Swaziland Trip Recap

Written by Sean

Topics: Missions

(Edit: It is now 2015, who knows where my notes are.  This recap was never finished)

Well, I have been home for a month, looking for jobs and it’s time to get to writing.  I imagine this is going to be the longest trip recap yet, so if you don’t want to read my 12,000+ words, here is a quick 8 minute video of the trip.  ENJOY!

June 18th

We left for the airport on June 18th.  We would be flying out of SFO into JFK flying on the red eye overnight.  I was a little nervous getting everyone checked in, and making sure our bags were checked to Jo-burg.  My first time leading a trip for Global Passion and I didn’t want anything to go wrong.  It didn’t… for now.  It was my first flight on a Virgin American plane, it was nice, but they charged for everything.  Chips, soda, movies, tv, it all cost money.  I took my complimentary water.  I sat on this flight with Tirzah and Lily, I was really tired before the flight but needed to stay awake to start resetting my time clock to get on Africa time.  We started off in the awful back row, next to the toilets, with seats that didn’t recline.  The flight wasn’t full, and the flight attendant asked us if we wanted to move… heck yes!  It wasn’t all the way to first class, but it was away from poop and the chairs reclined, so it was a nice blessing to start the trip.

June 19th

We landed in New York!  It was my first time here.  Flight was just a little over five hours, and we landed around 7am on east coast time.  JFK was a dirty airport, with unfriendly people, and lots of construction.  We had to go back through security, where they had one line for hundreds of people.  It was not efficient.  There were several rude Europeans who were late and figured the line wasn’t for them.  This didn’t help my attitude.  Rude people, in bad security lines, combined with no sleep isn’t a great combination.  I stood there and smiled, seeing as how there was about 20 more hours before I got where I wanted to be.

We finally boarded the South African Air plane and we were on our way halfway across the world.  My notes say this: “Longest flight ever.”  I would be wrong, but at the time it felt that way.  I slept for a solid 1 hour on this flight, and was exhausted.  I read through the Global Passion (GP from now on) trip manifest binder like 100 times.  I wanted everything to go smooth.  I watched my typical airplane movies- Inception, The Book of Eli, an airplane movie: man on a ledge, and prayed some for the team and trip.  The trip was about 9600 miles, and it was fun.  This would be my last time with a few of our students, and they had a list of 101 things to do on the airplane.  I did lots of those things, and by the end of the trip, I won!  Eventually we landed, about 15 hours later.  My butt cheeks were numb.  But as we were waiting to get off the plane, I had this thought: “We paid thousands of dollars, to fly across the world, to share the love of Jesus with people.”  That seems crazy, and yet that is the life I get to have.  I was in awe of quite a few things this entire trip, but that thought blew my mind.  I get to do this trip for a living.  I am so blessed!

Wednesday June 20th

We landed in Johannesburg, South Africa and I could cross another continent off my list.  We flew right through customs, they did not care at all what we were bringing in, grabbed our luggage and went to look for our driver.  We met Wandile our driver, and went to exchange our dollars into Rand.  Everyone from our group (7) went into one line.  I went to the exchange next door and got a better rate 🙂  People went to the bathroom, had their minds blown by a different kind of toilet, and then we loaded up into the van and left for Swaziland.

We left the airport, and got some gas.  It was immediately apparent we were in another country.  I could not figure out how much gas cost.  First, it was measured in liters.  Second, it was priced in Rand.  After some mathematical calculations, I quit trying to figure it out and asked the driver.  It’s about $6 a gallon.

We finally left the gas station, and started our drive.  The main city of Johannesburg was pretty westernized.  As soon as we got out of the main city limits, it was a whole new world.

I spent some time talking to our driver about the things we saw.  There were lots of millimeal (corn) fields that had recently been harvested then burned down.  We saw lots of cabbage and broccoli fields.  We drove by a few Coal mines, some iron mines, and a few other things.  It wasn’t the barren land I was expecting; it was dry, but there were resources there.  Just outside of Jo-Burg was when I got my first glimpse of what poverty really looks like.  We drove by these little communities of shacks.  No power, no water, so housing, just shacks all together.  My mind was blown.

