Friday August 6, 2010 - Two years ago today my life changed forever at the Willowcreek Summit. I had just returned from Swaziland, Africa, feeling called to continue serving there but frustrated that the local people we had come to love seemed unwilling or unable to participate in their own solutions. Volunteerism was nearly non-existent. Instead they seemed dependent on us (and other western help) to address the complex problems they faced every day. I sensed that the help we offered was not really helpful, at least in a sustainable way, but didn’t know what to do differently.
On this day I was sitting at the Willowcreek Leadership Summit waiting for the last afternoon speaker. Half-listening, I heard Swaziland mentioned and refocused on what was happening on stage. Dr. Arnau van Wyngaard was receiving the Courageous Leadership, award sponsored by World Vision and the WCA, for his work with Shiselweni Home-Based Care (SHBC). On that day in 2008 I first learned of SHBC and the 500 volunteer Swazi caregivers regularly visiting and providing care for their neighbors (about 1800) who were sick, many terminal because of HIV/AIDS (there are now over 800 caregivers and 2500 clients). While I had experienced frustration trying to find 8 or 10 people who would commit to feeding orphans or caring for the sick, SHBC had somehow recruited 500 volunteers. I had to learn more.
My own life has not been the same since that day. I went home that night and emailed Arnau. We developed an e-friendship and eventually determined that we would send a team to serve along side the SHBC caregivers, to encourage and support them in their work. Since then two groups from Fresno and one from Sacramento have traveled to Swaziland to encourage and equip these selfless Swazi servants. A ministry called Project Glory (www.project-glory.org) was born, headquartered in Fresno with the mission to support SHBC and match American sponsors (and friends) with individual caregivers. Arnau came to Fresno in January 2010 to help launch the ministry and share the vision of SHBC. In just over one year we have sent nearly $30,000 to SHBC. There have been several large gifts, but still a big percentage of the funds have come from individuals who support a caregiver with $35 per month, with their friendship and prayers.
Personally, my own life has been changed by coming to know these caregivers. So often in ministry here in the USA we (read: I), especially in the current economy, feel handicapped by a shortage of resources. In Swaziland I met people who are dedicated to serving and being Jesus to their neighbors, without ANY resources. What do you say to people who are sick and desperately in need of things you have no hope of giving them; food, water, medicine? You say what the apostle Peter said in Acts 3:6, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give to you.” Everyday SHBC caregivers give their feet as they walk dusty roads and goat trails to see clients. They give their hands and the healing touch as they massage arthritic joints or stroke someone’s fevered face. They give their voice as they pray and give the comfort of scripture to people facing illness and death. Like Peter, they don’t let a lack of resources keep them from being Jesus to their neighbors.
I’ll be forever grateful to the WCA and The Leadership Summit, because this event connected me to these wonderful people half-way around the world, and opened the door for me to serve along side them. What an honor!!