Sunday, February 28, 2010

Laura - 27 February 2010

Sorry for the delay in posting. We have no internet access to update, and can send updates only when Arnau travels here and then back to his home in South Africa.  This week has been one of traveling to see people of the Shiselweni region of Southern Swaziland. Jeanet, a wonderful young pharmacist serving a one year missionary commitment with the Home Based Care project, and I have visited some of the more difficult clients. We have a 2 wheel drive Nissan Pickup, referred to here as a “Baakie”, to reach clients further out. With Jeanet’s careful driving, we have gone mud bogging on clay roads, driven over roads with grass growing several feet high and no longer visible, and up hills with no roads to park, climb through barbed wire and then hike on foot to the homesteads of clients. I don’t know how, but only by the grace of God we have not become stuck and stranded in the mud! One very precious man we visited, John, is single, in his seventies, and living on his own far out of town. He has a serious leg ulcer that has been in various stages of healing for several years. Jeanet, since she arrived in January has been going out to visit and do dressing changes twice a week. I have been able to visit him twice, and will see him again on Monday before I leave. He has a very small homestead but a beautiful garden that he is out in and tending to each time we arrive. He does this while on crutches, due to his wound and previously having his toes on that foot amputated as a result of his injury. Bamboo grows dense around his yard to serve as a hedge, and he as woven a fence with the reeds to direct the path in. He grows his own fruit, squash, corn and chickens so that he is self sustaining, but this also puts him in danger as neighbors know of his gardening skills and want to steal from him. On Thursday I took my Polaroid camera with me, and took a picture of my teammate Patti and I with John as a gift to him. The look on his face, of pure amazement, as he watched the picture develop was priceless. He had never seen a picture of himself, much less one that magically appeared before his eyes. The last two days we have had a good bit of rain, but it falls hard for a short period of time. The paths become quite muddy, so I pray they will be passable on Monday, and we will reach John one last time before I leave.
Half our team departed for South Africa yesterday, and Jeanet went home to South Africa for the weekend to see her mom for her birthday. Kristen and I stayed on and went out on “local” visits with 2 caregivers, Jabu and Maria. We used local transportation, a small van called a Combie. They are much narrower that a 9 passenger van in America, and are marked for 16 passengers. The one we travelled in had 18 passengers. The combies only travel on the tar roads, which are limited in the country. We had to walk quite a bit and wait quite a while before one stopped to pick us up. It cost 4 rand (about .60 US) each way. When we got off, we walked several more miles on clay roads and paths to see our clients. The Caregivers are a generous and dedicated bunch. It requires a great commitment to their neighbors to continually and joyfully serve. As we walked the paths, they sang with such beautiful voices.  On our return to the church, Maria gave Jabu a 25kg bag of beans to take with us. She effortlessly placed it upon her head to carry. Kristen and I tried. I could hold it for maybe 3 seconds, without using my hands to hold it, and had a sore neck to show for it.
Missing eveyone at home. Give Camden a kiss for me! Love you all,


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Quick Swaziland update

We have a quick minute with internet access to update the blog.

Shelley, Patti and I left Laura and Kristen in Swaziland as we head to South Africa to work with two Rotary Clubs and do solar cooking training.

Not nearly enough time to tell about our time with the wonderful, selfless, sacrificial caregivers. More stories will come as time and internet access is available. The highlight perhaps, was the graduation of 42 new caregivers and the opportunity to wash the feet of the leadership team. Words cannot describe how I felt washing off the dust from miles of walking down dirt roads and goat trails to in hopes of visiting a stroke or AIDS victim. So humbling. Such an honor.

Pictures to follow. Pray for Kristen and Laura as they visit more clients and ready the store room with medical supplies. Pray for us as we have to opportunity to help people from black townships learn to save money and access safe water.


Monday, February 22, 2010

February 2010 - Laura Clark

The Swazi countryside is beautiful and green. This side of the country has rolling hills and small mountains covered with trees. It actually reminds us a lot of the foothills of Fresno when they are at their greenest in early spring, on a clear day, just after the rain. The weather has been warm, but tolerable. After a first day of rain, we have had sunny weather. Mornings are “misty” just like Fresno fog, but it burns off and clears up by 10, leading to a gorgeous day. The sunsets are just BEAUTIFUL! Today will be a day of organizing supplies into the storage container, and then going out on my first visit with the caregivers. I’m excited and looking forward to it. Missing everyone at home, but so glad to be here.

February 2010 - Patti Thornton

Arnau picked us up for church this morning and as soon as we pulled in to park, the singing could be heard – so alive, so harmonic, so very moving. Kristen and Wendi were enthusiastically embraced with the genuine joy that indicates that friendships are being formed because of the shared passion for serving through the association of Shiselweni Home-based Care and Project Glory. Those of us who had not been here before were greeted with only slightly less enthusiasm so we felt very at home in a church far from our own. We enjoyed the music, Wendi’s sermon reminding all of us to be stewards of our blessings and to continually grow them through perpetual education and sharing.  Surprisingly, young people far outnumbered older and there were no adult men attending today’s service. Most of the congregation walk up to several miles from their homes to attend, so church starts sometime after 11:00 a.m. when most have come in the doors. I like this schedule and the devotion of the people so devoted as to walk from early morning to attend.

