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Saturday, May 9, 2020

Witch doctors vs. Lysol spray

My favorite epidemiologist has been tracking “Day One” of the Coronavirus in a country when that country has 150 confirmed viruses.  Thursday became “Day One” for Eswatini, with our second death reported.  (The newspaper also reported that both COVID-19 deaths are due to diabetes).

The country has not seen His Majesty King Mswati III in several months, and there has been lots of suspicion as to where he has been, but on Thursday night “The Lion Roared” in a special news briefing where he greeted the country.  His whole speech is easily read on line, but the part that confused me, until sitting down with several of my staff for an explanation, was his call for everyone to go and fumigate their homes “the Swazi way”, and then get back to work so that the economy can resume.

Here is what that means in Swazi culture, as it has been explained to me.

There are two ways to fumigate your home, both using ancestral worship. The first is called “Kuchela”, and it is a way to rid the COVID-19 (or other) spirits away from your home.  You take a grass broom in one hand, and a bucket of water in the other hand.  Then you put the grass in the bucket and go around the house throwing water on and around the house, from the bucket, shouting at the COVID-19 spirits to leave the house. People loved the King's speech and immediately started fumigating, posting videos on social media to encourage others to do the same. Below is one of those videos.


The second way to fumigate is with something called “Imphepho”, which are bunches of dried herbs easily found in the Manzini market.  You light the bunch on fire and walk around your house, inside and out, shouting at the COVID-19 spirits to leave and the smoke from the herbs literally smokes them out, with the help of your dead ancestors, of course.  

His Majesty the King also encouraged the traditional healers (witch doctors) to work quickly to make a muti (medicinal concoction) to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to cure it (I guess this is for the people who didn’t fumigate properly?).

Now, this may all seem strange to my readers, but I will say that Swazi’s know exactly how to use Lysol cleaning products and they all know what those warning symbols on the side of the bottles means “DO NOT DRINK!”  I have read in the US that there are Pastors who are still having church services and are praying away the virus – and while I believe in the power of prayers, it would seem a bit to me like “American Kuchela”, without the brooms.

As I live on a mountainside on a tiny Kingdom in Africa, I am amazed at how much I see similarities from here to North America. We all want to find a cure, we all want to find a vaccine, we all want to find hope.  Africans are no different, they just do it differently, based on how they were raised, how much education they have and who they can trust to give them accurate information.  Isn’t that what each of us is doing to?

The information source that I know is always accurate is scripture and so I will continue to fumigate my house with words from the Lord in Isaiah 41:10 that say, So do not be afraid. I am with you. Do not be terrified. I am your God. I will make you strong and help you. I will hold you safe in my hands. I always do what is right.”

In other news, it’s Mother’s Day weekend and tomorrow we will be hosting LIVE church with our children on the Heart for Africa Facebook page at 9AM EST. We will start the service by dedicating our newest family member, newborn baby girl “Litsemba” (which means “Hope” in siSwati), who arrived on Thursday, after not receiving a baby in 7+ weeks. The children will perform a special Mother’s Day song, Ian will give a short message and then we will celebrate FIVE birthdays: Jeremiah, Samuel & Samson, Pheobe and Isaac.  Please invite your mom to watch on line with you and join our ever-growing family as we celebrate all the women who care for our 262 children and all the women around the world who are caregivers and moms. 

Live from Eswatini … how will you fumigate your house this weekend?


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