Planting Hope In Swaziland

A five-minute summary of our garden-planting trip to Swaziland in March, 2006. As told by Eric & Lana Elder, Karis and Lucas Elder, and Felicia Lamb. This trip was organized by Heart for Africa, also known as Dream for Africa, which was founded by Bruce Wilkinson, author of the Prayer of Jabez.

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(Lana) After planning and praying for more than a year, the day finally came when we were packed and ready to go on our missions trip to Africa. We were headed to the Kingdom of Swaziland, a small country nestled in the mountains of South Africa. Our goal was to plant hundreds of backyard vegetable gardens for the beautiful Swazi people. It was an experience we’ll never forget.

(Lucas) After landing in South Africa, we still had a five hour bus ride to get to our hotel in Swaziland. But it was fun because we got to meet some of the other people who came on the trip. There were a total of 80 of us, including a small group of kids. It turned out that we would spend a lot of our time in Swaziland driving…and driving…and driving…

(Eric) We were told that the region we’d be planting in was one of the hardest to reach in the country, and I’m sure it was. You wouldn’t have found any of these roads on MapQuest! We had split up into 13 smaller teams and each day our team would drive about two hours through the mountains on winding dirt roads to reach our area. The first day, our task was to meet with the chiefs of the chiefdoms where we would be planting. Since our chief had recently died, we met with some other leaders of the area in their community building. After our host pastor explained the planting process and we all exchanged greetings (Sanibonani, yeabo), we were ready to plant our first gardens.

(Felicia) The gardens we were planting were small, backyard gardens with tomatoes, onions, cabbage and spinach. The Swazi’s already grow a lot of corn, and that’s typically what they eat throughout the year…corn meal, corn bread, roasted corn, corn everything! But because the Swazi’s have the highest rate of HIV infections in the world — 42% — they need more nutrition in their diet to help them fight off diseases. So by planting other kinds of vegetables right near their homes, they’ll have a better chance of living a longer life.

(Karis) When we were done with one garden, we’d get back into the van, or we’d take a long walk to the next home. Because we were trying to reach as many homes as possible, the people were told to go and prepare a small piece of land near their home, digging up the ground and putting up a fence to keep animals out. Depending on the number of people in the household, we would give them a different number of these small gardens, each about the size of a door. Even though we weren’t there long, we were glad that we got to spend a our lot of time in Swaziland planting…and planting…and planting.

(Lana) We also spent a lot of time praying. We would pray for every garden when we were finished, and we would pray for anyone who was sick or in need in their homes, like the family whose father and mother and two children who were all HIV positive, or the woman who had been struck by lighting, or the family where a seventeen year old boy had recently died. When we were rained out from planting one day, we went on a prayer-walk in the city of Manzini, sharing about Jesus with people on the street and praying for the sick at a medical clinic.

(Karis) One of the highlights of the trip was getting to spend some time with the orphans and other kids at the El Shaddai orphanage and the Moneni Care Point. We got to worship with the kids at the orphanage, and planted a large garden at the care point. We had so much fun making balloon animals for the kids and giving out gifts. We were able to give them dolls and blankets and hats that some friends had donated for our trip.

(Lucas) The people at El Shaddai made a big lunch for everyone. I even tried the chicken heads. They tasted like, uh, chicken. The kids sang a lot of songs for us … and then we sang some songs for them.

(Lana) To everyone who helped out with this trip, through your gifts and prayers, please know that each one of you really did make a difference. The people were so thankful that we had come. They were thankful for the prayers, for the seedlings and most of all for the hope that God still cares for them.

By the end of the trip, it felt like what we were doing for the people of Swaziland was just a drop in the bucket for what they needed. But all of our drops added up.Because of your help, eighty of us were able to plant and distribute over 8,000 gardens; we were able to pray and spend time with hundreds of people along the way; and we were able to be the hands of Christ to people who truly needed a hand.

From all of us, to all of you, thank you.

(Thank You in Siswati) Translation: What she is saying now is thank you very much for giving her seedlings, because she knows that those seedlings belong to her, and now they are coming up alright, she’s going to eat and have a very good meal.

Note: To find out more about future missions trips to Africa, visit Heart for Africa at www.heartforafrica.org.

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