Friday, 16 June 2017

Bhandeni, Swaziland - Revival night, Tues 13 June and a long Walk to School, Wed 14th June

A panorama view from the Care Point in Bhandeni
 Waking up in the natural beauty of Swaziland on Tuesday 13th June was a remarkable privilege.  The border with Mozambique was a few hundred metres from the care point and the stunning sky of the night before only added to the amazement that many of us felt.  It was so beautiful here, and yet so broken.  There are many causes of Bhandeni being such a needy place- but for the people who live there, the luxury of analysing the problem does not exist.  They simply have to deal with it - they do not have the power or abilty to challenge the causes of their struggle.
The most remarkable people here are the care volunteers - who are themselves, by any standard, poor and needy.  Yet they find energy, concern and love to visit the families and homesteads of vulnerable children.  Hands at Work in Africa support these people - help them to help each other within relationship groups where there is prayer and care for one another.  Hands at Work provide food and resources to help the care volunteers feed the most needy children  - which the care workers do every day as the children return from their monster walk from school.

The remarkable care volunteers of Bhandeni
As we woke in Bhandeni and enjoyed a cup of coffee, it felt like a luxurious thing. Perhaps it is in that context!  We met with the care volunteers as they arrived at the care point - shared needs with the help of Vusi, Lerato and Lebo and then prayed for one another.  We sang and danced to a Siswati worship song and prepared to go with the care volunteers on holy home visits.

We split into two groups, each with a care volunteer and someone who could translate into English for us and walked on the dusty, uneven roads in the hot Swaziland sun.  Both the visits our group went to had a similar setting, a compound gated with a makeshift fence of wire and branches pushed into the groud as fence posts, leading into a homestead where several groups of the same extended family lived. At the second house the three children of the home were away fetching water - a long walk with a wheelbarrow from the borehole which supplies the whole village.  The mother of the house was so pleased to see us and presented us with a plate of cooked cassava to share... this was all the more generous as earlier in the conversation we had talked about how the harvest had been for her and she had said it was not so good, and pointed to the hut which served as a grain store.  Her generosity and welcome was so humbling to receive.
Dusk at Bhandeni

Returning to the care point, we found a number of children had already arrived and were collecting their food in turn and joining in with play activities.  Some of the children were less withdrawn and less and were uncertain of us than they had been the day before, and after a while they were happy to join in with the games with the care volunteers and the rest of us. 

After the children had eaten, we too shared the  meal which they had enjoyed, rice, sugar beans, beetroot and cabbage - all eaten with fingers and all delicious.

Waiting for Revival
As the light faded and playing with a ball became pretty impossible, we moved inside the care point - which was now lit by candles and it had a carol service fell about it.  As time went on we were joined by what felt like most of the village, who came to join in Siswati worship songs, prayers and to hear a talk given by Rosanne -about how Jesus calls us to be light to the world in a dark place.  Rosanne encouraged us all to love as fully as we can, to love our neigbour and in this way to be what Jesus has in mind for us and the world.  This was all translated into Siswati- the singing and worship led enthusiastically by some of children who had been fed at the care point that same evening.
We headed for bed, knowing we would be up early to walk to school with the children from their homes to their nearest school.

Some of the children after the revival night
The next day we rose at about 4.15am while it was still fully dark to get ready and walk to meet some of the children at their homes and walk with them to school.  The rough mountain track which we had driven up two days earlier became our path, and for two hours, we walked at a very brisk pace, set by the children, to cover the approximately  10km (4 mile)  walk to school.  We were all stunned by the distance, and the terrain, and the dark - and we were doing it by choice, for one day.  The children, some as young as seven years old, do this walk every day in the dark and then, do it again in the heat of the afternoon, up the mountain track.  After leaving the children at the school gate we continued on to the Police compound where we had left our mini bus, and ate the left overs we could find in our food box, in the pick up truck which had carried out packs down the mountain.  Hungry, tired and in admiration of the children of Bhandeni, we rested before setting out for the Hands at Work hub in White River, South Africa.