Category: July 2018 Trip

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Diaspora

If you’re reading this blog, this means that we are home. Maybe not all of us quite yet, but pretty close. We’ve landed at RDU, and we’re heading back to our respective cities, towns, and neighborhoods, exhausted and spent but joyful. We’re so ready for well-earned rest, and to begin sharing with all of you the amazing stories and experiences we’ve shared over this trip. We hope you’re ready!

 

This morning, as we were reflecting on our time in Swaziland and our return home, we couldn’t help but think of how in many ways our team reflects the early church. There’s a biblical term called the “diaspora”, or the spreading of the tribes of Israel. This event actually occurs twice in the Bible, once in the Old Testament when God scatters the 12 tribes of Israel across the land during the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian empires. But it also happens after the resurrection of Jesus. The early church scatters across the globe to the farthest reaches of the known world (the Roman Empire) to declare the glory of God found in Jesus at the resurrection. Without this diaspora, we would not have the gospel in Europe, the Americas, or Asia. We wouldn’t know Jesus at all.

 

In the same way, our team has just scattered. Yes, on a much smaller scale, but we’ve all gone back to our respective cities scattered across the state of North Carolina, our own activities and circles of influence. We have a unique opportunity, a special platform in the wake of our return — to share. To share the good news of Jesus with people we may not have ever spoken to about Christ before. To share of the work God is doing in Swaziland, and how it is bringing Him all the glory. We have opportunities awaiting us here, and we’re ready to dive deep.

 

We hope you will join us in this continued journey. We want to see the Gospel dive deep in our own neighborhoods, our own cities, our own circles of influence. We hope you’ll join us in sharing the work God is doing in Swaziland, in your own heart, and in your own situations. For those of you who have prayed deeply, followed along with our journey through this blog and social media, we thank you for your support and your love as we’ve experienced Swaziland. We hope we have encouraged you, reminded you, and shared with you the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We pray that you have been impacted by our own experiences as we have. We pray you won’t forget our brothers and sisters in Swaziland who beseech you to continue to pray for them, to give them hope, and visit them as often as possible. We thank you for you loving us, supporting us, and going to Swaziland with us.

 

Silani Kahle (Stay Well),

 

Your July 2018 Swaziland Team

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Still

Today we spent the day enjoying Kruger again….but this time with AMAZING cats. We witnessed both leopards and cheetahs, as well as an incredible encounter with lions. Lions are fairly lazy creatures; they enjoy sunbathing and resting. But this time, two females lions felt invigorated and walked within 10 FEET of our vans, crossing the road. The photos are literally unbelievable, and our hearts were thumping so hard! It was so amazing to witness! We also reflected again today. Sat in the stillness watching giraffes munching, impalas silently herding, and zebra swing their tails to and fro. Another beautiful day in Africa.

Stillness can be unsettling. When the world becomes too quiet, our heartbeats quicken, our senses heighten, and we’re put on guard to watch and wait for anyone or anything that is coming towards us. We’re alert. In many ways, our stillness in Kruger has been unsettling. The spirit of the Lord is unsettling us, causing our senses to heighten, our heartbeats to quicken. He’s asking us to pay attention. To stay alert. The Lord is speaking and we’re being put on alert to hear what he is saying.
In many ways we don’t like what we’re hearing: come home. It’s time. We’re ready for you here. As we hear God calling us back to America, we consider how life might look different there now. How our eyes, so attuned to the Gospel here, might stay attuned to that same Gospel back home. What conversations might need to happen in the wake of our changed hearts, what life changes might need to happen as God has convicted us here, how our paths are changing direction based on the Lord’s call. We’re in our Africa bubble and we’d like to stay here. It’s simple here. It’s quiet here. The Lord is close here. But He’s calling us home.

We’re not quite ready, but we’re close. As someone our team said, “by the time we get there, we’ll be ready.” Our time in this land is coming to a close, and we’re leaving changed people — Different than who we came. Changed by the faces, the love, the experiences, and the people. Changed by the voice of God speaking to us each in unique and new ways. Changed by those Swazi voices lifting up in unison, singing, “There’s no one, there’s no one, like Jesus.” We’ve changed and the Lord has changed us into a little bit more of who he wants us to be.

 

So, friends and family, we’re asking, begging, please be patient with us as we settle back into our home. We miss you — we want to tell each of you the experiences we’ve had, the encounters with the almighty that we’ve seen firsthand, and of the glorious, glorious ways that God is working in Swaziland and in us. We want to share. We pray you’ll be willing to listen. We pray you’ll be patient as we try to explain with mere words how God has changed us. We pray you’ll be still with us as we come home. Sit in the stillness with us — the Lord is speaking.

