Monday morning we woke up early to prepare for our first day at the Care Point.
*side note* WVC student ministries support a care point in Mahalabeni, Swaziland. A care point is a place where kids in the community can be fed, play in a safe place, have some sort of supervision, while hearing the gospel in various ways. *end side note*
Eric came over and briefed us on how to shake hands with a Swazi, gave us four phrases that are basically a greeting in Siswati, and filled us in on how they run ministry. We knew we would have four ministry partners who were older (in their 20’s) Swazi’s to translate and help us navigate being in a very different country. We were introduced to them and agreed our game plan for the first day was to keep it low key and just get to know the kids. We arrived at the care point and saw only about 15 or 20 kids, far less than I was expecting. The funny thing was that most of them were young, younger than primary school.
When we got off the bus and tentatively walked over to the kids, were greeted with smiles, laughter, hesitation, and curiosity. Some of the kids did not know what to do with the white folks, others knew that white people bring presents, and one in particular was TERRIFIED of us. This little guy had no pants so he was dubbed as “baby no pants.” That phrase quickly became “shrieking baby no pants” because any time one of us would get close to him, he would start screaming. No one was ever sure why, but one translator told us he was scared of white people. We didn’t ask further questions.
For some reason I remember feeling nervous getting off the bus to play with the kids. Maybe it was because I knew they didn’t speak English, maybe it was because I was afraid to fall in love with them, and maybe I was afraid they wouldn’t like me. I walked over to where the little ones were playing and this little girl reached to come up. I picked her up and cuddled with her. Noticing a terrible cough, I was concerned. I brought her over to Eric and asked if there was any medicine we could give her. He agreed that she sounded worse than some of the other kids and suggested we bring her to the clinic on Friday. This was an acceptable plan to me so I started playing with her. She captured my heart and wouldn’t let go.
First day at the care point and my new little friend!
I was hooked. We all wore name tags that day which served only as a funny reminder as to how foreign we were! If the kids could speak English, they most likely couldn’t read or pronounce our names. Our names were just as funny to them as theirs were to us. My favorite part of the name tags came after we got home and one of our kids took his off. He was wearing a white shirt to the care point and when he peeled off the name tag, a noticeable white square was left on his now once white t-shirt.
That day I learned that kids in Swaziland are the same as kids in America. They want to be held, tickled, played with, chased, and loved. They just want to know they are special and important to you. If my lap was empty for more than 30 seconds, something was wrong. We brought lots of packages of bubbles with us which provided hours of entertainment. They loved to pop the bubbles, make the bubbles, blow on the wands, and wave them around in the air. They loved our sunglasses and cameras, cellphones and ipods, hair and skin. Things that are so normal for us but so unique for them. A huge hit the first few days was my sunburnt skin. I had gotten a sunburn the week before that was peeling when I got to Swaziland. The kids were curious and concerned by my peeling skin. In fact, the first two days they literally picked every piece of the sunburn off. I’ve never had such a good exfoliation in my whole life!
Days at the care point seem to run together being a mix of dust, wind, sand, laughter, tears, songs, skits, “play” (the swazi version of duck duck goose), and botched attempts at the few phrases we knew. There are so many stories from the week that I can’t even remember them. My heart just remembers feeling full and fully alive. The best way to sum up that week is by the song lyrics from a band called Snow Patrol.
This could be the very minute
I’m aware I’m alive
As a child of twenty-five…
All these places feel like home
The ties to my heart were getting stronger and stronger, and rooted deeper and deeper. I was falling in love with a desperate land and desperate people who knew the LORD in a way I could never imagine. I remember hearing the kids sing a song that was later translated to us. It was about how good and holy God is. I was overcome with emotion, knowing that while I didn’t understand the words of praise, they were a sweet aroma to Jehovah. It reminded me of how global our God really is. He is so big yet able to dwell within us. My faith continued to be changed moment by moment while I was there. Up until Saturday, my life wasn’t wrecked. I felt changed but yet steady. That all changed after Friday’s medical clinic. Which I’ll save for the next post.
I mean seriously, how can you NOT love this face?
Chilling with our puppets and enjoying my sunglasses.
Africa part 5: Why I… need an HIV test, shut the door on mothers who needed clothes for their babies, and broke down.