Volunteer Adventures – Ben Dorsey (Conclusion)

At the end of February we introduced you to Ben Dorsey.  Ben is an engineer from Canada who took up the adventure in November 2014 of investing 12 months of this time and skill into Bulembu Ministries Swaziland.

It is hard to believe that Ben has wrapped up his time in Bulembu already, but we can with all honesty say that his contribution to Bulembu has been priceless.  We are sad that his time here has come to an end, but also incredibly delighted to share the final installment of his adventure with you all.  He sent us an update from California, where him and Kristen were preparing final arrangements for their wedding!

  farewell

We cannot believe that your time in Bulembu has already come to an end!  How has it been to wrap up everything?

I know, it’s gone by really fast.  Our last month in Bulembu was difficult, especially for Kristen as she was packing up the past 4 years of her life into 3 suitcases.  Luckily, I am a typical man and was able to offer her lots of space in my much more vacant suitcases!

September and October ended up going by very quickly.  The work on the new High School addition was in full swing, and by the time I left Bulembu there was only small detail work to be completed and classes could have even started in them if they had needed!

Management had asked that I compile a report detailing what I recommend that needs to be worked on over the next 5 years in Bulembu, or a 5 year strategic infrastructure plan.  We were able to look at things from water to pumping, to electricity, to road repairs and future playing fields and gardens.  There are many improvements and innovations that can come to Bulembu in the near future, and I’m excited to have hopefully helped lay some groundwork for that.

 

You probably have a ton of highlights from your year, but are there any highlights that stand out from your year in Bulembu?

Looking back on my time in Bulembu, I can easily say that the highlight was working with the people day to day.  The guys I worked with around town were always good for a laugh, and the kids were always beyond friendly and happy.

final braai

In the last few days I was able to have a braai for the plumbers, who I worked so closely with.

You were always very real about challenges you faced in Bulembu, and clear about the realities that go along with volunteering in Bulembu.  Any particular challenge(s) that stand out now that you have completed your year here?

The biggest challenges I experienced were most definitely those dealing with communication.  Internet, phone, and even transportation was difficult to come by at times.  It’s instantly apparent why there is such a thing as “African time”.  Dealing with government agencies to transfer my car ownership, and to get Kristen’s police clearance documentation was frustrating and confusing to say the least.  Thankfully through prayer and petition everything fell into place and we left with no worries!

 

What has been the hardest part about wrapping things up and returning home?

Our last week was difficult, especially for Kristen who had worked with the kids for so many years.  I became emotional just seeing everyone else become emotional with Kristen!  Just seeing how much she meant to the children and the school made me thankful again that we had been brought together in this place.  It was sad saying goodbye to friends who we spent hours with every single day.  We can only pray that one day our paths will cross again.

One cool thing Kristen and I were able to do was to combine all of our clothes, food, and other personal items that we couldn’t take back with us.  I called a local pastor whose church is up in Malanda (a small village in the hills above Bulembu) and asked him to come collect it all and to distribute the food and clothing to those people who could really use it.  Much to my surprise, after arriving back in the US, I received multiple photos from Pastor Enoch, of the new owners holding the donated goods.  It was so cool to see people who were really excited to have the things we couldn’t use anymore.

I was also able to make a special care package for 2 of the Swazi guys I worked with on a regular basis.  One guy is an older man named Bhanana.  All I did was give him my old work boots and bucket hat.  He can barely speak English but was so happy he immediately turned to his co-workers and said in SiSwati, “Look what Mr. Ben has given me!”  It makes me wish I left a whole lot more with them.

Any final words from you?

It is vital to have a good support structure at home when you embark on a journey like this, and I want to thank everyone who supported me through thoughts, prayers, emails, and text messages over the past year.  They all made a difference to me, which means that I was able to do my job in Bulembu more effectively.  That also means what they did for me, they also did for the people of Swaziland, and believe me, they are saying thank you as well.

Life is unpredictable, but if Kristen and I have our way we will try our best to make it back to Bulembu to visit everyone who made it so hard for us to leave.  It’s clear more than ever that God has a plan for all of us, and I’m excited to share with my family and friends some of the unexplainable things that have happened to me here in Bulembu.

with thoko

 

We really hope that you have enjoyed sharing in Ben’s journey here in Bulembu, and that it will perhaps inspire you and others in your search for the perfect volunteer opportunity.  If you are interested in volunteering in Bulembu or would like more information about bringing a missions team to Bulembu in 2016, email our Teams & Volunteer Coordinator – volunteers@bulembu.org

 

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Volunteer Adventures – Ben Dorsey (Part 3)

At the end of February we introduced you to Ben Dorsey.  Ben is an engineering volunteer from Canada who took up the adventure in November last year of investing 12 months of this time and skill into Bulembu Ministries Swaziland.

