Tuesday, July 31, 2012


SiSwati is the national language of Swaziland and is spoken by approximately 95 percent of Swazis. SiSwati and English are the country's two official languages. All schools teach in English, and a high competency in English is required for admission to most secondary schools. 

The children living at New Life Homes have exceptional mastery of the English language, many learning English at a very young age. This video, shot by Aaron Kopp, features adorable Yenziwe practicing her ABCs.

Tommy and I will learn the local language. Despite the difficulties of learning an African language (e.g., no Rosetta Stone SiSwati version), we know it is important to invest in Swazi culture by understanding and speaking to our neighbors in their heart language. Please pray that our minds would be moldable as we take on this challenge!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Doing the Edges First

In many ways Mandi and I are idealists, but we are also are very aware that we are pieces of grander puzzle. And when I say puzzle, I do not mean one of these 30-piece "easy peasy" puzzles that you conquer while waiting around at the dentist. I am talking a 1,000-piece, call your cousins to help, type of puzzle. Whether you work in missions, agriculture extension, teaching, or parenting, sound advice and sage wisdom are invaluable.

One person who exemplifies this truth is a Swazi sugar cane grower named Jeff. Jeff is a large-scale producer who knows how to grow crops and earn an income. I can study how to grow crops and work with innovative researchers and farmers, but knowledge of the local landscape cannot be understated.

While previously in Swaziland, Jeff visited the farm at New Life Homes shortly after we installed drip tape in a field of newly-planted tomatoes. He offered his time and advice to ensure the crop successfully made it to market. It is my hope and prayer that we can mobilize more farmers like Jeff who are willing to mentor and teach new farmers.

People like Jeff are the edge pieces of the puzzle. If you identify them as assets, and start putting them into place early on, everything falls together a little easier. It's like making a 1,000-piecer seem like, well, a 500-piecer (this stuff is still not easy)!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Meet Raymond

As Mandi and I continue to raise support and receive encouragement, there is no better motivator than thinking about the numerous possibilities to serve people who are looking to change their lives in significant ways.

As previously discussed, we will be based at New Life Homes, which is a permanent, Christ-centered home for orphaned and abandoned children. Nearly all of the daily operations are funded by a working farm that provides employment to a number of people in the community. This has and will continue to be an awesome venue for training and teaching the Swazi people ways that they can break the cycle of poverty and make significant strides to provide an abundant, healthy, and safe food supply for their families.

Installing drip irrigation. A first for the region!

One of the all-star workers that I have gotten to know while previously in Swaziland has gone above and beyond and is now one of the primary managers of the farming operation. Raymond has developed outstanding skills related to selling the farm-grown products to local markets and handling the finances. He is also a very skilled driver (something that is quite valuable in Swaziland).

Not only has he helped turn the farm into an uber-productive training center, but Raymond has replicated many of methods used on the farm to do some pretty amazing things on his own homestead. How awesome is that?!?! It is people like Raymond that make us want to jump on a flight tomorrow!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Tri-ing for Something Greater

While I was in Swaziland in 2006, Tommy completed his first long course triathlon. He loved every mile of it (well, almost every mile). However, his one hesitation was how self-serving it seemed to be and his desire to do something greater.

When my dear friend Courtney was selected earlier this year to compete in her first Ironman triathlon, I was thrilled. Friends since high school, I knew this was something Courtney had longed to do. I was excited to encourage her as she attempted to accomplished something great.
But great wasn't good enough for Courtney.

Courtney wanted to do something greater. She also set a goal to raise $2,000 to support New Life Homes. Here's her video explaining why she's competing for a cause.

We are so thankful for Courtney's desire to "tri" something greater on behalf of the orphaned children who have found a home at New Life Homes. We are also encouraged by her creativity! She is using her resources to advocate for vulnerable children in Swaziland and engage a whole new group of friends Tommy and I (and the children) have never met. Now that is truly something greater.

If you'd like to financially support Courtney's fundraising efforts, visit African Leadership Partners' fundraising page.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Happy Davis-versary!

All our stuff was packed up, we didn’t know where anything was, and we were utterly exhausted. This was what Mandi and I were feeling as we spent our first night in Davis. It just so happened to be the 4th of July.
Cued by the sounds of booms and bangs, we headed upstairs to the small balcony of our townhouse and between the limbs of one of the large pine trees we could see fireworks rising from Community Park. Looking back, it is crazy to think that we did not know where the fireworks were coming from—let alone how to get to the nearest grocery store
This is a terrible photo, but it is actually from our first night in Davis! See the fireworks to the right of us?
As we celebrated our four year Davis-versary last night, we reflected on how great it has been to become enveloped into a community that has shown us so much love. Davis has its many quirks, but it has some great people and awesome bike paths as well. 
Today summed up our love for this area as we went swimming and read on the shores of Putah Creek, watched some bike races downtown, and finished the evening off at the Austin’s house with some great friends, terrific food, and some intense around-the-world ping-pong played in the middle of the street. We will probably have to write another blog post about Davis sometime down the road, but for now, on our four year Davis-versary, we would like to thank Davis and officially renew our vows for another five months.