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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Swazi Schooling.....

We are nearing 4 months living here in Swaziland.  We’ve learned so much, yet I know we still have so much to learn.  Bailey and Cameron have both started school now, and Mark is ever busy with projects on Canaan. 

Bailey’s school is situated a top a mountain in the capital city of Mbabane.  The temperature difference between her school and our home is substantial.  We are around 45 minutes South and not in the mountains.  I haven’t actually checked the numbers but it feels around 10 F cooler at her school.  Bailey’s 3rd day of school was actually a field trip to a Nature Preserve near Piggs Peak (still in Swaziland).  The field trip was a sort of “Survivor Camp” for 2 days, 1 night.  They could only bring a sleeping bag and what would fit in their backpacks.  They did a lot of hiking and rock climbing, but they also had to build a sun proof, waterproof shelter, find clean, strike clean, I meant to say safe drinking water, blaze a new trail, cook their own dinner using a fire (they had to build, unless they had chosen to bring a camp stove which 1 group did bring) and a cooking pot.  They were provided a couple of potatoes, part of an onion, and a slice of meat.  And that was the first day.  As always seems to happen when camping…it started to rain on them around 2am.  So that should have made that 5:30am wake up not so bad right?  They had several stations set up to teach various elements of survival.  Bailey’s first station was swimming across the dam to get grass from the other side.  Mind you there were no towels and no swim suits…so they had to pare down so they wouldn’t freeze when they got out!  Thank goodness Bailey wore shorts under her sweats!  There were various other activities, but when the lightning started, they packed up and made it back to the school early!  Let’s just say Bailey and Chloe were an absolute mess when I finally picked them up!  But, yes, they had a blast!
Bailey after the long hike to the waterfall!

Of course Momma Worry Wart had to dress their many scratches with first aid, antibiotic cream, just in case…

Cameron’s schooling is not nearly so exciting, (I have absolutely no desire to sleep outside) but we are getting in the swing of it – and I’m learning so much!  We typically do school from around 9am to 2:30 or 3pm.  Cam’s least favorite subject?  History.  My favorite subject?  History.  Go figure!   We are studying ancient history from Creation to the Resurrection, Math, Science (Zoology), Vocabulary, Grammar, Creative Writing and Culinary.  My sweet mother, with all her many years teaching Home Economics at Mississippi State University, actually put together a curriculum for us!  Here is a picture of Cameron baking a Sour Cream Pound Cake from scratch - all on her own.  Yum!

We appear to be in the beginning of our rainy season already.  It rains for days and days and days.  It does hinder getting clothes dry, but then there is less laundry to do also.  The rains bring the frogs which we can hear over our television oftentimes.  The frogs of course bring the snakes, which we are so excited about!  We haven’t seen any since Bailey met with a black mamba in our back yard.  It wasn’t more than 4 feet from her!  But it got spooked and slithered away…as we all stood staring at it wondering what in the world we were going to do!  You know, now that I think of it, I don’t think Bailey has stepped a foot in our back yard since then!

We all continue to spend time at the Baby Home when we can, though our opportunities are much more limited in the rainy season.  There is the issue of crossing the bridge on the way to Canaan and of course there is always school to finish!

Speaking of finishing...Cam just finished up math (pronounced mats here), so I'd better go check on her…

Blessings to you all!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Adventure or Nightmare? It's all in your Perspective!

Much has happened since my last post both in Africa and back in the States, but I wanted to share this story with you.  I'm sure I won't do this story justice, but would like to share a little bit of Mark's journey back to help Austin move into the University of Arkansas...

I started to write out this story in paragraph form, but there is no way for it not to be 10 pages long so I condensed it to bullet points:

