Mission Life: Month 11

September 2018 is already behind us and that means we've been on this journey for over 11 months now and it is coming to a close. We can not believe all we have been able to experience in such a short time. We are overwhelmed with emotions as we are coming to a close on this chapter. We are very excited to get back home to family and friends (and our pup), but we are so sad to have to say goodbye.

Goodbyes are never easy, but it seems to be even more difficult when you aren't sure if it's only goodbye for now or maybe forever. We are currently in South Africa in Johannesburg for the rest of our time which means we already had to say our goodbyes to the people of Eswatini we have grown to know and love. It certainly wasn't easy, but we are comforted by the opportunity to leave things in a positive way and to have been able to say proper goodbyes.

The girls at St. Anne's were amazing and recited poetry they had written for me and presented me with a gift and so many kind words at their assembly. This also allowed me to let them know how much my time with them had meant and to say goodbye.

Josiah was able to give some basketball awards to the team at Salesian High and was able to address them at their assembly also. The boys then organized a game for him and presented him with a beautifully framed Salesian uniform shirt autographed by the team. We were then able to take them for pizza one more time afterwards. The kids from Manzini Youth Care were able to come to the Salesian community for a meal and movie night as a farewell.

September also allowed us to visit Mozambique with our Swazi mom who was so generous in showing us her home country and even allowing us to stay in her family home. It was certainly a true adventure on public transport and being unable to speak the language (Portuguese), but an amazing time. We were able to try our first coconut and drink the water from it on a beautiful African beach. It was an exhausting 26 hours, but totally worth it! All in all it has been an amazing last full month in Africa.

We will spend the remainder of our time here in Joburg at the provincial house working with Father Sean to (hopefully) finish once and for all the big proposal we have spent the majority of the year here working on.

Mission Life: Month Eleven
A few seconds a day in the life of two Salesian Lay Missioners in Eswatini and a little bit of Mozambique too!

In other news this month say some prayers for the people of Eswatini, especially the students and teachers. The students are beginning their exams and recently the teachers have voted to strike due to their low income and no pay increase for several years. Due to this and their attempt to march they were met with force from the police and now some students are being given their exams by law enforcement or military. Please pray for a peaceful, swift, and fair resolution for all involved to happen soon!

Thank you all so much for all your support on this journey. We are eternally grateful!



Mission Life: Month 10

Hello friends and family! It's Josiah here, trying to help Laura out a bit since she's been doing all the heavy lifting as far as writing is concerned. Anyway, let's catch up!

From Birthdays to 10ks, donuts to barbeques, trips through rural Swaziland and Johannesburg and a bout with tick bite fever, August was a busy month!

It's always interesting to look back on a month and think about all that's gone on. It seems it's an exercise we rarely undertook in the United States. Weeks and months seemed to all blur together and we somehow perceived a lack of time to reflect on them. That's one of the truly humbling things about this mission experience. Our want to share our blessings and experiences with you forces us each month to reflect on all that's gone on and take stock of where we are. Here's a brief summary of the month Laura turned 31 :).

While the kids at St. Anne's and Salesian were still in school, until August 10th, we scrambled to get as much time in with them as possible. Laura went almost every day to Malkerns to make sure she had a chance to see her girls, and I spent a little more time on the basketball court and playing music with the primary school kids. Some of the highlights included a 3 on 3 tournament organized and run by the varsity basketball team. Over 20 teams participated and the kids had a blast. The eventual winners were the San Antonio Spurs, even though we're a long way from Texas. The school also hosted a 10km fun run on the day before school let out, and well over 100 students and teachers turned out to run the course in the rain. We finished, a bit cold and wet but feeling great about ourselves. It was a great way to close out the semester.

As soon as school was out we were able to host the kids from the Don Bosco Children's Homes at Manzini Youth Care for a "braai", or as we would term it back home, a barbeque. We grilled 150 chicken drumsticks and they all got gone with a quickness. The kids played soccer, basketball and had a great time, even when the planned movie went bust because of technological issues. We plan on having them back before we head out to finish the movie.

For the second year in a row, Laura celebrated her birthday in a Salesian house. Just like last year, the Salesians didn't disappoint. We went out for a day at the movies and a little bit of shopping and good food, only to return to a dinner of Laura's favorite things, and gifts from the whole community. Although birthdays are one of the days we miss our family and friends the most, the Salesians pulled through for another beautiful celebration.

Toward the end of the month we headed to Johannesburg to wrap up some unfinished business on the big proposal that has been a big focus almost since our arrival. Laura also went to observe an amazing program, Love Matters, which would receive funding if the proposal ultimately comes through. As soon as we got out of the car in Joburg, however, I was shivering and went down for 5 days with what we eventually figured out was tick bite fever. It could always be worse though, everyone around us thought it was malaria! Funny how a tiny insect can drop a full grown man just like that. The experience made me appreciate and marvel at people who are truly sick and who fight their battles so graciously, and thank God for our good health. When we arrived back in Swaziland, Laura got a great opportunity to see the true heart of the country when she rode along with the social welfare team to bring the children from the homes to their families for a visit.

