Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Rubbing off . . .

When I was a little girl, my grandmother’s house had white washed exterior walls and a courtyard with a fence that was also whitewashed. When my sister and I played in the courtyard the whitewash would rub off on our clothes. In fact, it seemed like just hanging out near the whitewash would cause it to rub off on us. We were pretty oblivious to the influence of the whitewash on our clothes while we were busy playing. It wasn’t until we came inside and were away from the courtyard that we noticed how the whitewash had affected us.

Isn’t how it is with things that rub off, good or bad? It’s not very often that we try to get something on us, it just happens. That is what happened to me last month in Swaziland.

Jabu is a caregiver who serves in the community of Dwalini. She and I spent several days together, working in the new storage unit and making calls on some of her clients. We talked a lot about her work. She described the kinds of things she may do for clients on any given day; praying and reading scripture, fetching water, helping prepare food, bathing, treating wounds, rubbing sore muscles, and sometimes going with a client to the clinic. Knowing that it would be expensive for them to travel by public transport to clinics, I asked Jabu about how she manages this. “We just ask one another. Sometimes if I don’t have any Rand, Alice or Happiness will help me. The next time I might be able to help them go with their client to the clinic.” This from a woman who probably lives, with her family, on less than $1 per day. Later, as Jabu and I were walking back to the church she asked me how much it cost us to visit them in Swaziland. I questioned telling her about the cost of a ticket to fly to South Africa from the USA, knowing that she would have no way to comprehend that amount of money. But I decided to answer her honestly, adding that even we “rich” Americans have to save for a long time and make sacrifices in order to come to Swaziland. After I answered her we walked for a few more minutes silently, and then Jabu turned to me and said: “We love you so much!”

Guys, please resist the temptation to dismiss this story, it’s worth reading. Before we left Fresno one of our friends encouraged us to gather up gently used, pretty bras to take over to ladies for whom wearing a bra is often a luxury. We posted it on Facebook just one week before we left and it went viral!! By the time we left we had nearly 350 bras, many brand new, and we had to leave some behind for lack of room in our bags. On Wednesday in Swaziland several ladies helped us set up a “lingerie department” in the new kitchen, tables with pretty bras set out by size. The caregivers had spread the word and by 1pm ladies started descending on our little store. We had the caregivers shop first, two bras per person. It was very fun helping them find a pretty, well fitting bras, and they were so happy. Then the masses flooded in. While some from the community were snatching up bras by the handful, our caregivers were buzzing around like well trained Nordstrom’s sales clerks, helping their friends find the one that fit perfectly and made them feel beautiful (anyone who has bought a bra at Nordstrom’s knows how a pampering sales clerk makes you feel). As I watched them I thought, “when servanthood becomes part of one’s DNA, it comes out in everything you do.”

I know that Jabu was very encouraged by the time we had together. What she didn’t know was how much her serving spirit encouraged, challenged, and inspired me. I know that the Dwaleni bra store was a blessing to the ladies in the community, but our caregivers didn’t realize that watching them serve their friends was a tremendous blessing to me.

These were just days hanging out together in Swaziland, like our play time in the courtyard within the whitewashed walls. We didn’t have a strategic plan to rub off on one another; but we did. Reflecting on this, it occurred to me that sometimes I pass through life, encountering people and situations that SHOULD be rubbing off on me. On a mission trip I’ve stepped away from the day-to-day grind enough to be open to the influence God wants to have on me through others. Back home now, like when I came in from playing in the courtyard, I realize how Jabu and the caregivers have rubbed off on me. But when I move through life in a “business as usual” mode, I think sometimes have a Teflon coating that can repel the blessings, encouragement, inspiration, and challenge that should be rubbing off on me. So for the next few weeks at least, I’ve got my eyes peeled for whitewashed walls that should be rubbing off.


  1. how well I remember that fence! The bra party must have been great. How many of us ever even think to appreciate that we have a good fitting bra, something that doesn't even get a thought for us is a special thing to so many others.

    Great thoughts, Wendi, you are such a wise OLDER sister. Maybe when I grow up I will be as smart as you!

  2. Thanks, Wendi, I will just say you are wise, without any wise-guy age comments!

  3. You really played a supportive role this time, Wendi!

  4. Why aren't there any male caregivers posted on your site to support?

  5. Anonymous - you asked about the lack of male caregivers available for sponsorship. The answer is easy, but certainly not simple. Of the 750 caregivers serving with Shiselweni Home-Based Care, there are very, very few men. Swaziland is still a country with traditional, sometimes unhealthy gender roles. Almost all the tasks related to caring for people are traditionally considered to be women's roles. With a AIDS rate the highest in the world and unemployment in some rural areas as high as 60%, we are thrilled that a few men have been willing to set aside cultural taboos and participate with women from their community in caring for their neighbors.

    Project Glory is seeking sponsorship for caregivers from 24 different communities, but we are seeking that sponsorship one community at a time instead of randomly across the region. The website lists 14 of the 39 caregivers who serve a community called Qomintaba. Their coordinator actually is male named is Bheki. He and several caregivers have already been sponsored but we welcome sponsorship of any others. If you have further questions, please don't hesitate to contact me directly at

    Wendi Hammond

  6. Wendi, I don't think I can improve on the answer you gave above. But I do want to add that we did some house-to-house research a few years ago and in almost 50% of the homesteads we went to, the father of the house is no longer alive. Furthermore, we prefer the caregivers to be unemployed. In most cases the men have to find a job in order to care for the family, which makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for them to be caregivers as well.