Posted by: loriewb78 | January 22, 2012

Jetlag and Beyond

I have arrived safely back in the USA for which I am so grateful. Amazing to go from a completely different world back to the most familiar world in just 17 hours–a long trip, but even longer and further from my cultural context. I found myself somewhat paralyzed and overwhelmed as to how to process all the sounds and sights of Swaziland.

I must say that I smiled to be able to visit the local bookstore/coffee shop and just watch the familiar once again, but this time with different lenses. I watched a wonderful family: grandparents, parents and small children under 6 enjoy the refreshments of Starbuck’s, read books newly purchased,  sitting on the laps of grandma and grandpa playing games, looking at books, talking……being an extended family right here and now. But my memories are of children with no books, no parents reading to them , maybe no parents at all, and grandparents scraping by, hauling water from an unclean water source to make perhaps the only meal of the day… some porridge and beans, if you’re lucky. No coffee drinks, no fat-free syrups, no lovely pop-up books to read–yet still, family supporting and loving each other, the best ways possible.

How is it that 17 hours away we have those who have so little while we have so much? Why does that bring conflict in my heart and soul? Rich Stearns, in his book, “A Hole in our Gospel” said it well, quoting a pastor friend of his….. ” It’s not what you believe that counts; it’s what you believe enough to do.” So, like many of us, I know what I believe about this. I know that I am to do something, to live differently, to make a difference. But also like most of us, I wonder… While I am thinking of it all, my non-fat iced latte with one pump sugar-free vanilla is ready. Will I ever change?

Chuck Swindoll once said that America was a playground between two oceans.  It’s time we started casting off from the shore. I’m not sure if I am a very good swimmer OR sailor! 🙂

Posted by: loriewb78 | January 16, 2012

Last Day in Swaziland–gardens galore!

We are wrapping up our time here in the lovely, gentle country.  Today we passed one of the King’s residences on our way to discover how local women from two of this monarchy’s ancient “chiefdoms” are working together to provide food for not only themselves, but also for their families.

World Vision has been supplying the seeds to start community gardens and the work is shared by the women in the community. We saw abundant crops of cabbage, spinach, onions, carrots, green peppers, and corn.  The women, dressed in their colorful “work clothes” with hats and babies wrapped on their backs, work the soil, using just simple hand tools including a hand hoe, and garden hose to carry the water from the water pipe which is barely visible from the corner of the near acre lot.

An elderly lady became the spokesperson for the group of women gathered in the shade under a very large tree, and she told us how the garden plot provided 30% of the food needed for the Orphans and Vulnerable Children of the community, and the rest of the food was available to take to the market for profit that would support their children.  They are thrilled that they can pay for school fees and supplies, and the joy on their wise faces proved the pride in their work.  These women smiled and laughed, their kids pitched in, and the stronger older boys helped to plow the ground, and did the watering.  It truly was a spirit of cooperation that pervaded throughout the twice daily event, trying to beat the heat of the day by arriving early in the morning, and finishing later in the evening!

We are able, in Austin, to visit our local grocery stores for organic produce; many of us garden to supply fresh vegetables for our own family and neighbors. Personally, I love to visit some local restaurants that grow their own produce out back; it is an experience in celebrating God’s lovely provision for us through the hard work of others.  I dream that our church, with its possible community garden, might provide in a different way for the vulnerable children and families in our midst.  They are there, practically in our back yard. It would also be my dream to not only feed their bodies, but to also feed their souls, doing all in the name of Jesus.   For sure, World Vision’s work is impacting children’s lives both spiritually and physically half way around the world.  With hearts of gratitude, remember this fact the next time you grab a premade salad –dressing included, organic of course, and triple washed!