After a solid two hours of driving, we stopped to get lunch.  The driver Wandile knew of a place where we could also see some animals.  We went to a little sandwich cafe, and ordered some food and drinks.  People were rushing for the toilets to pee, and then taking pictures of some zebra, ostrich, water buffalo, and rhino.

The sandwich’s were good, but the spread on mine was amazing.  I have no clue what it was, or what it was made from, but it was tasty!  I saved half to eat later.  We left the food place and headed along the way to finally get to Swaziland.

After a few more hours of driving we finally arrived at the boarder to Swaziland.  Our driver dropped us off, and we walked into the customs office.  I got the group through customs, and we headed into the immigration building.  There were free condoms on the wall in immigration which I thought was an interesting place for them, but we made it through, and walked into Swaziland.

Once in country we hopped back into the van and drove a short ways into Hawane, our new home for the next week.

Hawane Farm

We arrived at the brown house where we would be staying on the Hawane farm property.  I had a certain expectation coming into a missions trip in Africa.  The brown house was 100 times nicer than I imagined our accommodations would be.  We had electricity, we had running hot water, we had every kitchen appliance we’d use in the States, we had soft warm beds, we had a giant living room.  I could go on, but just know we were taken care of.  There was snacks and fresh fruit waiting for us when we arrived.  The bedrooms were like a hotel room, clean sheets, blankets and towels.  We put the two grown ladies into one room (Darolyn and Susan) the other girls in another (Lily, Tirzah, and Sarah) and Michael and I shared the third bedroom.  We had two bathrooms with showers as well.  We were spoiled.

After we dropped off our luggage we were taken up to the office by our new friend Sherri, the ministry’s agriculture specialist.  She took us up to the offices where we met pastor Timothy and started our tour of the farm.  He shared with us about the challenge ministries (like teen challenge), all the homes with orphans, and about the ministry there.  He talked about all the sites the ministry has planted called ICBC “In community by community” where the church is a key part of the health of a community.  It was a great concept, something churches in the US need to get a grasp on.

Pastor Timothy shared stories about a few of the orphans, two specifically who had come with HIV and were supposed to have died, years earlier.  They were alive and well when we went, and it was a great testimony of what God was doing in people’s lives in Swaziland.

The tour continued along the houses, then we headed towards the aggro area.  There, they grow spinach, broccoli, cabbage, carrots and other stuff.  We also saw the rabbit farm where they harvest rabbits for meat (I was bummed we didn’t get to eat one), chickens, and the fattest hogs in the land.  Hawane was so successful in their pig breeding that they sold to the local markets, and people came from the communities to see how they got their pigs so big.  Another God blessing, and just more open doors into the communities.  The food from this farm is distributed through all the ICBC projects in the different communities (5 total I think).

The tour ended at pastor Timothy’s house, where we sat down for dinner with some of the ministry leaders for a welcome/orientation.  I can’t remember the boys name, but we met one of the children who God had worked in miraculously through his struggle with HIV.  The pastors who lead the ministry from Potters Wheel church came as well and told us all about Swaziland, the culture, the government, the church, and the king.

My biggest takeaway, “Don’t talk smack about the king or you’ll find yourself deported.”  If you were a resident, and you talked about the king badly, you could be detained and forgotten about in prison.  What that did create though was a culture that understood praying for and respecting those God puts in authority over us; something we definitely lack in the USA.  Through the meeting the team was exhausted and not super talkative.  After the meal/meeting we headed back to the brown house, let most of the team shower and then go to bed.  We had really nice warm water.

Everyone went to bed, but I was speaking for a chapel service the next day and I felt like God didn’t want me to just preach my normal traveling message about hope, so I stayed up to pray and rewrite a message about Dreams.

Day 2, Thursday June 21st

We woke up early, especially me, so I could shower, pray and make sure everyone was ready for team devotions.  The first morning most of the team was late but I let it slide.  After team devotion and breakfast, our shuttle arrived and took us to the girl’s teen challenge home.  We were given a brief orientation from the center leader, who also shared she had been in the program, graduated, and was now serving the girls who came through the home.  She also was HIV positive, but you would never know it. Her joy and enthusiasm for what she was doing showed a real sense that God had delivered her.

