The Prodigal Son who never left

I have never understood the parable of the Prodigal Son with as much clarity as I see it now. Although most Christians identify with the son who leaves to the world and returns years later to his father, I have always associated with the older son and I don’t know why. Something in me caused me to relate to his feelings of bitterness, his overcoming of neglect and his need for acceptance.

I have never really asked my “father” for my inheritance and gone to dabble and indulge in the things of this world. Rather, I feel I have been more faithful, consistent, diligent and committed regarding my spiritual walk. Much like the older son in this parable. He was the first on the fields each morning and the last to go home. He worked incredibly hard and toiled with much labor. But from his reactions towards his prodigal brother when he returned, we can assume many of his motivations for his devotion was for acceptance. He worked hard and was a “doer” largely to gain acceptance. It now makes sense why I relate to his situation.

Two and a half years ago I suffered a complete breakdown regarding burnout. I was overworked, the passion was squeezed out of me and I was racked with an identity crisis because my acceptance and validation was wrapped in my “elevator speech” – I am a Jamie Woller, I work at ____ and am known for my success of ______. You know how the spiel goes everytime you meet a possible networking prospector. However, I emerged from this with a very Godly perspective that I am not accepted for my accomplishments, awards, successes or anything – I am accepted because God created me, loves me and is my biggest fan, just for who I am.

What I gained from this experience though was true peace. For the last 2 years I have experienced vast amounts of peace in my life. It is only just recently where I am feeling the ugly head of constantly “doing” emerging in my life. Peace is slowly departing me as exhaustion sets in. Am I trying to find acceptance again? Am I looking to others to embrace me, accept me and validate me because of all that I do? God feels distant, therefore I turn to others to get what I am used to finding in him – my strength of who I am. Oh, the errors of being human which we do over and over again. My ally now is my learning from my past experience. I know that I must surrender to God all that I am doing and find time to rest in him. It is essential if I am to survive.
Ultimately, I still resonate more with the older son. However, I now see him also as a prodigal son. Who the father sees him to be is not who is really is. He is shallow, without passion and lifeless. He works all day, and is everything of a “doer”. Yet until he realizes that his father loves him just for who he is, regardless, then he will not ever experience that true love. He is a prodigal from his fathers true love.

I heed his story and long to once again deeply embrace the love of the father – for accepting me just as I am. I am worn, tired and in deep need of his divinity. But even in that place I am accepted. Although I have not gone and sinned in tangible, measurable ways – I have sinned by finding my identity, acceptance and love in things other than God. I am a prodigal son, looking for the loving embrace of my heavenly father to fill these tired bones with the refreshing passion of life. I am the prodigal son who never left.

De La Rocha

I am ashamed. Those of you who know me by now, might remember how about a year ago, when I took my first of many trips to Swaziland – I came home and it took me a few months, but soon the stories and the emotions settled in. I always knew I am a slow processor.

Recently it has dawned on me how much of a coward I have been regarding working in Africa. I heard a story about a boy who as he spoke to a social justice gathering, he point to a scare on his face. “I got this scar when my master lashed me for not working hard enough. When it began to bleed, he did not want me to stop working or to ruin the cloth in front of me so he took a lighter and burned it shut. I got this making stuff for you.”

While I was out in Swaziland, I heard of a man’s encounter where he was in a homestead and picked up a little 9 year old who had constant bladder problems – she had been raped so many times, she had bladder control problems. Even worse, her 4 year old sister could not walk – from too much rape. When poverty and injustice get personal, that freaking messes you up!!! That is why we avoid it – that is why I avoided it.

Some of you know I love Rage Against the Machine – so good. De La Rocha sings “I got no patience now, so sick of complacence now… the time has come to rage.” That is something I want so desperately. The ability to rage. The ability to rage when justice lies prostrate on the streets and when children die of hunger and our tables sap with food. To seek changing human history and this untold misery of our world we live in. I am not usually a fearful person, but I cant tell you how scared I am to die. Not whether I go to heaven or hell, but rather what God tells me and how he judges me not for what I did, but for what I didn’t do. I believe there is so much more I could have done with what He gave me. I struggle with guilt over this.

What I have learned though is it is not enough to be a “social justice” member in some sort. I think more importantly are we lovers. Many might think I am a social justice guy – my interests, passions and what I do with my life – but it is useless. Unless you are a lover, what good is it. I think I fully missed this while in Africa. I wish I could go back and live there again. If it was the lesson I learned though and this was the cost – it was worth it. To be a lover we must engage with the personal side of poverty. To sit in clubs and behind our desk and read the books is not enough. I am as guilty as anyone. There are ways and we need to engage on a personal level the marginalized.

