I can hardly believe it’s been two months since I returned from Swaziland, Africa. How the summer has flown by! I’d like to take the next couple of weeks and share some Swazi Stories with you. My son, Austen and I had the privilege of going on a mission trip together at the end of May. Both of our lives were changed for the better! I hope you enjoy these #SwaziStories
Story #1 – Shoes That Take You Further Than You’ve Ever Been
It’s the day before I leave for Swazi, and I’m looking for shoes. Yes, shoes. But not just any shoes, Swazi shoes. I find myself at Costco looking for some inexpensive, close-toed, comfy shoes that will look good with skirts. This really should not be this difficult!
Finally, I find some that meet all the criteria, and they are cute on top of that!
As the salesclerk processes my order, it occurs to me that these shoes will take me further than I’ve ever been … literally! I’ve never been on a plane for 16 hours in a row. Yes, these shoes will walk on soil that is 8,483 miles away from home. Thinking about it like that changes my perspective a bit. It seems a little daunting all of a sudden.
I’ve been incredibly calm – really calm, as a matter of fact. Flying used to make me a nervous wreck, but not as much any more. Perhaps it’s a shift in perspective. Did I say perspective again? Hmmm …
It’s here! It’s here! Finally, it’s here! Today we leave for Swaziland. I’m dressed in black leggings, a t-shirt, a lightweight pull-over, and of course, my new Swazi shoes. I look down at my feet and have an epiphany. Not only will these shoes take me further than I’ve ever been literally; they will most likely take me further than I’ve ever been spiritually. My perspective on a lot of things is going to change and that, I feel, is going to bleed over into all my realities from now on. There’s that word AGAIN!
Saying goodbye to family and friends as we start to board the church bus, my daughter, Leanna, grabs me for one last hug. “Don’t forget me!” she says and I feel a twinge of sadness. “How could I possibly forget you, my most precious one?” I say this and quickly get on the bus. There will be no crying! I push it under. I must stay focused!
We arrive in Atlanta and all goes well with check-in. As we corral our way through the lines at security, I reach down to take off my Swazi shoes as instructed. They are quite comfy – easy to get off and on, good support, and did I mention cute?
Security done! I slip my shoes back on.
After boarding the plan, I sink into my seat and ready myself for the long haul – 16 hours long! I decide to take my shoes off as I settle in and begin the adventure. Nestled between my friend Laura and son Austen, I’m ready to chat the hours away, watch some movies, and maybe even get a few hours of sleep.
After dinner and idle chatter, I decide to take an Ambien in the hopes of getting some rest. Now I can’t speak for everyone else on the team, but Ambien works! I slept ALL NIGHT LONG and then some!! I tried to watch multiple movies on the flight and every time I just fell asleep. So much for chatting with Laura, playing cards, and reading a good book, I not only slept through the night, I slept through most of the next day.
As we touch down on the runway in South Africa, I’m bathed in excitement, a little fear, and much anticipation. Shoes on, teeth brushed, hair fixed, contacts put back in, backpack reassembled – it’s go time!
We begin the walk through the South Africa airport to immigration and make it through with no problems. Now we’re off to claim our baggage and get through the much dreaded customs process.
Picture this … 20 carts, piled high with suitcases and supplies in a line ready to go. Before beginning our walk toward the Customs area, our leader, Robin, instructs us to do three, no four things: Walk, look up and do not make eye contact with anyone, keep going unless stopped, and PRAY! And so we walk (in our Swazi shoes) right through the Customs area. Are you getting this? A line of 20 carts walked straight through customs with no delays, no stopping, no searching, nothing! There must be some kind of magic or miraculous power in those Swazi shoes because THAT was amazing. (We’ll go with miracle because the God we serve is full of them!)
Out of the airport we go – my feet finally touch South African ground! WOW!
We pile onto the buses and head for dinner, then to our hotel. I must pause here and tell you that my perspective on ice cream bars is forever changed. I was introduced to Magnum bars at dinner and can I just say, “they rock!”
With dinner over we drive to the Aviator Hotel. My roomie, Amy, and I unpack only what is needed for the night and head straight to bed. Will I actually sleep? Yes, as a matter of fact I do. Despite the airplanes (that I’m told) sounded as though they were flying into our room all night long, I slept like a baby!
At breakfast I sit and enjoy some much needed coffee and quality time in God’s Word. I’ve been drawn lately to Psalm 139. I just can’t get enough of it.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.
God is searching me. Well, He has searched me, and He is searching me. I’ve asked Him to. I’ve been struggling lately with passion and purpose so I’ve been asking the Lord to give me insight. I love the imagery in these verses.
- God searches me (He sees every part of me – inside and out, hidden and revealed)
- God knows me (and still loves me anyway!)
- He knows when I sit down and when I rise up (and when I’m in an airplane flying 8,483 miles across the world)
- God knows my thoughts, my path, and my sleep (Yes, He knows I slept a lot on the plane! He helped me rest.)
He knows all of these things about you too!
When I stop and think about what God knows about me, though, it brings me both pleasure and regret. Pleasure because Almighty God knows me and cares for me! He knows where my feet will walk in my Swazi shoes these next days. He knows the faces I’ll see and fall in love with. He knows it all. Yet regret because He knows the bad about me too – the unkind thoughts, the sins, the ugly parts of me.
Then I remember, He not only knows about you and about me; He knows about them – the forgotten ones that I’m here to minister to and love. He sees them in their distress and knows their needs. He knows when they lie down at night to sleep on the hard floor of their tiny homes. He knows the fears the young girls live with. Fears that someone will come in during the dark of night and do the unthinkable to them.
My perspective begins to shift again as I think of what this team will see and feel tomorrow when we reach the Care Points for the first time. Yes, these shoes have taken me far, but somehow I know they will take me further still.
Thanks for journeying with me to Swazi! Next time we’ll chat about spoons. Yes, I said spoons!
Until next week you can head on over to the Swaziland blog by clicking here and learn more about what makes Swaziland so special.