Friday, January 25, 2013

We Made It!

From here on out the blog posts might get a bit more interesting… 

We made it to Swaziland exactly one week ago. We spent our first week reorienting ourselves to Swazi life--including reuniting with kids turned teenagers, meeting many new faces, adopting early bed times, navigating muddy roads and creative driving, defending against countless ants and mosquitoes, and enjoying stunningly beautiful mountains and valleys. Mandi was introduced to the curriculum that she will be teaching and I spent time familiarizing myself with the farm and work crew.We both began to ask many, many questions. To say we are in the “learner” phase would be an understatement. For kicks, we thought you might be interested in what we are doing today. 

Mandi has a school staff meeting in the morning and will be spending the rest of the day preparing for the first few days of class, which starts on Tuesday. She always has plenty of helpers (kids and cows) stopping by her classroom door. 

I (Tommy) will be taking eight pigs to the abattoir early tomorrow morning in Manzini (1.5 hour drive), picking up some feed, and running a few errands. Later in the day I will meet with Mhti, the farm manager, to talk about his vision for the farm in the coming years. 

Please continue to pray for our transition. There are a number of small frustrations we are facing, including credit card issues and minor computer problems, which would be easy to fix in the US but are testing our patience here. Despite all of that, we have so much to be thankful for. The missionaries who we are working with have been awesome in helping us get settled and the kids have come running with open arms. Our stomachs are full and the mornings are peaceful. What more can we ask for? 

Thank you for praying. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Growing Together

People often ask how we first learned about African Leadership Partners and their ministry at New Life Homes.

While attending college at Chico State University, I (Tommy) was sitting in a pew at Bidwell Presbyterian Church listening to Peter Kopp, one of the founders of African Leadership Partners, share how can God equips people with practical skills—such a medicine, agriculture, or construction—to help meet the world's greatest needs.

One of the BPC services meets at the El Rey theater.

Bidwell Presbyterian Church has developed a very cool partnership with African Leadership Partners. I began attending Bidwell Pres in 2004, just as it was experiencing awesome, God-led growth. Bidwell Pres is one of the fastest growing Presbyterian churches in America. The pastors and elders of the church are constantly looking for new ways to get members to become more intimately connected with the greatest needs of the world. I originally went to Swaziland as part of a short-term team from Bidwell Pres in 2006. The rest is history.

The partnership between Bidwell Pres and the folks in Swaziland has continued to grow. In 2010, the church raised money through a special offering to build a school. The school currently educates approximately 75 orphaned and vulnerable children, and is transforming education in the local community. One of the biggest needs New Life Homes is currently facing is housing for missionaries and school teachers. As a result of not enough housing, some missionaries and their families are traveling long distances on dangerous roads, where auto accidents are frequent.

The New Life School

The members of Bidwell Pres wanted to do something to further support the ministry of New Life Homes. This year, they dedicated their Christmas Eve offering to build two new homes on the farm. They raised $31,750! What a special Christmas gift to the children of New Life Homes and the local community.

God is so good and we are thankful for their generosity. We look forward to sending along pictures as construction progresses and eventually having short-term teams stay in the facilities. Bidwell Pres and New Life Homes have cultivated a unique and beautiful relationship that we look forward growing this relationship even more.

Here is a short promo video the folks at Bidwell Pres put together. Enjoy!