I should pause here for a second to make a confession. My anxiety was higher than normal as we headed to church. This is exactly the type of situation that sends me into a tailspin and completely out of my comfort zone. Even though we had visited here before I was worried that I would do something that would be considered rude or disrespectful in Swazi culture. I mean, I know how to smile and be quiet (believe it or not!) and it's not like I hadn't been immersed in a different culture for several days already, but there's just something about visiting a foreign church that makes me want to not screw up. Honestly, churches in general make me uncomfortable. I didn't grow up going to church so it's all a little foreign to me. The church that my family goes to now, The Quarry, is a very laid back setting. The people there know me, know that I'll most likely embarrass myself somehow, and they love me anyway.
Well, I didn't need to worry. We hadn't taken 10 steps after getting out of our vehicle and there were the pastor and his wife ready to greet us. They escorted us in and helped to seat us. Swazi church (at least this one) is set up a little different than I'm used to. There are 3 main sections of seats and one smaller section off to the side. The smaller section was where the kids sat - and I was amazed, once again, by how well behaved all of the kids... even the littles... were throughout the service. One main section is for the men and 2 sections are for the women. I'm not sure if there's a real segregation by age in the women's sections but one seemed to have the younger ladies and one had older women. Much to my dismay, I seemed to fit the "older lady" category. :) Our escorts made sure to sprinkle us throughout the sections so that we were each surrounded by the natives. I was thankful for this because the ladies that sat on either side of me were able to coach me through and even translate when I needed it.
The service started with a song and I was overwhelmed by the beautiful voices. They were singing in Siswati so I had no idea what was being said but I closed my eyes and got goosebumps just taking it all in. It was beautiful and in that moment I could feel the presence of God.
I'm not going to detail the entire service but it was an awesome experience. There was a translator there, I'm guessing because they knew we were going to visit, but his accent was so thick that I struggled to understand what was being said much of the time. It was the singing that I enjoyed most of all. There were several times when a few of the women would just stand up and start singing and everyone would follow suit. A few of the times they would leave their seats and form a line and dance in the aisles and on the stage and then go back to their seats. The highlight for me was when the youth group went up front and sang a couple of songs - their voices were incredible. I have a video of them (the pastor's wife told us ahead of time to please take pictures and video if we wanted to) but the sound quality doesn't do them justice. I'll add it anyway:
The one thing that stuck out to me most of all was during their church announcements. One man came up and was talking about an upcoming mission trip that they would be taking to Mozambique. They were collecting money and supplies to take with them and I found myself in awe. Our group was there in their community because there was a huge need. But here they were, ready to give some of the very little that they have because they wanted to show the love of Jesus to others. For once in my life I was rendered speechless.
After the service was over we stayed for just a bit. We were introduced to the cutest little girl who sang part of the song Jesus Messiah for us - adorable. The pastor showed us around the grounds of the church and we chatted for awhile. Then it was time to head to Bheveni.
Our group with the pastor, his wife, and a few members of the church
We were going to the carepoint on a Sunday afternoon to start painting the playground and to start the mural on the side of the building. We figured that since Sunday is the one day of the week that kids don't come to the carepoint it would work out - we wouldn't miss out on as much time with the kids if we got most of the work out of the way.
We couldn't have been at the carepoint for more than 30 minutes when one of the local teenage girls brought a younger girl who was really sick to us. They had seen activity at Bheveni and came for help. One of our "hosts" and two of our team members were able to drive them into the city hospital to get the younger girl the help she needed.
The rest of us split into two groups - one for painting the playground and one for starting the mural. We only had a few hours to get a lot of work done but I have to say - we kicked butt!
My favorite part of the painting experience was when we were painting the mural on the wall. A few of the local kids had seen us working and stopped by to watch us. I was sketching out the boy on the wall, getting ready to paint him in and I noticed that one of the boys had grabbed a stick and was copying what I was drawing in the dirt just below where I was working.
The finished products!!
The front of the building was painted as a bonus! Haiden, Audrey and Millie worked hard to get this done.
The playground - this was started on Sunday and then worked on a couple other days as well.
The mural - the kids and the giraffe were painted on Sunday and then we added the handprints (the kids', bomake, D-team and ours) and the lettering on our last day.