Already three quarters of the way through his adventure, the past few months have stretched our intrepid volunteer even more than before.  But as you will learn, being a volunteer in Bulembu may also hold some unexpected and life-changing surprises!  Let’s get the low-down on how things have been going since we last touched base with Ben.

  scenery

It is really hard to believe that you are already three quarters into your time here!  Since we last caught up with you, a lot has happened.  Tell us about some of the challenges you have faced.

The last few months were again very busy, but as per usual, very rewarding as well.  Two large projects were underway during this time – one being the construction of the High School addition, and the other being the replacement of the water pipeline.  The High School presented many challenges, such as re-routing one of our water main lines and keeping up with the builders’ material requirements.  It has been amazing though to watch the team of Swazi guys build this High School addition.  They are going at an incredible pace, and are putting up a truly quality structure.

collage school

The main water pipeline from our pumps to the reservoir has also finally reached completion!  Our plumbing team completed the job, so it is nice to be able to say that we are finished with a rather large task which had been looming since shortly after my arrival here in Bulembu.

pipes

In addition to my engineering/project/proposal role here, the maintenance department has begun to rely on me for help with basic maintenance and construction around Bulembu.  The manager of this department, James Loubser, took the month of August off to visit with family in Cape Town.  This meant that I had to manage the maintenance department alone, as well as stay on top of my original roles here.  There are about 40 people in the maintenance department that I was helping to organize, so there wasn’t much time for my ‘regular’ engineering duties.  Not to mention that it was the end of the winter here, which meant we were going on about 3 months with little to no rain.  This lack of rain means we are currently experiencing a very serious water shortage.  The spring water we use is not flowing fast enough to keep up with our pumps meaning we had to change and figure out a new pumping schedule.

pipes hostel

In addition, James’ wife – Michelle, who runs the Children’s Church program on Sunday mornings – was also on leave of course.  So, with my involvement at Children’s Church I was also filling in for her and running Sunday School lessons for the month of August.  Needless to say, August was a 24/7/31 shift, and I’m sure I have lost hair and years of my life due to it!  Thankfully, I made it through.  When James and Michelle returned, I was able to take a week off to recuperate a little bit and even got a bit of time away to do some game drives in Kruger National Park.

Now, despite the intense few months you’ve had, there has also been an interesting development over the past few months.  Can you share some of that?

In my second full month here, I began to spend a fair amount of time with a young lady who is also volunteering here in Bulembu.  Her name is Kristen Toda and she is a music/math teacher in the Primary School.  Kristen has been volunteering in Bulembu for 4 and a half years and actually discovered it through the Tenors.  She is from California, has an amazing musical background and she is unfortunately a big supporter of the Anaheim Ducks.

With the consent of the leadership here in Bulembu we began ‘officially’ dating in February and it was very clear from the start that we were not coming into this light-hearted or for a few giggles. After many “subtle” hints by Kristen, my parents, her parents, and basically everyone else in the know, I was able to get my hands on a nice engagement ring.  I popped the question in July, and she said yes!  We have a strong relational foundation built on our common faith, and we are beyond excited to see what we can accomplish together from here on out.

 engaged

What does this mean for the both of you, in terms of being volunteers here in Bulembu?

The Bulembu Management had asked me to extend my stay in Bulembu by at least another year, and we had a very tough decision ahead of us.  After much thought, discussion, and prayer, Kristen and I have decided that we will be returning to the U.S. in November, be married there in December, and then move to Canada shortly following the wedding.  This has been a huge decision for us, and we had even already purchased return tickets to fly back to Swaziland in January.  But in the end, we feel an overwhelming call to return to North America and begin a new chapter in both of our lives.

How have the children responded to the news of your engagement to ‘their’ Ms Toda?

Very good actually, and they were excited for us.  One funny incident was when a young kid asked me what my surname was.  I told him that it was Dorsey, and could see him thinking away for a few seconds.  He then asked with a puzzled look, “So, should I be calling Ms. Toda, Ms. Dorsey now?”

 

How do you feel about your time here in Bulembu coming to an end soon?

