Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sharing Hope

Hello Friends!

Well... We're back from our African Adventure! I am sorry its taken me so long to give an update.  Ryan and I were both almost immediately thrown into a whirlwind of school, work, and life in general when we  got back.  I actually just unpacked a few days ago... a little behind, yes. But, better late than never, right? Right!

We had a great trip and were very encouraged by the things we heard, saw, and experienced while traveling. This might be a little lengthy, but I hope you hang with me.  There is A LOT to cover with such little space! So, with all that said... lets just dive right in!

Before getting to Africa, we had a layover in Dubai for one night.  That place is AWESOME! Everything is so sleek and clean.  Even the train stations are immaculate.  As soon as we arrived in the airport, I had a game plan going in my head.  Get through customs, find a taxi, explain where we were going, don't get lost.  However, as soon as we were in sight of taxis, there was a man approach us and offer us a ride.  My initial reaction: He's going to kidnap us and kill us.  That feeling was further strengthened when he led us to his sparkly infinity SUV with tinted windows.  BUT I was wrong (thankfully) and he was probably the best thing that could have happened to us.  He gave us a tour of the city (we got to see the world's tallest building!) and told us places we needed to hit since we only had a few short hours in Dubai.  Here's a picture of us in front of the Dubai Marina and some camels on the beach. 

Ryan with the train station
After our little middle eastern adventure, we landed in Durban, South Africa where one of Ryan's friends picked us up from the airport.  That night we had a South African style BBQ and rested up for the long ride to Swaziland.  We went to the taxi rink in the morning and found a kombi headed to Manzini.  It felt unreal riding through the mysteriously beautiful African landscapes... I kept having to pinch myself.  Was I really back again? Africa just feels like home.  Let me just paint a picture here: Ryan and I were filthy, drenched in sweat, shoved in the backseat of a non air conditioned van between complete strangers with the sun pounding in on us and the ladies refusing to open the windows for some airflow, but so excited and at peace about the next weeks that it was hard not to laugh at the current situation.  

Manzini is a scary place.  This place is a little notorious for theft and muggings so you can imagine how relieved we were to see Mancoba and the crowd of friends he brought with him.  He took us to Logoba which is the town where he lives and also where we would be staying for the next few days. We stayed with the family who had given Mancoba the land in Mozambique to build the school.  This family is so precious and selfless.  It was an honor to be around such great people in Swaziland. 

Our view from the front porch

Mancoba and Ryan

Education and HIV are huge issues in Swaziland.  While we were there, we were able to feed around 100 children (many of which were orphans) in a nearby town.  One woman in this town, Mage Bhembe (MAH-geh BIM-beh), runs a program where she uses her own money to feed these kids and teach them about the Bible.  They can also play soccer, play, and just be kids.  Mage was expressing to us that these kids are now able to go to school from first to third grade for free.  However, many of them have not had any kind of preschool so they fall behind quickly.  They are also so hungry when they get to school that they can't concentrate, are falling asleep in class, and then failing their exams.  It is her vision to build a preschool in this town and expand the feeding program.  The land has been given to Mage, she just needs to give a cow (yes, this is real life) to secure ownership of it.  We are working with Mancoba in figuring out what our role will be in the building of this school in years to come. 

The children waiting to perform their Bible verses and songs for us

Little ones first! 

Okay... now on to the main point of this here blog: MOZAMBIQUE!
We packed up (again), headed to the taxi rink (again), waited for it to fill up and headed to Maputo! The trip went like this - drive, walk through the border, drive, get to Maputo, exchange money, find another taxi, cram in there with 20 other people, get to another taxi rink to find another taxi going to Macia, wait for it to "fill up" meaning 30 passengers instead of the 15 the van was made to hold, arrive in Macia, eat dinner at bedtime, bathe in bug spray, and go to bed.  Travel days were quite eventful. 

 The next day we picked up building supplies for the school and headed to Licilo which is the village the school is actually in.  Its about a hour away from Macia.  As we pulled up to the school, we could see kids playing in the schoolyard.  My heart skipped a beat.  Yay! I was going to get to play with some sweet little children! Nope - wrong.  They were absolutely terrified of us.  I had to whip out the old camera trick to get them to even come close to me.  But after snapping a few pictures and showing them what they looked like, the kids were less stand-offish. 
They're still scared of me at this point...
...but not anymore!