I'll wrap up by saying you're all in our prayers. We're forever grateful to you for helping us take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity. Our time here comes to a close soon, and that will bring with it a lot of complex emotions. Please pray for us, that we can finish strong and transition smoothly back to life with all of you!

As always, we'd love for you to check out our one second a day video journal. May God bless and keep you!

Mission Life: Month Ten
A few seconds a day in the life of two Salesian Lay Missioners in Eswatini and South Africa too!

In other news this month we were also able to celebrate Marie's (my Swazi mom, Laura's mother-IN-LAW) birthday with her. Later, some wonderful friends in Joburg took us to the Cradle of Humankind after I recovered from the tick bite, and finally we were able to witness a true Salesian celebration as the brothers can be seen below performing a song and dance for Father Francois's farewell as he leaves the province to take a new role in Madagascar.

Love God, Love People: Month 9

July seemed to fly by for us! Since returning from our holiday and getting settled back into Manzini things have been very busy. We have been working really hard to try to help with the transition of some things at Manzini Youth Care and with encouraging a Salesian culture within the high school. The schools have also been completing exams in preparation for the end pof the third term here so I have been extra busy trying to make sure I can see all my St. Anne's girls in between tests and before the school break. We continue to grow more and more homesick as we try to make plans to return home and at times more and more anxious as we still don't have much figured out. However we are also realizing the immense blessing it has been to come here despite the challenges. We have learned so much and as we reflect we hope we have grown in our spirituality, patience, compassion, and view of the world. We have been spending a little more time playing with the primary school kids and they are oh so fun and SWEET! Josiah plays guitar for them and is so famous among those of the elementary age at times we have been walking to town and when we pass youngsters they play the air guitar at the sight of him! They hang on my arms and love to give hugs. One day one of the boys declared me to be his mother, but when I told him I was only a friend and they all had their own mothers he looked up at me so sincere and stated "no, I don't have." It is a sad reality here for so many of these children as the life expectancy is very low and the HIV rate so high a lot of these children are single if not double orphans. I feel so blessed to get to show them some maternal kindness and give them hugs. I hope it fills their hearts half as much as they fill mine! In this bittersweet time in our journey I find it harder to find the words to give you an update of what life is like here. I am unsure we will ever be able to put the beautiful chaos we experience into a narrative or illustration, but with that said I will try my best in leaving you this month's one second per day video journal and captions of some of the other happenings of July. God bless!

Video Journal

Month Nine: a few seconds a day in the lives of two Salesian Lay Missioners in Eswatini

July was a hard time for some very dear friends of ours back home as they remembered the anniversary of the loss of a beloved family member. Ryan Carter was also a missionary, a much better one than either of us without a doubt. He was spreading his mission at all times and summed up his message with the phrase "Love God. Love people." We were able to honor Ryan by making it a "Pay it Forward Friday" in which we encouraged the school to do acts of kindness. It went really well and the students really embraced the day! Here are some photos from the now annual Ryan Carter Pay it Forward day at Salesian High School.


Mission Life: Month 8

It's hard to believe another month has come and gone. For us, June was a time of much needed reflection and self-care. After it seemed for a bit time was standing still and we were at our homesick high (or low) we found ourselves struggling to be present in the moment and enjoy the time here. June however, allowed us to take a bit of a step back to try to gain our composure. We were allowed to take the last two weeks of the month to get away from our works with the Salesians and celebrate our 4 year wedding anniversary on a road trip through Namibia. Namibia is a beautiful country filled with scenery which makes you think at times you may have left the planet earth altogether. It is also very scarcely populated (the least of any African country) and provides a sense of solitude living in community on the property of two schools just doesn't allow for!

We have started to think about our transition back home and the anxiety and excitement of it all is almost too much to take in at times. As we struggle to be mindful and also begin to realize the reality of having to say a more permanent goodbye to those here to return home please keep us in your prayers. We are trying to trust God to care for us and lead us where he intends for us to be upon our return home just as He has thus far, but admittedly not having much of a plan is difficult for us and at times we doubt. Along with all these emotions, the highs of celebrating our anniversary and visiting new places and the lows of being homesick, but also uncertain and sad to leave we still feel overwhelmed when we realize our blessings. I write this update on both the anniversary of my granny's death and the feast of St. Thomas, whose doubt thankfully enables us to have increased faith and am reminded of their examples and in them find hope for the future, whatever it may bring.

With the fourth of July also upon us we reflect how much more appreciative we are after this experience to have true "independence" in America as we have witnessed here is never something to take for granted. The sheer fact I am able to update each of you and if I chose to do so while in America could even post my personal opinions on a public forum about anyone- including the leaders of the country if I so choose- is truly a beautiful thing! This weekend we will get to celebrate our Independence Day with all the Americans in Eswatini at a pot luck hosted by the US Embassy and we are happy to have such supports and reminders of home even while so far away.

