Happy Thanksgiving from Swazi

Happy Thanksgiving from Swazi!
Obviously they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Swaziland, or
any other country for that matter.  So
the whole rule of thumb that you can’t celebrate Christmas before Thanksgiving
is non-existent.  Santa Claus has been
planted in the local grocery store for weeks and you can hear Christmas music
every once in awhile.  Christina and I
did our best to stay away from any Christmas spirit until after today, when we
finally celebrated Thanksgiving.  I love
this holiday; it’s kind of like Valentine’s Day in the respect that what we
celebrate on these holidays (love and being thankful) are what we should live
every day, but I still think they are days worthy of setting aside some extra
love and thanks!  Being away from family
is hard on holidays, but for this one I was home. 
The Thanksgiving day started like any other Thursday.  Christina and I got groceries for our big
dinner in the morning and then we headed to Enjabulweni to collect letters and
deliver grade 7’s letters.  Of course the
other students hadn’t written letters back yet, and when I delivered grade 7’s
letters, I realized I was about 20 letters short.  The names the head teacher had given me were
only half of the students in his class! Eish! 
But, like loaves in fishes, we multiplied letters by changing names of
some that were doubles (because originally my students outnumbered the ones at
Enjabulweni).  The students’ faces were
so priceless, seriously.  They way they
held the envelopes and letters so tenderly made it look like they were holding
treasure.  In fact, many of the students
call them “love letters.” 
After Enjabulweni I took Tenele and Ayanda on a long walk up
to the local prison (remand center) where Cedric was staying.  Apparently, Cedric had been selling cell
phones and one customer wouldn’t pay him properly so Cedric took the phone
back.  The customer called the police and
they arrested Cedric for stealing.  Of
course, that’s the story I got from Tenele’s angle, so I don’t really know the
full story.  Anyway, we went to visit him
and brought baby Lucia, his daughter, with. 
When she looked at him and heard his voice, she lit up with her gorgeous
toothy grin.  After a little while she
kept crying and Cedric tenderly said, “Lucia, don’t cry.  Daddy’s coming.  Don’t cry.” 
Upon hearing his voice again, she calmed down a little.  Clearly, she recognizes and loves her daddy
and he cares for her, too.  He has made
the trip out once to visit Tenele’s homestead where she stays with her real
mother and sisters.  It’s great that
Cedric is making the effort to stay connected and involved in his daughter’s
life.  I know being in prison doesn’t
give a very good picture of Cedric, but I really believe he is also starting to
become a changed man.  Tenele snuck in to
see Cedric with me, because she actually can’t see him without an ID; but the
policeman inside the cell building was kind and let Tenele stay with us.  
We said our goodbyes and Cedric gave his appreciation and we
started the walk back into town.  I was
exhausted at this point but excited to cook a feast!  Christina and I were about to embark on a
journey we had never taken before: cooking a turkey!  We bought a beast of a turkey at the grocery
store to feed the ten plus people for dinner that night.  It was a wonderful three hours of cooking;
yes, wonderful!  Ayanda also helped us in
the kitchen, as we created the feast of turkey, cheesy mashed potatoes, green
bean casserole, stuffing, corn, and puppy chow! 
The greatest reward was sitting at the long table with all of our guests
(including Betty, Mzie, Ryan, Majabani, a few others, and of course Tenele,
Ayanda, and baby Lucia!) and hearing their surprised complements of how
wonderful the food tasted.  I was shocked
myself at how delicious the turkey tasted!
As I sat at that table I couldn’t help but laugh with
amazement at God’s goodness of those surrounding me, especially 1) Christina
and 2) my kids. 
Christina amazes me; her utter devotion to God
and her spirit of abandonment in following him to Swazi, sacrificing more than
I could begin to write, is overwhelmingly inspiring.  She is adored by her housemates, her
coworkers, the MYC boys, our kids, her family, and of course me!  What a blessing to be able to be in Swaziland
to celebrate a day of thanks for her, to give her a taste of home, and support
her in all the incredible work she is doing! 
Y’all should follow her year in Swazi at: www.christinahealingheart.blogspot.com.
The time I’ve had with my kids so far feels like
I never left them.  Though Lucia was
afraid of me initially, she finally warmed up to me.  When she cries, I pick her up and sing her
our song (Siyahamba “We are walking in the light of God”) and she literally
stops crying every time.  It’s crazy!  Even today, she was getting really fussy, so I simply put her on my hip and hummed around the kitchen as we cooked the turkey and other food.  She was seemingly at home on my hip. 🙂
It amazes me that God has put these special young ones in my
life, not for me to change their lives but for them to change mine.  I have learned so much about myself through
them.  They cry and hurt when I am gone,
but they don’t know that I can’t live without them.  The longer I stay away from them, the more
the breath inside of me slowly drains. 
The way that God has renewed Tenele is still like a dream to me; I see a
miracle every time I look at her and the way she tenderly cares for her baby
girl.  They are wise and they make me a
better person; they challenge me and they read me like a book.  Ayanda simply reads my facial expressions and
knows exactly what I’m thinking; it’s almost too spot on!  In the car ride the other day, Johannes,
Ayanda, Christina, and I were talking about trust in relations to specific
experiences in our lives.  I told them I
wouldn’t be able to be in a relationship if I didn’t trust the person, and to
make a long story short and keep the conversation confidential, basically
Ayanda blurted out, “Mary-Kate, you are in a dilema.” “What?” I said
surprised.  “Someone broke your trust and
you’re putting up a wall; you say you don’t trust this person, but you trusted
_____ with *this.  You can’t go with your
mind even if your heart is hurt.”  
Johannes proceeded to claim Ayanda as the winner of what turned into an
argument about whether or not you could/should be in a relationship with
someone you can’t trust.  Needless to
say, I learn something from them every day, and I could not have asked the Lord
for a bigger blessing than these sweet ones he has given me!
With a thankful heart!

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