by Jenny Andrew
I recently returned from my fourth missions’ trip to Africa, and my second to Swaziland. My husband, Greg, and I are increasingly drawn to and changed by our experiences in Africa and consequently when we flew out on 13th June, we were fully expectant of what God was going to do, particularly in our hearts.
One of the most impactful parts of the trip was seeing the transformation of the building that is now the Liberty Community Centre in the city of Manzini. We had walked through this building with the team from Liberty last year and at that time it was difficult to see beyond the chaos and disrepair. We walked around ancient restaurant paraphernalia, trash, and old furniture and struggled to see beyond it. However when we drove into Manzini on this trip, and looked up the hill, there was the building, the Community Centre, like a blue lighthouse guarding the city.
When we pulled up we could see that the team on the ground had done an incredible job of restoration and over the next few days our NYC team joined with them and scraped and sanded walls, painted, swept, cleaned and weeded. It was amazing to see many different people, most with no training, work together and continue the transformation. During the trip I was privileged to give a keyboard class at the Community Centre to a huge group of children. At times they were two and three deep around the three keyboards! Those not able to play didn’t seem to mind- they were just happy to be present. These children have a hunger for knowledge and an eagerness to embrace something new.
On the Saturday following the cleanup, the doors and gates of the Community Centre swung open and people from all over Manzini, including several from the nearby Muslim community strolled in and were welcomed for a day of fun including a BBQ, indoor and outdoor games, a jumping castle, balloons and face painting. As the Community Centre is the first of its kind in Swaziland, it’s not surprising that people walking in gazed around in wonder.
In many ways the transformation of the Community Centre is symbolic of what is happening in the lives of many people we met in Swaziland. We visited homes where families have almost nothing but are being loved and cared for by the team and consequently now see a future. What seemed impossible for them has become possible; what was without hope, is lifted up and restored to its rightful place!
Each time I return home from Africa I come home changed by the experience. It is the people I meet there who change me. The women especially are incredible. They open their arms and hearts to us each time. And they open their lives by inviting us in. I have prepared chickens for a braai (BBQ), served meals, stirred huge vats of rice, shared stories of family life and relationships, strolled around vegetable gardens, played games with children and shared vision with these women. The impact these Swazi women made in me now flows through to my interaction with others in my everyday life. Their joy, peace and complete faith in God’s goodness is an immeasurable gift! I am so thankful and humbled by these women.
I am very privileged to have joined with Gethin and Bex, Lue and Zinty and the Liberty Foundation team to be a part of the vision for this beautiful country, and I cannot wait to go back!