Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bacca Update

If you read week 2, you will remember the story of Bacca. If you did not read it, please take a quick look because this is simply an update on her life.

Bacca is still smiling, still laughing, and still the center of attention at girl’s time each Friday. She still runs up to me and hugs me each day after school, but her cheerful attitude is still masking a lot of hardship at home.

As I cooked dinner with Molly, who is part of the team from California, she shared with me about her time with Bacca that day. A film crew had come to do a documentary on the children/orphans of Nsoko. And they had gotten Bacca out of school early to be interviewed. As a result, Molly got to spend all afternoon with her.

Bacca shared a story about getting corn for her family after Matt has given her money (she is supported by AIM and Matt gives her a small amount each week to help her expenses), but on her way to get it ground up, she lost the rest of the money. As she burst into tears at the factory where they grind it, the workers had mercy on her and did it for free. In the midst of this story, though, she told Molly that she feels so much pressure and she isn’t that good at taking care of her little sisters (4 and 6). Molly then asked, “but Bacca, who takes care of you?”

She just cried.

Molly said she just held her for the longest time and loved on her. To make matters worse, we are all starting to question if her mother is EVER coming back. Soon she will be gone for 2 months and things aren’t looking too promising. Not to mention, what kind of work do you get for a bit in the city and then come home? Sadly, it is very descriptive of prostitution. Regardless of where Bacca’s mother is or what she is doing, the fact of the matter is that she is not home and it’s very likely she may never return.

I can’t express how heartbroken I am thinking of my beloved little Bacca. All alone each night in that hut with her little sisters. No one to hold them, protect them, cook for them, or love them. A 14-year-old forced to grow up far too fast.

Sadly, Bacca represents so many kids today. Oprhans. Orphans. And more orphans.

I feel like I use it a lot in blogs like this, but James 1:27 always pops into my head: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being."

along with 1 John 3:18 in situations like these, "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."

What are we doing for orphans today? Are we loving them in practical ways? You don’t have to go to Africa to love an orphan. You can, but there are so many ways to help: investing in programs on the ground, programs like the Nsoko project here through AIM—they provide for Bacca to stay in school and get food, or even sponsoring a child through World Vision or Compassion international. Or maybe, just maybe, adopting a child.

Jesus was good news to the poor, the needy, and those who were broken. He came for the sick, not the healthy. The humble not the righteous. He came and loved and served the least of these.

…..are we following his example? Are we remembering that it really isn’t “our” money, it is His money and we are His stewards? We are his hands and his feet, but what are we doing with them?

It is up to you today. You can choose love. Or indifference. You can choose to make this world more like His kingdom or bring more darkness to it. You choose what you do with your hands, your feet, your money, and your heart.

What will you choose? What will I choose?

Let’s choose love. I promise it's the best choice! :)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Washing Clothes

The task "washing clothes" used to be something i put on my to-do list at home and allotted about 15 minutes to complete. I mean, the sequence is usually : gather clothes, put in washer, pour detergent, push 3 buttons, then carry on until they are dry and switch them to the dryer which takes pushing 2 more buttons.

Well, things have changed. This small task is now something I take part in, and when I do, I dedicate 3 hours to.

Phindele is 28, has two kids, and works at the center for us. She does all sorts of jobs and one is laundry. This can be a daunting task when the teams are large and the clothes pile up, so I like to help her. To think how long it takes the TWO of us some days, I think she would be there til dark if I didn't offer a little help. Anyway, I like helping her for a lot of reasons--first, she is great and I just like to spend quality time with her and gaining a little insight into her world, second, i think anyone would agree that it's nice to have some help and I would love the same, and third, i am not only with Pandele, but with all the gogo's who cook, too (it's all under the same little shelter). I like spending time with these ladies behind the scenes. The kids are precious, and fun, don't get me wrong..but these women are just amazing. They are the epitome of strong--emotionally and physically. They are dedicated. They don't get paid to cook the food, they do it because they care about the children of their community. They care. Can't we all stand to do that a little more? I think so :)

But aside from encouraging me to care and love for those around me, this tedious task has taught me other important lessons.

Washing clothes has taught me something machines have done. I mean, i know they decrease the amount of time of chores and that is great. But they also do something else. You see, when you hand wash your clothes you realize how many you have. If you have so many clothes that you can allow them to pile up 5 miles before washing, you will QUICKLY regret it as you scrub and scrub and scrub for hours. As you are elbow deep in suds with wrinkling fingertips, you may ask yourself, "do I realllly need this many pairs of underwear?" Because washing them, using your own hands [and it is such a workout!] really forms a different relationship with your clothes and you. I know that may sound a little crazy, but i mean it. You appreciate it more as you rub your hands raw trying to get that stain out. When you wear it the next time, you remember the hard work, and instead of just wearing it once, you get lots of use of it to make all that time worth it.