Video Journal
Month Eight: a few seconds a day in the lives of two Salesian Lay Missioners in Eswatini (and this month, South Africa and Namibia too!).

MISSION LIFE: MONTH 8

It's hard to believe another month has come and gone. For us, June was a time of much needed reflection and self-care. After it seemed for a bit time was standing still and we were at our homesick high (or low) we found ourselves struggling to be present in the moment and enjoy the time here. June however, allowed us to take a bit of a step back to try to gain our composure. We were allowed to take the last two weeks of the month to get away from our works with the Salesians and celebrate our 4 year wedding anniversary on a road trip through Namibia. Namibia is a beautiful country filled with scenery which makes you think at times you may have left the planet earth altogether. It is also very scarcely populated (the least of any African country) and provides a sense of solitude living in community on the property of two schools just doesn't allow for!

We have started to think about our transition back home and the anxiety and excitement of it all is almost too much to take in at times. As we struggle to be mindful and also begin to realize the reality of having to say a more permanent goodbye to those here to return home please keep us in your prayers. We are trying to trust God to care for us and lead us where he intends for us to be upon our return home just as He has thus far, but admittedly not having much of a plan is difficult for us and at times we doubt. Along with all these emotions, the highs of celebrating our anniversary and visiting new places and the lows of being homesick, but also uncertain and sad to leave we still feel overwhelmed when we realize our blessings. I write this update on both the anniversary of my granny's death and the feast of St. Thomas, whose doubt thankfully enables us to have increased faith and am reminded of their examples and in them find hope for the future, whatever it may bring.

With the fourth of July also upon us we reflect how much more appreciative we are after this experience to have true "independence" in America as we have witnessed here is never something to take for granted. The sheer fact I am able to update each of you and if I chose to do so while in America could even post my personal opinions on a public forum about anyone- including the leaders of the country if I so choose- is truly a beautiful thing! This weekend we will get to celebrate our Independence Day with all the Americans in Eswatini at a pot luck hosted by the US Embassy and we are happy to have such supports and reminders of home even while so far away.

Video Journal

Month Eight: a few seconds a day in the lives of two Salesian Lay Missioners in Eswatini (and this month, South Africa and Namibia too!).

In other news for June, our most prized worldly possession (Chance) had to be relocated. We were very worried about this transition for him, but we have to give a HUGE shout out to my cousin and her family for stepping up to the plate and to our little brothers for taking such good care of him up to this point. He seems very happy in his new home and this makes our hearts smile also. We just hope he still wants to come back to us after all his extravagant treatment while we have been away!

While in Namibia we were able to see where the sand dunes run right into the ocean as well as a seal colony and TONS of wildlife and the most beautiful of sunsets (pictured below). We also saw a shipwreck, a ghost town, some of the most ancient bushman carvings, and climbed one of the tallest dunes in the world! An amazing trip indeed!

Mission Life: Month 7

This month has been quite a busy one to say the least. It seems April lasted for several months while we were missing our families at Easter and waiting for the halfway mark of our mission to come. Since then however May seems to have lasted only a week and now we are looking at a short 5 months left here. This month has offered many challenges as well as rewards. I have increased my time with the girls at St. Anne's in hopes of also maximizing their benefit. Josiah has started accompanying me to Hope House and we are learning each visit to be grateful for our lives, our health, and also the strength of those we come in contact with who despite their circumstances are always grateful. I have also taken on a larger role with the social welfare team at Manzini Youth Care and have greatly enjoyed revisiting my child welfare and case management role. We have had some visitors this month as well to include the provincial council team from Johannesburg whom we miss so much. It was great having them in the community here in Eswatini with us even if they made us work a little harder than normal during their visit. Josiah continues to be a grant writing wizard and Lebron James to the kids here. He is truly amazing and I am so impressed by him all the time. Recently we hosted a sports blitz day as they call it at Salesian where other schools came and competed in basketball, street soccer, table tennis, and volleyball. All the kids had a wonderful time and the adults as well! The basketball team from Salesian made it to the championship game and were amazing on and off the court. They have improved so much since we arrived and they love the game. After the game we decided we would reward their hard work with pizza. Those boys at pizza....that's something I hope to never forget! They were so polite. They insisted we couldn't pay for everything as it was unfair and started collecting coins from everyone to buy drinks. They waited until each person had a plate and insisted on grace before eating. They were so excited to find 6 large pizzas for (even for 17 people!) and talked about how "no one was going home hungry today". They were truly grateful and we were truly humbled. These kids are going to be so hard to leave. Swazi youth are REMARKABLE. For all the letdowns and dysfunction we sometimes face, these kids are truly amazing and are truly a pure image of God's face. I know we have seen Christ in those we have met here and for that we have been truly blessed! We hope to share with you the pure joy we experienced at our pizza announcement in the video below!

Video Journal

Month seven: a few seconds a day in the lives of two Salesian Lay Missioners in Eswatini.

In other news this month we also got to climb Sheeba's breast as well as enjoy soccer time with the boys and some time with Father Sean who is the reason we were sent here in the first place. All in all another wonderful month.