The Start of the Longest Week of my Life: Day 1

Before leaving for my very short trip
to Swaziland, I prayed that God would make this the longest week of
my life. It has been three full days and it already feels like a
week has passed with everything that has been packed in so far! Yebo
I left for Swazi on a Thursday evening
flight from Chicago to Germany. During the eight hour flight, I sat
next to a nice man around my age who was traveling to Chicago for his
brother’s wedding. He was kind and even offered his shoulder for me
to sleep on after I kept rustling back and forth trying to find a
workable condition to attempt to get some zs. The only problem with
the young man was that he had caught a cold from someone on a
previous flight the day before. He was constantly sniffling and
coughing on and off. I hoped I wouldn’t catch his cold, but after
the eight hour flight, as soon as I stepped into the Frankfurt
airport, my nose started running. I had thirteen hours to kill, yes
it was THIRTEEN hour layover, so I found a nice corner by some
windows that had a little work table (so I could correct all my
students’ papers to pass the day). Within minutes of nestling into
my spot, my runny nose cost me my last package of kleenex, so I
resulted to “borrowing” a roll of toilet paper from the bathroom.
Starting to feel quite miserable, I prayed, “Lord, please don’t
let me have this cold on the plane ride; that’s the worst place to be
sick.” Throughout the day I drank lots of liquids and used the
airborne tablet. Ten hours and a toilet paper roll later, I was
bustling up my luggage and heading to my gate sniffle free!
The twelve hour flight from Frankfurt
to Johannesburg was the best plane ride I’ve ever had! For the first
time in numerous travels, I slept for the majority of the ride! The
Lufthansa plane seats were fantastic, and I arrived in Johannesburg
feeling exhilarated and excited! I took a shuttle bus five hours to
Swazi and finally found home! Upon hearing the rolling wheels of my
luggage, Christina Hostetter lept from her balcony seat of the
volunteer house, ran down the stairs, and embraced me with the best
welcome home hug ever! I knew with her embrace this is exactly where
I was meant to be.
My first full day in Swaziland was
Sunday. After church in the morning, Christina and I swung by
Mangwaneni to pick up Ayanda, Johannes, and Pununu to take them with
us to visit Tenele’s homestead. It was an incredible forty minute
drive with Christina and I in the front and our kids chattering
excitedly in the back.
When Tenele, baby MK, and Tenele’s
mother met us on the dirt road to take us to their homestead, I
wasn’t sure my heart could be any fuller. Little Lucia had teeth!
And Tenele looked so happy, as did her mother. Tenele’s mother
cannot speak English, so much of our converstaion is through smiles
and embraces. Once at the homestead, Tenele introduced her other two
sisters and their babies as well. It was a full house, and although
the land looked promising with growing vegetables, the living
conditions weren’t great. Throughout our conversation, Christina and
I politely swatted away the swarming amount of flies in the room.
Lucia looked very thin, and I was worried about her.  Her head looked oversized compared to her thin and somewhat bony body structure.  Tenele told me she had been sick, and it looked like it was more than just being sick,
so I told Tenele to meet me the following day in town and I’d take
them to the clinic to check on Lucia.
Later that afternoon, Johannes and Ayanda came over to visit.  My lovely students back in the states had decided to sign and send a soccer ball for Johannes as a get well gesture after I had told them about Johannes’ heart condition.  So, I presented the ball to Johannes and his reaction was unexpected.  One of hte biggest smiles I have EVER seen from him spread across his face as his eyes light up the room.  He held the ball tenderly and gave me a big, long hug saying, “I’ve dreamed of having a soccer ball of my own.”  How incredibly humbling to have a young man so appreciative of something so seemingly small.  He tossed the ball around and looked and each and every name of the students who signed it, asking for me to pronounce the names for him.  Another student of mine had donate a bunch of clothes, so Johannes tried on a few and loved the shirts so much he started to model them for the camera.  
The first full day of Swazi closed with a trip to the grocery store with Christina and a joint effort in making the best chili I’ve had!  
Wow, what a trip and it’s only day one!  The time I spent with Christina and my children is already worth the travel and cost of being here.  God truly is making this the longest week of my life. 
To be continued…

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