Saturday, September 8, 2012


I have been home from Swaziland Africa for about 2 weeks now.  I know many of you have been wanting to hear my stories from Africa and a friend even stopped by Stepping Stones yesterday to tell me that. Ha!  Trust me I am dying to share my stories with you. BUT….My experiences in Africa are so personal, so dear, so profound, so locked in my heart, and I am terrified when I tell my stories I won’t do them justice.  That you just won’t…..get it.  I want you to….get it and understand in some way all that God was doing when I was there.  So whether or not you…get it I need to tell my story….I guess we will start at the beginning of my journey…that’s always a good place to start! J
Day 1
I am a mess.  I woke up crying and had a hard time stopping.  I took my dog Frankie to my sister-in-laws 1st thing in the morning crying my eyes out.  I just could not keep it together.  I was anxious and nervous and really doubting why I was going to Africa.  I was in constant communication with God, just praying for strength and courage.    

My flight was not leaving until 9:30 at night so I spent most of the day packing, and unpacking, repacking and unpacking some more.  It was not going well.  I was bringing quite a bit of stuff to my friends the Taylors who are living in Swazi and wanted to make sure to use the best of my space and my weight limit of 50 pounds per bag.  It was SUPER stressful!  I made my son Chance stand on my scale holding my suitcases trying to get as close to 50 pounds as I could. 
Speaking of Chance….I had been so wrapped up in my own world getting ready to go to Africa it hit me also on this day that my baby is going back to college.  When I get home he won’t be here.  Water works again.  One of the worst days I have had in a LONG time.  Not pretty to say the least.  My parents showed up to take me to the airport.  I had pulled myself together by then but now I was cranky.  I just needed to get on my airplane and GO!  (I will say though my bags were RIGHT ON!  My 1st bag weighed 49.5 pounds and bag 2 and 3 were 50 pounds exactly!!!)    

I had great flights…no issues at all really.  I flew from Seattle to JFK.  I had a 5 hour layover there.  I still wanted to turn around and go home.  I battled tears the whole time I was in New York.   My flight to Johannesburg was 15 hours long.  And let me tell you….that is LONG!  But I have to say it was great.  Some of the easiest flights I have ever been on. 

I landed in Johannesburg, South Africa at 8 am.  And that is where this adventure really begins.  My friends Rob, Jen, and their children Matt, Luke, Will, and Rachael were all waiting for me.  I will never forget rounding the corner with my luggage and seeing them all in a row earnestly looking for me.  I wish I had my camera ready to take a picture…It was so cute!!  So they welcomed me to Africa and we took off for the long treck to Swaziland.  (About a 5 hour drive.) 
It was safe to say it was a bit of culture shock.  Just so very different than anything we will EVER see in the states.  This day is a bit of a blur to me.  I remember seeing shanty towns….I remember seeing cows, I remember seeing very young children walking alone in places they shouldn’t be, I remember women walking with things stacked on their heads.  I remember feeling like I was in an alternate universe. 

Day 2 (which was really day 3 with all my travel time)
Jen wakes me up at 5:20 am.  We have French press coffee and quiet time with God.  I have no idea what to expect at this point.  But I will say I am happy to be in Africa.  I’m starting to think….Yes this will be worth it!  Taylor kids are up at 6am….Rob makes breakfast for everyone (I could get used to that!) and we all are showered dressed and out the door and on the road by 7 to 7:15.  We start our 30 minute ride(give or take a few)  to New Life Homes Farm and School. 

I’d love to tell you this is an easy breezy ride but it is not.  This is a dirt road that makes Space Mountain look like a breeze.  This dirt road looks like something only forest rangers would go on back home.  I can’t believe people actually live up here let alone there are MANY communities, Dr.s Clinics, community centers, schools, etc. up this rocky, dusty, pit holed road. There are NO street signs.  There are NO stop signs.  And frankly it feels like there are NO rules.  I am beyond queasy by the time we make it to the farm. 
Once on the farm we go to the school.  The Preschool does not start for an hour so I go with Jennifer to the class she is working in.  It is grade 1 and 2 and they are working on math.  As I walk into the door I feel all eyes on me.  I am introduced to the students.  Some are smiling, some are not.  All are inquisitive.  I already feel a stirring in my heart.  They are beautiful…and God has brought me here.  I know there is something to it.  I help for an hour….marking papers, putting stars and smiley faces on their papers as I correct them.  They seem to like it and for the most part they seem to like me.  Except for one little girl who just scowls at me.  If looks could kill I’d be dead ten times over by now.  It really doesn’t bother me.  I know how children are and I know this little girl has a defense mechanism up and I thnk she must have been very hurt in her life.  I start to pray that we can become friends. 

Then it is time for Preschool!!  Jenn walks me over to the preschool class.  There are 21 of the most beautiful, precious faces I have ever seen.  As soon as I walked in the preschool class I feel as though I am home.  I know this.  I love this.  I can do this.  I am introduced as Mage Chaffin.  (Mage is swaswatti for Mom.  If you are a mom you are called Mage and your last name.)  Well anyone who knows me, knows I don’t like to be called Mrs. Chaffin or anything like that.  I have always been Miss Tiersa in the classroom and that is what I prefer by far.  So it did not take me long to say….call me Miss Tiersa.  And they did.  J 
I was told in the beginning by someone that I should just go and observe and not think that I was going to walk into the classroom and teach.  So I did just that.  I sat and listened and watched all that they did that day.  It was so fun!  And I realized how we are all the same.  I observed things I see everyday in my classroom.  There is the shy child.  The child who needs extra attention.  The child who is a leader.  The child who is a bit of a bully.  The lovey, snuggly child.  They are all there…just the same.  I witnessed teachers who laughed with their children.  Who loved them and wanted what is best for them.  I witnessed parents who sacrificed to send their children to school.  I felt God whispering in my ear…See we are all the same.   We all want the same things.  This is no different than home.   And I saw it….it was no different and it was the same.  We all have the same longings…we all have the same desires for our lives.  Our hearts beat all the same. 

Then they sang….and that is what touched my heart the most.  The class sang a song that goes like this….The Love of Jesus is so wonderful, The love of Jesus is so wonderful.  The love of Jesus is so wonderful, Ohhh the wonderful love. 
It’s so wide, you can’t go around it.  It’s so wide, you can’t go around it.  It’s so wide, you can’t go around it, Ohhh the wonderful love.

It’s so high, you can’t jump over it.  It’s so high, you can’t jump over it.  It’s so high you can’t jump over it, Ohhh, the wonderful love.
It’s so low, you can’t go under it.  It’s so low, you can’t go under it.  It’s so low, you can’t go under it. Ohhh, the wonderful love.
They sang this song everyday and it brought me to tears everyday. (although I was able to keep it together for the most part!)  J  I sang this song to myself the whole time I was in Swaziland.  I sort of feel like it is my theme song now.  And it is so true….The Love of Jesus is SO WONDERFUL! 
So this 1st day with the children my heart opened up to all sorts of possibilities and once again God was telling me…Trust me!  I’ve got your back.  Thank you for coming…I know this was out of your comfort zone…but I also know what I made you for.  And this is going to be so worth it in the end. 

Thank you Lord for NEVER giving up on me!!  I wasn’t convinced of anything on day two but I knew God would reveal His plan to me in time.  There was no looking back from this point on….And I was SO thankful God brought me to New Life Homes in Swaziland, Africa!!