I was a coward and stayed away from these things out in Africa. I stopped holding the kids, quite playing and getting close to them – for fear of their stories. I didn’t want to know. I was scared it might wreck me. How ridiculous is that. And if it didn’t wreck them. Well, sure kept me in my nice protected bubble. God have mercy.

What this looks like I don’t know – but something has to change in me.

Transition

Everything of which I thought it would be – it is not. I knew there was no way to prepare for the transition from living in Africa, to coming back to our western fast paced culture. I anticipated getting frustrated with those around me for not understanding and experiencing the same convictions to which I now would be responsible for – to which Africa burned into my heart. I thought this would make it difficult for me to re-enter our culture and honestly, thought it would take a few months before I came to terms with my context.

But it has been hardly that. The transition has been freakishly uncomplicated. I have pondered on this for quite some time wondering why I have so quickly re-integrated. I have questioned if it is because many of the things that I learned in Africa have simply been lost and overwritten. Maybe it is because I am in denial and that in order to not deal with all that I experienced, felt and saw I have pushed into my life a comfortable culture here. Maybe it is that after going to Africa 3 times last year and spending nearly 8 months there, I have just become accustomed to keeping a foot on each side of the fence. Or possibly, it is the grace of God and his goodness.

One thing I am quite sure of though helping me in this time in my life, is some of my friends and family. Being able to talk about what I am going through and simply share my experiences has been so helpful. There are a few friends and especially my mother, who just listen, understand and accept me. It is something that I might have missed, if I hadn’t been down this trail before. I have come to believe that it is something so important in our life. To have friends who accept us, believe in us and approve of who we are. I think this is something which I was missing in July when I came back – which had intense impact on my experience coming back to the west.

Upon leaving Africa, I remember sitting on the plane and being so disgusted with myself. I looked at the man who I was and had become and was just frustrated. I think this was primarily because I had lost a sense of understanding, of confidence – knowing who I was and am, especially in the eyes of the Lord. Elements of my thinking, made me feel like I had compromised on the very essence of who I was. Change occurred, but not in positive ways which I had intended.

Surprisingly though, after coming home the last month has shown me something much different. It is true, I had changed – but in an isolated environment in Africa, there was no real perspective for me. Coming home, I have seen that a lot of change was taking place, much of which I was unaware of. It is so bizarre how so much has come back into perspective for me. Often it just causes me to thank God and know that he is good. I really do feel that regardless of whatever shell I put myself in out there, he was looking after me and cultivating things of which I had no idea. It is good to be back and God has been so good giving me grace in this time period, this I know without doubt.

We Are all Romantic

Romance – For a Nation

Usually, I feel as if when I blog, I have had ample time to process and come to grip with certain concepts in order to write about them – not this time.

I have been battling for nearly a month with this one. It is something that the more and more I think about it, the more complicated it becomes and seems to further unravel my experience here in Africa this year. I believe I could summarize and tie back, everything which I have learned, experienced and changed back to one concept – perspective.

Africa, the word stems from a Greek word meaning “Beautiful”. I find that ironic, because originally it probably was because the first explorers were overcome with the natural beauty of the continent. What is ironic now though is how a new type of beauty or in my opinion “ROMANCE” towards Africa is forming. Before I first really “lived” in Africa, I was caught up in this same wave of romance. Now after being here for awhile I see it also in so many of the temporary volunteers. It is not a bad thing, but rather something that must be mitigated with reality.

For instance, so often when we dream of going to Africa we have this romantic ideal of how we will change the place, how we will impress ideals upon this land and be inundated by the wild, adventurous and unpatrolled land. We have this “PERSPECTIVE” which we romance about regarding what we think Africa really is. Movies like “The Constant Gardner”, “Blood Diamonds” and “Lord of War” play a huge role in shaping this perspective. However, I think more than anything it is actually I Evangelical roots which play the biggest part.

The problem with perspective is that in North America, as Evangelicals we are brought up and taught that we have the right way, the truth and have developed in the right way. Our minds are taught to try and change others and their thinking, to convert them, to show them the “right way”. When we go to Africa on our romantic journey we cant escape this governing perspective. It influences all that we do. It is the medium that encases all of our ideals which we use to make others see – the right way.

