Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Hi all! I spent two busy days in Swaziland this past week. It was amazing! I met a wonderful lady named Nomsa, who came from Kaphunga, Swaziland, to South Africa about four years ago. After hearing George (the Hands CEO) speak for about 10 minutes she went home inspired and started visiting her neighbors who were orphaned or sick. Then she started talking to her friends about doing the same thing. Skip ahead a few years...Nomsa and her project--Asondle Sive Bomake Home-based Care--are now serving about 200 patients with home-based care and about 900 orphans with regular home visits, food parcels, and gardens. God's doing incredible work through Nomsa and her family and friends.

Swaziland is breathtaking. The mountains are covered in lush green trees and bushes. At Nomsa's house on top of a mountain, the air is very cool. (I was a little unprepared for the change in temperature.) The dirt even on the roads is a rich dark brown color, very fertile. The people there are friendly and they love to laugh BIG hearty laughs. Unfortunately, around 4 in 10 adults in Swaziland are infected with HIV/AIDS. Families are being devastated. I met two young girls name Domasile and Busisiwe (pictured below) who live on a homestead with three younger siblings and three of their own children. Their parents have been gone for three years. But they have beautiful smiles, and they love their children. They are being visited by one of Nomsa's volunteers at least once a month, where they get a food parcel. They have also received maize seeds and fertilizer from Nomsa's project to grow their own maize.

I hope you all are well...preparing for a joyful Easter weekend. We'll be going with some friends into Nelspruit tonight for Easter Vigil Mass, the best service all year! I've been making Jed sing classic St. Leo's Easter songs all day...Jesus Christ is risen today, Aaaaaaa-le-lu-ia!
Love, Brooke

Maria, one of the Asondle Sive Bomake volunteers, showing us the maize crop, which unfortunately failed this year because of too little rain

Domasile and Busisiwe, who get food parcels and home visits from the project, are also growing maize with help from the project

Nomsa and Robyn. I'm disappointed with the pics I took of the countryside. The mountains are majestic, even though this picture doesn't show it. It does give a sense of what the homesteads are like. Village centers are tiny, and many people live a great distance from shops and even neighbors. Nomsa has to drive about 25 minutes to get petrol!

We were above the clouds

I did not go prepared for the cold weather! Not the most comfortable footwear for trekking through fields of maize! :)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Best 30th Birthday I've Ever Had

I would just like to say thank you to everyone who wished me a happy 30th birthday. I am still trying to get through all the cards, emails, e-cards, videos and letters. Thanks so much, you really made me feel special. One of the children on campus recently had his sixth birthday. His mom told us he was walking around the house all day reaching up and grabbing things and saying, "Look now that I'm six I can reach this. When I was five it was too high." I thought about that as I turned 30. What can I do now that I couldn't do before? We all know that with each day not much really changes; it's just as those days add up we notice the difference. It makes me think of my time here. Monday will mark 8 months in South Africa. Some days it feels like I'm spinning my wheels. I make no progress, but it is just one day. It helps to keep the bigger picture in mind. As days build into weeks, months and soon years, I will be able to look back at the beginning and notice the change. Thanks again to everyone for making my first birthday in Africa so special!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

"His heart is as big as his body"

Jed's 30th birthday was a fun day! He and I took the day off (mostly) and went to Nelspruit for some shopping and a nice lunch. I surprised him with a gift he never imagined I would agree to...a TV. (What was I thinking?) With about 14 of our friends, we enjoyed a very typical Minnesota-style pontoon boat ride in the early evening at Hulala Lodge, complete with a nice sunset and even a few beers. Then we headed home to the farm to braai, just in time for the biggest thunderstorm we've had in months! We crammed 20 people into our little one-bedroom apartment, and scarfed down hot dogs, taco casserole, and birthday cake in the dark because the power was out. Jed had "Happy Birthday" sung to him in English, Spanish, Afrikaans, SiSwati, and English again (in that order) throughout the day. Poor guy! I'm pretty sure that was his least favorite part of the day! But all in all, it was a great day. I hope Jed had as much fun as I did!

Brooke on the Sundowner Cruise

Emily and Busie, two of our friends/coworkers

Jed trying to blow out 30 birthday candles with his 30-year-old lungs