Although this means our time in Bulembu is nearly up, we are extremely excited for the new challenges and opportunities we will face.  I have almost a month here remaining, which will total to almost exactly 1 year that I will have been here!  However, I am not viewing this as a time to wind down, but as a situation where I still have time left to get as much as possible finished before I leave, and finish strong.

As you can see, being a volunteer is as much fun as it can be challenging, and the journey looks different for everyone.  The realities of living in and serving a place like Bulembu have been evident as Ben shared his journey with us so far.  However, a great attitude and a lot of flexibility – as Ben has shown so far – goes a really long way.

We hope that you enjoy sharing in Ben’s journey here in Bulembu, and that it will perhaps inspire you and others in their search for the perfect volunteer opportunity.  We look forward to share the conclusion of Ben’s journey here in Bulembu in November.  Be sure to keep an eye out for it then!

Volunteer Adventures – Ben Dorsey (Part 2)

At the end of February we introduced you to Ben Dorsey.  Ben is an engineering volunteer from Canada who has taken up the adventure of investing 12 months of his time and skill into Bulembu Ministries Swaziland.  Ben’s parents – James & Sherry Dorsey – have been leading mission teams to Bulembu for a number of years now, and this is also how Ben was introduced to Bulembu.

Ben already halfway through his year-long adventure as a volunteer in Bulembu, and this is the second of four updates that we will be posting about Ben’s experience as a volunteer. 

Harrison Ivan Ben

You’re halfway through your adventure!  How have you been experiencing your time here?

I can’t believe that it’s already been 6 months since I arrived in Bulembu!  Things have been going really well, and I have certainly learnt a lot about how things get done here.  I also have a much better understanding of the challenges that are overcome in getting everything done here.  Work has been going really great, despite getting dizzy because of the circles I’ve been running in.  I’m also still having lots of fun working with the kids and the young adults here at church.  I’m also getting better with everyone’s names!!

What have been some of the lowlights and highlights of the past three months?

A perpetual adjustment – which I am getting better at! – is having more patience with the way things get done or the pace that things get done at in Africa.  In addition to improving water pump timing, we set out to work on upgrades to the water transmission lines and reservoirs, which will allow us to streamline the entire system.  Part of this required us to order new water pipes, which we initially ordered from South Africa.  Due to some export/import and tax problems, the frustration was mounting, and we were preparing ourselves to pay double tax on our order just to get the order into our country and begin work.  However, I was contacting a steel supplier in Swaziland one day to inquire about steel building frames, and just so happened to ask if they also sell steel water pipes.  The next thing I know, I have placed a full order for pipes from within Swaziland which is also being delivered to us, and at a competitive price to all of those in South Africa!  Despite problems though, we have still been able to cut pumping times and electricity costs.  This keeps me encouraged, and excited for the time we get to implement these improvements to make what we have even better!

With there being no central heating in the houses, it is starting to get to me.  It’s hard to roll out of bed when you have concrete floors and a cold house!  But before you start feeling sorry for me, it may be cold in the morning but the afternoons are still in the upper 20’s (Celsius).  So I guess you could say I’m getting soft.  I do have my stockpile of firewood ready for the winter though.  I had a lot of chopping to do when it arrived…

firewood

Somewhat of an interesting event – not a lowlight but not a highlight either – was that I received my first double traffic fine.  This was for stopping on the completely empty road to speak with a worker, and for not having my license on me.  The total was E120.00 …or about $13.

I have been able to make a few fishing trips to Maguga dam with some guys from the town.  We take all the fish we catch and give them to the Swazi guys around town when we get back.

An undeniable highlight was the indescribable feeling of having some family visiting me here for the first time since I came to Swaziland.  This was the 7th year in a row that Mom and Dad have led a team from Canada to Bulembu, and it was the second time that my brother Sam has been able to visit.  My parents invited my brother Nick and I with them on their very first trip to Bulembu, in 2009.  I know for a fact that I would never be close to where I currently am if it wasn’t for them, and I am beyond thankful that they have so much passion and faith in the vision and people here.

I managed to hike up Mount Emlembe – the highest peak in Swaziland, and right on Bulembu’s doorstep – with the team and my family.  My mom is always in her element here in Bulembu.  Her face gets the ultimate workout every year in Bulembu – never ever wipes that smile from it!

Mom

It was also awesome to have my parents, brother and aunt – all on the same team! – over for a braai at my house.  My aunt thinks there’s a lot of work to be done because I have no decorations – or anything really – in the house.  But hey, for the first time in my life I bought and now own a mattress!  So that’s a step in the right direction, isn’t it?

