By Alex Anderson – Senior Associate Pastor at Bayside Community Church-
It’s 6:43 am and the sun is almost crested above the mountain just to the east of the Red Berry Bed and Breakfast here in Mbabane, Swaziland. The sun’s rays are beginning to bounce off the mountain ridges north and east of me. When the sun reaches where I’m sitting, it warms up the front of my room’s canary yellow veranda.
There it goes. It’s 6:49 am and now those life-giving warm rays are balancing the coolness of the fall breezes of Swaziland. They stroke my cheek with warmth like my mom’s kisses on a cold winter’s day when I was a child. I can hear the doves cooing. They are the first sound I hear when I walk out on my veranda. There seems to be a competition between the doves of Africa. I noticed the same thing in Johannesburg.
When I arrived here two weeks ago yesterday, I found a 6×9 inch yellow envelope in my luggage. As I opened it, I found it had 5 smaller envelopes and small squares of individually wrapped dark chocolate squares. Each envelope had a date to open on it. Today’s date had two envelopes. One said “Happy Birthday Daddy” and the other “Happy Birthday.” The handwriting was the clue. For almost 28 years I have seen that handwriting on many other unselfish thoughtful acts of love. It was Kim’s, my wife.
Her strategically placed heartfelt reminders of home have brought me comfort over the years when I’ve traveled. As I opened her card to me, I realized how long two weeks away from home had become. I wiped away a few tears and opened the one labeled, “Happy Birthday Daddy.” More tears!
Yesterday I celebrated Easter with new friends at River Valley Church in Swaziland. The pastor’s message was a powerful reminder of what Christ gave for us through His beatings, death and resurrection. Afterwards I had a meal with The Children’s Cup leaders here in Swaziland and they surprised me. They had gotten a birthday cake with my name on it along with candles and ice cream. No small feat in the Kingdom of Swaziland! They sang for and celebrated with me. More tears!
As I sit outside of my room writing this, in the background I can hear the song “Amazing Love.” It’s playing on my iPhone in the room. I’m reminded that Christ-followers, no matter what country they live in, share an amazing love. A common heart brings us together. We are in a sense “soul mates.” We share a common love for God and each other no matter our country of origin.
The Care Points here in Swaziland, created and lead by Children’s Cup, are living examples of how much God loves us. Tirelessly, week after week, missionaries who either pay their own way or raise their own funds, man these outposts of love. Many care points can barely be reached with four-wheel-drive SUVs loaded with food, medical supplies and educational materials for the day’s ministry.
I came to Swaziland from my home church, Bayside Community Church, to teach leadership, but while here, I was also asked to teach on how to process grief. Although I’ve been a minister for over 30 years, I felt very unprepared to share on this subject. The average American deals with only a fraction of what these leaders and missionaries deal with on an almost weekly basis. AIDS has ravaged many of the youth and adults that Children’s Cup feeds every day. It’s almost impossible to be here without having met someone who has either become infected with or died from this disease. It’s a tough job, but these folks do it day in and day out.
So I taught a lesson called, “How to Say Goodbye” to the leaders and missionaries. More tears! Yes, tears of loss of those they have become close to, but not of hopelessness. These are also tears of gratitude. Each amazing leader here considers it a privilege and honor to serve this country. They see themselves as true ambassadors of Christ. They serve out of a love for their Lord. They are patient and kind. They are respectful and honoring of the King of Swaziland. The men and women of Children’s Cup are of the same kindred spirit of all those who love God all around the world.
Just a handful of folks, both nationals and foreigners, make up this special band. They feed 6,000 kids per day. In addition to the Care Points, they have a school of leadership: Global Leadership Academy (GLA). It was at this school that I had the privilege of meeting and teaching over 30 of the brightest and best students I have ever met. They came from many nations in Africa to be at this amazing place. GLA teachers build strong character into their students and many of GLA’s graduates have become leaders in their churches and communities.
The King of Swaziland was so impressed with the level of excellence in the character that GLA produces that he gave GLA a parcel of his own personal property to build their current campus on.
It sits in a beautiful valley next to a lake. At the same location is River Valley Church whose leaders are graduates of GLA. Some three hundred or so locals walk a distance of two miles to come and hear about the love of Christ and to experience authentic Christianity. One gentleman walks with a walking cane and crosses a very tall and rocky ridge to come to church. It only takes him 90 short minutes to make the walk to church on Sundays. No one is turned away and they even have tea time before church. More tears!
If you ever get bored with your life or just need a break from the mundane, may I make a suggestion? Contact my friend Ben Rodgers, Executive Director of Children’s Cup (www.childrenscup.org) and ask to take a trip with him to Africa or any of the nations where Children’s Cup feeds thousands of children every day. It will be a trip you will tell your grandkids about one day. Or you may take them with you when you return. It will change you in good ways that cannot be put into words.
To your spiritual health,
Alex E. Anderson
Author of the book, Dangerous Prayers