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Most of these are labelled "Womens"
Before we left Witbank for our mission trip to Swaziland, I helped sort out the clothes that had been donated. As you might expect, I had to discard some items. Some peoples' first thought might be to cluck their tongues and say “If this is too disgusting for you to wear, why do you offer it to others?” But I'm a little more understanding – I get clothes are some of our "things," things that remind us of where or why we got it or who we got it from. I believe people don’t really see how ratty something is if it’s special to them. Maybe the only way they are able to give it up is the knowledge that someone else will benefit. Some people even donated underwear! It was nice stuff, though, so we put it in a bag to hand discreetly to the women of the church to distribute as necessary.

Just as a sidenote, only men’s woven boxers have a fly here in South Africa. The knit ones look like little boy training pants, without the super heroes.

We just separated the clothes by women, men, boys, girls, babies. There were also bags of shoes, accessories, linens and curtains. We had one bag each for the babies and the boys. Girls and men had two bags. Women had 153,567. Just kidding! But women’s clothing definitely topped the charts. I puzzled over that ratio the whole weekend, and our leader Nicole offered the most plausible reason. She said men & boys wear the same thing over and over without thinking twice, so they not only have fewer clothes to donate, when it’s bad enough not to wear, it’s too bad to give someone else. Babies soil their clothes or the good ones get passed on to friends and family. Girls have favorite outfits that they wear until they can’t be worn again.

Speaking from experience, women like clothes. We shop sales for recreation. And we change lifestyles – we trade our jeans for business suits or vice versa. And we change sizes. Here’s hoping the lady who donated the 3X clothing lost weight!

We loaded all the clothes we received into the two trailers we were hauling. Once we got to Pongola KZN, we transferred all the clothes to the One Heart trailer. When we got to camp, we divided them so we had a little something for everyone at each of the two churches we were visiting.

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So many people!
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My husband Steven helped distribute sweets to the kids. It was one of those miracles you read in the Bible -- no matter how much we handed out, it seemed we still had the same amount when we left, so we left it with the churches.
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Trying to quickly assess what would fit and please each "customer" was no easy task!
We ran out of boy’s clothing too quickly. We were so grateful to a woman in Connecticut who knits beanies and sends them to One Heart, because when we ran out of shorts, pants and shirts, we could offer them a colorful hat that made them smile.

The lines of people seemed never to grow shorter – people kept coming. There was one young boy who enjoyed being in line to get the sweets that were handed out, and to sing the songs, but the closer he got to the door, the louder he cried because he didn’t want to go in. Turns out the health department also comes to the church to meet the community’s needs and he remembered getting an injection there!

I hope his new memories of what happens at church have him eager to get to the front of the line next time.
Distribution was done inside the church buildings. People had advance knowledge that we were coming, so they were waiting when we pulled up. Pastor Themba had the children line up according to their age, then he told them the orphans got to come in first for their one article of clothing.

We brought all the bags we had, opened them and laid them out on the floor: ladies got one half of the space, and the other half was divided into quarters. Team members got familiar with what was available with a general idea of sizes, then as each child came in, the team member chose ONE suitable article of clothing and put it on the child before sending them on their way. The kids were generally compliant, not complaining if they were given something a little too big. Some of them shook their heads “no” if the clothes were too small, though.

There were a couple ladies who were quite verbal about their desire to choose their own clothing, but as a rule people were grateful for what they were offered. If they were wearing skirts, we tried to find them another skirt; pants, the same. If they were wearing short sleeves, we tried to find them long sleeves or vice versa. There were some dressy dresses and two piece suits, and some rather large sizes that no one who came that day wanted, so we left them at the church for the leaders to distribute. Surely there are women who sew and will alter what they can use.
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I was sure pleased that my grandson Adrien had found a few items he could share -- the little boy in the plaid shorts was pleased, too. He was really pleased when I showed him the magic of the adjustable elastic waist.
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This is the little guy who didn't want a shot!
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These beanies could be called "smile makers"!
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Here's a sweetie dragging his lolly on the ground. Unfortunately, the kids seem quite comfortable with dirt.
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Some folks were curious as to what was going on, so they peeked in the back windows.
 