Last time you mentioned that you became involved with the Young Adults at church.  How are you enjoying that?

I’m really enjoying talking about life with the group and what kinds of challenges we all face in our day to day lives.  We will be doing a Winter Drive outreach this Saturday, to minister and help out some people who live in the village here.  I’ve been asked to lead a group that will be visiting one of the houses, and I’m excited for the young adults to step up and out in this way.

I’m now also on board with helping in Sunday School for the 7-11 year olds, which has been a blast (I’m pretty sure the kids are having fun too).

How have you experienced the people in Swaziland / Bulembu?

The people here are great, I feel like they’re the Canadians of Africa – always talkative and polite, and everyone is relaxed and take things as they come.

How would you summarize your first 6 months here as a volunteer?

As frustrating as it can be to get things done here in the business world, I am really enjoying Swaziland though.  I’m excited to see what the second half holds because the first 6 months have been more than I ever could have imagined.

Emlembe

We hope that you enjoy sharing in Ben’s journey here in Bulembu, and that it will perhaps inspire you and others in their search for the perfect volunteer opportunity.  And remember to keep an eye out for the next installment of Ben’s adventure at the end of August!

Volunteer Adventures – Ben Dorsey

Volunteering in Bulembu is certainly an adventure worth experiencing!  However, it is always hard to describe to others what it will be like or exactly what to expect.  Adventures are filled with exciting things, but also its share of challenges.  And when you embark on such an adventure to volunteer in a different country (let alone continent!), it certainly helps to hear some first-hand experiences from someone who has been there before.

Meet Ben Dorsey.  Ben is an engineering volunteer from Canada who has taken up the adventure of investing 12 months of this time and skill into Bulembu Ministries Swaziland.  Ben’s parents – James & Sherry Dorsey – have been leading mission teams to Bulembu for a number of years now, and this is also how Ben was introduced to Bulembu.  When James & Sherry visited with another team during 2014, Ben came along again.  This time though, he felt that he would really like to contribute more towards the vision which Bulembu has of sustainability and transformation within the town, as well as the nation of Swaziland.

Ben in his Braai shirt

Ben has already been in Bulembu for 3 months, and this is the first of 4 updates that we will be posting over the next 9 months about Ben’s experience as a volunteer.  We hope that you will enjoy sharing in his journey, and that it will perhaps inspire you and others in their search for the perfect volunteer opportunity!

What are you doing in Bulembu?

I took a one year leave of absence from the company I work for in Canada – Golder Associates – to come and volunteer in Bulembu.  During my time here I am going to offer some engineering support with regards to Bulembu’s infrastructure systems, as well as any other things they need a hand with – of which I’m sure there will be many!  The water distribution system is something that requires attention, and this is something I am currently very involved with.

I also have the opportunity to help out at young adult events through church, as well as the young adult meeting nights.  It’s nice to have the opportunity for some other involvement outside of ‘work’.

How was the first 3 months, what were the lowlights and highlights?

One of the adjustments that I had to make was having more patience, as time in Africa is slightly different from time back home.  I also had to adjust to the shock to my system physically, emotionally, and spiritually – through the different time zones, the travelling it took to get here and adjusting to a new country & living environment.  After close to 40 hours of travel, it was nice to finally arrive in Bulembu to a warm home and fresh pizza!

Christmas did not feel like Christmas here – I think it has something to do with the weather constantly being in the 20’s (Celsius), the constant sweating due to the humidity, and the huge thunderstorms every day.  I really did miss the snow!

There have been way more highlights though!  One of the highlights of my time so far has been that I was able to reconnect with quite a few people from my past visits to Bulembu, including some of the children that I’ve been able to build some relationships with over the years.  Initially my biggest challenge in this regard was remembering their names – I felt like every name had 5 consonants and a click before a vowel showed up!  I have really enjoyed getting to know everyone though – the older kids in particular through the young adults meetings.  I’m even getting better at learning their names which is a miracle in itself!  It seems like they all know my name, whenever I am driving around town I always hear kids yelling “HI BEN!” and I usually do not recognize them in the slightest.  I have been able to develop some good friendships with many of them, and every time I meet and talk to the kids I am amazed at how humble and amazing they are as people.

I had a birthday soon after my arrival in November 2014, and a family here was nice enough to get some people together and host a birthday dinner for me!  It was a very nice gesture of everyone on that day.