* Friday, 8/10, attempt to leave Joberg with 47 other "stand by" riders, some of them having been there since the previous Monday.  Only 1 got on the flight.  Mark's luggage however, made it on the plane!
* Saturday, 8/11, attempt to leave Joberg again with 40+ "stand by" riders, no go - attempt to purchase ticket through Qatar as other airlines are over-booked.  All credit cards Mark had on him were blocked due to potential "fraudulent" activity.  Due to phone issues can't get block lifted or call me for other credit cards.  Stranger hands Mark $1000 USD in cash for tickets, run to gate to purchase, flight had closed 5 minutes prior.  Mark returns $ to kind stranger.  Has to find cheap lodging - can only pay in cash he had in his pocket(South African Rand).
* Sunday, 8/12, try to use different credit card account to purchase plane tickets through London.  Discover ALL credit cards are blocked.  A different stranger offers to put tickets on her credit card, Mark writes her a check.  They go visit the Apparteid Museum in Joberg while waiting for flight later in the day.  Sunday night they finally leave Joberg!
* Arrive in London on the day after the closing ceremonies of the Olympics, take a train into the city, tour Westminister Abbey, see Buckingham Palace, the ferris wheel.  Stop at a cafe and only get a couple of drinks since they are low on cash.  Run into missionaries who buy them lunch.
* Monday, 8/13, arrive in New York City around 7pm, last flight to Atlanta leaves at 8:00pm but couldn't make it through Customs in time b/c Austin's luggage is lost in Joberg.  Have to find cheap lodging once again - since have little American $!
* Tuesday, 8/14, finally get on a flight to ATL - and get bumped up to first class!  Finally make it to Alpharetta (Mark in the same clothes he left in on Friday) and notice a large black puddle under Austin's car.  Take it to the mechanic.  Problem with the brake line.  Mechanic is amazed that the car had ANY breaking ability at all.  Not an expensive problem, but because the car is from Canada parts have to come directly from Japan, 8-10 days earliest.  Can't take car to Arkansas.  Rental car will cost $1200, Rusty and Rebecca Reed offer to let Mark take their van.
* Wednesday night drive all night to get to Arkansas at 8am Thursday morning.  Check Austin in, move his things into his dorm.
* Friday meet up with Mark's parents who have driven over from Kansas City
* Saturday afternoon Mark leaves Arkansas to drive all night getting into Atlanta at 3am. Sunday morning.
* Tuesday night Mark leaves Atlanta for Joberg - gets an upgrade to business class again!
* Wednesday night arrive Joberg can't make it to the border before closing, have to stay for the night - but this time has an unblocked credit card to pay for lodging.
* Thursday afternoon arrives Swaziland, then home around 1pm.  Feels like Christmas morning.  Mark is finally home safely and has brought Cheezits, tea, curtains, socks, ChapStick and more movies!

I am incredibly thankful that I didn't have to go on this crazy, awful adventure.  But, I really learned a whole new level of dependence on God.  For most of these days I had little to no communication with Mark, not having a clue how they were making out.  So, my only choice was to pray and trust God for their provision and protection.  Yes, there were many things that did go wrong, but I can't help but be thankful for the adventure Mark and Austin got to take through London.  Just father - son time, before heading off to college.

Indeed God was with them.  That is the only way I can explain strangers handing over thousands of dollars, free meals and no automobile accidents.  No, the trip didn't go as planned, but that was just an opportunity to trust God and keep our eyes open for His provision.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Train Up a Child...

As I sit and reflect on our last month (6 weeks for Mark and Bailey) it really is starting to feel like home.  I'm already driving, and I only mistake my windshield wipers for my blinker about once a day!  I know how to operate our pay-as-you go power.  I can almost figure out how to call someone.  You dial something different if it is a land-line versus a cell phone.  I pretty much know my Swazi money.  And, we even found a place to get our hair cut.  Women, you know what I mean!  But as I reflect on all the tangible ways we've changed and grown, I'm reminded of the intangible growth as well.

Cameron holding Miriam, our newest addition
coming to us at 11 months and 14 lbs, never
having seen a white person and not feeling too safe!
The most inspiring growth to me has been in the hearts of Bailey and Cameron.  My girls have always had big hearts when it comes to service; yet placed in an environment of constant need, they have amazed me with their joy and desire to serve others.  My girls wake up while it is still dark to meet the van to go out to the rural churches where they plant gardens, play with the young children, and fit as many children for TOMS as possible.  They are eager to go up to the babies' home and connect with "their" babies.  Bailey is even involved in an Experiencing God Bible study with the interns and me.  If any of you follow me on Facebook you know that Bailey has been asked to be the official Project Canaan "Cake Baker".  Bailey has been amazed that God would use something so seemingly insignificant, that she absolutely loves, to bless the sweet babies on their birthdays.  Many times Mark will have to make another trip out to the farm to work at the "workshop" (he is building double-decker baby cribs), and one of the girls will ask to tag along, either to help him or go visit the babies.  Yes, they are both actively pursuing service to others whether that is with the babies, the rural communities, the various projects on Project Canaan, or Mark or I, and they have done everything without complaint.

Emmanuel's 1st Birthday!
I am so proud of them.  I know God is directing their steps and their hearts. 

Posting Directional Signs on Canaan

Thankful for my darling daughters this cold Swazi morning! 

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Toddler Years?

Well, I figured I've waited long enough, but it seems hard to write.  There is so much I could write about, many experiences, many thoughts, many changes in perspective, many sights/sounds/smells, but where do I start and what would be meaningful or relatable? 

I guess I'll just start and see what happens...