Elusitweni Women’s Home

We did a short chapel service because we had another chapel to be at.  The team did Doors (which we would grow quite tired of after the 7th time) but did well for their first live performance.  EVERY team member got a chance to share a brief piece of their testimony to encourage the girls, and everyone did a great job.  This brief service set a great tone for the team, as everyone was engaged and involved in ministry.  We ended with a time of prayer for the girls, then headed off to the Men’s Teen Challenge home for another chapel.

Boys Teen Challenge home at Emafini

We arrived at Emafini a little early so we were given a tour of the entire facility, it was incredible.  They train people spiritually but also give the men life skills that translate into jobs in the future.  It’s a very rigid schedule just like TC here, and the head of the facility was again someone who had been through the program.  The van got stuck going down a dirt hill, with my sermon notes so I freaked out a little as chapel time drew nearer, but I finally got my bag and was ready to go.

They always gave us a lot of time for services, and I’m not a long winded preacher, so the team got to do several drama’s: Catch-All, Doors again, and a few shared testimonies.  Then I jumped up and preached my little heart out.  Crowd wise, this group had the best repsonse/interactions with what I was saying, and I got a little fired up.  I preached about Dreaming God sized Dreams, and that mistakes of the past don’t have to dictate your future.  I thought it went well, but then some people came up to me after the service.

Catch All

At Hawane they have volunteers who come stay for a year and do what we did in a week but year round.  One of them came up to me after the service and shared that at another site that morning in a chapel for leaders the Swazi pastor preached the same message, with the same scripture references that I had just preached.  My mind was blown!  God had me change the message I was expecting to an adapted message I had written a year before, and a pastor halfway across the world was preaching the same thing, on the same day.  That is not a coincidence, and I was really excited.

Culture Village

We left the chapel and headed off to the Culture Village.  Here we would get to see what the country used to all live like, and what some places still did.  We arrived and hiked to a small waterfall, spent a few minutes taking pictures, then headed to the village.  On the way we saw “Execution Rock” where they used to bring people to the top, and throw them off to execute them…

The Culture Village was very interesting for me, but maybe a little off-putting for the girls.  We’re much more accustomed to gender equality, and that was not what we saw at the culture village.  Swaziland has embraced the polygamy lifestyle, and so homesteads would have houses for separate wives and children.  We also were taught that women were not to each certain parts of animals.  For instance: No eating brains, because it might make them smarter than the man.  No eating the hooves or feet, because it might make them runaway and leave their husband.  And they couldn’t eat the heads I believe because if they did they would become very talkative and annoying from eating the mouth…  The face on a few students were priceless as we were given this lesson.

As the tour continued we got to go inside one of the huts.  The entrance was very low, and we had to bow down to enter; the reasons for this twofold.  First was so that as you enter your friends home you are bowing, and showing respect.  Secondly, was that if an enemy was coming in they were bowing, and it made it simple to behead them.  We wrapped up our tour and headed to a stage area to witness some cultural dances and songs.


The first thing I noticed was that the voices were amazing.  The Swazi’s sang a Capella better than most people in the US can sing with instrument help.  It was amazing.  The women wore anklet rattles that were in unison when they stomped to create a smooth rhythm.  The men at times banged on big drums that echoed through the amphitheater.  It was breathtaking.  During a few of the dances some of the guys came and serenaded our girls, and it was a little awkward 🙂  One guy leaned back on Tirzah and Lily and they clearly had no clue how to react; it was a priceless moment.  Through the songs I got bits and pieces of interpretation about what the songs meant.

You could tell they were humorous because the Swazi grade school that was there on a field trip were cracking up.  Many of the songs seemed to be about a nagging wife.

We finally left the culture village and it was maybe noon… We had already done two chapels, and visited the culture village and the day wasn’t even half over.  We went to lunch at a place called Nando’s, ate some chicken and burgers, then headed off to our next ministry event, the one I had been waiting for and praying about for months.