As Christmas approached, the talk of the town was about the big braai that takes place for the kids on Christmas day.  (it’s a BBQ, but way way WAAAAY better!)  I volunteered to help with that, and there were hundreds of chickens, a few pigs, and a few cows that also graciously decided to help out that day…  One of the guys that I worked with that day described that you start to braai, and go until you never want to see meat again and nearly faint from the heat.  And then you keep going because it’s only half way done!  It was fun though, and the kids had a blast.

Another bright spot has been that I’ve been able to purchase a vehicle here in Swaziland.  There aren’t any grocery stores or things of that sort in Bulembu, and the easiest option is to cross the border to South Africa for supplies, or to drive to Piggs Peak on a 18km dirt road.  Not having a vehicle made this really tricky, but I was able to sell my vehicle back home and use the money towards this vehicle.

Collage - Ben

What do you hope to achieve this year whilst in Bulembu from a volunteer / work prospective?

I hope to finish this year with Bulembu’s infrastructure in a more efficient and optimal state.  I want this year to end with money being saved  in this regard where it had not been possible before, which in turn will benefit other areas of the ministry.  I am pleased to say this is already happening in quite a substantial way.  I hope to have an impact on the community, kids, and workers – to be a volunteer they come to love and respect.

What do you hope to achieve this year whilst in Bulembu from a personal prospective?

Personally, I would like to develop character and an understanding of how this continent functions both in terms of living and faith.  I want my own faith to grow and to be inspired by those around me, as well as to hopefully also inspire in return.

We are really blessed with volunteers like Ben, who grasp the fullness of the vision and mission of what Bulembu stands for, and who give of their time and skill so selflessly.  We value every moment that they invest, as there is no doubt a lasting impact being left, and a significant contribution being made towards the transformational work that God is doing in and through Bulembu.

We look forward to to update you about Ben’s experience as a volunteer!  Should you be interested to know more about volunteer opportunities in Bulembu, please send us an email at volunteers@bulembu.org.

The Art Of Cooking…For A Village

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As you thank God for every meal that He provides each day, have you ever considered how enough food for approximately 300 children plus aunties arrives on time, three times a day, every day of the week? As a kitchen Supervisor, Stabile Murambiwa fulfills her responsibilities formidably. Not only does she have to ensure that there is always adequate food on the shelves, but also that the food is prepared and delivered to the correct venue at the right time, and that the food is tasty! A Herculean task for most people, Stabile takes it all in her stride.

Stabile arrived in Bulembu in 2008 when her husband – Augustine – was working at the Bulembu country Lodge. Declining a job as an aunty because she wanted to live at home with her husband, she has been a volunteer, a cleaner and a painter. Upon interviewing for the job as a kitchen supervisor, she was promptly given the position in January of 2012. The beginning was no walk in the park for her, with long hours and days that started in darkness of 3am. The first two weeks she was tempted to quit, but her husband’s encouragement inspired her to persevere. And we are ever grateful that she did! Stabile has since become an unmistakable and devoted part of the Bulembu family.

 

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Stabile goes shopping once a month at the Boxer Store in Piggs Peak for groceries, toiletries and other food – which includes rice and mealie meal. Upon enquiring about the shopping required, she shared some of what it takes to feed nearly 300 children and aunties. Here are just some of the things that you would find on Stabile’s monthly shopping list:

  • 20 x 50kg bags of mealie meal (1,000kg)
  • 300 x of 400g tinned fish
  • 2,880 eggs
  • 60kg peanut butter
  • 24 crates of oranges
  • 20 boxes of apples
  • 720 rolls of toilet paper
  • 25 x 5 litres of liquid soap
  • 25 x 5 litres of pine gel (multi-purpose bathroom cleaner)

 

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The first week of the month, Stabile also purchases what she calls her “Big Five”:

  • 20 bags of butternut squash
  • 20 bags of potatoes
  • 20 bags of carrots
  • 10 bags of onions
  • 10 bags of beetroot

The third week, these amounts are reduced to 10 bags each of squash, potatoes and carrots, and 5 bags each of onions and beetroot.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are bought on a weekly basis, some of which will be from the locals. However, their growing vegetable garden – with its drip system – helps significantly to supply the needs of the kitchen. In this regard, Solomon Khosa certainly deserves a special mention, as his gardening skills contribute greatly to the success of the vegetable gardens! Some vegetables are also received from the hydroponic system, especially tomatoes.

With a staff of only five ladies, much time was previously spent on chopping the vegetables for meals. However, with the help of a brand new chopping machine, this task has been made much more efficient and less time-consuming.

