|Photo credit - Chris Cheek|
Saturday, July 23, 2016
The most difficult ten years of my life.
These have been the most difficult ten years of my life.
Total surrender to God comes at a very high price and it not without pain, suffering, judgement and loss. Our family has felt all of those things over the past decade, but we try to remember to give thanks in all things, we are human and suffer like anyone else.
Since Heart for Africa was founded in 2006, our family has moved to two different countries and lived on two different continents (three if you include Chloe’s High School years in Taiwan). We have said goodbye to old friends, and worked hard to meet new ones. We have made life-long friends, and have some broken relationships that need forgiveness and repair.
We have served in four countries (South Africa, Malawi, Kenya and Swaziland) and Spencer and Chloe have lived in hotel rooms for more than a year of their lives, while helping lead people on 11-day service trips.
The work does not get easier as the days pass, and it seems like the learning curve is still vertical, with no sign of a curve (even after ten years).
We have learned about things we never even had interest in and have become well versed in many critical areas reaching from Swazi culture to HIV/AIDS, from dairy farming to multiple drug-resistant Tuberculosis, from currency exchange to construction with concrete, from malnutrition to aquaponics, from bore holes and dams to the impact of drought.
Yesterday we called a meeting of the Community Health Motivators from the four Chiefdoms that surround us. These women are paid E350 ($24.00US) each month to work full time to closely monitor the people in their community who are on treatment for HIV, Tuberculosis, asthma, diabetes, or who are pregnant, orphaned or vulnerable children and the elderly. They are paid to “motivate” people to maintain proper hygiene (to reduce disease), eat proper meals when taking HIV or TB medication (especially eat meat protein) and they personally provide hospice service to the elderly including bathing them, feeding them and praying with them.
We called the meeting because Chris Cheek (one of our long term volunteers who spends a lot of time out in the local homesteads) came to me and said that she was feeling a shift in the community. The people are starting to panic. There is no food. What can Project Canaan do to help (in a country of less than a million people, most in the same situation).
And so we sat for two hours and listened to the women share from the depth of their beings, what they are seeing in the community and how they are affected. Here are the highlights (or low lights) of the meeting.
One lady said, “People are starving everywhere. Swaziland has always been a poor country, but we could always go to our fields and turn the land to plant maize. Now that there is no water, we couldn't even turn the ground. We didn’t plant in November and now there is no food. There is nothing at all to eat. Some people are even grinding up left over corncobs (left after the maize kernels are removed) and trying to cook them in to porridge. And we can’t plant again until the next rainy season comes, which we hope is in November”.
IF the rains come again in November, those who have lived a year with little or no food, will turn the land, but without assistance, they will have no seed to plant.
Another lady said, “There is no water to drink, to cook the little food we scavenge for or to wash ourselves with. The elderly people we are supposed to care for smell very bad because they are so dirty and we have no water to clean them with. We also don’t have masks to wear when we visit patients who have Tuberculosis. That makes us very worried that we will also get the disease.”
Several women chatted in unison explaining that the acts of violent crime are escalating as teenagers are breaking in to homes, attacking the elderly, just to steal something that they can sell – an old shirt, a broken dish, an empty water tank. The community is becoming increasingly dangerous as people become more desperate.
They told the story of an old Gogo who was beaten, robbed and raped by some teenagers and left to die. She found the woman and now cares for her.
Many of them underscored to us that this year is different. Even in dry years in the past, they have never suffered the way that they are suffering now. When I asked them what they are most afraid of now, each and every one of them said, “Hunger. I have nothing to feed my own family and nothing to give those who I am supposed to “motivate” to eat well and take their medication”.
At the end of the meeting we prayed together and the ladies were fed a home cooked meal and driven back to their community with a TB mask and four trays of eggs each (120 fresh eggs) – one tray for their family and three to be distributed to people in need, as they saw fit.
One of the Community Health Motivators went with Chris, Ned Lehman and Kathy Ott (two of our US board members) to visit the mother of our babies Princess and Anthony. She has been sick with HIV and TB for a long time, which is why both of the children have been placed with us. Chris called me to say that the young woman is near the end of life (in fact, thought she had passed while they were there), but then she breathed again. They called a private ambulance and she was taken to the hospital, to die.
Yesterday was a typical day, but then again, there is no such thing as “typical” here. They are all hard days and we learn so much each and every day from our Swazi brothers and sisters.
Some (many) days the pain and suffering we see is just too much and I find myself unable to hold back the tears on a daily basis. But we do what we can with what we have and we pray for continued strength for the days and months ahead. This is going to get much worse before it gets better.
Please join me in praying for Swaziland, for the funds to bring water from the top of our mountain to fill our dams and boreholes, for guidance on how we are to address the needs of the people in need in our surrounding communities and for unity, peace and restored joy for all of us.
Thank you for your support over the past ten years. We simple can NOT do this without you, nor do we want to. As I reflect back over the decade it is abundantly clear that the Lord has guided and directed us, as well as provided and protected us. Despite our own inadequacies and failures, He is sovereign and faithful always.
Live from Swaziland … giving thanks for 10 years of HIS provision and love.