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Changed Lives and Communities

Knitting Friendships
By Holly Johnson

This summer I had the opportunity to go to Swaziland for the first time. I first heard I was going to help out with Vacation Bible School. I was excited about meeting the children and experiencing VBS with them. I could not wait to arrive in Swaziland and go to the Ntondozi Church of the Nazarene. I knew this would be the place of possibly developing any great relationship(s) since we planned to be there numerous times during our trip.

The first day we visited Ntondozi I met a 10 year old girl. She was quiet and sweet, and we really connected. I wanted to give her a gift before I left, so I decided to use the yarn I brought (for busy work on the plane) to make her a scarf. When we returned the next day, I took my yarn and knitting needles with me to work on her scarf while we all talked. I quickly had a crowd of children asking, “What are you doing?” Some of the children braided my hair while I was knitting. Then several women and young girls came around to watch me knit, too. They started asking how to do it. I handed my needles over to several women for them to practice. I was amazed how quickly they caught on and how eager they were to learn. During this time of teaching, I began having good conversation with a few of the ladies. I was excited about this because the women were shy and did not talk as easily as the kids. One of the ladies began to tell me about her son and what it's like being a single mom. Her sister came over and sat with us and began to share her story as well. Soon, they were asking me questions. They asked me about America, marriage, what God likes, and what He disapproves of. One of the ladies shared her hurt and her feelings about God. She felt He didnʼt answer her prayers fast enough.  The woman felt they were on their own, trying to figure out how to deal with this very difficult life. I told her I understood those feelings too and have felt the same way from lifeʼs disappointment and hurt.” Then I prayed for her. I asked God to give them physical protection, provision, as well as hope and healing from their pain.

Initially, I thought I was going to see a pain like I had never seen before in Swaziland. I soon realized their pain is just like ours. God gave those two girls and myself a connection of humanity. I am amazed how God used my hobby of knitting to help me connect with these women in such a deep way. Looking back on my experience, I can connect these "dots". I see how God uses not only our gifts but also our pain for His Glory. I am thankful He is a healer. Now, I desire to speak His hope to others in the world!

Swaziland Pastoral Couples Conference
Michaele LaVigne
October 8, 2011

On August 16, 2011, one hundred and sixty pastors and spouses gathered in Manzini, Swaziland for the first-ever Nazarene Pastor’s Conference on the issues of HIV and AIDS. The small country of Swaziland in Southern Africa has the terrible distinction of having the highest HIV prevalence rate per capita in the world.

101 years ago, the Church of the Nazarene began work in Swaziland with the mission to preach, teach, and heal just as Jesus did. The first missionaries and early Swazi Christians well understood that God wanted to redeem the whole person. Therefore, along with starting churches, they developed a hospital, schools, colleges, and clinics. Yet with the onslaught of the HIV/ AIDS crisis, the Nazarene

Church in Swaziland, as elsewhere in the world, has grappled with how to preach,
teach, and heal the delicate issues surrounding this pandemic. 
Since 2007 Bethany First Church of the Nazarene in Bethany, Oklahoma, has partnered with the Nazarene churches and institutions in Swaziland. In 2009 both Swazi and American partners worked to drill down on what was most needed to fight against HIV in Swaziland. It was agreed that pastors needed to be educated on the pandemic and the ways the local church can fight against it. The pastors and spouses conference was a direct result of this decision, and was a joint effort
between the Nazarene Africa Region, Nazarene Compassionate Ministries
in Africa, the Swaziland Church of the Nazarene, and Bethany First
Church of the Nazarene.

Africa’s Regional Director, Dr. Filimao Chambo opened the conference by saying,
“Now is not the time to ask Jesus whether it is the man or his parents who sinned to make him blind.” Instead, he said, it is time to approach the issues of HIV and AIDS in a compassionate way that allows for God’s glory to be revealed. Dr. Chambo pointed to the example of Jesus’ life and ministry as our “gospel mandate” to
respond  to the HIV crisis. Dr. David Busic, former senior pastor of Bethany First Church of the Nazarene and newly elected president of Nazarene Theological Seminary, was the keynote speaker for the conference. Dr. Busic said that the “holiness response” to people suffering with HIV is a response of love, action,
and compassion-- not judgment.

During the three-day conference there were plenary sessions and workshops on a wide range of topics and issues having to do with HIV. During one session, pastors were able to receive down-to-earth medical information from a Swazi doctor from the Nazarene Raleigh Fitkin Memorial Hospital. Pastors and their spouses were encouraged to ask frank questions about the nature of the disease, and the ways in which it can and cannot spread.

Other plenary sessions brought together panelists from all over the nation to discuss
what is being done in Swaziland to fight HIV. Regional and national leaders from
Nazarene Compassionate Ministries also shared the work that was being done through NCM, and how churches can be a part of those projects. Each session closed with questions and answers as those in attendance worked to apply what had been heard.

Each person in attendance was offered a free health evaluation including HIV
testing. This was possible through the generosity of The Luke Commission, a missionary health organization in Swaziland with strong ties to the Nazarene church. Dr. Chambo emphasized that as a leader in the community, it is important for pastors to get tested for HIV so that others will feel more comfortable in doing so. He also spoke of the importance of maintaining one’s physical health as well as spiritual health.

Dr. Busic spoke in each of the evening services, bringing encouragement and affirmation to pastors and their spouses. Every night was a blessed time of worship,
prayer, and preaching. On Thursday evening, Dr. Busic explained that the Church
does not need to be in a defensive position, hunkered down and waiting for the enemy to attack. Rather, he said we as Christians, and as Nazarenes, have a long legacy of charging into enemy territory and taking it for the Kingdom.

The service ended with a powerful, spontaneous time of prayer at the front of the auditorium that lasted for 30 minutes or more. It was obvious that the Holy Spirit was working and moving to bring revival to the Church. A similar time of prayer was repeated after Dr. Chambo gave the final address on Friday morning, just before  
the conference drew to a close.