Moving here for me has a bit been like reverting to being a toddler, so much to learn!  Things that I used to be good at or could do without thinking are difficult or impossible.  There is a huge learning curve.  Of course Mark is in his element and soaking it all in, for which I am definitely thankful.  But let me give an example: driving.  I can certainly handle driving straight on the left-hand side of the road, but throw in a round-a-bout and it requires extreme concentration.  Passing here is quite different.  Even if there is a double line, if a car is going slow in front of you, it will move over to the shoulder so you can pass - even if there is a car coming toward you.  Really?  So you pass, put on your hazard lights to say thanks and they flash their lights to say your welcome.  Then there is electricity.  I had a power outage last week for 2 hours, just thought we had no power.  Come to find out, our electricity is "pay-as-you-go" (we have a meter in our dining room), and we have to purchase the electricity in town 30 minutes away, then punch in a code on the receipt into that cute little box.  Let me just say the process was not as easy as all that sounded!  It's not as easy as picking up the phone or going onto a website.  And, I'm still learning how to dial phone numbers here.   (Let me input here how thankful I am that I have electricity and use of a car and a phone.  Those are luxuries here and I don't mean to sound trite about it.  Just trying to give perspective.)

Then of course another example is cultural differencesThis is a "biggie" and I am finding it hard to put into words.  Unless you walk the streets and see these things for yourselves you cannot fully appreciate the differences.  So, I'm hoping to give you a little flavor of it from a fellow blogger, serving here in Swaziland also.  Though I've never met him (he has no affiiliation with Heart for Africa) he has been serving here and is due to return to the States in the next month or so.  This was taken from his blog....

"One of the newspapers here conducts online polls. To be clear, only about 200-1000 people answer these polls, and the sample is definitely skewed, so please don't take this to be authoritative. But I do think that the polls provide an interesting insight into how people think here. So I'll post some of the results that I think you will find most interesting. One of the most difficult things to do when reading these is to refrain from answering them ourselves. I'm not putting this up as a referendum on Swazi culture or the beliefs of people here, just an insight."

Swaziland's army is about 3,000 strong and is mainly used to quell protests.

A few years ago, there was a serious controversy because the kombi drivers raped a woman who was wearing a miniskirt and significant portions of the population didn't think it was wrong.

These kinds of stories are often in the news.

This probably explains why there is no real sex education going on in Swazi schools.

Enough for now....Cameron, Bailey and I pulled an all-nighter last night at the Baby Home.  We were filling in for the night shift 7p-7a shift.  Now I know how "Octomom" feels!  We were up feeding, changing, consoling, patting, and replacing paci's several times every hour.  When you have 8 in one room, you don't want them to cry, so you are listening for any noise that might wake the other 7.  Two of the babies are HIV+, and their medicine tends to make them have more intestinal issues.  So, of course they were up needing major diaper changes!  Of course, that only woke them up completely!  The youngest baby, only 4 weeks old is colicky, and 3 of them have colds with a cough and congestion etc...  of course, formula and laying in a crib, doesn't help matters.  Nonetheless, got home at 7:30am, got up at 12:30pm and I feel like I've been run-over by a Mac truck.  I don't know how the normal caregivers do it!  I really don't.   I couldn't have done it without Bailey and Cam - and there is just typically one caregiver vs 3 of us!  But regardless,  I'm heading to the couch!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Settling In...

Greetings from Swaziland! 

It is Monday mid-morning and the weather is beautiful.  It is winter here and it is quite chilly in the mornings.

Cameron and I have already been here a week.  We are starting to know our way around, but I'm so glad we only have 1 car because it keeps me from 1) getting lost, and 2) having to drive.  I really don't mind driving on the straightaway, but making turns just feels wrong!

The best news of the week was the addition of our 8th baby at the El Roi Baby Home!  His name translated into English is Emmanuel (God with us).  But, as it seems with all these precious children he has an incredibly sad story.  His Mom is 16 years old, 7 months pregnant with her 3rd child and HIV positive - though Emmanuel is not HIV positive!  Praise the Lord!  He is 12 months old and weighs 12 lbs.  He is obviously malnourished, has a distended belly, and has poop the color of sand because he has no nutrients in his body.   He has a long way to go, but like his "brothers" and "sisters", he will have a chance!  And his mom has agreed not to abort or harm the baby she is now pregnant with, and will bring him to El Roi too.

I have only been able to visit the babies once since I've been here because Cameron has had a cough since we got here, and as soon as she seemed to get better, Bailey started with a fever.  It has been hard to be in a "holding pattern" not being able to interact with the babies, but I know I will have that time soon enough.  It is far better not to get any of those sweet babies sick.

