Two weeks ago was Father’s Day–just on the heels of returning from my third trip to Bhalekane CarePoint in Swaziland. Father’s Day felt a bit different for me given my recent travels to Swaziland. This is the first time I have been in Swaziland since becoming a father myself. Returning home, I felt the natural feelings of missing my little girl. Yet that feeling of heartache for leaving those Bhalekane kids we love, who might not have a father at home, was even stronger than in the past.
Sometime during the day though I ran across Psalm 82:3 “Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.” This verse didn’t make me think of what I or our team had done during our short window in country. Instead it reminded me of a special group of folks still back in Swaziland, working daily to fulfill the command of Psalm 82:3.
I was introduced to the “shepherds” when I met Sdumo during our first trip. I wrote this about Sdumo on my Facebook page after returning from Bhalekane that time:
“Meet my good friend Sdumo. If you are looking for an example of someone who selflessly serves the Lord everyday, look no further than Sdumo. Sdumo is a true blessing to the children of the Bhalekane CarePoint. Missing in so many of these children’s lives is a strong male Christian role model. Sdumo has a big job, but he leans on the Lord everyday for help and guidance. Leaving Swaziland, I am encouraged that there are folks on the ground like Sdumo who are being the hands and feet of God. Sdumo, thank you for your discipleship, your friendship, and what you taught me the short time I was in Swaziland. Look forward to seeing you again!”
Since writing that four years ago, Sdumo has been through the Swaziland Leadership Academy (SLA) and continues to grow as a leader and strong male role model at the CarePoints he serves. Sdumo is also a community man. Walking to home visits with Sdumo reminds me of going places with my dad growing up. It always takes longer than it should because they know everyone we run into, AND he takes time to talk with them.
In Swaziland, the absence of a positive—or even present—male role model is the norm, not the exception. Sdumo is one of many servant shepherds who go on mission daily with the passionate goal of discipling the youth of Swaziland. They approach their task intentionally, to bring about amazing change in the hearts, minds, and culture of Swaziland. These shepherds remind me so much of the early disciples in their commitment and diligence to sharing the Gospel.
On this past trip I was reminded again of the importance of the shepherds. When a team comes into their CarePoint, it is the training from SLA and the facilitation of the shepherds that make it a success. The kids look up to them, admire them and respect them. Believe me, nothing gets past Lindoor at Bhalekane either! She saved our team multiple times from the kids who can be very good at outsmarting us to get extra craft supplies. Kids sure are the same all over the world, and you have to be at the top of your game!
As I reflect at home I ask myself, “How can we be more like the shepherds in Swaziland?” Below are a few thoughts from my observations.
– Lean on the Lord daily, get out of our comfort zones and put ourselves in positions where we must rely on the Lord.
– Invest in our local community. Invest in relationships, invest in people, invest in lives. It is through relationship building that we effectively spread the Gospel.
– Be diligent. The shepherds face an uphill battle in their culture and daily experiences. Yet they know their mission, and stay on mission. Is our country all that different?
– Encourage others in their faith. As believers, this is a ball we can’t afford to drop. Scriptures talk constantly of being encouraging.
Today I ask you to join us in lifting up the shepherds in your prayers. It is through these dedicated followers of Christ that Children’s HopeChest can reach Swaziland with the Gospel. I also ask you to take action. Sponsor a child. Sponsorship provides the necessary resources for the shepherds to impact the lives of children in a way that can change Swaziland in unimaginable ways.
Join us on this journey to fulfill Jesus’ great command in Matthew 22: “Love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”