One member of the Bethany First Church team who attended the conference felt led to pray months before that God would birth something in the Swaziland churches as a result of this conference. No one who was there doubts that something new, powerful, and holy was born during the times of prayer Thursday night and Friday morning of the conference. Now brothers and sisters all across the global Church of the Nazarene wait in prayerful excitement to see what this new-born movement will become in our Swazi brothers and sisters as they charge into enemy territory and bring the hope and healing of the Kingdom in the middle of the AIDS pandemic.

Swaziland Library Project 2011
By Marg Stahlbaum

Canadian Youth GroupIn August of 2009, a group of 21 Canadian students and young adults joined Bethany First Church of the Nazarene in Oklahoma for the first Canada Central NYI missions trip to Swaziland, Africa. One of the major compassion outreaches was located at Bhalekane, a rural village in northern Swaziland. The construction team was busy with a new roof and drainage system; the medical team provided a clinic that saw over 360 patients in one day; the education and compassion teams organized a vacation bible school for almost 800 students.

Campbell Stahlbaum, at 14 the youngest student on the team, noticed there were very few books available for the 760 students at Bhalekane. The son of a librarian, he saw the need and how it could impact student lives. He insisted that you cannot go to a place like Swaziland and not do something. What happened next was a test of faith and obedience to God.

Philip Lushaba, Headmaster of the Bhalekane school, remembered Campbell’s sincere enthusiasm with his students and sent a request asking if the boy from Canada would please help him build a library for the school. After a couple days of prayer, Campbell responded with a resounding YES! Campbell and his family had no idea how to do that, but Campbell’s response was, “We’ll just have to keep telling and asking people until someone comes along that knows what to do.” A small team consisting of Kavine Thangaraj, Marg, Stacey & Campbell Stahlbaum met to brainstorm possibilities. Looking for potential partners, we contacted the I Can Foundation, a Canadian non-profit organization that had helped develop several small libraries in Swaziland. The African Library Project and Nazarene Compassionate Ministries were consulted as well. All three organizations were instrumental in seeing this project become a reality.

Book drives were held and children’s books, pastoral support, medical, and teacher resource books were collected from Nazarene and other denominational churches across Canada Central District. Children at Grand View Public School in Cambridge also brought in books. Fundraisers were held and private donations came in to help cover the cost of shipping. As book donations increased, a storage place became a necessity. Tom and Rosalind Hart, through Ravenscraig Holdings in Cambridge offered to donate second floor office space, providing an amazing 1100 square foot heated and well lit working space.

The I Can Foundation met with us, charted out a plan and we started to work. Books were brought up a flight of stairs by a chain of young people. Volunteers began sorting, cataloguing, and categorizing mounds of books. Nazarene Compassionate Ministries guided us through the paperwork process for our first container shipment. Container size, weight limits, days in port, packing regulations and of course the cost to ship a large container are but a few of the considerations, all new territory for this group of people.

Books needed to be catalogued and categorized the old fashioned way with pockets and a card system for tracking the books. Cataloguers worked countless hours and then another group of volunteers affixed the spine label, pocket and card to each book. Library supplies were donated by Brodart, Carr McLean and the I Can Foundation. Four local Staples stores donated boxes to pack the books for shipping.

During this process a request came from Cranmer Magagula, Director of Nazarene Schools in Swaziland. Would we please consider sending any additional books for other schools? He listed six additional schools without a library but able to house one, as well as other schools that could use supplementary books. There was much excitement about the coming books!

A team of 27 regular volunteers and youth from across Canada Central District came to help over a period of 5 months. On March 19, 2011, 24 people were present to see the first boxes loaded onto a 20 foot container. In all, 12,272 books and 340 additional boxes of teacher resources, Bibles and pastoral supplies were packed for shipping.  Tom Hart, owner of the office space, donated 5 desks and 11 office chairs. Perfect for libraries. At 9:38 on March 21, 2011, the twenty foot container was loaded and sealed, ready to go! Approximate arrival date was May 14th.

As the container journey was tracked online we booked flights to arrive in Swaziland on May 24th. It was finally time to go. Campbell, Marg, and Stacey Stahlbaum along with friend Ngaire Velich from Cambridge Preston Church of the Nazarene left Canada for Swaziland.

Upon arrival in Swaziland, the container was held in dry dock for an additional 13 days and finally released for delivery to Bhalekane on Friday, May 27th. Cranmer Magagula and several teachers from Bhalekane waited with us as we watched for the container. Emotions ran high as we saw the container rounding the bend in the road. Joy, tears and thanksgiving took hold. Finally… this dream had become a reality.

Students and teachers helped us unload the 20 foot container in record time – 27 minutes! Boxes filled a new library building that will house the library. Teachers were anxious to see what was in the boxes and get started, but had to wait for the training seminar the next day.

The seminar was held for the elementary Nazarene schools on how to organize and run a rural library. Twenty four teachers and two head masters attended this all day seminar. Each school received a printed copy that outlined the entire workshop for reference when they begin to set up their own library. Each school also received a set of flash cards introducing some easy games to help children be at ease with using a library and books. During the seminar, Stacey & Campbell sorted books for each of the 35 Nazarene elementary schools designated to receive a variety of books. Bhalekane is the prototype school library and the goal is to oversee and review the progress of that school to identify any changes needed when a second container is shipped in 2012. Plans are to supply the 35 elementary schools with sufficient books for students to be able to check out and exchange library books on a regular basis.

Teachers that had transportation on that Saturday collected their books as well as some classroom supplies. Each school also received at least six books from the J.A.W.S. series that gives accurate and hopeful information on HIV/AIDS written for the elementary-aged student. We were asked by one of the teachers from Mafusini, a school on the Mozambique border, to come share this same workshop with her school and bring the school’s boxes of books. This teacher traveled over 2 hours on public transit to attend the workshop and had no way to carry so many boxes back with her.

On the following Tuesday, another workshop was held for 14 teachers at Mafusini. The teachers were very eager to understand ways to engage students to begin to read since it really isn’t part of their educational culture. The teachers read the six books on talking about HIV/AIDS with their students. Hearing the heartbreak in their voices turn to hope as they realized they now had a tool to help children understand was a blessing.