So, this week I've been able to finish setting up my house, make 2 trips into town to look for nails, hose connectors, groceries and buy power (it is pay as you go), and interact with the interns who are spending the summer here working for Heart for Africa.  It will be a busy winter/your summer and we all look forward to it!

Thanks for your prayers!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

We are ALL home! Except Austin of course....

Well we finished with orientation at Arkansas and Cam and I boarded a flight to Joberg, SA.  We were flying buddy passes and we were the last two to board an extremely full flight.  Though we weren't seated next to each other, a very nice lady gave up her window for Cameron's middle seat!  What a blessing!  I was also thankful that we weren't seated in the middle section because those folks had no movies the entire flight.  We arrived in Joberg to see Mark and Bailey waiting for us.  They took us out for dinner then we all sacked out in 2 twin beds (as that is all that was available in the whole hotel). 

We woke up the next day to do a little shopping at the local Joberg "Costco", called Makro.  But let me say, what would take us 20 minutes in the US, took us 2 hours.  It is just not that easy.  We don't know the brands, most things require a conversion for us (English vs. Metric), and things are just different.  We were all exhausted by the time we left with about 6 items (one of those was Pringles, the other Cadbury lunch bars that Austin loves!).  We stopped by Mickey D's on our way out of town (really? Bailey's request) and were finally on our way around 2:30 on Monday.  We drove what seemed like hours, oh yes it was hours, through South Africa until we reached the Swaziland border around 6:30pm.  It was pitch black dark and we were all praying for an easy crossing.  Prayers were answered and we got through both borders in about 15 minutes.  Record time.

Unfortunately all was dark as we were driving through Swaziland, but we finally arrived home to what Cam and I expected to be a house in boxes.  Only, the entire house was completely unpacked, set up, etc.... it was incredible!  Yes, I almost cried.  Mark and Bailey had been alluding to the mess of boxes all day, yet they worked incredible hours to get it set up for us!  I knew some of what Mark accomplished/worked on at Project Canaan ("the farm") and it was all consuming, I know he had to have come home at 8pm and worked until 2am several nights to get it all done!  Yet, let me say, I haven't been able to sleep in my own bed for 8 weeks, and I slept well that night!

Tuesday we got up (at 11am local time/our bodies are still not adjusted) and drove over to Canaan to see the babies.  As we pulled up, it so happens the Inkhosikati LaMbikiza (the third of the King's wives) was also at the babies home for a visit as she is the Patron of El Roi Babies Home.  It was so wonderful to finally hold the babies we had only known by name.  It was an incredible experience, so many emotions.  Most of them centered around the one thought, that if not for Heart for Africa, these babies likely wouldn't be here.  That is truly an incredible thought as you physically hold each of these precious little ones and wonder what they will be when "they grow up" and know that they have that chance!

Things are definitely different here.  We are adjusting to the "left" side of the street, lizards in our house, hand washing our dishes, strange sounds at night, the speed things get done, putting our clothes on a clothes line, and intermittent internet service, yet we are thankful we have the opportunity to be here. 

Goodnight from a cold Swazi winter night!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Ready to Go!

Well, Austin, Cameron and I are through with orientation at the University of Arkansas and Austin has his schedule for the fall.  Unfortunately, I feel that his schedule is as firm as jello and could change depending on his AP scores from high school.  Yet, I am so thankful I had the chance to visit Fayetteville and now have a visual in my mind for where Austin will be this next year.  The most incredible thing that happened was 2 people approached Austin asking him if he was interested in a job when school started.  The second person ran the campus bookstore and actually interviewed him on the spot!  I've been overwhelmed this last month with how much God cares about the details of our lives.  So many times we run to God when we are in trouble, or have a problem, but in every issue of our lives good or bad He cares about all the details that we care about! 

We got back from Fayetteville yesterday and have been visiting with Mark's parent's and enjoying them while we can.  Today we went bowling and ran some last minute errands (like getting candy corn for me!).  If you look closely at the score I beat him one game!
Yet, tommorrow we wake up and fly to Atlanta, then Cam and I on to Joberg.  We have felt like plants about to be transplanted, but have just been hanging our roots exposed.  We love our friends and family, but we are ready to be "home", we are ready to be "planted".  We have felt "in limbo" since we moved out of our home in Alpharetta in November.  Cam and I can't wait to join Mark and Bailey and finally "plant ourselves" in Swaziland.

I wish I had pictures from Mark and Bailey to post, they have had an adventure all their own!  Bailey has taken an entrance exam for school (and passed with flying colors of course),  unloaded the container we packed back in April (that was FINALLY let out of customs) and still survived the cold and the spiders!

Thanks for continuing to lift us up in your prayers!  Next time I write, it'll be from the other side of the ocean!