Washing clothes has also taught me appreciation for Pandele and all the other ladies in the world that take on this thankless job. In the past, I would have my clothes washed and handed the money over and said oh yeah, thank you! Then i went on my way...from now on, i want to hug these people! This is not an easy job! Even my Mom...side note::Mom--thanks for always getting allllll that dirt out of my softball socks :) I know how hard it is now. Really though, so often we overlook the "little" jobs in the world, the jobs that our society doesn't appreciate at all. They are important, and if you don't think they are, see what happens when the people that do them quit. i.e. what if the janitor at your workplace quit? Who would scrub the toilets, take the trash out, etc? I think we could all use a little more manners and thank those who do the tough, dirty jobs and oftentimes receive zero recognition.

I could go on, but instead I will say this--try it! Try washing your clothes by hand one day. Grab two buckets, some powder soap and pick a sunny day so you can dry them. I've already made a promise to myself that washing by hand is going to be a part of my life in the future. Even if it is just one weekend a month, I wanna drag my little kiddies and hubby outside and make it a family event. I really believe in it for so many reasons and hope you'll give it a try :)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Week 2-- Equality.

I have been hit in the stomach.


Literally and figuratively.

Literally, I took a soccer ball to the gut last week at a carepoint. It hurt, but only for a second the figurative punch in the stomach doesn’t go away quite that easily. In fact, the figurative pain never really goes away.

You see, before coming to Swaziland last year or this year, one of my desires was to live a simple, frugal life. Quotes like “there’s enough for man’s need but not enough for man’s greed” (Gandhi) and “Live simply so others can simply live” (Mother T) resonate in my mind. Yet, I still live in such excess. Both physically but in my heart too. Stuff fills my closet…and my mind. Last year I heard the saying “simplicity is intimacy” and when I’m here, I realize just how true that is. As we simplify, we find that we don’t have all these things to put our faith in other than God. We have fewer things to depend on, fewer readily available idols.

Ok, that last paragraph was a bit of a lengthy intro, but back to the story I had in mind. Each day that I am here I am continually humbled, but on Monday, it was a peak of reality.

Bacca is 14 years old and a regular favorite around the center. She speaks perfect English (a rarity, esp for her age) and is always full of energy and jokes. Not to mention, she has such a pure heart and desire to love others. When you think of Bacca, you can’t help but smile.

But on Monday night, there wasn’t much of a smile on her face. At about Sunday, Bacca came to our door with a distraught look on her face asking for Matt or Mary Grace. When we told her that they were away, we asked what was wrong and she just turned around and started walking. I took a few steps outside to follow her and ask again, and when I did— Tears flowed and flowed as I put my arm around her to lead us to the side of the center so we could sit.

As she laid her head on my lap, her speech was slurred with deep breaths then a heave of blubbering. Finally, in between breaths, I could understand what she was trying to relay: She had no money and her kombi fee was due tomorrow [it’s 80 rand aka about $10 a month for transportation fees to get to school] and zero food at her home. I also learned that for the past two weeks until who knows when, Bacca’s mother is in the city looking for work, and until she returns, it’s up to Bacca to take care of her two sisters—8 and 4 years old. As I held her it was hard for me to even fathom what it’d be like to have those responsibilities at age 14 …and with no resources.

Of course we scurried around to meet Bacca’s needs before sunset. She sat with her head down the whole time as we bagged the goods. I hugged her and told her not to be embarrassed and that we were her family and loved her so much. Then before it got 1completely dark, Kelly, Lindsay, and I headed down the dirt path with her home. It was great that we could help her out in such a small way, but our happiness in that was short lived as we entered her hut. It was probably about 6 ft by 10 ft and completely dark. And would stay that way, as Bacca announced she had no matches. We gave her a final hug and left.

As we headed back to the center, we talked about our hearts aching. We wondered what it would be like to eat a cheese sandwich in total darkness at 5:30pm, taking care of two children, and well…just sitting there for a bit. With no one else around. We compared life of a 14 year old in the U.S. to that of Bacca. And that’s when I got a moment of clarity—the 14 year olds in America are hurting too. There are 2 extremes: Those who are suffering, those who at times have nothing…then there are those who think they haveeverything they could ever need. They begin to worship things and the world they feel total control over. Where is the middle? I pray to be in the middle. I pray the world can find this middle ground. 2 Cor 13-14 puts it well,

“For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack; that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality.