Upon returning to Canada in June, we were informed that all 35 Nazarene schools have collected their books. I have phoned both Mafusini and Bhalekane to talk with the teachers that will be in charge of their libraries. While there are challenges ahead in using a library for the first time, there is also an expectation that these students will have a chance to become better people in their communities and a chance at a better future.

Aftermath:
Partnerships are developing in the community where we live as news of this Library initiative has spread. The Waterloo Region District School Board has already donated 20 feet of library shelving and there is a promise of an entire school’s hard goods when it is scheduled to be replaced in 2012. That means more shelving, student and teacher desks, bulletin boards and much more. Our group of original volunteers is eager to join in with this second shipment of books and educational supplies. Also, as news traveled through three local newspapers and a radio program, many community members want to donate as well. A grade 8 student read the article and was also inspired. She collected 2,214 books in a ten-day book drive held at her school and has donated them to the next shipment!

A God directed plan from the very beginning, it has been a reminder of God's love for the widowed, orphaned and vulnerable in our world and His commitment to them. It has also been a test of our obedience to His leading. There were several times when I, personally, just wanted to throw up my hands and surrender because the task seemed too big. Each time that emotion would sweep over me, I'd see Campbell and Stacey hard at work, or I'd hear one of the volunteers say how this project has inspired them to live differently. It has even begun to work on the hearts of His children who have strayed to find the way back. Through this project, I have seen how much God loves us and how much He desires us to work with Him. I am humbled by the fact that someone like me can be part of this project and very proud of the teachers as we watched them begin to realize their potential for teaching with these additional resources.

Rev. Cosmos Mutowa, Nazarene Compassionate Ministries Africa Region, stated in May, 2010, that a book has the potential to change a child’s life. The books and the potential are there. God has plans that will be far reaching for all who will listen both here and in Africa.

God showed a need, a youth responded, and many people have now been part of the process to bring a library to Bhalekane and 35 other schools in Swaziland.

A practical need.
A growing hope…….

Campbell and Canadian youth group

A Garden Fence for Ntondozi
by Amy Curry

Ntondozi Nazarene Church had a desire to start a garden. The garden would provide food for the preschool childrenthey are currently feeding daily. A large problem for any group in Swaziland wanting to start a garden is the animals that find their way onto the land and eat the produce. To stop this problem one must a have a fence.

The people of Ntondozi have been collecting funds to start putting up a fence of their own for some time. Bethany First Church of the Nazarene was able to come alongside the church people to help finish the fence project. The timing of putting up the fence worked out perfectly as Mount Vernon Nazarene University and Southern Nazarene University had a team of university students in Swaziland. The students helped the church members with the labor to put up the fencing to enclose the garden.

As the University team pulled up to the church on their first work day a large portion of the labor had already been finished. Materials had already been delivered to start the project, and the church members were so excited they started working very early. As many of the students helped with the fence, the rest of the team members played with the children who attend the preschool. The church members, team members, and children spent two days building relationships and completing the fence.

On Sunday June 5, the University teams attended church at Ntondozi. The sanctuary was overflowing and there was a spirit of celebration as the fence had been finished. After church all gathered on the lawn for tea and cookies. Soon after the tea there was a soccer game and net ball game that could have lasted all day. The coming together of the University students and the church members resulted in great relationships, a garden fence for Ntondozi, and soon there will be food for vulnerable children. 

Operation Dress-Up - The Swazi story!
By Amy Curry, On-site Coordinator

A group of women at Bethany First Church came together for a day of sewing. It wasn't a typical day of sewing. It was a day to make dresses for girls in Swaziland. Get this...the dresses were made out of pillowcases. In March BFC sent a team to Swaziland and in their bags they carried over many of these dresses.

It was a special gift to hand these dresses out. The first place we handed out the dresses was at a church in the Southern district of Swaziland at the Ntondozi church. The Ntondozi church recently started having a preschool five days a week for 36 orphan and vulnerable children. On top of that they have been feeding these children, plus the primary school children, three days a week for the past two years. Ntondozi is exactly the kind of church we love to partner with. They are taking care of their community on their own!

The little boys were given T-shirts in different colors with sports team names and numbers on them.  Many of the shirts came as donations of extra new shirts from BFC children’s team sports.  They love these shirts! 

The second location was at a World Vision care point in Tsambakhulu where we held a VBS. One young lady touched my heart.  Her name was Olga.  I'm not sure what her age is, but she is probably a teenager.  Olga spends her days amongst the other preschool children.  This is because she has special needs. Her left side is unable to function, looking as if she has had a stroke. In planning for the day I was debating not handing out the dresses because I did not want to leave her out. As we were handing out the dresses we found one that worked for her!  It was long enough to work as a dress!

As I watch, Diane Farris (one of the team members) helped Olga put on her new dress. I was taken aback with this simple yet huge interaction. I was reminded of God's love. How gentle and kind He is as He takes care of us. As the children rejoiced because of their new article of clothing, we were moved by their joy.  Thank you BFC ladies for loving these little girls and helping them feel beautiful and perfect in God's love!

Operation Dress-Up
by Pastor Michaele LaVigne

Kyrstin Morris, mom of three and professional seamstress, had a dream.

When she began sewing for her own boutique line of little girls’ clothing, she started by making pillow case dresses. The dresses were simple to make out of pillow cases, by just making a few cuts, adding elastic and other trimming, and just a little sewing.  When she heard of the need for orphaned and vulnerable girls in Swaziland, she dreamt of these simple, darling dresses being given away to hundreds of little girls there.

Her dream was to initiate a dress-making day, where women of all ages could come together and sew these simple dresses to be sent to Swaziland. After praying about it, she felt clearly that God wanted her to talk to Pastor Michaele LaVigne. Pastor Michaele had been to Swaziland and was on staff as the Equipping Pastor who helped people find their passion and place of ministry. Not really knowing the steps to take, or what the outcome would look like, she figured that Pastor Michaele would be a good place to start.