After lunch, the caretaker who lives on the property where we are staying guided us on a walk through tall itchy grass, making a wide berth around the bee hives he has set up for honey production. We saw deep red dragon flies and swallow tail butterflies as well as 6 foot coleus plants, camellias, hibiscus, lilies and a pond. All tired and sweaty we came back for showers and a brief nap.  While we were assembling WAPIs, our guide returned with a plate of roasted corn, a nice appetizer. He stayed to visit with us and candidly answered questions about being Swazi, a married man and father of a 3 year old daughter. He was engaging, educated in a private high school, and a factual source of information about the culture and how he believes AIDS can best be curtailed. His reply was that it is up to every individual to decide how to cope with sex, birth control, and AIDS but strongly pointed out that education was the key. He said there are people who firmly believe “condoms cause AIDS” and further, most don’t want to be tested, male or female, even though the AIDS testing is free. He pointed out the further complications of sex outside marriages, non-monogamous sexual partnering by both men and women makes solutions difficult to find..

February 2010 - Wendi Hammond

A great trip has started for us. 

Saturday we took Shelley to meet Tabitha, the little girl she sponsors from New Hope Orphanage.  I’ll never forget driving up to see this little girl loitering by the gate.  Shelley hopped out of the car and said, “Tabitha, its Shelley.”  When she heard this, Tabitha leapt in the air and ran over to the gate.  Their embrace was like the commercial with two star-struck lovers running toward one another on the beach, but with no corny overtones, just anticipation fulfilled beyond either’s expectations. 

We left Shelley to visit with Tabitha and had Debonair’s Pizza with Bongani Dlamini, Swaziland YFC’s national director.  We delivered to him a new (for him) laptop, complements of Johananson Transportation, which is going to empower his ministry greatly.  I was excited to hear him report about how he is collaborating with other YFC colleagues from South Africa and Mozambique to host some “See the Story” events.  This idea grew out of a conversation Bongani and I had last summer about what Fresno/Madera YFC is doing to tell our story better.  Very fun!

Today was church.  Oh how wonderful to see old friends and for Kristen and I to introduce Laura, Patti and Shelley to them.  Many hugs and smiles.  The music that comes out of the mouths of Swazi people always moves my heart.  I know it brought tears to the eyes of my teammates who were hearing these angelic melodies for the first time.  I was the preacher for today and talked about the parable of the three servants from Luke 19 and the importance of everyone “stewarding well” the things they’ve been given.  My hope and prayer is that as I shared my gratitude for the equipping I’ve received from my pastor, mentors and teachers and responsibility to steward these things . . . members of the Dwalini church would sense the same gratitude for what they’ve received from Arnau over the years and a renewed commitment to invest what they’ve been given so that the kingdom can advance.

Another highlight of today was a candid conversation about AIDS and Swaziland with the young man who serves as a caretaker of the house in which we are staying.  What a great glimpse into the heart and mind of a young Swazi person.  Patti will share more about the conversation below.

Tomorrow we’ll split up.  Three of us will visit caregivers in new community, share the technology of solar cooking and water pasteurization using WAPI’s.  The weatherman is predicting a hot, sunny day.  Two will remain behind to begin organizing the medicine and clothing in the donated 40ft. container, a big job, but one that will make a tremendous difference for the caregivers as they come to get supplies to carry out their ministry.

Thanks for your prayers.  More later.

Friday, February 19, 2010

safe and sound

Arrived in South Africa.  Last of our internet access for a while.  Wonderful lunch with the van Wyngaard family.  Beautiful day.  Tomorrow making lots of connections in Manzini, including with our friend Corine.  Sunday Wendi is preaching (I'll take prayers).  We'll each write some reflections after a few days and have Arnau post for us.  The van is leaving for Swaziland . . . .

Monday, February 15, 2010

Off we go . . .

On Wednesday five of us from Fresno will travel to Swaziland and South Africa. Our hope and prayer is that our presence will equip and encourage people who are committed to their own communities and their neighbors. On this trip will be; Shelley Verwey, Laura Clark, Kristen Nitz, Patti Thornton and myself (Wendi Hammond). Here is a recap of our plans:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


There is a little red hawk that I see on my way to work. He sits on the top limbs of a dead tree or a street light along the junction of southbound highway 41 and westbound 180 (Fresno residents will know where I’m talking about). I first spotted him about 6 months ago. After that, I started looking for him every day, right after the McKinley exit. I keep watching until my exit; Blackstone / Belmont. I find him about half of the time, and because I find him so regularly, I expect to see him. I assume he’s somewhere nearby.