 
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Pastor Schalk's Power of Hope is based in Pongola, KwaZulu-Natal South Africa. I believe this vehicle was sponsored by a house church in Holland.
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Yes!
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Delicious sugar cane!
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Swazi gold!
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Some of the members of the Shiselweni Reformed Church Home-Based Care. Pastor Themba is in the blue shirt.
As best I understand it, Pastor Schalk van der Merwe's Power of Hope Ministries in uPhongola, Kwazulu-Natal, planted churches in Swaziland and Pastor Themba shepherds them. Pastor Themba organized our weekend, which consisted mainly of distributing the donations we had collected in Witbank and Pongola and visiting some of the more desperate members of the churches. Then we offered salvation through Jesus in our dramas and showing the Jesus Film in the Swati language.

Pastor Themba had arranged for a young woman in grade 11 and a young man in grade 10 to interpret for us. They were members of the local church, and quite helpful with the distribution as well as with communication. Swati is very similar to Zulu, so some of our mission team were able to converse with the local people. English is spoken in Swaziland, so I was constantly searching for a local I could talk to. Friday I saw a beautiful little girl in a pretty white dress and I said “You are so beautiful!” She blushed and covered her face with her hands, giggling. I asked “Do you speak English?” She said, “Yes!” I said, “What’s your name?” And she said “Yes!” Apparently she has a few more words to learn.

The churches we visited were in rural areas, and we had to pass through the sugar cane fields to get where we were going. Sugar cane is called “Swazi gold,” because it is the main cash crop in the country. One of the interpreters told me 90% of the population (in the area we visited) were employed in the sugar cane industry, either in the fields, the mills or transporting it. She was gnawing on a piece of cane and when she found out I had never tasted it, she broke off a piece to share. It was so juicy and sweet! I implored Dave Robb, driver of the Land Rover we were in, to stop at the grocery store so I could buy some to bring home to the grandkids. He said you have to pinch (steal) sugar cane; they don’t sell it. After the harvest, people are allowed to pick up what’s left, so I guess that’s not really stealing.

The sugar cane fields were lush and green, well-cared for and irrigated. The land around them was brown, cracked and dry. There’s been a drought, and no vegetable gardens are growing. We saw lots of goats, a few pigs, and chickens eating whatever they could scratch up. Some fields also had cattle grazing. Steven and I both commented that the landscape reminded us of Arizona. We were able to witness a couple gorgeous sunsets as we prepared to show the Jesus Film.

Pastor Themba recognized a need in the rural area where the first church is located and his church came up with a solution. There are many people who are unable to care for themselves or the children in their homes for a variety of reasons. Pastor Themba instituted a home care team, a group of volunteers who go into the community on a regular basis to check on these people, to see what they need. Pastor told us that these volunteers, whose own cupboards are often bare, still find something to share with the people they help. They have learned to trust God for provision of their basic needs. This is the team who determined who was most needy and would receive the 10kg bags of mealie meal (20 pounds of cornmeal). They also determined who would be getting the bags of rice and canned goods. We left a box of Swati Bibles at each church for Themba to hand out as he was lead.

 
 
So I’m back from a mission trip to Swaziland for 5 days, and I can’t post my blog – either there is no internet service, or no electricity, or neither!

But as Ryan Langkilde, the pastor who trains church members for mission trips, says, “Mission trips are like a big slap in the face from God.” Smack – you think you don’t have enough? Smack – you think internet is a necessity? Smack – you think electricity is a necessity? Another way to put it is that mission trips give you a new perspective on your abundant life. Steve Livingston, one of the board members for One Heart International, shared what someone said at the end of a mission trip – “Not everyone is called to missions, but everyone should go on one mission trip.” I agree wholeheartedly.