After that initial conversation, the dream began to grow into a vision, and slowly took shape for a real event. During the next months, she and Michaele and the Bethany First Church Women’s Ministry Council met to plan and prepare and gather the supplies needed for what they called “Operation Dress-Up.” Not knowing how this first-time event would go over, the group cautiously planned for 50 ladies and set a goal for 100 dresses to be made during the event. However, when the event started being publicized the response was much greater than they had anticipated.

On February 26, Operation Dress-Up saw nearly 100 women of all ages, 40 sewing machines, and a room full of dress-making supplies! It was beautiful to see elementary school and mid-high students working alongside women who could have been their grandmothers. There was a palpable excitement in the room all day long, which became greater every time a finished dressed was hung up to see.

The room was arranged as an assembly line, so there were stations for ironing, cutting, measuring, and pinning. One table was full of scrapbooking supplies so that women could write cards of Scripture and encouragement to stick in the dress pockets. At the end of the day everyone stood around the dresses, held hands, and prayed for God to bless and protect the little girls who would receive them. It was a moving moment for many in that circle, and each woman felt the significance of their service.

When the dust settled and it was time to clean up, 88 dresses had been made, but many more were nearly finished. Several ladies took dresses home to finish them, and so the number of completed dresses is still rising! Currently we have over 100 dresses completed, many of which are already in Swaziland to be distributed by the GO Team there right now (March 10-21).

It is amazing to think how many lives have been touched and changed by Krystin’s dream. Many young Swazi girls will be greatly encouraged and reminded of their value as they receive a brand new dress. And the hands, both old and young, of those who made the dresses are also abundantly blessed by being able to serve and give together. There is great power in a dream that is pursued faithfully and obediently!

 

Gigi's Place

Hope for the Children Project”

by Christi Busic

Each year during Vacation Bible School at Bethany First Church the children bring an offering for special projects around the world. This year, Gigi’s Place was the project in which they placed their money and prayers. The goal was to raise money for children, just like themselves, who live in another part of the world. Their efforts raised almost $2,000 to provide food for the street children in Manzini, Swaziland.

When the BFC/Canada team arrived at Gigi’s Place, the children were already gathered and singing. Miss Evelyn, who comes everyday to work with the kids, was finishing her story about Jesus. The children love to perform, so on this day, they chose two of their friends to dance for us. It was pure joy to watch.

The children were told the day before that they would be receiving three extra items in their meal on this day. This news was received with an overwhelming excitement. Their usual meal consists of ‘mealy meal’ and beans. Mealy meal is their main staple in the country and is a good source of protein. However on this day, chicken, pumpkin and apples would be included. Oh, by the way, this is the one and only meal these children receive for the day.

I observed many things during our time at Gigi’s. As I watched the children, I noticed the older children taking care of the younger ones. The younger children went first through the line. They didn’t have enough plates for everyone, so the older children waited until the younger children had eaten. I did not see arguing, competing for a place in line, fighting, nothing except a group of children who seem to look out for each other. Some of them even passed food through the fence. There were times that I was so moved to tears but at the same time I felt a sense of peace in this place. Beyond any doubt, Jesus was there. I felt it. I watched it.

There were many life lessons I observed on this day. I have no idea what tragedies these children have experienced in their short lives to this point, but they sing with joy and pure thankfulness for what they receive. Others were first. ‘Self’ was second, even when they didn’t know if the food would last until their turn.

Gigi’s Place is correctly named “Hope for the Children Project”. Hope is alive through people who have seen a need and have asked Jesus to help them fulfill that need, whether through money, prayers or service. This was one of my favorite places to visit and serve during our time in Swaziland.


Jedidah’s Story
by Kathy Evans
How ironic for me to be on a hillside of red earth, in a community called Bethany, but be located in Swaziland, Africa. (You see, I’m from Bethany First Church of the Nazarene located on the red dirt of Bethany, Oklahoma.)
I sat on a concrete floor with my teammates from Bethany First Church, each of our laps housing a small child . . . children, who were orphans . . . children, who didn’t have one living relative, due to the unprejudiced fallout of the AIDS pandemic. We had just witnessed these beautiful children dancing and singing praises to the Lord. We watched as their joy overflowed and their rejoicing overcame their tragic circumstances. Secretly humbled and holding back tears our hearts joined them in exalting an amazing God who apportioned joy and peace and provision for His little ones.
The New Hope Centre is an orphanage started by Dr. Elizabeth Hynd, the granddaughter of the renowned Nazarene missionary doctor, Dr. Samuel Hynd, and we were honored to behold what God was doing there.
Our time with the preschoolers was winding down so Karis Stemen, our team leader, stood up and started explaining that we were from America and that we had a gift for each one to remind them that we loved them and God loved them. Some of us quietly lifted our precious cargo from our laps and got up to help label the tag on a beanie baby with the name of a child.
We began passing out the assortment of beanie babies . . . Timothy got a green teddy bear with a soccer ball insignia, Keziah received a pink flamingo, . . . one by one each child was receiving their stuffed animal. I was handed a clown fish and read the tag, “Jedidah”. Instantly, I was taken back to the story of Jedidah on the New Hope website. I had just studied the website days before heading to Swaziland; I had cried out to God not sure that I was ready to face this injustice; I had shared Jedidah’s story with my family and friends and anyone who would listen.
Jedidah was the little girl who came to New Hope because of a kind man who was troubled when he saw this baby left under a tree as he passed by in the bus going to work every day. He came to New Hope Centre and Auntie Caroline went with him to find the child. She found her under the tree sitting alone, unable to talk, unable to walk, unable to crawl. Her hips, pelvic bones and back were distorted from sitting. Her body was the size of a 5 month old baby. From the community reports and the condition of her teeth, it was ascertained that she was two years old. Her family had all died one by one; the people in the community who had taken her had died; and now the people caring for her could no longer cope, so they left her to herself; but God intervened. Dr. Samuel examined her to find she was very weak, malnourished and would have died within days. Her X-rays showed she had been eating handfuls of dirt to satisfy her hunger. Jedidah means God's darling. We believe the Lord is delighted in her and loves her so much as to make a way for her life. In the first month she learned to eat. She learned to crawl and then to walk, now she is talking and running. She is a miracle child and the sweetest little girl.
Excitedly, I asked the teacher, “Which one is she?” The teacher whispered, “The one over there in the brown jacket.” As I looked that direction, I saw a little girl in a little brown jacket and realized that Jedidah was the little girl who had been nestled in my lap.
At that very moment I understood that the way God changes this heartbreaking situation in Swaziland is one by one . . . first, Jedidah; now me.


