I (Paul) had the privilege to travel to Swaziland to get a vision and make photographs to be used at the Bridge Church’s Mission project for 2013. I traveled with Dave McCurry from the Bridge and Laura Fisher from Children’s HopeChest. We met Jumbo at the airport who was our host and guide for the week. All of the reading and study I did about Swaziland before I went did not prepare me for what I encountered. This small country in Africa has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the world, giving it the name, “Nation of Orphans”. Generations of people in this country have been decimated by AIDS leaving many children orphaned and alone without anyone to call mom or dad.
Because there are virtually no orphanages in Swaziland these children are literally left to fend for themselves without any means of survival. Widely held myths and misunderstandings about AIDS have left many girls vulnerable to sexual abuse and infection of HIV. I found young children there who were the head of the household, caring for all their younger siblings. Orphans are left susceptible to malnutrition, disease and abuse. Due to this harsh reality HopeChest has created a place for orphans to find refuge, a place to be loved and fed, a CarePoint. We visited six of these CarePoints in diverse parts of the country. Hope Chest in Partnership with Adventures in Missions has set up thirty one CarePoints. Both organizations collaborate daily with local Swazi pastors to ensure that the orphan’s medical, physical, educational, emotional, and spiritual needs are met.
The vision I got for this country was seen with new eyes, an eye of compassion and another with humility. My heart was broken as I saw such a tremendous need. On the other hand I saw hope as young adults from these CarePoints are being encouraged and challenged to grow in their faith and character, to heal wounds from their past and see their new identity in Christ. We visited the Leadership Experience in Jeffrey’s Bay where twelve of these Swazi young adults are attending for the nine month program. These kids are going deep into their faith in Jesus Christ and are so passionate about knowing him more. After realizing these new opportunities for discipleship, service, and leadership they return to their CarePoints and serve as directors and mentors for two years. Identify two more promising kids to go through the program and continue the process. My heart was was encouraged as I saw true faith in action from these kids whose most valued possession is knowing and seeing Gods glory in the face of Jesus Christ.