Greetings from the Kingdom of Eswatini!

Greetings from the Kingdom of Eswatini!

I failed to mention in the last post that for his 50th birthday, the king renamed the country; however, I will still refer to it as Swaziland. God’s blessings are rich and abundant and his creation sings from the rolling valleys and hills to the green and yellow mountains to the bursting stars in the clear night sky. The cool crisp breeze balanced by the intense African sun brings energy to the weary worker.
I spent my first full day on the construction site, an international humanitarian effort. I did not have the home situation correct for the two children receiving the home. A 16 year-old boy and his 12 year-old sister live alone, 18% of the Swazi population is orphaned or vulnerable. A wall collapsed in their current home, made of rocks, sticks, and mud. Our team includes two or three Swazi tradesman, a few Swazi volunteers, and the six men from our mission team. We are working on materials purchased from a generous donor who have also provided enough for the paid, skilled craftsman. The young teenager, promptly joins the construction team when he returns from school each day. I do not know if we will see the full completion of the home by the end of our trip, but we will be very close to providing a safe place for these two courageous children to rest their heads at night. The building project is a microcosm of the working mission in Swaziland.
Life expectancy in Swaziland is around 49 years of age, primarily due to HIV/AIDS. I mention this to emphasize that the Swazis are a vibrant, resilient, vigorous, and hearty people. The majority do not own cars, so they walk…everywhere. Small children may walk one to two miles to get to school carrying backpacks on one, maybe two meals on a school day. From our hotel I see the same people in their morning commute on the hilly roads to school and work. The joyful and welcoming homes we visit each afternoon have no power. Swazis are meek and humble with great resolve to live life with faith without knowing outcomes.
I would love to bring only good news; however, evil is also at work and we have read horrifying news about ritualistic killings to bring luck for the impending parliamentary elections. Unfortunately, witchdoctor “remedies” are a present threat to the safety of children in Swaziland. Christ’s work through missions helps inform and form communities to hopefully repress these atrocities.
A.I.M. focuses on empowering the persons, the individuals, using their God-given talents and resources to build the community in which they live in the model of God working directly on individual hearts and minds building His kingdom on earth. The objectives along the way are simple and proving to be effective. The first strategy is survival – the care points provide nutrition, education, and a safe place to play with friends. 40% of the 1.3 million Swazi population us under the age of 18 compounding the need to focus on children. Primary school which extends to seventh grade is government funded as long as the child has shoes to wear and a backpack for carrying school gear. The children are the lifeblood and the absolute future of this beautiful country that has essentially lost a generation to HIV/AIDS.
Next, through continued attendance at the care points, the programs develop with the children as they age. Education and skill development coupled with scholarship opportunities for further formal education seek to meet the child where her/his abilities will mature. The children at this stage are thriving. Thriving is essential to the human spirit. True hope comes from the relationship each one builds with Jesus Christ and hope for the future grows as the children thrive. Hope goes back into the communities where they live and gives each child the skills to build up the world close to them through discipleship. God sends them out to call others to follow. The shepherds and teachers that work the care points make me think of the role of first century Christians. They come to each day with not much more than joy, love, and the word of God to share.
We met a young man today who works with A.I.M. leadership training who currently lives with his Go-Go and five younger siblings. He has been engaged for a year, but needs a home of his own before he can marry his future bride. He spends his spare time away from his day job making his own blocks to build his house.
The third part of the strategy is success, self-sustaining success! Success is moving beyond the care point structure into the world. They have developed skills based on their God-given assets and A.I.M. assists them in putting them into practice whether to become a great footballer, an aspiring student for college, or a budding entrepreneur. Many return to volunteer at the care points as shepherds for a couple of years and move into leadership training, while others have taken the opportunity to start small businesses, like a garden to sell produce, raising chickens to sell eggs, or raising pigs to process and sell the meat.
Focusing on the individual is helping the communities begin to flower and blossom with the fruits of the mission’s labor. The future is bright, but the future is young. The road is long and dusty, but the Swazis make their way surely up the road.
~JJ Mckinney & The 2018 Swazi Team

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