I’m Changed Forever
by Fred Evans
I will remember the children in Swaziland who have to walk 3 miles to drink from a contaminated water supply when I’m looking for a close parking space at Wal-Mart.
I will remember seeing a child living under the bed of his dying mother and I will not complain about being in a plane for 20 hours.
I will remember two hungry little boys asking if they could have my half eaten apple when I can’t eat all the food I have ordered.
I will remember the hundreds of children going to school hungry, getting a cup of meal for lunch, and having no dinner, when I complain about having to decide on a place to eat after church.
I will remember a child wearing the same clothes day after day when trying to decide what outfit to wear.
I will remember the children smiling when handed a single M&M when I choose which color of M&M to eat next.
I will remember many houses without doors when I think of our houses with many doors.
I will remember the children at a public school singing and praising the LORD during the JESUS film and wondering if the film was shown in our schools if kids would even know the words to the songs.


A Return Home
By Shelly Coil
Surrounded by hushed whispers and a united sense of excitement, the first Swaziland Go Team boarded the plane and was finally on their way. I couldn’t get comfortable, my mind was racing, and sleep was at least a day away. All of that didn’t matter, because after 30 years I was finally on my way home.
Mom and Dad had been missionaries in Swaziland, Africa from 1964 to 1977. I was born at the Raleigh Fitkin Memorial Hospital and I grew up on the Endzingeni mission station. From my perspective I was a true Swazi. I spoke the language fluently, understood the culture, ate the food, and was ingrained in the unique Swazi way of life. On more than one occasion I innocently told my parents that I even wanted black skin. My early childhood was greatly influenced by Sara Mapanga who graciously took care of me while my parents served the Swazi people. The Swazi children were my comrades and Sibongile Dlamini was my best friend. We spent countless hours together over the years and I never anticipated leaving her and the country that I knew and loved so much. My mother became ill, and it became apparent changes were needed. With my mother’s lengthy illness, the Lord led our family from Swaziland to the United States for needed medical care.
As with any team going overseas, the Go Team was given instructions regarding the country, culture, and language of Swaziland. Sitting on that plane, I knew I was prepared to work hard, but nothing could have prepared me emotionally for what I was going to see and feel on this trip.
I was privileged to serve on the Compassionate Ministry team and our first day was spent with Mary Magagula and Evelyn Shongwe. These two dedicated ladies lead the AIDS Task Force, which is headquartered in Manzini, Swaziland. We spent that day delivering food and supplies to AIDS victims and had the opportunity to pray with each of them. Peering into their empty eyes, I was overcome with emotion and moved to tears repeatedly that day. Was this really the Swaziland I knew as a child? How could so many people be dying? I was not prepared for the hopelessness I saw that day.
A new wave of emotions bombarded me as our team visited the orphans living at the New Hope Center. Led by Dr. Elizabeth Hynd, this orphanage is home to approximately 30 children. There are over 100,000 orphans in Swaziland due to the AIDS pandemic. Realizing certain limitations, Dr. Hynd has felt a call on her life to minister to as many Swazi children as possible. Embodied in these children was what Dr. Hynd called the “hope and future of Swaziland.” My heart was warmed and deeply moved as we danced, sang, and played with the children. All of us experienced hope for the future that afternoon.
Mingled into the days of work was a bit of free time that I used to visit my childhood friend, Sibongile Dlamini. The reunion was unforgettable and the tears flowed freely. Sitting in her living room, I felt like a child again. We reminisced about the days we spent together as children and where the Lord had brought us. That time together was a precious dream come true and my heart ached as I said good-bye to Sibongile and her family that evening.
One particular day, the entire Go Team converged on the township of Sitsatsaweni. In the midst of a seven-year drought, this part of Swaziland was desolate. Our team came prepared and worked intently in several different capacities. That afternoon, under cover of a make shift tent, the local Swazi leaders and members of the Go Team met for a time of formal introductions and words of greeting. Mfundis Pato, who is in his 80’s, slowly stood for his turn. As he began to speak in siSwati, I was unexpectedly swept back to those early days of tent revivals when I was a little girl. Mfundis Pato was a pastor whose preaching I had heard many times as a child and here he was again, old and frail, but still preaching and serving the Lord. Warm tears rolled down my dusty checks as I realized God was still at work in Swaziland. He is alive and well and working in the hearts of many Swazi people.
The bus hummed along as I unsuccessfully fought back the tears. Was this trip over already? When would I be able to go back? None of us were done working and there was so much left to do. The last fourteen days seemed like a dream. My heart was full of joy and yet ached so deeply. These emotions left me wounded, longing to return, and passionately committed to praying for the people of Swaziland.