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Back to Bethel

Today we began to enjoy the beauty that is the Kruger National Park. It is full of all kinds of amazing creatures, teeming with life and abundance. We saw so many kinds of animals, both big and small and basked in the glory of God’s amazing creation. This time has also been spent as a reflection among our team, processing each piece of this amazing experience. We’re working through photos to remind ourselves from where we’ve come, we’re remembering experiences and faces. We’re trying to discern God’s voice in this still place.

 

As we wrestle with future plans, the experiences we’ve shared with both Swazis and our team, we are reminded of the story in Genesis 28 when Jacob dreams at Bethel. Here’s the full text:

“Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold, their was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord in is this place, and I did not know it!” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, this is the gate of heaven.” So early in the morning Jacob took the stone the he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called the name of the place Bethel…” (Genesis 28:10-19)
The promise the Lord gives to Jacob gives us hope. That he will bring us back to this land we have fallen in love with. That he will not leave Swaziland until He has done whet He has promised us. That He is with us wherever we go. The Lord has brought so many of us back to Bethel on the trip. He will accomplish His purposes again. Bethel, or “house of God,” is what Jacob names the place He receives His dream. Swaziland is on its own a kind of Bethel — God has promised to complete the work he began there.

 

We want to go back to our own Bethel. Want to return to that sacred, holy ground again and breathe the smoky air. Jacob’s dream changes him. It rocks him. It changes the direction of his life, and God uses it to make a bold proclamation of promise over Him. Pray for us to consider Swaziland as our own Bethel. God has made promises to us here on this trip. Let us remember God’s promises as we continue to process all that we have seen and heard. Let us declare God’s promises back to Him. Pray them back in faithfulness to Him. We continue to beg for our prayers as we sit stilly as the foot of the cross.

 

Father, you know us and love us. Continue to reveal our own Bethel to us. Take us back to your holy ground. Cover us with your love and grace. Amen

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Undone

Undone.

 

We have been undone today. We spent most of the morning with Daran and Theresa Rehmeyer, the founders of Kudvumisa Foundation. All we can even begin to say is, “wow.” We bore witness to the incredible work they are doing here. Their clinic is literally dreams being birthed into reality as you read this. There are walls and tiles and paint and rooms that are going to touch the lives of many in the northeast. Their guest house is a shell — waiting to be filled with guests helping provide sustainability for their healthcare and economic ministries.

 

If we could bottle up this feeling, we would. This vision of being called. These dreams that are becoming realities.Today we have been moved to our knees by the Lord and his work here in Swaziland. We’ve seen vision taking shape in each of us for our lives, for our call here to this country, and our passion has been ignited into flames. We’ve seen a movement in ourselves, in our team. The ground we’ve talked today and this week is holy. Holy moments.

 

As we drove over the border today, we without a doubt left our hearts on the other side of it. We’ve left our hearts in Eswatini. We’ve left our hearts in Mbabane. In Nhlangano. In Tshaneni. It’s dirt has gotten into our skin. It’s people have bored holes in our hearts. It’s beauty will not leave us anytime soon. Pray for us as we begin to sort out the emotions and the experiences we’ve had. We covet those prayers, as we need time to hurt. To let those files burn. To bottle up these feelings. To remember. To breathe slowly.

 

Father, we need you now more than ever. Soothe our broken hearts. Help us take our love home. Allow us to be undone. Amen.

 

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Hamba

Our days of ministry are finally coming to a close. Today we loaded up and sped off to Tsaneni to visit the churches in the Northeast. We spent the morning visiting, teaching Sunday school, and worshipping with our Swazi friends here. We also were able to take communion alongside our Swazi brothers and sisters. All good gifts! We then spent the afternoon driving around a local game park looking for animals and pretty birds, all the while enjoying a gorgeous sunset over Sand River Dam, and a quiet dinner at the guest house.

 

Today we worshipped alongside the nations: with our Swazi friends and another church group from Northmead Baptist church in Johannesburg, South Africa. We loved visiting with other Christians and it was so encouraging to our hearts to see other Christians from around the world worshipping alongside up and growing in our faith together. Pastor Jason of Northmead preached the service and led us through the story of Jonah. “‘Arise, go to Ninevah, that great city and call out against it, for the evil one has come up before me.’” (Jonah 1:2, ESV) Pastor Jason made an excellent point to all of us this morning: God tells ALL of us the time to go! The word for go in Siswati is “Hamba.” We love this word because it is a part of the Siswati words for goodbye, “Hamba Kahle” or in English, “go well.”

 

What does it mean to go well? As we’re ending our time in Swaziland, we’re considering this phrase more closely. God has called each and everyone of us, including you, to go. He will appoint the time and the place, maybe not as clearly as Jonah, but he will call you. He will tell you to go. How will you go? As God is calling us back home in the coming days, we want to go well. We want to honor our Swazi brothers and sisters by going well, by honoring the gifts they have given us and by sharing their stories among our family and friends.

