Greetings from Swaziland, Africa! We have been working on several projects lately. We were very pleased that during a Youth Conference here in Manzini, a young man from Kukhany’Okusha Zion Church of Manzini was voted in as the national representative for young people. Vuyo graduates from college in a month, and has plans to start a small car parts business.
Greetings from Swaziland, Africa! We have been working on several projects lately. We were very pleased that during a Youth Conference here in Manzini, a young man from Kukhany’Okusha Zion Church of Manzini was voted in as the national representative for young people. Vuyo graduates from college in a month, and has plans to start a small car parts business. He would like to see a “study area”/ youth office within the church where high school and college students can sign up to use a computer and the internet to help with classes they are taking. Currently, students sometimes gather in small groups at the church to do homework or study for exams, but no internet access limits those who cannot afford internet or a computer.
Another project that is in the preliminary stages is a pre-school at Kukhany’Okusha Zion Church. As in the US, the church will have to meet several government guidelines before a board comes to inspect, so we have a ways to go on that yet.
The most exciting project that is in full swing is the fencing and planting of a large garden area at the Mgungundlovu Neighborhood Care Point, where AIDS orphans and OVCs (other children with only one parent alive) are fed and provided with a pre-school. Their goal is to be self-sustaining in the future. They are willing to work hard to get to that point, but they needed help to get some fencing and clearing done, so they could plant a large area. Since they have a large plot of land there, and a decent well, they should be able to grow enough produce to eat and have left enough to sell. Funds from "Week of Compassion" offerings have helped fund this project. We covet prayers from everyone that God will guide and bless all those involved in this project, so we can see the dream achieved.
We continue to try to learn the language and traditions here. One of the annual traditions we just experienced was the Umhlanga (Reed) Dance. Always held at the very end of August and continuing into September, the ceremony consists of 8 busy days. Day 1 is registration, being assigned a tent to sleep in, and toiletries to use. Day 2 they are blessed by the King for the long journey from the Engabezweni Royal residence to the rural area where they will cut the reeds. Girls are divided into a younger group and an “older group” then led by one of the Princesses to their destination. As pedestrians, these maidens have government trucks to assist them with water and snacks, and along the way there is singing and sharing with other girls from many different areas. They reach their destination just after nightfall, then are fed and assigned a tent to stay in under the watchful eye of the security forces. Day 3 the girls cut their reeds and bundle them. Each bundle must have an even number of reeds. Maidens then dance in jubilation for having shown their loyalty to their Majesties. They bathe and rest for the long walk back to Engabezweni on Day 4. During the next two days, there are presentations on how to conduct themselves as ladies as well as lessons about AIDS and the temptations girls encounter. Many girls have reported that by participating in this tradition at an early age, girls feel pride in maintaining their virginity at a time when media promotes the opposite. All unmarried virgins in the Kingdom (from age 8 and up) are invited to be a part of this event. This year there were about 60,000 maidens who cut reeds for about a week in different parts of Swaziland then delivered the long stems (up to 4 m) of reed on the next to the last day to her Majesty the Queen Mother. These reeds are used as a windbreaker around the Royal Kraal, so they get replenished each year at this time. Day 7 is a National holiday, and attracts visitors from around the globe. This is the day of dancing, when the girls appear in their traditional attire of very small beaded skirts and colorful sashes. They are presented to the King, the Queen Mother, and their guests, and then they dance all afternoon in groups from each Chiefdom. This event is carried on Swazi television, and this is a popular time to get photos of the long rows of girls singing and dancing their way towards the Royal Kraal. The last day is set aside as the day the King puts on a feast for the families of the maidens as his way of thanking them all for coming long distances to participate. This traditional event is primarily to pay tribute to the Queen Mother, but the King has also sometimes used this opportunity to choose a new wife. Although the nation is primarily a Christian one, the King carries on a tradition of having 10 or more wives. This year, after a 7 year hiatus, he did choose an 18 year old as his “newest wife.” Swazi citizens knew he would take a new wife sometime due to the tradition that his successor must be an only child of the mother, as well as being a healthy, right-handed boy. Currently, all of the King’s wives have more than one child.
We have photos of both the fence building at the Mgungunlovu NCP and the Reed Dance. Our 5 year old Victoria is standing at the Reed Dance with some girls in uniforms much like Girl Scouts or Campfire Girls.
May you bless those around you as God has blessed each of us.
Terry and Diana serve as Long-term Volunteers with the Khukhan’Okusha Zion Church in Swaziland. They serve as coordinators of the development programs.