There was no mission house in Swaziland, so we pitched our tents at Nisela Game Reserve, near the city of Big Bend. Steven and I bought a whole camping set for R1998 ($199.80 including tax) at Game (Wal-mart). It included a tent, two sleeping bags, two camp chairs, and a sun shade. He and Jean-Marc Masson put it up in no time, then we set up the sleeping bags. Steven used the little self-inflating pad, self-inflating pillow and extra-warm sleeping bag we got when I went to Lesotho in the winter. I used one of the sleeping bags that came with the tent (such a bright happy green color!), a pillow & blanket off the couch, and put all that on an inflatable mattress. The very cool LED lantern that Steven bought to hang in the tent stayed on the shelf in our living room, next to the sunscreen.

It’s spring in Swaziland, and the sun gets downright hot in the afternoon. When you’re not in the sun, it’s more comfortable; and when the sun goes down, it’s time for a jacket and a campfire! Unfortunately, the first night another team member, Candra, and I had terrible headaches and nausea and had to go to bed early. More unfortunately, when Steven and Jean-Marc came back to the tent to sleep, I woke up and discovered that my mattress had pretty well deflated! Turns out, the camping sites were under thorn trees, and one of those pesky thorns on the ground had pierced the tent bottom AND my mattress. Fortunately, we had the patch kit and between Steven, Dave Robb and Steve Livingston, the balance of my sleep was like floating on a cloud.

Nisela had showers with lots of warm water, sinks with running water, mirrors, and flushing toilets. There were campsites with shelters and electricity. There was a cleaning station with big sinks & cold running water. No plugs, but that was resolved with some duct tape (don’t leave home without it!). There was a huge web that big spiders called home in the thatched roof.

All that to say, the people we met over the weekend had it MUCH rougher. Families of six lived in a one-room mud and stick structure with a thatched roof. They cooked on a fire they built outside, if there was something to cook. They walked almost 10K (five miles) to collect water. We were taken to the home of two elderly women – one of them was blind and unable to walk, the other had difficulty walking. They were sitting on their mats outside when we got there, eating rice and chicken. The one lady explained they were having chicken because they were lucky that someone had ridden over their hen, so they had to eat it. These ladies also had to fear for their safety – one night a man broke into their home and raped one of them. Still they smiled at our visit.

I was struck by the fact that we saw lots of little kids, and lots of old people, but not many 20—40 year olds. That’s the age group that has been decimated by AIDS. Their children are being raised by their parents or, in some cases, people who are not even family. I never voiced it, but my heart broke with the knowledge that these grandparents had lost their children. I expect to die before my children, but that cycle of life has been disrupted by disease. If the little ones haven’t lost both their parents, the remaining parent has oftentimes gone in search of a job elsewhere, so they’re still basically orphans.

Our first stop was at the Moriah Center, a day-care and teaching facility for orphans. These children are fed three meals a day, taught, and encouraged to have fun as children should. The mission team joined in the dancing and playing, then things got serious when the two white teachers, young women, had to tell the children this was their last day with them. They had come from the UK and spent one year with the children of Big Bend, and their sad tears were genuine. Pastor Schalk (skulk) took up a collection from the mission team for them so they would have some pocket change on their trip back, and when he presented the money to them, they said “We’ll give it to the soup kitchen.” He strongly advised them to keep it for themselves.

Our days were full, and long. The sun had long ago set by the time we got back to camp, but there was a warm meal, a comforting campfire, warm showers and warm beds waiting for us. So we weren’t really “roughing” it.
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Wonderful venue -- there's not only campsites, there's beehive huts, a restaurant, a gift shop, animals ... flushing toilets, warm showers -- who could ask for anything more?
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We shared this great tent with Jean-Marc
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T carried a 10kg bag of mealie meal (cornmeal) to these two sisters who have limited mobility and no family caring for them. They were eating a chicken they cooked after it had been hit by a car.
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Pastor Themba had the children line up by age, then instructed that the orphans come in for clothing before the others.
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This lady was raising six grandchildren. Others expressed sympathy that these children had no parents, but my heart went out to this woman who had lost her daughter.
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Kate & Ashley from the UK hated saying good-by to the kids. It was heart-wrenching to hear them try to get through the farewells they had prepared.
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We were in awe of the beautiful sunsets we witnessed.
 