In terms of the supply of other items on the menu, Stabile also shared how these make their way to the childrens’ tummies:

  • Breakfast varies between oats, pap, putu and soft porridge. One breakfast alone requires 50 litres of milk and about 15kg of oats!
  • For lunches, the kitchen goes through 660 loaves of bread every week, which is all baked by our very own Bulembu Bakery! Every sandwich goes to the children with a fruit – either an apple, orange, banana or some dried fruit.
  • For meat, an ox is slaughtered every three months, cut up and frozen into different packages for later use. Thanks to donated butchery equipment, they can even grind their own mince!
  • Sunday certainly delivers a favourite meal for everyone – chicken & vegetables. This meal comprises of 33 chickens, 35kg rice, 30kg beetroot, 5kg carrots and 2kg mixed vegetables – all for just that one meal!

 

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Grateful mention has to be made to all who donate dry vegetable soup mix, jams, dried fruit, and bath soap to Bulembu. This really helps out significantly with the supplies!

Let’s remember to pray and be thankful for Stabile and her staff in the Central Kitchen, as they tackle the daily challenges of supplying meals for the children and caregivers in Bulembu, with remarkable joy and heartiness.

Thank you, Stabile, for a job well done!

 

By Lesley Shirk

Appreciation

 Recently, a “gratefulness” challenge which was put out on social media, reached my Facebook page.  It took the form of a friend nominating me to express 3 things which I am grateful for, on my Facebook page, over a period of 7 days.  In turn, I had to nominate some people during this time to express their gratitude on Facebook for the same length of time.  This was a wonderful exercise in shifting my focus from the ‘daily grind’, to being intentional about my awareness of that which I am grateful for.  For the most part it was relatively easy to express things that I was grateful for, which also included some fun things that enrich my life (e.g. free doughnuts from a colleague!).

901 Gr1 appreciation Then one morning we were summoned to a meeting in our boardroom, with no details on what the meeting was about.  After everyone had gathered, a Grade 1 teacher and her class walked into the boardroom, and proceeded to thank us for the work that we were doing.  The children sang a song that they had prepared for us, and then surprised us with handmade cards.  To top it all, they gave all of the staff some candy which they had bought themselves, with hard-earned merits from the Primary School’s Merit Shop.  Needless to say this touched our hearts deeply, and every single person in that boardroom walked out with a renewed sense of motivation and encouragement for the day.

 Less than a week later, the staff in our building were called to the Childcare offices, where we were greeted by candy, snacks and other goodies – even filter coffee!  These were left by a team, who visits Bulembu every year, and their aim was expressing the appreciation towards what we were doing

Upon consideration of these beautifully selfless acts, I realised anew the power of appreciation as an extended expression of gratefulness.  Gratefulness is something which we experience within ourselves for something or someone.  It is a predominantly internal emotion which we can verbalise to others, or even write in a card.  However, it remains ‘ours’, until we choose to express it.

Appreciation

Appreciation is the external and intentional expression of gratefulness towards someone for something they’ve done or for who they are to us.  It can be in the form of a ‘Thank you’ note, a gift, a hug, or basically anything which in some way or form shows the gratitude which we are experiencing.  It may be challenging to measure appreciation, or to express it in a way worthy of that which we are expressing it for in the first place.  However, an important realisation is that appreciation is not ours, but an intentional, external act of giving.

What does this mean, and why am I expounding on this matter so much?  Well, this is where the context of where we find ourselves in Bulembu, comes in.  We have an amazing team of people who give constantly.  They give of their time, talents, skills, abilities, gifts and ideas to support our vision, which is ultimately aimed at caring for and loving the children of this beautiful nation.  However, it can be challenging to remain motivated when one gets tired, or when the going gets a bit tougher than usual – regardless of how dedicated a person may be.  This is exactly where appreciation goes such a long way in refreshing a weary heart or mind, and to realign our perspectives to the greater goal of why we are here in the first place.  Appreciation also serves as an affirmation to those who receive it, of their role and their part in an organisation like Bulembu.

That said, we are not likely to find an appropriate and sufficient way in which to express our appreciation for your support, prayers, donations, gifts and love which you have given so freely – and which you continue to give.  We would nonetheless like to express our sincere gratitude – and appreciation – to you by means of our prayer for you, as written in the book of Ruth in the Old Testament:

 “May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have

come to take refuge, reward you fully for

what you have done.”

