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Saturday, June 29, 2019

Update on Nokuphiwa and thoughts from her host - Guest blogger Eileen Habelow

Many of you have been following the journey of a little girl named Nokuphiwa (or affectionately known as Phiwa, pronounced Pee-wah).  You can read more about her story at 

When I was first approached about her terrible burns, I felt helpless as we don't take in 8-year-old children. Our age cut off is 24 months, but someone had to do something, and we took action in faith that the Lord would show us the way.   The journey lead us all to Boston, where our friends Eileen and Joe Habelow said "yes" to hosting Phiwa and her legal guardian (our staff member Nokwanda) for an unknown amount of time with unknown emotional and physical repercussions.  

As the girls prepare to come back home to Eswatini and rest before the next HUGE surgical procedure (crainioplasty) in early 2020, we are working on the best possible plan for Phiwa's recovery and future. Please join us in praying for His direction and wisdom.

I thought that many of you would like to hear from Eileen and her family as to how the five month visit with Phiwa and Nokwanda has affected their lives.  Eileen agreed to write from her heart, and I know you will be blessed by her words below.

From Eileen Habelow:

"Phiwa.  She has melted hearts and changed minds.  Just being Phiwa, she has changed the perspective of all who used to have pity in their eyes; but that pity has now shifted to pure admiration.  She has won the ‘favorite’ label from doctors, nurses, and therapists.  Phiwa came here to have round one of many surgeries at the amazing Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Boston.  So, she has begun a physical transformation on the outside - but even when the physical changes are successful beyond measure, nothing will ever be beautiful enough to match her inside self!  Her spirit is so bright.

“That girl” is something we said often with love and awe.  Phiwa does not see herself in a mirror.  Phiwa sees herself just as God has made her – her bubbly energy is uplifting, and her giggles are infectious.  In many ways she is a typical 9-year old little girl who wants to ride her bike, go to the park, tease the dogs, wrestle with her ‘brother’, snuggle with her ‘sisters’, play with Barbies, challenge authority and use the iPad.  Oh… and watch Frozen, Coco, and Lion King until the entire household can recite words, sing the songs, and mimic the dance moves.

But Phiwa is far from being a typical 9-year old little girl!  As a newborn she endured pain we cannot imagine.  She has scars and disfigurements that make her look different and cause others to stare.  While those two things definitely make her not typical, in my eyes there is so much more that makes Phiwa unique and amazing. 

Through the 4 ½ months Phiwa has spent in our home, our church family, friends, and extended friends in Atlanta have blessed Phiwa with gifts.  Everywhere she went, people wanted to help by providing clothing, toys, and even a new hair-do!  Before Phiwa came to America you can imagine she had little to her name, not much to call ‘her own’.  You might think that coming here she would be spoiled by the showers of gifts.  But each and every time she received something, she shared.  She immediately offered a toy to others to have.  She has already gifted me with two of her favorite stuffed animals that I will treasure.  Phiwa is a little girl who comes from little, but is a naturally unselfish giver.

Phiwa is very energetic, but also has a quiet confidence.  When Phiwa went to church the very first Sunday, she went straight to children’s group.  She quickly acclimated and a few children were immediately comfortable with her – friendly and playful.  When Phiwa came home from church she told us she had a few friends already and that there were a few other children who didn’t really play with her this week.  However, she exclaimed, ‘they will play with me next week, though!’  And they did.  Phiwa realized that some children need time.  And she gave them that time.  By the time she had been here a month, we had a birthday party for Phiwa with 10-12 other children and every one of them wanted to be by Phiwa’s side.  When we visited our sister church for the first time, our nieces and nephews took Phiwa into their circle and loved her just by being with her.  We even overheard one little girl exclaim ‘Phiwa is here!  She is finally here!’.  That’s God’s love.

Mark my words – Phiwa is going to do something BIG in our world and it is going to be something incredible.  I can’t wait to watch this little beauty grow and take her place in the world.  God has big plans for Phiwa!


And the saying goes that behind every great leader there is a great team.  Well, in this case behind every amazing child there is an equally amazing caregiver.  Nokwanda said yes… even at the last minute.  Nokwanda traveled with a child she had known for 2-months… on a plane ride she had never experienced before… to a continent and country she had only seen in movies.  Nokwanda arrived with a confidence that comes from saying yes to a big God.  Her facial expressions are an open book.  She is full of a love she didn’t even know until now.

Early in their visit, we printed lots of pictures to start our scrapbooks.  One touching moment was when Nokwanda said to me “I now clearly see my role in Phiwa’s life through these pictures”.  Wow.  Nokwanda was naturally nurturing, loving, caring for, disciplining and shepherding a beautiful young Swazi girl who desperately needed her.  But, she needed the pictures to clearly see the impact of her caregiving role on Phiwa.  The connection they have built is with cords that can never be broken.

Our family is forever changed because of this experience with Phiwa and Nokwanda.  All three of our adult children refer to them as their sisters.  Phiwa’s first words after surgery were “where is my brother Eric?”.  Her second request – “where is Max?”  Max is our family dog!  The greeting Phiwa and Eric give each other every single day when Eric got home from work is priceless.  And the relationships forged with our daughters via regular FaceTime, sleepovers in Atlanta with Melissa and a week at home with AnnMarie will forever be a part of our family fabric.

I am not ready to imagine the void that is coming to our home when these two beauties leave Boston.  The girls may leave our city, but the memories and the relationships are forever.  We have become family.  And for that, we are eternally grateful.

1Samuel 16:7 is a favorite verse of mine – “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  the Lord does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all do the same?  In this, Phiwa is the teacher!"
Live from Eswatini ... we look forward to seeing what is next for this young girl.


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