Thursday, August 31, 2017

Thank you: 2017 Trip

After the first quick, simple trip to visit friends in Swaziland, Africa in May of 2012, God clearly showed me that He was calling our family to partner with our full-time missionary friends and to join His work there in the community of Lesibovu on a long-term basis. It was with great joy that the next summer, my husband James and I traveled with a team including our two oldest children and several friends from church. The next summer, our team consisted of more local friends, and the same 4 members of our family. Then, a season of wandering and wondering what He was doing. It was a long, nearly three year season that still brings up many emotions as I type it out.

Those 2 years and 10 months between our last trip and this most recent one? So much has transpired. Trips planned. Minimally successful fundraisers. Discouragement. Health crisis. Surgery. Job change. Financial stress. Redirection. Lots of waiting. Prayers answered with "not now." Trip postponed. Another year. Hope building. Another tentative plan. Then, another trip cancelled. Excitement over possible partner in ministry. Disappointment in silence and lack of response. Struggle to be faithful and continue to work.

The GKC family and others continued to remind us that even when our good plans do not pan out, the best kind of good can come from those times. Our missing the precious ones in Swaziland was so difficult. Our hearts longed to see and tell them we hadn't forgotten and we wanted to be there. We know how fragile life is especially in Swaziland, and we feared not seeing some of the same children whenever we could return. Fear fought to control our thoughts. We felt so responsible to meet expectations and needs and to be present, in their community, to remind them that Jesus was faithful--while also struggling to remember that Truth ourselves. The irony wasn't lost on me.

Then early this year I heard amazing news from our partner ministry, Children's HopeChest. A lady who has a passion for the Lord and with considerable means and financial resources had approached them, and desired to use her resources to invest and build a legacy in Swaziland. She wanted to commit to helping a specific community reach self-sustainability over several years. They had encouraged her that Lesibovu was the place in greatest need and she was in agreement and wanted to visit it soon. A trip that HopeChest was giving their blessing to with a second partnering ministry (Kids Around the World) was in the works. The goal was to build a huge playground through them for this community as part of a trip she desired to take 8 family members on in May. Would we like to join them?

I am sure I responded positively at some point, but I know that mainly I cried out of sheer astonishment. I had prayed God would give us more connections maybe throughout our county, or even statewide here in Alabama. But this lady - do you know where she is from?

CALIFORNIA!!

God connected Teri from the Los Angeles area of a state clear across our country, with us, using a ministry in Colorado and another one in Indiana, to join forces and serve for a couple of weeks in southern Africa.

You know what I keep learning and relearning through this? His plan is so much bigger than we can imagine. His ways are completely beyond ours.

All that hurt and sadness in the waiting led to things that now we can see and understand as:
Beautiful messages of encouragement from friends. Trust built as we had to wait to see His purpose unfold. Realization that we aren't meant to be the answer to the needs of others - only Jesus is. Time poured into outreach and work on fundraisers were blessings and done over time, not packed into one short period. The blessing of deepening faith for the Swazis who relied on their Father instead of Americans. Unity between teammates with vast differences of personality, background, and resources serving with a common focus and goal. Prayers for God to give us a much wider audience to reach with news of the work He is doing in Swaziland were answered. He was glorified!

Thank you to many of you who have supported and prayed for this ministry. We deeply appreciate the family of Grace Klein's loyal assistance with fundraising, networking, and sharing of the struggle and the joy that come with ministry. We continue to pray about future service to the community of Lesibovu and what the Lord has planned for us next. We covet your prayers most for the full-time servants who give so much to the country of Swaziland daily. It is a gift to us anytime we are able to share the load just a bit with them. Their faith and selflessness are inspiring and beautiful.

I love these verses from The Message's version of my favorite New Testament chapter. Paul wrote about God's goodness shown in the Mystery of Jews and Gentiles being on equal standing before Christ - something at first absolutely beyond comprehension to those in the early Church. If He can do this, why do we ever doubt His ability to handle our concerns or fears?

Ephesians 3:20-21   God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.That's what He does to bring us into His family, and in our daily lives He is still guiding and unveiling His plan in perfect timing and perfect ways. He's such a good, good Father.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

10 years in Swaziland


Celebrating a decade in Swaziland would not be possible without the hard work and vision of our Country Directors and all of our field staff! This week on HopeChest Insights, we are celebrating 10 years in Swaziland with a blog written by Scott Borg, Senior Manager Swaziland Ministries Adventures in Missions. He describes the monumental amount of hard work and vision that has gone into Swaziland partnership, and the progress and faithfulness of God that we can look back on.
Also featured, are the reflections of Matt Gerber, the Country Director in Swaziland, and his wife Kriek. They share their thoughts on the amazing work that God has done through the ministry in Swaziland over the last 10 years.
"How do we capture all the laughter, the joys and the tears? How do we share about all the lives (in Swaziland AND in America) that have been changed? How do we write about the friendships we have made? The family we have become? How do we testify about God̢۪s faithfulness and goodness and provision?"

You can read the whole article here. Thank you for your part in this work!!

