As Laura Pound and I prepare to leave for Swaziland in the morning, two random and conflicting thoughts and emotions kept playing in my brain last night when I should have been sleeping. I’ll try to capture them below.
First HOPEFULNESS – On Wednesday evening our friends Bob and Barbara Bradford stopped by and asked what we are going to be doing on our trip. As Rich and I explained to them how we hope the trip will look, I realized that each time I tell it the more I believe it to be exactly the kind of mission work God wants to anoint. Before we determined to work with the Swaziland Reformed Mission, I met (online) and had numerous conversations with Pastor Arnau Van Wyngaard. One statement he made I have oft quoted and I realize now that it has become my mission philosophy. Arnau said (from my memory – sorry if I’m misrepresenting you Arnau):
Americans tend to come to Swaziland and look for where the need is the greatest, then get to work solving the problem, resolving the need. But the most successful mission work looks first for where the fruit will be the greatest, and this is where the Swazi people are desperately trying to care for one another and solve their own problems. The fruit will be the greatest here because the people will continue working after you leave, after all, they were working hard before you ever arrived.
Could the problem of focusing on the need instead of potential fruit be what Jesus was trying to address when He told the parable recorded in Luke 13:6 to 8?
The Swaziland Reformed Mission has mobilized 500 local caregivers, volunteers who are all connected back to a church for training, care and support. They tirelessly serve their neighbors without asking for anything. Although now some western organizations have now come along side, the project was launched and very effective before anyone from America or the west noticed. And if we all disappear, they will continue to serve their neighbors as the hands and feet of Jesus.
On this trip we will be teaching coordinators about pasteurizing water at their own homestead using the sun and a little device called a WaPI (water pasteurization indicator). We will also show them how go make and use solar ovens to expedite the pasteurization process and also cook their food, eliminating the use of precious wood and also the back-braking work of standing over a pot for hours (usually with a baby strapped to your back). After teaching the coordinators we will go into the homesteads with them on visits and work with families. We are taking 700 already made WaPI’s and supplies to make 100 more with the locals. All of the supplies should be available in Swaziland or South Africa for pennies. When we leave, if God anoints our work as I believe He will, the people will be able to pasteurize contaminated water for their families without having to wait until someone comes to build them a well.
The best part is that we are working through the caregivers. My prayer is that the people will believe it is THEY, and not us, who are serving them with this new technology. It is the caregivers and their respective churches that will be there after we are gone to continue providing physical care, and more importantly spiritual care. My prayer (and will you make it yours) is that we make long lasting relationships with the leaders and coordinators of the Swaziland Reformed Mission . . . but that the individual families in the homesteads will barely remember us. My prayer is that the people served by the caregivers day-after-day will be blessed and ever more connected to their own caring neighbors, because we were there.
The second emotion I was feeling last night was HOPELESSNESS. Flipping through the channels while I tried to induce sleep, it seemed as though every single station that wasn’t showing reruns of 70’s comedies or CSI was running some kind of Michael Jackson exposé. It’s not their bad. They run what people want to see.
I couldn’t help thinking as I flipped through the channels how many millions of dollars will be spent by ordinary people to deify (others would say honor) MJ. Thousands will spend whatever it takes to get themselves to the Staples Center, which will apparently be just the first of many similar services around the country. Why? What will be gained? Who will be served? People are losing their jobs every day all over America. Children are orphaned or dying every day in sub-Saharan Africa. And besides the money we’re spending, what about all the mental energy used watching hour-after-hour of MJ life, energy that could be put to good use making a real difference somewhere, for someone besides ourselves.
Arrrrgh. We are such hopeless people . . . that is without Jesus. I need to remember Paul’s words to the Romans (15:13)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Thanks for your prayers – keep an eye on the blog and jump in with encouragement. The team will be ever so grateful to hear from home.
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