Swazi Caps and Wraps
by Pat Burton
Lives are being changed at Bethany First Church as we work to change lives in Swaziland.
We received the news that in Swaziland, mothers with infants often lack baby blankets and caps to keep their babies warm and wrapped. That was all it took for several ladies to decide to work together to help with that need.
Eunice Robinson and Nila Murrow have brought together a team of ladies and men who have felt God’s leading to be a part of the Swaziland Partnership. There are two groups who have been meeting twice a week, one to crochet/knit caps and the other to sew baby blankets.
People took the challenge. Swazi Caps & Wraps was born! The groups found out what the needs and requirements were and began to plan around a container shipment being planned for late June or early July. There are many equipment items being shipped, so we had to have a definite plan for types of items (what is needed by the hospital and compassion groups in Swaziland and what we can ship) and a projected number of boxes due to space limitations. There are so many great ideas, that it’s hard to make choices, but the caps and wraps will definitely meet a need.
The groups meet twice a week at the Family Life Center, people coming from 1 hour to 4 or 5 hours, some just working from home. The social connections are tremendous, the groups often sharing lunch or snacks while working. At first just ladies were involved. Then several men observed the process, and promptly said there had to be a better way to streamline the process. Take a guess – They are retired engineers! The men in the Facilities Maintenance Dept. here at the church made blocks to place under tables to make the work areas ergonomically healthy to work standing. What developed was a form of assembly line in which people used individual talents plus offers for certain parts of the process. Some cut materials, some worked with sergers to sew hems and edges, and others ironed and prepared for packing. They have logged volunteer hours for tracking needs and had a set schedule for a final date to deliver all caps and wraps for packing in banana boxes complete with inventory sheets. Between the knitters and the seamstresses, these two groups amassed 5,969 Volunteer hours, finishing 231 caps and 1,038 wraps by the end of May, 2009!
The Swaziland Partnership allows God to work in many ways. Swazi Caps & Wraps is just one of the ways He is at work in the Christian community. Meeting a need, prayerfully developing a plan, forming new friendships and obedience to God is a great combination. This group will take a summer break, starting again in the fall with a great plan in place to prepare for future container shipments.
We so appreciate this group of dedicated Christians and what they are accomplishing. God uses talents and abilities right here at home to help others clear across the world.


Home Front Volunteers
By Paula Anderson, January, 2010

Since the beginning of the Swazi Partnership, countless volunteers have had the opportunity to travel across the ocean to minister to the needs of the Swazi people. There still remains, however, both large and small ways for those who may never be able to go, to play an important role in meeting the vast needs of the Swazi people.
One such scenario occurred on a warm day last summer when a large donation of sheets and blankets were delivered to Nelda Moore’s garage. Enlisting the help of her friends, LaWanda Allison, Syble George, Della Morgan, Lynn Poole and Alice Allen, the ladies loaded the cargo into several cars and headed for the laundry mat. At first it seemed a foreboding task of washing, drying, folding and packing the items for shipment to a Swazi hospital. Nevertheless, after two very long mornings, running 14 washing machines, and exhausting everyone’s supply of quarters (including some strangers), a large supply of sparkling clean sheets and blankets were packed in banana boxes and made ready for shipment.
In the end, some very tired ladies here in Oklahoma had the satisfaction of knowing that their long distance efforts were making an incredible difference to some people very far away in the land of Swaziland.


Sitsatsaweni Thanksgiving
By Michaele and Brent LaVigne, November 30, 2009

Last week we received a call from David Tembe who is the water manager for Sitsatsaweni. He asked if we could visit the primary and high school as they wanted to say thank you to us for the Solar Water Pump that was donated by BFC November 2008. In accepting the invitation we did not know what to expect but were excited for Monday morning to come.

We asked Jimmy Braithwaite (Agri pumps owner) and Colleen Copple (NCMI Africa Global Resource Coordinator) to join us for this day. We arrived at 10am and met with the head teacher of the primary school, who we had met in previous visits. She led us down to the high school principal’s office where we were seated along with a representative from various community organizations.

In attendance was:
Mr. David Tembe – Sitsatsaweni Water Technician/Manager
Mr. Jimson Mahlalela – High School Head Teacher
Mrs. Ethel Dlamini – School Committee Representative
Mrs. Sophie Ginindza - School Committee Representative
Mrs. Mavis Dlamini – Bucopho
Ms Esselcuna Mavimbela - School Committee
Mr. Anthony Mazija – Chief’s Council
Mr. Joseph Similane - School Committee
Ms Ncamsile Matsenjwa –Primary School Head Teacher

We all sat in chairs lining the small office, which was actually a portion of a large classroom sectioned off with shelves. The rest of the room was used as storage and the secretary’s office. The head teacher, Mr. Mahlalela addressed the group first and announced his community’s intentions of being like the one leper in ten who returned to thank Jesus for his healing. He spoke of the benefits brought by the availability of water, and how grateful he, his students, and teachers were. His short speech was followed by several others in the group, until nearly all had said their thank you’s. Each person highlighted a different aspect that had been helped by the presence of the water, and it was amazing to hear it all!

The primary school (1st – 7th grade) has begun agricultural classes this past school year (2009) so that students can learn to plow, plant, and grown crops. Next year they will also be adding chicken to the agricultural program so that students will learn how to care for, breed, and sell chickens. The primary school is also working on a home economics class which is now possible with the presence of water.

The high school has also added an agricultural component to their students’ curriculum, and we were able to see some of the fruits of this labor. Two small fields have been planted with maize (corn) and other vegetables. Two taps have been added to the system in the high school premises to accommodate these gardens as well as hand-washing near the toilets.

The head teachers and school committee representatives commented on how the presence of water has helped retain teachers as well. Previously, they said teachers would not want to come, or would not stay very long at Sitsatsaweni because there was no water available at their homes. Now teachers are content, and as Mr. Mahlalela said, “happy teachers make for better students”! He also commented that this pump has put their small community “on the map” as he has been asked about it many times from other head teachers during seminars and conferences.

Sitsatsaweni is not yet without challenges, however. Although the primary school had 750 students in 2009 and will likely have 850 in 2010, they only have 300 suitable chairs for students. The high school is also in need of much-needed expansion because they can only accommodate 170 students in their school. This means many students cannot continue on to high school or have to take years off before moving on after grade 7. Usually in Swaziland these issues would be resolved by raising school fees marginally for the year in order to raise funds for necessary improvements. In Sitsatsaweni, however, there are a high number of orphans and vulnerable children who cannot pay the full amount of school fees, let alone a temporary increase. Mr. Mahlalela told us separately that 80% of his students are orphans or vulnerable in some way.