Personally, I know that before coming to work in Africa I was a young, ambitious, even naïve “agent of virtue” who had many “academic” ideals of how to change Africa. I believed it an injustice to pay someone only $3 for a days hard work; I believed it was only right that in our organization that all new management positions were filled by local Swazi’s; I believed that to shove 20 orphaned children in a foster home with foster parents was inhumane. But all of these ideals were founded on a Western ideal, which created my perspective. I have to confess that many of my ideals have been smashed with a hammer of reality and been re-shaped with a different perspective. By no means do I feel though that I have lost any substance of values, rather they are lived out in a different “perspective”.

What I have learned though is that it is not that simple. Everything here works differently and is founded on different principles. Communication is done completely different, relationships are formed in other ways and trust is garnered through other means. So, as I have tried to watch and observe, releasing myself from my ideals I have noticed that those who continue to try to change this culture, they will only frustrate themselves and damage more than they help. But, rather, we in the West need to embrace the culture here, change our perspective and hold our ideals with a very open hand.

There is no way that I can actually see the changes which have occurred within me – it is like a frog in boiling water. However, I know that in just a few weeks upon arriving back in the West, the changes and ways which my perspectives and ideals have been altered.

In many ways, the perspectives and ideals of Christianity have also been imparted on African culture. When Christian culture was first formed in the first century, it was “translated” into Judaic – Roman culture. Rather than being translated into African culture it has only been placed upon. There is a translation which needs to take place. I am not talking about Syncritism, which has widely been the case with Catholicism in South America, but rather a process where culture interacts and participates with the translation of Christianity.

In many ways any modes of development or work in Africa is the same.

Romance is a wonderful ideal and is necessary. But the reality is that romance wears thin and fades away in time. But that is not to say that we shouldn’t still try. A friend of mine encouraged me a few weeks ago saying “under the surface of militant altruism there needs to be a sheen of realistic understanding with regards to how much will change in the time of one person’s lifetime.”

Africa is wild, dangerous, beautiful, full of novelty, everything to create romance, but it is a place that will change you more than we can ever romance of changing it.

Confidence of Love

Over the last few weeks I have had so much “junk” come to the surface, I am finally beginning to make sense of so much that has happened to me over the last 6 months to a year. It has been a harder year than I think I ever wanted to allude to, but now looking back, I am so thankful for the place Christ has brought me.

Unfortunately I have placed myself in situations over the last year where I put my trust and love in individuals and expected from them a similar love. My problem was that I was longing to be loved as I was, with all my defects and failures known. I thought that only when that happened would I truly be loved. But this kind of love belongs only to God. We humans are too limited to give it. Therefore finding it anywhere except in God is impossible. I think the love that I was longing for is a love that loves not in spite of, but in light of our weaknesses and failures.

What happened though as I was let down and deeply hurt, in the process my confidence rapidly deteriorated. I started to think I was not good enough and that I was not lovable by others. It has taken me a long time to see this but my reaction was to boost my own self up through promoting who I was – in an arrogant way. This was completely out of insecurity though. Coming, working and living here in Africa has broken me so much. It is hard to explain, but essentially there is nothing I can do here to earn people’s love more or less.

What I have learned from all this is the importance of understanding the love of God. It is something that is too often spoken of, but rarely do we come to terms with not only understanding it, but actually believing it. For me I think I have had a very serious mis-understanding of it, one that is very Western in which I have had to deeply unlearn.

Brennan Manning has a saying that has really impacted me. “God loves us as we are, not as we should be, for we will never be as we should be.” Like in a love relationship, there are things that I think you can do to earn the other persons love. However, this is incorrect. You could do all the great things in the world and be the best person – God is going to love you just the same. I think that each of us wants desperately to be valued. At least for me, I crave acceptance of others. Out of every desire there is such as fame, power, pleasure, the greatest desire is to be loved. The failure to find this love in others comprises our deepest pain and drives us subconsciously into behaviors that we think will help us find that love.

I do not believe that the human soul can endure not to be loved. We will do anything to get it. Some will try to change their personality, others will try to climb the ladder of success and promote themselves, others will become more religious trying to find Gods love through being perfect.

But that is the paradox that is so hard to understand. He loves me just the way I am right now, here today.

One of my hero’s, Rich Mullins, he had a saying that explains so much – “I am a Christian not because someone explained the nuts and bolts of Christianity to me, but rather because there were people who were willing to be the nuts and bolts.”

Those Christians that get this concept, they live life like this, the one that Rich described. That is what I want to be.

However, too often Christians are desperately trying to earn a love they already possess and are fearful of forfeiting a love they can never lose. This whole system is flawed and has to be unlearned.