Posted by: loriewb78 | January 16, 2012

Swaziland Day 4 and 5

It’s a good thing I feel comfortable with farm animals, having been brought up on a small farm in western Pennsylvania. But it would be a surprise to me to have a chicken fly OUT my front window from inside the house while I was chatting with a team of media from KVUE News in Austin.  And that is exactly what I have been doing the last two days—riding in the “media” van with anchorman Tyler Sieswerda   and his cameraman Robert McMurray who are with us on this trip preparing for the Austin City Campaign .It has been a great experience to watch them interview the fortunate recipients of gifts from World Vision sponsors.  The gifts have certainly transformed the lives of those who have received them.

If any of you enjoy breakfast at a local restaurant in Austin, such as the Magnolia Café or Kerby Lane, you probably don’t think twice about eating some bacon with your eggs!  But here in Swaziland, a gift of pigs from a sponsor to one family started an enterprise for a villager here—she now has a “piggery.” And in another case, a local agriculture teacher at the high school is raising dairy cows,  “Maureen and Joyce” who provide 30% of the milk much needed by the children at the local neighborhood care point- NCP, where orphans if HIV/AIDS and other extremely needy children gather to have one meal a day.  The milk provided provides the much need nutrients for their little lives, in addition to the main course-maize (corn) porridge and red beans.

These recipients of sponsor donated gifts keep giving to the community.  I have been humbled by the fact that in this place, people really DO practice the golden rule, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

You might not need to take care of HIV/AIDS orphans in your neighborhood, I certainly don’t know of any in the Lost Creek area where I live, but look around with the eyes of faith.  You will find neighbors whose lives also need transformation, perhaps single moms, perhaps those going through financial struggles, perhaps those who are ill.  Do something kind for your neighbor this week, and allow Christ to help you be His hands and feet once again.  We have much to learn about caring for our community from our Swazi friends.

Posted by: loriewb78 | January 11, 2012

 A little girl…


A little girl, in a bright red sweatshirt, approached me with outstretched hands while our team attended a joyful celebration and presentation of songs, Scriptures, and skits learned during the Bible Club events sponsored by the local churches who partner with World Vision here in Swaziland.

At first, I thought the winsome child might want to sit on my lap, as many 3 year olds might do, but once I inquired of a caregiver to tell me what the child was saying, I learned the child wanted a drink of water from my water bottle.  Because of my past experiences in working with children in the majority world, I knew I had to refuse those big brown eyes that were pleading for a drink.  If I gave her a drink, there would be a lineup of other children and a “rush at the watering hole” –my solitary water bottle!

Although I couldn’t give this little girl a drink of water, World Vision is working in this Area Development Project to bring clean water to over 300 households. In six – 7 months, they hope to finish a water project which will transform this community’s need for clean water.

 But first we need to know the reality of the situation. Today, we were “immersed”, no pun intended, into the reality most families  deal with on a daily basis just to get water for life.  We followed a “water brigade” of 9 children and several adult women from one family, each holding a plastic juice or water bottle that would contain the water they could carry from the watering hole back uphill to their homes. As soon as a child is 3 or 4 years old, she must spend over two hours a day collecting and transporting water for the family to cook, bath, and drink.  Zinhle was a thirteen year old little girl who was the “water expert” for this household.  Her bi-daily trek leads downhill through the cornfields to a shallow pool of water, a “bog”, about 2-3ft. in diameter.

 She carefully removed the rusty metal roofing material which “protected” the water source from animals. . Using a plastic pitcher for the dipper and another small plastic bucket to hold the water, she showed us how she could skim carefully and slowly the water from the top of the water hole. It was a slow process, and each child lined up so that she could pour water into their containers.  The older ladies and children carried huge water buckets, often like we would see painters use in their profession; the younger children used smaller bottles they could carry, such as a water bottle we might use for drinking, or a 1 liter old soda bottle.  