Sweet Reuben

Mancoba told us a little bit about the village.  The majority of men go to South Africa to work leaving the women and children kind of on their own. When the men do return, they bring back diseases like HIV.  There are a lot of sick kids in this community Literacy is not very present... when I showed the kids my pen to have them write their names they jumped back and looked at it like they had never seen one before.  Of the four teenage boys helping us build, two could write their names. Portuguese, the national language of Mozambique, isn't spoken in this village.  Only the tribal language is known.  Witchcraft is also widely practiced in the area.  In fact, while we were there they were holding some kind of ceremony multiple times a day  two huts down from us.  These people need to know the name of Jesus and the love, hope, and freedom He gives.

In addition to the lack of education, the water in this village is filthy! It is white-ish brown and smells like fish. It is the only water for the whole community and they still have to walk about a mile to get it. What??? They drink this stuff??? Not okay. This conversation just confirmed to us that God had led us in the right direction.  We are where we should be. 

Above is a picture of the school! I know that in the last blog there was a picture of what we thought was the school... we misunderstood.  This is the real school made of real bricks, steel, and tin.  There was still quite a bit of work to get done when we arrived.  The roof needed to be completed, windows installed, floor poured, walls plastered and outhouse dug.  By the time we left, this is what the school looked like! OH! And... we got to name it.  Presenting Sharing Hope School of Licilo

Plaster and Windows Done

Concrete Floor Poured

Outhouse Dug
In addition to working on the school, we also got to feed the village one day.  As I said earlier... these kids are sick and their bellies prove it.  It could be HIV, malnutrition, or a number of other things, but all I know is that I saw the biggest bellies I had ever seen on these precious little kids.  One little girl who was no older than two had stretch marks on her stomach because it was so big.  That's simply not okay with us.  Instead of feeding them lettuce, tomato, and bread that day we were able to give them a more substantial meal of pop (a boiled corn flour mixture) and beans. 

So, what now? I'm home in America. I wake up everyday to a really nice alarm on a really nice phone.  Then I take a hot shower with water that I can drink right out of the faucet and put on really nice clothes to go to my really nice school to learn about really nice and useful things. But I can't get these faces out of my mind.  Everyday I see Reuben's sweet smile and know that it is our responsibility to give him clean water.  I can hear the teenage boys laughing as they try to learn English for the first time and replay their request for night classes so that they can learn in my mind.  Ryan and I are burdened for these people. 

As of about a week ago Mancoba called us to tell us that many of the homes in the village had been destroyed by storms/flooding in the days after we left.  They are actually using the school as shelter while they rebuild.  God's timing never ceases to amaze me.  Yes, Ryan and I certainly feel like we are in this place for a specific reason.  Here are the goals we have for the next year:

- Get clean water to this community!!!!!
- Paint the school orange (to represent Tennessee, of course) and provide the desks, kitchen supplies, chalkboard, curriculum, and school supplies for the students.  
- Purchase a car for Mancoba so that he doesn't have to keep taking buses across the border and can also use it as a taxi service to make money.
- Register the school with the government and get a full-time teacher.
- Officiate ourselves as a non-profit organization
- Have monthly supporters who contribute the the building of the well, furnishing the desks, providing school supplies, etc. 

We could not do this without your prayers and support. To everyone that has prayed, sent money, offered supplies, advice, or encouragement - Seriously, thank you guys SO MUCH from the bottom of our hearts.  We simply cannot do this alone but we know that we can do this.  We were born for this purpose.  We were born to share hope with people who haven't heard the name of Jesus and don't know what it means to be called his child.  

If you would like to commit to being one of the monthly supporters of this project, have connections you think would be useful for the village, or would like more information regarding the school, feel free to contact us at

Until ALL Know,

oh... one more thing.  Ryan is no longer my boyfriend - he's now my fiance! We're getting married August 5 and can't wait! Now.... enjoy some pictures :)