I can still hear it… – by Volunteer Janice Johnson

I can still hear it…By Volunteer Janice Johnson

I can still hear the chickens loud and proud announcing, “This is the Day that the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  A couple of hours later the “Aunties” are meeting in the baby home singing and praying to God, our Father, as they bless the baby campus and walk the halls of the toddler home.  Around 7:05 am, I hear the pitter patter of feet running down the hall.

That was two weeks ago, when I had the opportunity to live and serve in the toddler home on Project Canaan in Swaziland, Africa with 24 toddlers.  Twenty-four different personalities that reminded me throughout the day of God’s goodness and grace.  I thought I knew what my role would be while I was there, but according to GOD’s plan and purpose, everyday was a different experience and an opportunity to serve Him…through the aunties, the children, at the pre-school and in unison with everyone on the farm.  I will never forget riding in the back of a beat up old pick-up truck with Chloe when we brought Nomsa “home” (in the back because her Tuberculosis is highly infectious so she had to ride outside.  So we joined her with masks on).  We heard the Aunties singing God’s praises (yet again) so she could see her twin daughters, Leah and Rachel, who live at the baby home.  Reading books and saying prayers with the toddlers, walking to Nomsa to take her meals, and “being thankful” in the midst of it all.

That’s what happens when you “Let Go and Let God”.  You experience His love and devotion in so many ways.  Several years ago, our Senior Pastor, Andy Stanley, did a sermon called One, Not Everyone.  It was very clear to me that in this season that I would go “Deep and Wide” in Swaziland with Heart for Africa.

On my last morning, as I helped dress another happy but squirmy toddler, I prayed and thanked God for this new generation.  Those pitter patter feet would walk for HIM;  those lips would speak for HIM;  and those hands would work for HIM.  And as young Gabriel would say…AMEN!

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Home – by Maria Koopmans, Long-Term Volunteer

Having spent the past few weeks staring at ticket prices on our computer screen in the hopes of joining the celebrations for my husband’s sister’s wedding back home, I’ve had time to sit and reflect on that small, four letter word “home”. There are now many places that I can label as “home”. My heart and my passport specify Ireland as my first home followed by Haiti, a little country in the Caribbean. Haiti was where I met my husband, Arlyn, a Canadian dairy farmer. While both of us lived and worked at an infant care facility there, I had the opportunity to witness some of Arlyn’s talents; it’s not every man who can spend his days busy fixing vehicles and repairing maintenance issues while evenings were spent caring for fragile and sick babies. Although I saw some of Arlyn’s many talents, I did not begin to comprehend his love for farming while we served there. There’s a little log cabin by a lake in Canada where we first began to learn how to be married that is also “home”.  We are still learning what God has for us in marriage.  Now we call a little part of the Kingdom of Swaziland “home”.

Working at Project Canaan my days are filled with 59 beautiful children that I get to watch grow, develop and prosper. Serving at the El Roi Baby home, I get to see first hand the transformation that occurs in the babies placed in our care. Watching and being a little part of the process that helps these little ones to grow and respond to love is such a privilege. I love seeing babies achieve their firsts- first smiles, rolling over, sitting up, standing, first steps and each of these milestones are rejoiced. It’s fun to watch little personalities develop, to see how they respond to love and to know that these babies have been chosen by El Roi, the God who sees, and regardless of what their back stories may be they now get to experience love and grow up in an environment where they will learn about their Saviour.

Many days are filled holding and loving on the little ones.  Other days I help at hospital appointments, help care for any of the sicker children and enjoy playing with the active toddlers. When the work day is over and it’s time to go home I wave goodbye to little hands that frantically wave back and blow kisses and I know that the following day will be filled with love again. I’m so thankful that I get to share God’s love with so many special little people and that I too experience His unconditional love through them.

Arlyn’s time is divided between the Lusito Mechanics shop helping to repair many of the farm’s vehicles and equipment while training others and the new dairy where he’s busy ensuring that the dairy cows are producing enough milk to meet the children’s needs and the local guys are developing some dairy farming skills too. Watching Arlyn work with something he is so passionate about, I get to experience the joy he has as he uses the skills he grew up with to serve others here in Swaziland. Often in the evenings when we’re sitting at home reflecting on our days’ activities Arlyn will be deep in thought.   While I dream of healthy, happy babies, his thoughts are usually about increasing milk production, improving the cow’s feed or how to fix a challenging repair job.

Home has been many places for both of us and I’ve begun to realize that home is wherever the other is, where God has called us both to be. I’m so thankful that we get to call Swaziland home; that we get to serve God in such a beautiful place with His beautiful people. Project Canaan is serving so many people in Swaziland- the babies in our care, the employees on the farm, the rural churches’ feeding programs among others and we’re grateful that we get to be a part of the team that attempts to be a reflection of God’s love here in this beautiful country that we call home.

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Unity in Christ – by Kristal Flentge, Long-Term Volunteer

My husband and I and our children moved to Swaziland in January of this year.  We have had an amazing experience so far and I could talk for hours about all the ways God has shown up both in our preparations for moving here and in our adjustments and experiences once we arrived.  But there is one thing that has made my spirit sing in ways that nothing else has and that is this: the beautiful unity of the team working on the ground with Heart for Africa.

There are several volunteers and employees here and we all come from different backgrounds.  Some of us are white and some of us are black.  Some are American, some are Canadian, some are Kenyan…and that’s just to name a few of the nationalities represented.  We are Baptists, Charismatics, Assemblies of God, and more.  We are men and women, we are young and old, we are new Christians and mature Christians.  We represent many walks of life but there is one thing that ties us all together – the love of Christ.