Although it was hinted that the community would like a further helping relationship from Bethany First Church, this was not the purpose of the meeting. In spite of its challenges, this community has taken it upon itself to make continuous improvements capitalizing on the presence of water. David Tembe has increased the number of taps in the system so that water is available many places throughout the school and clinic grounds. They also requested that this same gift be given to other places in Swaziland, and said they had been praying about that.

After their thanks had been said, it was our turn to say a few words. Each of us – Brent, Michaele, Jimmy and Colleen, gave small speeches on behalf of all those we represented. We told them about the Coca-Cola project and the fact the Sitsatsaweni pump had been the first of its kind that sparked interest for a much larger project to go all throughout Swaziland, just as they had prayed. We also reminded them that just as Fred Evans and Bethany First had been the ones to offer them a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name, now they had the ability to offer that same gift to others in their community.

While we were there, Jimmy was also able to clear up some minor misconceptions about the system. In this first year, many were hesitant to open the water resources up to the community at large for fear of water shortages. When this issue was brought up, Jimmy assured them that the pump would provide enough water for the community to partake as well, without needing to increase the storage tank capacity. It was agreed, however, that taps should be placed outside of the clinic and school grounds so that community members can retrieve water without coming onto the grounds. This would be the best way to prevent any theft or vandalism. Jimmy also offered that if the community members dig the trenches, he would supply the pipes and fittings necessary to install two more taps.

Our time ended together with light refreshments, a stroll of the grounds to see the gardens and new taps, and then a group picture under the solar pump. There were too many thank you’s to count, but apparently there were not enough said to satisfy one community member present. He said, “We wish we had a million mouths to say thank you a million times!” We have truly experienced that in the family of Christ, you often get the privilege of reaping what had been sowed before you.


Nkiliji Update
By Michaele LaVigne, Nov. 9 2009
Brent and I visited Nkiliji on Saturday, Nov. 7 to visit the orphans and vulnerable children supported by the Task Force, and also to see the progress of the BFC-sponsored garden there. We travelled with Mary Magagula and Evelyn Shongwe, over rain-washed, pot-holed roads and through what seemed to be small lakes! The most recent GO Team in August left behind many children’s clothes and toys to be distributed, so we were bearing many gifts. Mary and Evelyn also brought school supplies which had been donated to the Task Force, so the children would be getting clothing, a toy, a bar of soap, and school supplies. We were all excited for this day.
The Task Force has recently joined the ranks of Nazarene Compassionate Ministries as one of their Child Development Programs. This is the vehicle through which children are sponsored and provided school fees and other support. As a part of this program, the children are gathered once a month for a meal, a Bible story, and life skills training. Since they are more orphans and vulnerable children in the area than are sponsored through NCM, these monthly gatherings include many more than just the sponsored children. Most of them are orphans, or at least have lost one parent. Most of their parents have died from AIDs, or AIDs-related illnesses. Evelyn told me that many of the children are themselves HIV+ and are undergoing treatment.
Usually the Nkiliji group meets under a tree since the Nazarene church is far away; but this day they had requested the use of a nearby Methodist church building to use. When we arrived, the children were well into their Bible lesson, and I was surprised by how many children I saw! There were at least 60 children from 2 months through 15 years, sitting on wooden benches and listening to the story of Abraham. We were also able to hear them sing and recite their Bible verses.
“Gogo” Magagula introduced us and we spoke for a few minutes to the children. We explained who we are and how we are working in partnership with the Task Force. We also explained that the gifts we brought were not only from people in the US and Canada, but from Jesus, who loves them and provides for them. We moved outside for the gift-giving, where the kids lined up oldest to youngest to receive the goodies. With each child we tried hard to find at least one piece of clothing that they liked and fit them, then they received a bar of soap, a small beanie baby or ball, and school supplies.
When it was all said and done, there were many happy faces and somehow we hadn’t run out of clothing, soap, or toys! The care supporters were just as pleased as the kids were, and thanked us and the people who donated the supplies.
From there we went with the care supporters, Evelyn, and Mary to see the garden site. The fencing is all complete now and the ground has been plowed. The area is so large that only a quarter of it has yet been planted, but we could see some seedlings coming up already. There is one small patch where they are nurturing lettuce seedlings, and a large area which has been planted with matapa (the Swazi potato) and butternut squash.
After the recent rains the whole valley surrounding the garden was lush and green. We have no doubt that the garden will be very fruitful!


Siteki English Church Plant
By Brent and Michaele LaVigne
Swaziland On-site Coordinators

The vision of an English speaking church in Siteki began 8 or 9 years ago with current District Superintendent of the East District, Rev. Timothy Dlamini. His desire was to have a Nazarene congregation that would serve the growing number of non-Swazis in the Siteki (which is very close to the Mozambique border). He directed other people to begin the church planting process, and the church began meeting several years ago. It has been fully organized for over one year and currently has over 50 members. The pastor is a Zambian professor teaching at Nazarene Bible College.

Over the last few years of the church’s existence they have been “moving up and down” in their search for a place to worship. Recently they have been able to secure a classroom in the local Siteki primary school, although it is a very small space. The pastor refers to the congregation as a large church in a very small room. The adult Sunday school class meets in the main room used for the worship service, but the children’s classes meet in various locations around the school grounds. During the Sunday school hour you can see groups of children meeting outdoors and under the verandas of the school buildings.

We were able to visit the church for the first time on September 20, 2009. The District Superintendant Rev. Timothy and Grace Dlamini invited us to join them as they worshiped with the congregation for the first time. Michaele was asked to preach in the main service. Unbeknownst to us this was to be the day that Rev. Dlamini announced to the church BFC’s commitment to raise support for a permanent church building! The congregation greeted us warmly and Brent was able to play guitar with the worship team which included a keyboardist and drummer. During the praise and worship service the congregation invited people to share testimonies of God’s goodness in their lives. It was evident thru the people who shared that these were people who loved God deeply, who trusted in him, and had great joy.