Once the water buckets were filled, the children climbed back up the hill carrying the containers carefully so as not to spill a precious drop.  Some of the buckets were so heavy that it took two of us adults to carry it…but our Swazi friends lifted the buckets onto their heads and carried them back to the homestead.  Sometimes it takes over two hours a day to fetch the water, because one source might be dried up and Plan B, another water source, further away, might be the only source of clean water.  Some days, our friend, Z, starts thinking of her task to collect water as soon as school while she should be concentrating on her afternoon studies at school.  She wonders if she will be harassed by boys hiding in the bushes by the stream, or taunted by bigger children until she spills the buckets she has so carefully filled.  Her family DEPENDS on her to deliver the water.  Without WATER, there is no life. 

Posted by: loriewb78 | January 10, 2012

The Mother Theresa of Swaziland!


How would you feel if your daughter was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS?   Would you do everything you could to get her help, would you talk to others about her situation?  Would you be too embarrassed to make it known to others?  We have learned that the HIV/AIDS virus here in Swaziland is extremely high.  When asked as to why, much has been attributed to the close proximity of South Africa and the border. 

We have learned that the tree industry has a large amount of workers on the road, away from home and working to make a living, who perpetuate the virus and bring it back to their wives in the rural communities. The mother of the twenty eight year old woman we visited today decided to try to get her daughter help.  We don’t know exactly how long she had the virus before she was tested positive at the hospital, but now she is slowly recovering, thanks to the support of a caregiver volunteer from World Vision. 

To be invited into the home of an ill young lady named Phetsile, lying on a straw mat, covered with a blanket, another used as a pillow, we learned how the WV volunteer takes care of not only this patient, but 123 other patients throughout the area, also.  She believes God has called her to be a comforter, a helper, and a volunteer health advocate for her community. Thanks to World Vision, she has received training on how to do this, and is actively making a difference in her world.  Nomsa is no stranger to loss of life. She has lost 5 children to illness, including complications during childbirth.  But this call to help others is one which seems to rank her as the Mother Teresa of Swaziland! 

Now, Phetsile,  mother of a child 7 years old, who was certainly going to leave her child an orphan, has hope again that she might be able to recover  with the use of the  anti-retro-viral pills, and support her own child someday again through her ability to work.

Her dream is to someday have this new “job” and support her son……God is a God of fresh starts, and there is that hope for Phetsile

Posted by: loriewb78 | January 6, 2012


Posted by: loriewb78 | January 6, 2012

16 Hours and Counting…..

I’m putting the finishing touches on my packing, and I’m praying for some time to still my heart to hear God’s voice in the busyness of it all.  It’s exciting to be invited into God’s larger story and see what He’s doing in this little outpost monarchy which is the size of New Jersey half way around the world.  God is already there waiting for me and our team, and I’m excited to discover all He’s doing through His people and the ministry of World Vision to reach the poor and those on the margins of our world.  Please pray for safe travel and that I can be fully engaged with this mission and aligned with God’s Spirit.

Posted by: loriewb78 | January 5, 2012

Getting on Board to Swaziland

On Friday, January 6th, I board a plane bound for Swaziland, Africa–a guest of World Vision International, along with a team of pastors, leaders and media specialists from Austin, Texas.  Together, we kick-off the World Vision Austin City Campaign for children!   For several years, Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church has been a World Vision partner, serving the needs of children and communities primarily in Zambia, Africa.  In this trip, as WHPC’s representative, we will be visiting Swaziland, Africa. In the words of our team leader, Devon Hermason, the purpose of this trip is as follows:

  • to learn about the needs of children and communities in poverty and how child sponsorship brings hope through Transformational Development.
  • Communicate the need and opportunity for lasting change to the people of Austin through television, social media, churches, and other organizations.

Well, that  is where I come in! I am representing WHPC’s mission to be part of God’s story and purposes for His people around the world, specifically His children!  This also marks the beginning of WHPC’s Year of the Child initiative where we will discover together how God views children and OUR role in His BIGGER PLAN for all children.  And in the meantime, make sure you attend worship for the next seven weeks to discover God’s view of childhood and the Bible and the special Sunday, January 15th from World Vision, the Journey to Jaama!  Don’t miss it!  (I will be flying back that day and will be praying for each of you to be touched by this powerful message!)  Follow me to Africa!