Friday, January 28, 2011

Thankful, Encouraged, Inspired, Refreshed

We had a very special guest in our home over the weekend. As I look back now, I see God's Hand all over this visit. His timing was perfect.

Pastor Walter, one of the pastors that we work with in Swaziland, came for a visit. I have dreamed about this opportunity. I have prayed that God would work this out some day. And, He did!!!

He arrived late on Friday evening. Riding home from Denver was a great time for Rick and I to catch up with him. I loved hearing his perspectives on American culture. He was right on target with his understanding of it. Rick last saw him in July, and I last saw him April '09 when we were completing our adoption.

The kids were asleep on Friday night, so they did not get to see Walter until Saturday. He joined us in our tradition of Saturday Morning Big Breakfasts!! Each of the kids made part of the meal. He greeted each of them with a big hug.
After breakfast, Rick took Walter around for some CO sightseeing. They went to Garden of the Gods.
Love that smile!!

Later that day, Sam had his first basketball game, and Rick was his coach. Walter got to participate in that with us as well. We watched the team get their first win!! What a way to start the season.
Sam and his dribbling
Rick in his element
We came home for a big dinner together. Then the games began!! All day, Walter had been saying that he wanted the kids to teach him to play "The Game of Life." It was so funny watching them. He and Sam were on a team together. He said that Sam reminded him of his youngest son, Joshua. They are the same age.
Cody won, but Walter and Sam were second!
Next, they played a Swazi game called "Mlabalaba." The only way I know to describe it is "Tic Tac Toe" on steroids. It is played with a game board drawn on a piece of paper and sticks and stones used as playing pieces. The kids were sure that they could beat Walter. He creamed every one of them including Rick.
Speaking of creaming, here he is beating Rick!
It was so refreshing to have Walter in our home. It brought our children even more into our work in Swaziland. It gave them a personal connection that only Cody had before now. He engaged them and invested in them. Isaiah and Laila were THRILLED to have him here. Laila was more "out of her shell" with Walter than I have ever seen her with someone outside of our family. She would hug him and talk to him. Usually she is very quiet and reserved. Isaiah talked to him non-stop all weekend. Walter gave him the nickname "Lasagna" because he is crazy like lasagna noodles.

Sunday morning at church, we had our Swazi trip informational meeting. Who better to share the story than the man who God used to start this whole thing? Walter stood before a group of about 30 people and shared how God called him to the orphans of his community. I sat there crying as I heard him share. He was so inspiring. He said, "When God called me, I was very poor. He called me to give and I did, so much that it hurt." He challenged all of us to sacrifice for God's calling on our lives. That is just what I needed to be reminded of.

Walter in front of the banner with the handprints of the Bhalekane children that hangs in our children's area at church.
I experienced a "full circle" moment in the service as we were walking in, I remembered how as a group of elders' wives we had written Scriptures and prayers on the floor of our auditorium before the carpet was put down. On one of the steps of the stage, I had written, "Swaziland, Africa, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!" I shared that with Walter as we walked in. Then, Kelly brought him up to introduce him to the church. As Walter was speaking, he shared James 1:27 "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." Right in the moment that he was saying that verse, I remembered that I had written that verse on the stage very near where he was standing. Once again, a "full circle" moment. God showed me that my prayers that Walter would be at our church had been answered. It truly was an encouraging day.
I don't know what lies ahead for Beyond Survival(our ministry to Swaziland). Rick and I are praying about that right now. I do believe that God used this weekend to show us that our work is not finished. That He wants us to do more. We just need to be faithful and see what is next.
Isaiah kept saying, "I'm squooshed!"
Our friend and brother!!
I am so thankful for this weekend. I am so inspired by Walter. I am so encouraged by what God has done. I am so refreshed by the fellowship of our friend from the other side of the world. It was such an honor and privilege to have him in our home.


  1. We missed church this weekend and now I am SO bummed that we did :( I'm so glad that you were able to have that visit and refresh your passion for Swaziland.

  2. Goosebumps/chills like crazy!!!! Amazing and beautiful and touching and did I say amazing. My hubby is in Swazi right now. He spent the morning painting little girls fingernails.

  3. Thank you for sharing. Loved it. I smiled through the whole thing. Brian coaches Joseph's basketball team. It's his "element" too. I'm so glad for the weekend you had with a brother and friend.