 
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Gas fireplace, warm blankets -- my fav place to be when the power goes out!
Come snuggle with me under my fuzzy polka-dot blanket while I describe my first winter in Witbank. Understand that in South Africa, winter is from May to July. Locals tell me that this has been a mild winter, relatively speaking.  www.southafrica.info gives a good description of this season: dry, sunny, crisp days and cold nights. I’ve never even noticed many clouds in the beautiful blue sky. In a testament to the “dry,” I’ve lost count of how many tubes of hand cream I’ve gone through.

When I kiss Steven good-by at 6:15, it’s maybe 35 degrees F. He tells me (I don’t have firsthand knowledge) that it’s warmer when he wakes up before 5:00. About 10:00, it’s comfortable to walk in a sweatshirt at about 52 degrees. Temperatures peak around 14:00, at a warm 60 degrees. Around 17:00, a chill is creeping into the air and when the sun goes down, it’s cold, even if the thermometer says 50. Here they report temps on the Celsius grade, but I’d never get out of bed if I thought it was 3 degrees! So I keep my phone on Fahrenheit.

You know what all those up and down temps mean – a lot of layering when you dress, so you can pile it on, pull it off, and then pile it on again. Jeans, short-sleeved tee, and a hoodie is my usual plan of attack, unless really cold temps are indicated. I do have Under Armour and a winter coat with matching hat, gloves and scarf, but I only wore those when I was on the mission trip to Lesotho. My winter coat is one of those four in one deals, so I’ve mainly worn the inside lining as my coat here. Steven’s mom bought me gloves that I can use my android with in a variety of colors, and I keep those in every pocket of my outerwear.

When the sun goes down, regardless of what the thermometer says, the cold chills me to my bones. My nose gets cold and starts running, my ears and hands and feet cry out for warmth. There are blankets on the couches that I cover my head with and wrap around me. The best feeling in the world is turning the electric mattress heater on high, letting both the sheets get warm, then sliding in. Ahhhh. I’ve perfected my tossing and turning to the point that I can get toasty on every side!

What I find most strange is that there is no central heating in the houses here. The house we’re in has under floor heating in the kitchen and master bath, but the owners warned us we’d tear through electricity if we used it. Since Eskom does rolling blackouts in the winter, there’s more than enough reasons NOT to use that. What do we do? We thank God for all the windows in this house. I get dressed, pull open the curtains in the bedroom, go into the living room and pull those curtains open and lift the shades, too. If I’m going to be working in the office, I lift the shades in there. Light and warmth from the sun – life is good!

If I keep the doors to the living room and bedroom closed, they maintain a little warmth. Additionally, we join the chilly citizens who carry portable electric heaters from room to room. We bought one of those oil-filled radiators that we keep in our bedroom, and found another one under the stairs that we put in the grandkids’ bedroom. The owners also left two halogen heaters, and they warm things up, but they’re bright as the sun! No sleeping in a room with those things on. In the office, there’s a panel heater attached to the wall, but I’ve sat at the desk with my feet on the thing at full throttle and still had frozen toes. There are space heaters in both bathrooms that have fans and they keep the air toasty, which is a very good thing when you have to move around wet AND naked!

We have a gas fireplace that I’ve gotten quite proficient at using; I just have to remember to close the damper when I turn it off or its purpose is defeated. It meets design criteria of being beautiful and useful. The thing is, you have to sit right there in front of it to take full advantage of the warmth. But there are worse things than simply sitting in front of a pretty fire snuggling with your honey – like freezing!

We’re moving into spring now and I’m looking forward to the blooming flowers; but stay tuned, I’m certain to find something I can whine about! Not really; South Africa is a great place for us to live.


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It's warm, but it's B-R-I-G-H-T
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The radiator has a warm, comfortable look & feel
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The tile all over everywhere keeps things chilly, but the heater with a fan helps