I am tired of trying and am in a place where I am realizing that Christ loves me so much. No matter what, sin or not, He notices me and has not forgotten about me.

My confidence has been changing lately. Not in earthly terms, but rather in a security knowing where I stand with my Father. It is something that for some reason was taken from me over the last year as I sought acceptance through others and not through him. Oh, the errors of being human.

The Story of Africa

Everyone has a story that needs to be told. The longer I assimilate into this world on this dark continent I realize that the story of Africa has yet to be fully revealed. The reason so many questions persist concerning the state and future of Africa is because we have supplied answers before we knew the story, the history, the reasons why it is what it is.

Ever since fully becoming a part of the team in Bulembu, I have been a strong advocate of preserving and restoring the history of this place. Bulembu is rich, if not one of the most concentrated places of Swazi history. Even dating back to 1963, Bulembu facilitated a minor union strike, which ultimately led to the nations independence in 1968. In our General Manager’s office, one can still find the authentic letter, signed by each strike leader which was sent to the British delegation.

In my spare time I have been working on a personal project with a few others. We are trying to assort old pictures, artifacts and history to put together and create a museum to tell the story of Bulembu. Today we drove up to an adjacent village to meet with a number of older gentleman (93 and 89 years old) in order to discover their wealth of knowledge concerning their experience in this place. One of the old “Gogo’s” we saw down in the village and decided to bring him up to the lodge – a place where no blacks were allowed until 20 years ago. It was amazing to see his hesitation to sit with us and have tea and bread in order for us to hear his story. I couldn’t even imagine what it must have been like – what an experience for him. These older men just reveled in the opportunity to have white leaders hear their story.

To some degree I believe it is situations like these which bring healing and reconciliation. What happened here in Bulembu was an injustice – but we now have the opportunity to make what was wrong – right. To start with the older generation who were here before the British came in 1930, the deepest impact can be made.

One of Africa’s deepest core issues has been the peoples inability to lead. Leaders are few and far between here. Many times I find myself constantly frustrated with the lack of initiative and lack of independent thought – not only in a business sense, but in a general leadership sense. But I certainly do not blame nor hold it against Africans. Rather, what else did we expect from any culture after having been told what to do for generations and generations? Here in Swaziland, for too long the colonizers told the Swazi’s with extreme specificity how to run their lives. There was no chance for independent thought. It reminds me of a 55 year old I was knew who was never allowed to drive or even unload the dishwasher – everything was done for her. Can you imagine what her level of independent thought was at that age? A whole life of commands and no responsibility – it breeds this… unconscious dependence.

The story of Africa – I feel it is slowly becoming somewhat clear to me. The more time I spend releasing my ideologies formed in my ivory tower and replacing them with questions and a pursuit for the African story – I am finding understanding. Africa can only be understood on its terms, not with logic or rationale. There is a story in every mud hut just waiting to be told.

The power of our stories and the opportunity in which to share them has been greatly underestimated. Truth will bring light and to this dark continent and dark history – that light is needed more and more each year.

An Upside Down World

A little Swazi boy, no older than 6, saunters through the opening of his parents homestead with his arms full of an assortment of western culture. The smile on his face gives away an inner excitement of what his discovery has brought him. As he goes to his mud room and makes himself comfortable, he begins taking pleasure in all that he has received. It is not long before his mother walks in, leaning her arm on the frame of the door and lets out a sigh. This young child is only one of the six living in her home. N’selle just happens to be one of the orphaned children she has opened her home to – his mother died of AIDS shortly after birth. “Where did you get all of that stuff”, she greets him with. “Me won it playing Mikaya in at the Community Centre” he quickly responds. The mother is too smart to believe that the white “Agents of Virtue” working in the village would give one child so much. It is then that she recognizes the hot water bladder from next door and leaves the room without saying a word. Outside in the front yard her responsible daughter is still sweating as she finishes her chore of tilling the homestead garden. She shows no hesitation confessing that the box was actually stolen from the white women next door. As night falls and the father of the household returns from the forest, pants covered in dirt and hands giving evidence of the hard day at work. The mother explains what the little one has done. Knowing what will happen next, N’selle does not react against his ‘fathers’ anger. However, it is different with the white women, the one whom which he stole from, watching what is about to take place. As the mother breaks a large switch from the tree in the backyard, the child lays down on the concrete, straight as a log, in a mechanical fashion. The beating is not long, but at the end, it is only the white woman who is crying. This young ‘child’ does not flinch and absorbs the pain as if it were an everyday occurrence. But it is clear this is not an everyday occurrence for the ‘Agent of Virtue’, but rather a once in a lifetime nightmare.