Theologies, life experiences, backgrounds…in my short time here, I have not seen these hinder our group as we seek to serve the people of Swaziland.  We work together to solve problems, help others, grow our organization, and ultimately, to give glory to God.  We even throw in a few fun evenings of relaxing as a group in there!

 It is sometimes easy to become wrapped up in our differences.  Especially in the American Christian culture, our differences lead us down paths of infighting and discord.  At times, it can be hard to know how to step past those differences and simply work to love one another.  I have been immensely blessed to experience the unity and love here.  It is something that will not be soon forgotten. Our differences are not unimportant.  But the one thing that is of ultimate importance is the one thing we all have in common – a passion for Christ and His children.

I am so thankful that God has shown our family a clear picture of how His people can work together to do His good.  Thank you, Lord, for our experiences here.

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Love, Hope, and Swaziland by Flipper Kao

I have travelled to Swaziland twice from Taiwan.  As I left Lugogo Sun in July of 2010, my first trip to Africa, I decided to go back as soon as possible, because I had been literally connected with this country. I want to share some of my experiences in Africa, especially the people I met, which is the most precious part in my memories. The following stories are mainly based on my trip in 2011.

Mark Haflinger, a strong man with tenderness from New Mexico, whom I met on 2010’s trip, was the guy sitting next to me on the bus to Lugogo Sun from O.R. Tambo Airport. Though we have known each other for a year, we still started our conversation with talking about our family. We had great time chatting. After a while, I ask a question to Mark, “Why did you decide to come back here?” Mark gave me a straight answer, “’Cause God sent me here. He asked me to come, how did I dare to say no?” The answer shocked me. I decided to go back to Swaziland because I made a promise (sorry Janine I know you don’t like for us to say promises we can’t keep) to the locals that I will come back. I love the land, the church, the pastor, and all of the people in the church “Jesus is the answer”, it seems reasonable for me to go back to serve again. But Mark’s answer reminded me the originality of volunteering: because God sends us to do, and we should praise for every chance HE give us to serve others. That’s also the same thing I learned from Derek Edwards, team leader of my team for both years. My first thought to him is a very devout guy, which was proven to be truth. While farming the crops in the village, he always said “Thank you Jesus” every time he stroke the land with the hoe. He must be the strongest person I have ever met, and also the most humble one. He is humble to everyone as well as to the Lord. He spent all of his energy to serve every day, making him exhausted every evening. He is my best model of serving as the servant of the God. I do learn many lessons from him.

Let’s talk about the locals I met in Swaziland. Senzo Sukati, my best friend in Dondon village, is 12 years elder than me. He is really an amazing guy who taught me a lot about the country. On the first day I knew him, he introduced the school system in Swaziland to me. I asked a naïve question, “How come your children don’t go to the college?” “Some of them haven’t been to high school yet.” he replied, “Most of them have lost one or both of their parents, and the family often have at least 5 children to raise. How can they make enough money for the tuition to the college? Even if they can, no one’s going to pay for the family living since the tuition fee is all they have.” His answer reminded me the fact of this country: 42% HIV positive and an average age of 29. That was the first thing I learned from a real Swazi, desperation. However, he and all the villagers showed me the enthusiasm and hope of the church very soon by their breath-taking singing. The voice penetrated into my heart, almost making me cry. I was completely touched by these people. They have nothing, but they praise Him. They have appreciation. That’s the most valuable thing I was able to take back from Africa: appreciation. In later days, he helped us finish the gate of the garden by collecting some old nails from the abandoned wood. He also taught me many SiSwati words and even phrases. By the last day we were there, realizing we were about to go, Senzo held my hands sincerely and said, ”What you guys do for us is really a good thing, which all of us appreciate a lot. But when you go back to your city, your area or your country, you guys should do the same good things.” This statement astonished me. You can try to imagine these words spoken out through the mouth of a person who has nothing. Oh no, just like Mark and Derek, Senzo is totally full of faith. This is also one of the important lessons I had in Swaziland.

On the preparation day for Litsembe 2011, our team was asked to collect the trash beside the path. My lovely grandma, Karen Ward, asked me a question “I heard you say after coming to Africa your life was totally changed. How has it changed?” At the moment I didn’t give her a good answer, because I haven’t summarized all the ideas in my mind. Now I CAN tell you a clear answer, Miss Karen. My life was totally changed because I know how to trust in God, how to  be humble and how to praise HIM. These are life-time lessons I will never forget.

Last but not least, I want to express my thanks. Thanks to every volunteer in Africa. Thank you Janine for bring all of us there. Thank you Seth for giving me a big hug to let me know you still remember our friendship. Thank you Karen, Sarah, Keely, and James, you bring lots of fun to our team while serving at the church. I am sure you’re fit for a pink beanie Miss Karen. Thank you Greg, the coins you gave to the 7 young lions not only give them hope of new life, but also give me the courage to say goodbye to them with a smile but tears. Thank you Spencer, you always greet me so enthusiastically. Thank you Michael, Matt, Uncle Tom, Randy and Corey, knowing you guys enriched my lives in Swaziland. Thank you James Liao, I wouldn’t have had the chance to go to Swaziland without your efforts. Thank you every Taiwanese people, all of you made me feel at home every night when we held our meeting outside. Also thank you Amber for inviting me to write this article. And most importantly, THANK YOU MY LORD.

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