  –  Ruth 2:12 (NLT)

Know that we carry you in our hearts each day, and that we praise the Lord for you!  Also, be encouraged in the knowledge that your contribution will bear fruit and others will reap the benefits thereof in years to come.  As Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians –

 “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves,

men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your

confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity

in sharing with them and with everyone else.

And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you,

because of the surpassing grace God has given you.”

  –  2 Corinthians 9:13-14  (NIV)

Your confession of the “gospel of Christ” may have taken many different forms in our context.  But men will praise God for your obedience, and for your hearts towards the vision & the people of this beautiful town.

 Be blessed!

by Michelle le Roux

Transformation Beyond This Nation

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The first time I came to Bulembu, I boarded a plane from Boston, Massachusetts. I had little idea of what to expect, other than a social work internship in a country I had barely even heard of just a few months before. This first time, I came alone and worked with a busy schedule behind some of the most inspirational social workers and Aunties I’ve ever come to know. I learned about Bulembu from the inside out, and was stretched personally while also discovering God in powerful ways.

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My second time I came to Bulembu, I again boarded a flight from Boston, Massachusetts. However this time it was with a team of 12 other students from my University – Gordon College – and this time leading our stay in Bulembu for the four weeks. This second time I saw Bulembu from the lens of a team “visitor”, with a schedule that was divided between service projects and time with the children in the afternoons.

Gordon College sends a team to Bulembu every year, and has done so for the last 6 years. We come under the guise that Bulembu is a “service learning opportunity,” where our students are able to serve and expand their view of God’s redemptive purposes at work in the world today. However, our time in Bulembu is so much more than that. Most people, I expect, come to Bulembu with the hope that they can contribute to the vision of the town and make a difference in a meaningful way. This was also my desire the first time I came here. However, over the years I have seen a place where people come looking to serve, and leave changed and touched by God themselves: impacted by the love of the staff, the Aunties and children, and the powerful work of God at work in the town here. We tap into a network where we mutually are able to both give and receive, while drawing closer to God and His work here.

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Each of these experiences had unique schedules, challenges, lessons and memories. However, the transcendent thing of both experiences is the personal transformation I experienced and have witnessed within the team I have brought here. Bulembu is a place that allows people to enter into something much greater and bigger than themselves, and be changed for the better in the process. I and those I know who have also come to Bulembu through our college, are so blessed to take part in God’s work here. It is an honour to have had a part in this vision, and to see it working in action.

Bulembu Honoured to host His Majesty

– Newsletter 2014 02

Photograph by Gary Todoroff

History was made in Bulembu on Thursday, 20 February 2014, as his Maj- esty King Mswati III paid a visited to our community. The town was abuzz with excitement as preparations got underway more than a week ahead of his Maj- esty’s visit.

His Majesty, King Mswati III took the time to brave the 18 km dirt road, to see all that the Lord has done and continues to do here in Bulembu. It was a day filled with Swazi culture, pride, and unity as the town, and neighboring communities came together to witness this event.

Nonhlanhla Hlatshwayo, Social Worker for BMS Child Care department was happy to share a brief thought on the day:

“The King’s visit was such an awesome experience for all of us, most espe- cially for the kids. It was a lifetime experience for them.

“It was such an honour to have the King come because usually, he just sends a representative. As a social worker in the Child Care department, what I liked the most in his speech was the part whereby he encouraged the children to take their school work seriously. Hopefully they will do as the King said!”

Photograph by Gary Todoroff

His Majesty King Mswati III greets Neal Rijkenberg, Director and founder of Bulembu Ministries.

– Newsletter 2014 02

Commenting on His Majesty’s visit, Bulembu Ministries Enterprise Man- ager, Kurt Puttkammer, said that it was “a truly humbling experience that once again showed what teamwork can accomplish with a common goal in mind – glorifying God in all we do.”

In his statement about the king’s visit, Executive Director of Bulembu Ministries, Andrew le Roux, said, “What a privilege and honour to host His Majesty in Bulembu. It is the highlight of 8 years of hard work, by an amaz- ing team. Thank you Your Majesty for hearing your people and committing to have the road to Piggs Peak tarred.”

It certainly was a proud day for Bulembu, to host the nation’s king, and we are all sure to remember the day for years to come. For all who were in- volved with the plan- ning, organizing, and preparation of the event, THANK YOU for your efforts. To the greater Bulembu com- munity – Thank you for joining us on such a special occasion.

Photograph by Gary Todoroff

His Majesty King Mswati III addresses the crowd in the arena outside the Hospitality Training Centre. In his speech the king spoke about the history of Bulembu. He indicated his appreciation for the way that Bulembu has been revived, and the wonderful work that is being done in caring for orphans and vulnerable children.