The African night is cold, but the moon is bright.

What was meant to change in the heart of the child, merely was a transfer to the victim of theft. Isn’t this the way it always is – what really changes at the end of the day in Africa? There is no doubt that as the sun rises in the morning and warms this soil, the switch never had much of an impact. Rather, it was the lack of tears, the lack of emotions and life that made the difference.

Life in a world turned upside down.

Deconstruct ME!!!

Often, it is the weary and worn out veterans of African who always say that you wont change Africa, but it will in turn change you.

It wasn’t until today that I think this statement really hit home for me. Here I am drinking tea with a lumber contractor trying to figure out why more than half of our machinery is in the maintenance shop, everything is broken, guys wont work for any incentive and basically – we are just frustrated. But it wasn’t my weariness and frustration that struck a chord and brought Africa close – it was the biscuit in my hands.

As I went to dip my biscuit in my tea, I noticed that it was infested with ants – on the outside and surely on the inside. After 2 months of coping with bugs and insects everywhere, sure enough – I didn’t care enough to not eat it. I ate the whole thing without even caring. Imagine me sitting at starcbucks trying to pull that off.

What I love about Africa is that it will expose you to yourself like nothing I have experienced before. It surely is not for the weary of heart. I am tired, broken and feel like a failure in many ways. Everything is so difficult here. Even as I sit here and write, we battle for power as the village lights flicker on and off. The phones have been down for days and the rains are wreaking havoc on our village, transportation and businesses.

I am never going to make it without the grace, patience and love on such a level that only Christ can provide. I feel I have been broken by the very place which I came with so many ideals for.

In Africa I have learned – never look up. As I worked on the Community Development Plan often I would have to spot-check buildings for potential use. The rule of thumb is what you don’t know, wont hurt you. So when you walk in an abandoned building, don’t look up. You are better off not knowing the spiders above or the snakes resting. Such a common phrase for us now – “Just don’t look up”.

But the more I think about it, I realize it has a deeper meaning. As soon as we start feeling we are making a difference or that things are changing – it is not long before everything goes to hell again. Our project is imbedded with problems – our electricity is outdated and shaky, our sewage is dilapidated, and trying to start a business is more work than just about any other project I have been involved with. In a country with nearly 45% unemployment why on the 1st of each month, most workers just stay home because they just got paid.

My point though is that too often “us”, those who are “Agents of Valor” – we come to Africa on our high horse thinking we will save a life or impart new thinking into a “traditional culture”. Well that is not going to work and it will actually cause more damage to the point that we should just go home. I have seen it too often out here when teams come out for a few weeks – I have slowly developed a chip on my shoulder.

As I look at the last 5 years of my life, it is the same with my spiritual journey. I thought I had it all figured out and “the truth was made evident”. Was I ever wrong and still, 5 years later spending time deconstructing.

That is exactly what needs to happen. Spiritually many times our institutions have built these high ivory towers of knowledge that we will simply spend lifetimes deconstructing. Same with Africa, once you get out into the real war, all that academic jargon gets thrown out the door and it will deconstruct you.

Don’t look up and build your little knowledge tower, it has to come down sometime.

The Lord loves this continent and these people – only he can change that which happens here and that which deconstructs my life, mentally and spiritually.

Play It Safe?

Since the day I set foot on African soil a few months ago, I have been continuously bombarded with the same question, which is beginning to cut through me as I constantly ruminate its answer. Why is this time so much different, why is it easy and comfortable to be home here in Bulembu? Even traveling in Nairobi and in Tanzania, there was something different. I traveled not as tourist who was looking to protect himself against the evil he has always been told exists in Africa, but rather a man who had nothing to lose and faced danger as an opportunity to see more of the real Africa. I look back and some of the situations I put myself in, I question how much I have lost my mind ( paddy wagon rides into the bush, hiring taxis with no money for remuneration and living by the Matatu transport system (the 10 cent van ride). There are many things which I have thought about which could be in making this experience so different. First, I am in the middle of probably the biggest life transition I have ever made. New friends, new job, new city and lastly, new culture. It makes it easier to embrace the hear and now, when the past and future are not the influencing draw like usual. Secondly, there is community here and many friends which have helped to bury my insecurities of loneliness, which have been all too common on my African journeys. Lastly, and I think more importantly, I have played it safe. Honestly, I have gone back and re-read many of the pages that my father and I wrote in the early stages of our book and it blows my mind away how I am living a self-fullfilling prophecy. The very things which we advocated, they are the things which are stealing my experience, my emotions and ultimately my heart. Let me explain.

