned to mud because there was nothing behind the church to prevent rainwater from seeping in from the surrounding mountains.  The wooden benches were hard and dirty.

However, I experienced Jesus there.  There were three young women, probably 13-15 years old, on stage leading worship.  The entire congregation followed along, smiling and clapping.  They really got into it.  The pastor was a man who literally oozed humility and kindness.  It was one of the most incredible services I have ever attended.  As I scanned the audience, I saw that of the approximately 70 people who made up the congregation, probably 60 of them were children, 2 were men, and the rest women or young teenagers.  There was even one child on the other side asleep on a blanket on a dry part of the floor!  The entire service was wonderful.  I know I have not done it justice here, but Jesus was in that ramshackle building.  As the service came to an end,

we asked the pastor if we could pray for the people in the audience who had AIDS.  He went outside and brought in all the women who were just in there and a man who had not been present.  Outside of a few grandmothers here and there, all of the adults in the community, literally, had AIDS.

We then walked down the road to pray for someone who could not make it to the service.  A couple of months ago, he could walk the short distance to the church.  At this stage of AIDS that he was experiencing, he could no longer do that.  I will save you my description of his condition, but it was terrible.  I would not be surprised if he was no longer alive, and it has only been a couple of weeks since we were there.

But, there is a ray of hope in a situation that at first glance seems devoid of hope.  That same day, we went to Project Canaan.  For the reader who has not been there, it is a 2500 acre tract of raw land in the Swazi countryside.  When I say raw, I mean like an oyster.   There are parts of that are cultivated, planted, and built upon, but the vast majority of it has been untouched by human hands for generations.  It is beautiful, lush, and verdant.  It is also a place of hope in a land devoid of it.  When you look at it, at first it just seems like a large swath of green land.  Nothing more.  But, as you begin to delve down into what is going on there, you can see a plan beginning to unfold.  Though it is raw, there is a future plan in place and you can see the foundations of it.  It is literally a tangible feeling to be there and envision what is to come on this tract of land.  Very exciting.

In a land that is literally dying in droves, a land where there is an undercurrent of evil from the rape that is both everywhere and yet nowhere, and land that has no future and even less hope for a future, Project Canaan is a small light in a dark wilderness.

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