 

As we considering what going look likes for us, we urge to consider what God is calling you to. We’re called to follow God with trust and joy, not run away like Jonah did. Are you following God’s call for you life? We pray over you as you consider this question. We hope you will pray for us in return, as we finish up ministry in the North tomorrow. Pray for us to rest well in the coming days at Kruger. Pray for us as we learn to Hamba Kahle.

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A Lot Lost

Well friends, our time in central Swaziland is coming to a close. After a great day of ministry and worship at the youth leader’s retreat, full of laughter and fun, the team headed up to Hawane Baptist Church, where we greeted some of our greatest friends and were treated a private concert by the youth choir. Such gifts! We then had dinner with one very special lady, Gogo Sandu. We are so thankful for her and what a blessing she is to all of us!

 

Today was bittersweet in so many ways. We didn’t get nearly enough time with our friends at youth leader’s retreat, and so many of us are so tired of having to say goodbye to our friends. We love these people with all of our heart, and only getting to see them every once in a while is so difficult. But, on the plus side, so many new connections were formed and have been grown in these days in Swaziland! Praise God!

 

The last few days have been heavy for us, both emotionally, physically, and spiritually. We’ve been fighting exhaustion, while diving deep into ministry alongside of our friends. So today we finally had a bit of light. After youth leader’s retreat, we took two of our friends home to Hawane from Manzini. Jimmy was not too familiar with the route and was asking one of our friends Pearl which direction he should traveling and she kept saying “left, left”. Well left honestly meant straight. After literally 10 different wrong turns, we FINALLY got to our destination. Needless to say we laughed a lot, and our phrase for these kinds of moments? “This is Africa!”

 

There have been so many moments of “lostness” on this trip. We’ve been lost physically more than once. We’ve been lost mentally as we try to process and internalize this whole trip. We’ve been lost emotionally as we begin to comprehend the vastness of the love that we feel for this country. And we’ve been lost spiritually, soaking in the grace of Christ and his death and resurrection and its implications for this country. As we’re coming into the home stretch on this journey, we’re soaking in these final moments of lostness. We’re relishing every second we have left.

 

Pray for us. Pray that our hearts would be fully engaged in our personal health and the mission here. Pray that we stay lost. Pray that we continue to encourage and love on our Swazi friends as we leave for the Northeast tomorrow.

 

As we’ve found out today, being a little (or a lot) lost isn’t so bad after all.

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Front Row Seat

Today we witnessed so much glory. We got a front row seat to God’s incredible creation driving from Nhlangano to Mbabane, we saw a front row showing of a fathers pride for his son preaching the Gospel literally to the nations, and we witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit at our first day of youth leaders retreat. It was a good day.

 

Sometimes, oftentimes, we get a front row seat to glory. We get to witness God in our creation, in our brothers and sisters in Christ, and especially in the gift of our salvation. And so often, we miss it. We miss the glory that is standing right in front of us, two feet from our face. We’re so blinded by our “problems”, our doubts, our insecurities, our fears, and our pain. We fail to witness the glory that is standing outside of our windows. We fail to see the Lord himself calling out to us through whispered prayers, through the laughter and smiles of children, through Christ hung on the cross, and his resurrection from the grave.

 

There’s a song that has become the heartbeat of this team. It echoes the heartbeat of this nation, pounding in the hills, screaming from the rocks, blowing in the wind. It’s called “So Will I (100 Billion X)” by Hillsong United. We fully recommend a listen if you haven’t heard it, but’s it’s been speaking to our hearts this week.

 

“God of salvation, you chased down my heart through all of my failure and pride. On a hill you created the light of the word, abandoned in darkness to die. And as you speak, 100 billions failures disappear. Where you lost your life, so I could find it here. If you left the grave behind you, so will I. I can see your heart in everything you’ve done. Every part designed in a work of art called love. If you glad chose surrender so will I. I can see your heart 8 billion different ways. Every precious one a child you died to save. If you have your life to love them, so will I.”

 

Don’t miss your front seat today. Don’t miss the voice of God in that sunset tonight, in the stars that will appear. Don’t miss the whispers of creation calling for you. Don’t miss the faces of those around you, the smiles, the tears, the laughter, the joy that can be found. Don’t miss Christ in your brothers and sisters. Don’t miss the word of God speaking to you. Listen. Wait. Learn. Love. Glory is calling. Take your front row seat.

