Last Thursday, Steven woke up with a nasty lesion on the calf of his left leg. It had a black center and he thought it was a spider bite, but he couldn’t feel a “core” to pull out. Friday he had two more: one on his left forearm and one on his neck. He wrote me a note asking me to field strip the bed, as he was not interested in getting bitten again.

I stripped the bed down to the mattress, washed all the linens in bleach, and put the mattress pad outside on the line – I even pulled the bed out from the wall – no spiderweb, no indications of spiders anywhere.

When he came home Friday night, he felt awful. He thought he had the flu, so he started taking flu medicine. Saturday and Sunday he still felt awful, and had bad headaches. Monday morning he woke me up to ask me to schedule an appointment with a doctor. He had a rash from the top of his head to the tips of his toes.

The doctor let him share his tale of spider bites, but after an examination and a couple questions, she asked “Have you been recently to the lowveld?” He said, “Swaziland, but that was two weeks ago.” She told us it often takes 10 days for the symptoms to show up. And he had all the symptoms.

Tick fever (rickettsia) is a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks. They pick it up from animals in the wild, then transfer it in their saliva when they bite people. African tick bite fever and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are caused by the same bacteria, but I’m happy to say, the African tick bite fever is much less severe.

Once he started telling people about his experience, he’s heard lots of stories about what they went through when they had it. It’s not uncommon here.

Fortunately, the sickness responds well to antibiotics. The doctor started him on those and pain meds. A testament to the severity of the headaches is that Steven took the pain pills. Before we left Nebraska, I threw away bottles of pain killers from the time of his back surgery because he refused to take them, choosing instead to just deal with the pain.

Another good thing is that there is no recurrence of symptoms; once the meds work their magic and eradicate the bacteria, Steven will be well. Praise God for modern medicine!

In all our married life, I have been the one who attracts the ticks. Steven jokingly told someone the other night that when we were warned about the ticks in Swaziland, he had counted on the fact that his personal tick magnet would spare him the agony. Not this time!

If you want more information, this is the website we used to confirm the diagnosis:


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.

So many people!
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.
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.
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.
This is the little guy who didn't want a shot!
These beanies could be called "smile makers"!
Here's a sweetie dragging his lolly on the ground. Unfortunately, the kids seem quite comfortable with dirt.
Some folks were curious as to what was going on, so they peeked in the back windows.
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.
Delicious sugar cane!
Swazi gold!
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.