- We landed in Manzini, Swaziland and met Jumbo (the large man and head man of the operation of Children’s HopeChest CarePoints.) He is a no-nonsense kind of guy with a kind heart but a firm vision. Just the kind of guy you need on the ground under these harsh conditions. You can’t be a limp noodle and lead here, let me tell you.
- We went to our hotel (guest house with 12 rooms) and it was very pleasant, almost like a bed and breakfast. I was happy when I found out we had hot showers. I didn’t know what to expect.
- After we settled in we visited three new and unsponsored CarePoints in Manzini. They were inherited from Joyce Meyer Ministries and due to a drop of funding in her ministry, they had to let go of these three inner city points of refuge. Children’s HopeChast decided to take them on by faith.
- Kids were everywhere running around this “orphanage-like” plot of land equipped with a preschool, a well, and a food kitchen. The preschool was for 4 yr. olds through kindergarten. They move on from there into 1st through 3rd grade and government funds their schooling, then they’re on their own and if their parents or grandparents can pay, they can further their education. If not, they stay right there mentally as their bodies grow up on the outside of them. Education is key to the possibility of a different life in the future. Without it you are doomed to economic despair and desperation. Even with sufficient schooling there are so few jobs available for people to be gainfully employed. It started to become clear to me that this was the famine that was killing their culture, unemployment and unemployability. Without the creation of jobs there is not work to give your yourself to leaving you helpless and hopeless, educated or uneducated. They need economic entrepreneurs as much as missionaries in Swazi, maybe more.
- Let me give you a brief description of the children. Very few have shoes, they are very dirty, most of them eat their food with their hands out of bowels that they brought on their own from where they live, they love being video taped and seeing themselves in the view screen, and the little ones wanted to be held. All of them love to stare at the new mysterious white people with long, smooth hair.
- There was a women teacher at the first Carepoint. She is a Swazi woman who teaches the ACE (Accelerated Christian Education) program to bridge them to government paid school from 1-3 grade so that are prepared to succeed. She is very special and extraordinarily qualified.
- The food is essentially “grits and beans”. Period. I didn’t see any other option. This food is bought and brought to them each week via delivery by Children’s HopeChest volunteers and is specially made with ingredients that are balanced nutritionally. Well, more nutritious and balanced than they are used to getting anyway.
- At the second care point, they were teaching a story of Joshua when we arrived and had the kids quoted Joshua 1:8 – “be strong in the Lord…” and then the kids repeated back a chanted prayer before they lined up to eat. After the prayer was over, the kids’ gang-rushed the food kitchen almost desperately. The female leaders had to discipline the students who were pushing and shoving for food. I could tell they were much more needing than the other care point we had just visited. It wasn’t far away from the other place, but it seemed to be a more abject expression of poverty.
- The third care point had less kids, so I had more time to talk with them and play with them. Eventually I got them in a line and swung them around in circles. Kids came from far and near to get in on the action. My muscles were very sore after picking these kids up for about 15-20 minutes.
- We came back to the guesthouse, cleaned up, and went over to Jumbo’s house and met the Children’s Hope Chest and AIM (Adventures in Missions) staff that provide leadership to the various HopeChest ministries on the ground in Swaziland.
- Some of the topics of conversation were as follows: The need for micro-economy and sustainable income after education, the “Geranium Farm” Jumbo has started to get the oil for a new perfume business he wants to create in order to employ Swazi’s coming through the care points, getting an education, and needing a livelihood to sustain life with gainful employment. We talked about the three-tiered HopeChest strategy:
o Survive – Food and Water
o Thrive – Education & Discipleship (preschool and beyond)
o Succeed – Employment as Adult
- We talked a bit that night about the Timbali Craft’s connection to the Carepoints and the discipleship of the women who serve at the Carepoints (nearly 100). This was an important connection to make for me as I saw the vision and the effect of Suzanne’s work with Timbali and the selling of their hand-made products in the States.
- Oh, I forgot to mention that the power had gone out in Mazini that night, so Jumbo’s house had not power and we were forced to carry on in candlelight. It was fun. There were probably about 25 sdults and children there. We talked into the wee hours of the night then heads back to the guesthouse to try and get some much needed sleep. My body was still having a difficult time adjusting to the time difference.