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Scars

Friends we come to you tonight with heavy hearts. After a beautiful day of ministry at Mgamudze, we held our final two revival services in the Nhlangano area. This week has been full of beautiful moments of ministry, of grace. Our hearts are full; but or hearts are also heavy. We said goodbye today to some of our favorite Swazi friends. Some we have known for 20+ years. It never ceases that these goodbyes rip our hearts apart. If you been to Swaziland, then you know what we mean when we say, “It’s so hard to leave your heart.” As so many of us have said goodbye before, tonight we ripped open old wounds. We’ve said goodbye to many of these friends before, but it never gets any easier to feel those scars.

Scars are an interesting concept. When the flesh of the body is ripped open, torn in two and left to heal, it never goes back to the way it was. The skin heals, yes, but marks are left. Reminders of those old wounds. They fade with time too, but are never exactly the same as they were. Scars change us, they remake us, they transfigure us.

The intensity of the tightening in our chests tonight is alarming; a heart-attack like swelling and squeezing of these fleshy, pulpy hearts as they beat senseless in their cages. Those old wounds ripped open again by goodbyes that we never want to come. Wounds that never fully heal, even with time. Scars.

But our Savior knew of scars. His brow cracked open by a crown of thorns, his hands and feet pierced by iron nails, his side split open. A resurrected savior who came to us with scars. Jesus understands our heartbreak, our pain, and despair in wishing our friends goodbye because he bore the weight of the cross. He scarred himself so that we would only know the valley of the shadow of death, not the valley of death itself. Jesus in our place. Even in goodbye, the Gospel message brings hope and comfort in a broken world.

We rest in the comfort tonight that Jesus knows our scars. He feels our heartbreak for our friends, for this nation, and for one another. He understands our despair and sorrow. Jesus’ scars led to resurrection; our scars lead to eternity with the precious, precious souls we said goodbye to tonight. It’s never truly goodbye, only see you in Ezulwini. (Heaven) Amen.

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Where Words Fail

Another day of busy ministry friends! After an early start, we headed as a team to Francon School to lead their morning devotion. We can’t even begin to describe the sound of 200+ Swazi voices lifting up the Lord. WOW. Word fail to explain. We then headed to Maloma, one of the most rural churches in the Nhlangano area. We were able to lead a women’s bible study and the men blessed us again with lunch and service! Words fail to explain the power of hearing a Swazi woman speaking to her fellow brethren of the Gospel message! We also headed up a third night of revival services with sweet worship and fabulous messages of hope and freedom. Words fail to describe the power of the sound of a revival service in Swaziland.

 

Over and over again today, our breath was stolen from us. We are breathless, wordless, standing in awe of our creator God who is working so intensely in his Kingdom in Eswatini. We were witnesses to his power and unending graces today.

 

Our breathless awe isn’t such a bad place to be. Where words fail, the word of God can step in and move. Where words fail, tears and smiles can speak just as loudly. Where words fail, the spirit of God walks freely among his people. Where words fail, God lives. He loves. He leads.

 

When have you last stood in wordless, breathless awe of your creator God? When have you witnessed his power, his might, and his love? Join us in our palms up surrender tonight. We have found our freedom in Him. Christ’s death on the cross is our ultimate freedom; we are standing in awe of him tonight in the kingdom of Swaziland.

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Those Feet

What a day of ministry friends! We spent the day at Thunzini, teaching a women’s conference, visit and celebrating with old friends, and then hosted revival services there and at Matsanjeni! Revivals were awesome tonight, and we’ve seen God bring 9 news souls to himself! Praise God!

Teaching for the women was such a gift. The men on the trip served well by handling lunch and the logistics, freeing the women to love on the Swazis and to teach. We loved serving the Swazi women and they always give us so more than we give them.

As we were teaching and spending the day, some of friends children began to arrive from school to play and hang out. One little boy in particular was wearing no shoes. Our thought: where are the places those feet must have walked? Those little barren feet, who have seen more red clay than any of us ever will. Those little feet that have already known unimaginable poverty, hunger so deep it hurts in the bones, and the sting of death in his life. Those little feet have run the wild paths of Swaziland with far too many burdens for him to bear, known the paths of poverty and walked roads to graves to bury those that left this world too soon. And yet, here we are, sitting on one of those paths with those little feet, seeing the biggest smile on his face. His joy is overflowing at the sight of sitting with friends, laughing at beach balls and rubber ducks, and kissing cheeks of young women.

Just like those little feet, the feet of those women we taught today have walked those hard roads too. The roads of poverty, HIV, and early death run rampant here. And yet, the roads of joy driven in by the Gospel hold strongest still. These women are a testament to the transformative power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One of them has more joy than most of the Americans we know combined! They have so much joy in rejoicing in who God is, rather than the tough, tough roads they have walked.

We all have roads that we walk – difficult paths that drive us to fear, heartache, and away from the Lord. Let us learn from our Swazi friends to choose the paths of joy, contentment, and the Gospel. Find joy where you are today. Choose the Lord today and his path to life. You won’t regret it.

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