And that’s it. It’s about equality. Or as Bono put it, “it isn’t about charity, it’s about justice.” Just making things fair. Freely giving because we have freely received. I don’t want to turn Swaziland into America by any means. In fact, that would be awful. I see faith here that simply would very likely be drowned out in our materialistic-obsessed culture. I see people praising the Lord for blessings that aren’t the tangible kind, but the best kind—grace, peace, love. Instead, I pray for equality. For balance. For us all to be content with a simple life. For sharing. For justice. For Jesus to be enough in the moments of poverty and wealth…for him to be enough…on both sides of the world.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Week 1 -- so good to be back :)

Sometimes I wonder if someone came to Nsoko without any prior knowledge of the HIV/AIDs epidemic, how long would it take him or her to wonder what was going on? Would they wonder why so many of the children are missing one or both of their parents? Would they wonder why those who are frail and deathly ill are in their beds? Would they wonder when they saw a whole section of the hospital especially for ARV Treatment or heard the woman there say that 42% of the mothers admitted there are positive? Or maybe they would really wonder why one of the questions at youth group with the girls was “where did HIV come from and how can we preventing it?”

Then I think the flip side of this question—how long would it take to forget? Would they forget in all the huge smiles of the children? Or the beautiful singing at church? Or maybe in the intensely fun games of netball or soccer? I’m not sure how the person who had no prior knowledge would take all this, but I know how I do. I forget so often. I get caught up in the love, joy, and laughter and seem to get my heart broken, and re-broken each time something hard comes up…which is on about a tri-daily basis. I haven’t gotten used to it, and I hope I never will. I hope it never becomes the status quo in my heart to see the pain and suffering caused by this horrible disease.

…. On a more non-organized or well-written note, here is a rundown of week one:

So much can change in a year!! That was apparent as soon as we entered the center aka our home. We now have SHOWERS in the center, with hot water sometimes!! What?! We don’t just get 5 small bits of chicken once a week, but instead, have a standard portion of meat in our meals three times a week. We now have a table and chairs, an extra toilet, a fan, and a new ride! The Kombi that looked like a 1970’s hippie van (which I personally loved) is out, and the Toyota Noah (like a mini-mini-van) is in! I feel like I’m at the Nsoko Hilton!! Oh, well…minus the fact that we have also developed a new extreme cockroach problem, ha. They are EVERYWHERE, but it doesn’t really bother me? Ha.

Another thing that has changed are the children! My gosh they have all grown so much! I feel like my mom saying it, but really my babies are getting so big! However, I will say, waiting a year to reunite with people you love, makes that reunion very dramatically awesome! Thandie and I ran 20ft each and met in a giant hug, and as some of the kids said “Kati!” we embraced with that same enthusiasm. Ahhh, so awesome. Especially to think, they had no clue I was returning, so it was just like…Surprise! Ha J

On a more ministry related note—we have had such a great week with a good bit of variety. We have done many carepoint visits, which is always awesome. We taught lessons, fetched water (it took 45 minutes and was like Be Hope to Her in real life), held the kids, and played games. We also did some house visits—one was with a very sick man who was delighted that we came to give him food and pray with him, and the other was with a gogo (grandma) of one of our translators or ministry partners, Mxolisi. This was such a great visit that I will elaborate on more one day. We have had women’s time, youth time, church, sorted medical supplies, visited the hospital and of course an epic netball game (usa vs. swazi). Overall, I am more than thrilled to be back to my second home here and even more thrilled to share it with some of my very best friends J That’s all for now!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Swazi Bound! :)

helloooo all!

So for the next 5.5 weeks my blog is going to be transformed a bit! Normally I just use it for everyday types of ramblings and book reviews and quotes and...well you get the picture :) But over the next month or so, I will be out of town. Actually out of the continent.

This is where I will be ---> Nsoko, Swaziland

Last year I spent 2 wonderful months in this small, HIV-ravished community. I met people in the worst of circumstances holding onto God in a way I have never seen in my life. I saw so much brokenness, but then again, I saw more faith than ever. I saw joy through the struggle. I saw smiles through the pain. And I started to really grasp the concept depending on God. Like...losing your family-not having a job-hungry-but-still-worshiping-with-total-Joy kind of dependence. I learned that simplicity is intimacy and felt God in a whole new way as I wasn't distracted by tv's, texts, or tweets. But most of all, I felt God break my heart into pieces for what breaks His. I felt the call ever so clearly that we live in a hurting world, and Jesus doesn't just save us to go to Heaven, He really does desire us to bring the Kingdom to earth. Or as Shane Claiborne puts it best:

"For even if the whole world believed in resurrection, little would change until we began to practice it. We can believe in CPR, but people will remain dead until someone breathes new life into them. And we can tell the world that there is life after death, but the world really seems to be wondering if there is life before death."

As I return to Nsoko I cannot WAIT to be reunited with my Swazi family--the kids, the gogo's, our translators--my family. I also can't wait for the perfect weather [it's winter there], no mosquitoes, and allllll the shooting stars. But i really, really, really can't wait to share all these things, experiences, and relationships with some of my best friends who will be joining me for the first half of the trip--Kayla, Kelly, Lindsay, and Sarah.

So here we gooooo! If you'd like to join me on this adventure, feel free to peek the blog every week or so! Who knows how often I'll update, but when interned is available, I shall try :)