The last few weeks I have been swamped with more projects here than I know what to do with. I am getting up at 5:30 and literally working till 7, sometimes even 9 or 10 with meetings and phone calls (the overseas kind that drop you every 20 minutes and have that annoying 3 second voice delay). But in those moments where you ask yourself, what the hell am I doing here? It is those moments where I just turtle for fear of what I might find and return back to work. I am using work or busyness to ignore the most important thing that makes us human our emotions. I think love and emotions are one of the greatest things we have.

So how have I played it safe? What Africa has which flies in the face of visitors and temporarily breaks the heart of so many is poverty, hopelessness and darkness. So here is the deal, I have avoided the very thing that gives me the real purpose out here to let those little kids love you. That is why I came almost a year ago and I thought I had so much love to give them only to find out how much love they could give me. Yesterday was actually the first day I was able (rather chose) to spend with orphans. We took a Cambie into town and sang the whole way we taught them 99 bottles of Coke on the wall and songs like Father Abraham. Then today to see them smile as they learned to play volleyball, it just reminded me what this is all about and why we do what we do here.

This is not just an African lesson though, it is one I think most of us have encountered at some point in life. Why do we hold back our emotions and simply cover them up with the busyness of life? To be honest I have had quite the shitty summer. Africa in June was lonely as anything, summer was one big transition away from almost all that I knew in Kelowna and many things I value have been hurtful. I will not forget what my sister said to me on the phone before I left Go and find all those emotions which you have simply ignored, you have them and you must work them through and embrace them. She is exactly right and the state which I have found myself in is simply because I have reduced the attachments around me. That is the path which I am currently on, because it is safe. How can you get hurt when there is no attachment and you dont give of yourself? It hurts to love a child, an orphaned child, and see how you mean the world to you as they write you card after card after card and then you have to leave that hurts with a pain I would rather not feel.

But I have to say that I will not let this experience, which is bound to be one I encounter often in my life, be one of those. I look back on the many times I have given completely of myself to my family, to my experiences (Student Council and Africa), and to my relationships and I regret nothing rather they are a blessing. I dont think I played it safe and withheld emotions and I cant do that this time either. I know that some of the gentlemen I am working with here, they probably wont make it (AIDS) till the next time I come back (May), but you know what, the chance of loss, is what makes love have value.

Family – A Blessing Not to Take for Granted

Well the journey continues. Because of miscommunication we missed our ride to Swaziland, so we are stuck in South Africa for a few days more. We are staying with some friends of the Skinners who have been gracious to take us in for a few days. All the buses are booked up for a few more days. But everything always seems to work out, yea?

Family; It is one of the greatest gifts that God endows us with. More than ever, I am missing family so much. Once I arrived in Nairobi, I spent so much time emailing my family. It was refreshing and in many ways rejuvenating getting me ready for the trip to Swaziland. I was even able to spend some time talking with them on the phone and after hanging up, I just so much more confidence and strength. I wondered why this was and honestly, there is just something about the comfort of those that know you best. After having an experience like Kilimanjaro where there was so much loneliness, silence and challenge, I just wanted to share and hear their voice. It has been too long since I have consciously acknowledged how much family can influence you. I recall even being down in Vancouver the last time I was there, it was amazing staying at the Neufelds. The holistic environment is such a positive environment that just breeds positive living. I have become so fond of the family unit.

Now, coming to Bulembu and having the Skinners living here, I just praise the Lord for his blessing. They are a family of 5 which have volunteered in Swaziland for the next 12 months. They are from London, but lived in Kelowna about 5 years ago. Seeing them yesterday and just being around a family again, was also so refreshing. Last night we gathered as a family and prayed together. This morning it was early devotions with everyone. We are going to do that every day, once we get to Swaziland. Each day, for one hour to just sit, read, pray and discuss; I believe this is so healthy. God has certainly been gracious to me and to have a family that is so accepting and open, allowing me to join and be part of their journey this I have longed for.

In this sense, I really look forward to leaving and arriving in Swaziland. The project has captured my heart and my passion. I am so blessed to work with these individuals and the things I have and will learn just amaze me. Now, to be with the Skinners for these next few months, I do not take for granted at all. God is good.

Although, it causes me to miss my family all the more. But soon, soon I will be home and see them again.