 Hospital Prayer

I don’t have pictures (of the inside), and my words won’t be able to fully describe what we experienced when we went into the hospital ward to pray for the sick.  In the United States anyone at anytime can walk into an emergency room and receive care from doctors and nurses.  All the medicines of the world are at our disposal.  The best state of the art hospital in the capitol Mbabane wouldn’t be allowed to operate here in the US; it was bad.  We walked through a dirty, rusted out, dilapidated building and climbed the stairs into the ward we would be visiting.  Before we arrived at the patients, we were told that crying was not allowed and that for anyone who couldn’t control their emotions they could wait outside.  We broke up into two groups and went into the ward.

I have two separate first observations from when we first walked in.  

1.  We have it so much better than we realize in life just because we were born where we were born.  The first things I saw with my eyes were people laying in beds, covered by a sheet or blanket, hooked to an IV.  Some had families surrounding them, some completely alone.  Dirty floors, ceilings, and everything in-between stunned me.  There were no nurses, and no doctors attending to patients anywhere.  If either Chloe or Abigail had been in this hospital, both would be dead.  Scary thoughts.

2.  My other first observation was of my group leader Sonja.  While we were all dumbstruck, she was walking around in a perplexed excitement.  She kept asking where everybody was.  Tuesday they had come and the ward was full.  They prayed for and witnessed to all the sick and their families and then left.  We came on Thursday which was a followup day and another chance to pray for any new people arriving between Tuesday and Thursday.  Many of the people she had prayed for were gone.  Sonja asked the family at the first bed where were all the people.  The woman’s reply, “They got better and went home.”  This messed me up, and I was excited to be where we were at.

I think only 3 of the 8 beds in the first section had people, down from 8 of 8 two days earlier.  If that isn’t a faith builder I don’t know what is.  In a country that has 40% of people with reported HIV, and odds that it is more, almost everyone who comes through the hospital is suffering big time.  There is no nurse care.  Food is not provided by the hospital.  In some cases, sheets and bedding are not provided by the hospital.  We saw families who had brought in food to feed the patients as they card for their loved ones. I was amazed by the compassion and care of the families in the sacrifice they made to care for their loved ones.  As we prayed at one bedside, a man behind us had his (wife/sister/some lady who knew him?) hold and then clean his bedpan as he urinated in it on his bed.  Seeing all this in hospital really shook me.  These people need Jesus to heal them, they don’t have any other hope.  And they were all very receptive to prayer.  I think only one man at a bed pretended he couldn’t speak so that we would move on.

The bed that impacted me most, and really showed the unfortunate circumstances of the Swazi people, was a young man who was very ill.  His grandmother shared that the boy had HIV, meningitis, tuberculosis, and a few chest issues (maybe pneumonia) and had suffered a stroke.  He was only 26 years old, and his life was over.  I pictured myself in that bed and was just heartbroken for the young man.  That could be anyone of us.

I’ll never know the results of all the people we prayed for that day, until one day I am in heaven.  But I know God did a work through our team, and in the lives of the people we prayed for.  It was the single most scary ministry event I’ve ever had the privilege of being part of.  Walking through a hospital where medical care cannot help knowing that the only solution is for Jesus to heal people supernaturally.  And God allows me to be part of that plan.  There aren’t words.

Then we left, and you’d think this day would be about over but it wasn’t… even close to the end.

We headed from the hospital to the grocery store.  There’s nothing like trying to shop on a budget with  a foreign currency you can’t easily convert in your head, while trying to figure out a measurement system you don’t use.  Similar to the litres and rand at the gas station, I gave up trying to figure out the cost of a rand to kilo when buying meat and eyeballed stuff.  We bought our stuff, and left.  We only had forgotten the most important thing we needed, water.

The team arrived back at the brown house and had a few hours before our next ministry event so the ladies cooked up some spaghetti.  After dinner a pickup truck arrived to take us across from Hawane to the CLC church and homes across the street a ways.  There were 8 of us, and about 3 car seats.  So everyone under age 50 got in the back of the truck.  When we got onto the main road, I stood up in the back and let the darkness and wind blast my face.  It was unstable, and unsafe.  But I had fun.

We were to visit three of the orphan homes.  One girls home, one boys home, and one transitional boys (age 17-18 and ready to graduate) home was the schedule and we had about 35 minutes with each group since it was late.

We have packed our house to move, and my notes for the trip are in a box.  I’ll finish this recap once we have a destination to move to, and are unpacked.

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