Monday, May 1, 2017

T-shirt fundraiser by Sojourning Souls

Check out this fantastic shirt, available in many colors! It was designed just for our ministry, and proceeds benefit the work at Lesibovu.
   
I will also make you a light for the nations,
    that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

 Click here to see more:
https://www.sojourningsouls.org/pages/donatetc33-get2give




Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Update #3: One month to go!

Dear friends of Lesibovu, 
 
We are so excited that God has provided enough funds and this time next month, we will be on our way to Swaziland! We have some wonderful praises to share: 
 
- Our airfare has been purchased, so we know when we will be traveling, and have our itinerary set. Having plane tickets bought is a HUGE relief. Funds given and support raised over the last two years is finally being put to use. What a blessing!
- A nice bonus is that we don't have to travel to Atlanta to depart from there like we normally do. We are so thankful to be able to fly out from Birmingham, and due to generous gifts from family, are able to stop by on the way home from Africa for a two day visit with our former exchange student, Julia, in Germany! We get to spend Abigail's 15th birthday with both of our girls, and that is such a sweet gift for us all. We are counting down days to Africa, and then will be counting down till we see the Schraders!
 
Requests:
- Our team is made up of about a dozen folks from California, Colorado and Alabama, so we would love prayer for us to connect well, and function cohesively as a team to love on the folks at Lesibovu, and the staff in Swaziland. We want to be of the most use possible in the time that we have, with a focus on giving the best of our time and energy. We would love prayer for our minds to be focused on following whatever Jesus wills, and no personal agenda, during the entire trip.
- Our three boys are still going to be here at home, and we need peace about leaving them, and we need caregivers to help share the load while we are gone. We'd love prayer for them and for us as we work on arranging who they'll stay with while we are gone.
- Besides the large playground that we will build, another important project is the sewing machines that will be brought to women at Lesibovu. We will work on training them with sewing skills so they can create items to sell and earn income for their families. Please pray that these investments will bring a great return of joy and hope, and will benefit the community for years to come.
- Funds are due in less than two weeks, so if you haven't given, but desire to, then please do so now. The money that we still need are to help us with travel in country, and to cover lodging and meals. You can give here or mail a check as well, so if you need that address, just let me know. We deeply appreciate how God has used some of you already to help us travel to Lesibovu again!
 
I'll update you all again soon as we finalize prayer requests for our time in Swaziland. Thank you for your support and encouragement!


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Our Lesibovu logo

The story behind a FB profile photo and our logo:

Once upon a time in 2012, Allison Shirley and I were heading to Swaziland for the first time. During a brief layover in Atlanta, we met a young lady who was flying back to South Africa as well. We chatted a bit and became FB friends. A year or so later, after I approached her about using her graphic design training to consider creating a logo for our new official partnership and connection with the Lesibovu CarePoint. Happily, she agreed and created this beautiful image that perfectly depicts the mountainous scenery, children sitting together under a tree like are so often seen at Lesibovu, and symbols for items so needed in this community of Bible, community and water.

This logo, designed by Kyla Trammell​, also signifies the important focus of Children's HopeChest and Adventures in Missions' partnership to feed, counsel, and work to improve the quality of life for those in the community of Lesibovu through meeting basic needs, providing encouragement and Biblical teaching in a safe location, and teaching sustainable skills to impact the future of this beautiful area.

I'm so thankful our paths crossed when they did, Kyla Trammell, and forever appreciate your talent! 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Back to Swaziland We Go!

Dear friends, 
 
We are excited about our trip next month to return to Swaziland, Africa on a short term mission trip to Lesibovu, the CarePoint we've had a relationship with now for nearly five years. Here are some questions answered that you may have about the upcoming trip: Who is on the team? We will be serving with Kids Around the World, a great organization whose mission "is to impact the lives of kids with God’s transforming hope. We engage children across the globe through the simple strategy of ‘Play. Feed. Train.’, restoring opportunity to war-ravaged and poverty-stricken communities. Households discover the freedom of enough food, joyful thriving children, and the life-altering power of the gospel." 
 
How long will we be there? Our goal is to arrive in Johannesburg on May 24 and leave on June 4. We will see some sites, visit with local missionaries, and spend the majority of our time with the children at the CarePoint, and in home visits. What are we going to do? We will build an enormous, sturdy playground to give the children of that community a safe place to play for years to come. A million meals have already been delivered to the country of Swaziland and more are on the way. Training of local leaders will also be done in the art of story telling and sharing of God's Word in a practical, simple way. This wise method will change generations of people without any need for materials or even those outside their community since leaders will be able to train more leaders, and the Bible will be able to be shared continually. 
 
How can I get involved? We would love for your prayers as we prepare to go. That preparation includes many things like fundraising, spiritually focusing on the ultimate ministry goals, packing, having our boys cared for while we are away, asking neighbors to feed pets, and mentally getting ready for about 30 or more hours of travel each way. Africa is so far away!! If you are led to give financially, we would greatly appreciate a gift of any amount! We need to purchase airline tickets this week and are excited to be so close to this goal. Here is the link to give directly to our family's account.
 
Thank you for your support!