The pastor invited Brent to bring a greeting on behalf of himself and Michaele as well as BFC. Reverend Dlamini came to greet the congregation and they received him with pride as their “district father”. His pride in them was evident and he encouraged all of their work and growth. He told them that they had been working hard and praying hard and they were seeing answers to prayer. Then he told them that the prayer for a building of their own had also been answered! It was exciting and humbling to see the expressions on faces and to hear the whispers of the congregation as he told them of BFC’s commitment to their building. The pastor’s wife was brought to tears of joy and spontaneously led the congregation in singing “We Bless your name almighty God”. There was a tangible feeling of joy and excitement and all thanks was given to God. As proof of their mutual commitment to the new building fund and excitement for it to begin, several people made impromptu donations towards the project.
The service continued in the same spirit of gratitude and joy as Michaele preached. It was evident that God was with us in that service! At the conclusion of our time together, the people brought gifts to us and also to Timothy and Grace. We were so surprised and humbled by their great generosity! Brent told them we were visitors this time, but when we come again we will be family. In fact, it felt like they had included us into their family already.

We are excited to see the partnership of two Spirit-led, praying, and generous congregations in Siteki Swaziland and Bethany, Oklahoma!


Sheets and Blankets for Swaziland
By Bryan Boatman
and Corina McNutt
Sheets and blankets have been sent via container shipment to Raleigh Fitkin Memorial (RFM) hospital because of the generosity of people at Bethany First Church of the Nazarene who saw or heard about the conditions there. In a two week period last August, through the grace of God over $6,200 was collected solely for the purpose of sheets and blankets for the hospital. That blessing enabled the purchase of 100 dozen sheets, over 200 thermal blankets and 8 dozen absorbent pads.  The company we purchased from donated dozens of wash cloths.

The need became apparent when the first GO Team visited RFM during the winter and witnessed blankets being brought in by people seeking treatment. Blankets were spread on the lawn and in the corridors housing the many people who were awaiting medical attention, including women in labor. Bed space is limited and so is linen.

The container arrived at RFM last week, greeted with much excitement as supplies were unloaded. The sheets and blankets were a huge success! Leaders from several departments came to see them and there was much excitement and discussion about how to inventory, track and use them throughout the hospital. On-site Coordinators, Brent and Michaele LaVigne said they got so excited they broke into siSwati, and the LaVignes could only understand their body language. The shipment also contained much needed medical equipment for many areas of the hospital.
Our friends in Swaziland were in desperate need and that need has been met because people listened to God speak through their hearts and responded in obedience. There are so many needs and the work is not done. Through the Swaziland Partnership, needs will be met and prayers will be answered as we work together with the Swazi people.
Thank you BFC family for your burden and caring for Swaziland.
Grace and Peace


Hope for a Future
By Elizabeth Newton

On our first real “work day,” we went out with the HIV/AIDS task force. This was the most emotionally draining day for me. We took gift buckets full of food to the homes of 8 patients. The first house we visited broke my spirit. We walked into a 2-room home to visit with Philip, a 92-year-old man. I have never seen so many flies in my life. They were on the floor, on his bed, and on his body. I immediately started praying, “Lord, please give me strength.” John Wally shared the story of Jesus and asked if he could pray for him. I opened my eyes during the prayer and saw tears streaming down Philip’s face. Of course, I started crying as well. It meant so much to him that we would come and pray with him and bring him food. As we walked out of the house I thought, “I don’t know if I can do this seven more times.” My heart was broken. God heard my prayer. We walked outside the home and I saw this beautiful little boy. When I waved to him, he came running towards me. He has the most beautiful smile. I knelt down by him and held his hand for a few moments. I could hear God whispering, “Even when there appears to be such devastation, look into the eyes of this little boy to find joy and hope for a future.” I look at this picture often.



The Sock Monkey
by Abby Jaggers
GO Team July/August 2010

One of my favorite places that I visited on the Swaziland, Africa trip was Gigi’s Place located in Manzini.  This is where orphans and vulnerable children come for their one meal a day.  When I walked in for the first time a little girl came to meet me and from then on was “glued to my hip.”  She would not leave my side.  I loved every minute that I had with her and I formed a bond with her that I had not experienced with anyone else that I met in Africa.

When we got in the van to leave that day I realized I had forgotten to give her any of the gifts that I had in my backpack, so I started throwing them out the window to her.  Other kids kept taking them out of her hands, and she was so shy that she would not fight for them.  We drove off and I looked back.  She stood there empty-handed and looked so pitiful.  I was heartbroken.

 I had bought a sock monkey six months before the trip because I felt like I needed to give it away during my time in Africa to a special child.  I had saved it for the next day to give away when we visited in the homes of AIDS victims with the Task Force thinking that might be the place.  Although I fell in love with those people, I never found the opportunity to give the sock monkey away.

 My group finished visiting homes early, so we got to go back unexpectedly to Gigi’s Place!  I had the sock monkey already in my backpack, so I started praying that I would see the same precious girl to give her the monkey that I had been saving for six months.  It had now become clear who was to have the monkey.  I got to Gigi’s and didn’t see her right away, but sure enough, she came through the crowds of children straight to me.  She faithfully stayed by my side for the second day in a row.  She was with me so much I was worried that she didn’t even get a chance to eat because I never saw her with food.  Because of the language barrier, we couldn’t communicate well.   I tried to tell her to bring her backpack so I could put the monkey there hoping nobody would take it from her, but she didn’t seem to understand me.  I was still holding her when I heard it was time to go, and I felt a failure because I never got to give it to her.  I hugged her as tears were dripping off my face.  I got up to leave and she ran off.  When I stepped through the gate to leave Gigi’s Place, she came running with her backpack!  I don’t know how it happened, but I knew this was it.  I pulled her around the corner and opened her backpack and there was the food that she was probably saving for later after I left.  I pulled the sock monkey out of my backpack and snapped a picture of her with it, then stuffed it in her backpack before anyone could see it.  This time as we drove off I got to look back and see her beaming with a stuffed backpack.  The sock monkey had found its special child.