 

Photograph by Gary Todoroff

Easter Raath brought her class to the library where King Mswati asked the children about what they were learning and encouraged them in their education. Primary School Principal Michelle Loubser hosted the tour of the school that lasted almost half an hour.

 

Photograph by Gary Todoroff

His Majesty greets Colin le Roux, Director of Operations, at the Bulembu Diary. His Majesty was presented with two heifers, as well as a bull for Her Majesty, as a token of Bulembu’s appreciation for the king’s visit.

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Just before leaving the sawmill, the final stop on His Majesty’s tour, leaders of Bulembu Ministries paused to pray for King Mswati, asking God’s blessing for the king and country.

Photograph by Gary Todoroff

His Majesty King Mswati III waves goodbye to dignitaries and well-wishers and leaves town on the dirt road to Piggs Peak. During his 42-minute speech earlier in the day, the king expressed surprise that the road had not been paved as planned in 2010. He said, “I am hopeful that, as soon as we leave this place, construction of the road would also begin.”

 

 

Camp Masters!

By Akki & Allison El-Kaakour

Walking into the daunting 16 days of Rangers camp in the forest, this past school holidays, held an air of anticipation and excitement.  Would the weather hold out for the duration of all the camps and provide for us sunny skies?  Will the water boilers provide enough hot water for all to shower in the evening?  Can we rely on the youth of the team to carry the weight of camp program?  But most of all, will we remember how to flush toilets and turn on light switches after such a time of pit latrines and paraffin lanterns?

Yes, yes and yes to all. Much hard work accompanied by playing hard made for three fantastic camps!

The first children’s camp was called “Young Master Chef – Taste the Adventure”, and was for the pioneer rangers aged 9-11 yrs old.  Along with the usual building of the campsite, they had water based games where they played “capture the flag” through the river and into the forest, crafts to accompany their cooking challenges, and much much more.  However, the biggest part of camp was based on the cooking show ‘Master Chef’. Each day the Pioneers had two cooking challenges which were to be done in “potjie” pots over fire.

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Everything was presented by a game show host, and the end products were scored by 4 international judges.  It was an absolute blast!

The second youth camp was “God’s Army – Choose where you will stand”, as was for the Pathfinders & Pathrangers, aged between 12 and 15 years.  Their Camp was based around being in an army.  Strategy games, boot camp training, patrol/team work, and challenges.  I was amazed to see the young women rise to the challenges and conquer the boys in the boot camp competition games!  On a deeper note, the topics covered  included the armour of God, our weapons of warfare, and knowing the battle plan of the enemy.  For those that were ready to receive, I believe the Lord did some personal heart work.

The third camp was a National Training Camp, which is for both young and mature adults 18 years and older, looking to advance in their Rangers Training or receive training for the first time on a higher level.  We had 16 of our junior leaders attend the camp and graduate with their training certificates, and they are now NTC leaders!  One of our Bulembu Christian Academy teachers, and two non-local members also attended the NTC training camp.  This camp involved a lot of seminars, workshops, and teaching of leadership principles.  We are very proud of our young people who have started as Pioneers and are now in adult leadership!

We are most happy to rest following all of the camps, but we are also already inspired with wonderful ideas for the next camps that are coming up in October.  Watch this space!Image

Hope made simple

During March I once again had the awesome opportunity to visit our Babyhome here in Bulembu, with a friend. We went to take some photos of some the a team’s members spending some time with the little ones. I was on the floor, and having a hard time taking a nice shot of the two team members with the children, as some of the children were of course more interested in die cool gadget I was holding! So I put the camera behind my back and decided to just enjoy the children. Then one little girl sitting with me grabbed a hold of my finger. Something nudged me to get hold of the camera and take this shot, not quite able yet to verbalise the significance in that moment. As I was editing the photo and uploaded the photo to make it my Facebook cover page, the words I did not have that morning, made their way to my heart and mind:

“There is a certain Hope that stirs in one’s soul, for the redemption of mankind, when one is able to allow the uncensored joy and limitless potential of a child to pierce through that which we deem to be the status quo…even if just for a second.”

Our hope is that you will read them and take some time this week to allow yourself to be surprised by the simple joy of being a child, and that you will realise that it is not a weakness but a remarkable strength to have faith like those we overshadow in stature but who overshadow us in grasping the fullness of living in joy and hope.

 

By Michelle le Roux.

Hope made simple