SwaziCompanions of Iowa

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

New Location

Our SwaziCompanions Blog has moved to a new location:    iowacompanions.blogspot.com

(copy the link into your browser if it won't take you directly).

Bishop Alan Scarfe, The Rev. Stacey Gerhart (Calvary, Sioux City), and Mr. Bill Witt (St. Luke's, Cedar Falls) are currently in Swaziland for the Diocesan Synod.  The Bishop's first post has been published on the new blog.

Please keep our missioners and the people of the Anglican Church of Swaziland (and, apparently also the donkeys) in your prayers.

Dave Oakland, Convener
One World One Church Commission

Monday, April 04, 2016

Second Week of Easter
We are back home.  Flights last Wednesday and Thursday went pretty much according to schedule – but the 16 ½ hours from Johannesburg to Atlanta is enough of a challenge for these oldsters.  We got back to Des Moines about 11am on Thursday.  That would have been about 28 hours after getting on the plane in Swaziland and about 37 hours after getting up to attend early morning Eucharist one last time at All Saints’ Cathedral.  The early morning Eucharist community there is very dear.  We were grateful to be able to attend one more service with Bishop Ellinah, and for the Dean’s prayers over us that morning.  Julianne Allaway met us at the airport to welcome us back to the Diocese of Iowa.
On Holy Saturday we were able to spend some time with The Rev. Joel Dlamini, who is currently on medical leave from parish responsibilities.  Joel has cancer and his life this past three years has been spent in surgical and chemotherapy treatments.  He has to travel for treatment into South Africa, as there is still little or no cancer treatment available in Swaziland.  Joel spent a few days with us in our home here in Ames in 1999, when some young adults came to Iowa.  Joel is one of the Swazi clergy, who heard his call to priesthood in Iowa. 
We spent Easter Sunday with Bishop Ellinah with the worshipping congregation at the Chapel at the University of Swaziland.  We want to share with you the words of the Collect for Easter in the lectionary for the Anglican Church of Southern Africa:
Lord of all life and power,
You transformed the tomb of death
into the womb of new life
from which burst forth your Son,
the first born of the new creation:
Make us joyful witnesses to this Good News
that all humanity may gather
at the feast of new life;
where with the Risen Son and the Holy Spirit,
You reign for ever and ever.  Amen. 

Monday was mostly a “free” day again—and another national holiday, except it was off to the Mountain Inn in the morning to get wifi access to learn what was happening in Lahore, Pakistan.  The Easter bombing there was not far from either of the two families we know best.  Mary Jane was able to find the Facebook page of one of the priests she knows who was at the Cathedral in Lahore when she has been there.  A second priest of acquaintance was shown in a news story.  They were very busy last week with funerals and visiting the injured in the hospitals.  Her nutrition colleagues are also ok.  Then it was a ‘good-bye’ to the young woman at the front desk who gave us breaks on wifi costs during our second month.
Got a little packing done between having a final lunch with Rev. Orma and dinner with our Anglican guest-house hosts, Tim and Gloria Zwane, and some friends of theirs—Mike and Thandi Dlamini.  Thandi is a retired nurse (former director of the Red Cross in Swaziland, we think) who has worked in recent years with parish nurses in the Roman Catholic churches (and has worked with Paula Sanchini when she brings students from Coe College to Swaziland).  She also visited Christ Church, Cedar Rapids, in August 2013 to speak to the Swaziland Companions group there.  Mike is a retired physician and had been a schoolmate of Tim.
Tuesday was another working day—our last.  Spent some time again with Ms. Thandi Zulu, the Coordinator of the Social Development Office.  There was a farewell dinner with the Bishop, Dean, Archdeacons, and several members of the Social Development Committee and the Projects Committee.
Bp. E. Wamukoya & Dean A. Dlamini
Committee Members

Wednesday we got to the 6:30 am Eucharist at All Saints, returned the car, finished packing, got a couple more photos with our guesthouse staff and loaded bags into Dean Advent’s Toyoto HiLux for the trip to the airport.  It was one of the Dean’s parishioners who got us checked in at the airport.
And so now we are processing the many strands of experience and the many soul stretches we experienced during the two months in Swaziland.  How deeply grateful we are for the many people we met, the many friendships deepened, and the incredible experience of being able to journey with our Swazi companions from Transfiguration through Lent to Easter.  Our experiences were broadened and our faith and worship deepened.  To Bishop Ellinah Wamakoya, the Archdeacons and Dean, the Diocesan staff, clergy, teachers in the Anglican schools, the Cathedral member who made a car available for our use, and so many others, we want to express our heartfelt gratitude. 

We are very grateful for the prayers from so many, and the support of Bishop Scarfe, the Swazi Companions of Iowa, the One World One Church commission, and the gifts from friends that made it possible for us to leave some funds to help the church in Swaziland respond to the present crisis of drought that will continue to impact all, but especially the poor, many of whom have access to little or no water, as they experience still increasing prices for their staple commodity, maize.  
Dave and Mary Jane+

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Well it has been too long since we posted anything—“vacation”, some of you may think.  No, it has also been Holy Week.
We did enjoy the visit last weekend by Jacob Nastruz and his friend Reufus.  I think he has shared some of that on his Facebook page.  On Monday the two young men and this old guy got to some of the handicraft outlets and then to Hlane Game Park – too late to catch a safari but we did spend some time driving some of the roads through the park.  We did see a couple hippos out in the middle of the pond and quite a few impalas before the Park closed. 
In the meantime the Holy Week services started at the UNISWA Chapel Monday evening with Bishop Ellinah preaching and Mary Jane celebrating.  Since we weren’t back in time the Bishop got to do the driving through the fog.  On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday the three of us traveled together (Mandla did the driving to UNISWA on Wed & Thur – getting himself halfway home).  This is the parish that the Bishop was serving at the time of her election and where Bishop Alan spent Holy Week during his sabbatical.  It is also the parish where Dalcy Dlamini is currently the rector.
Wednesday night we had to rush back to Thokoza where the Bishop washed the feet of her clergy before they went to their parishes on Thursday evening.  Thursday started with a 7am Chrism Mass at the Cathedral followed by breakfast at Thokoza.
Good Friday services – Jesus Seven Last Words – at UNISWA went from 12 to 2:45.  That gave just enough time (I hope) for the Catholics to get set up for their 3pm service.  There were probably 60 adults and about 15 children at the service and the only “come-and-go” was children going outside to run off a bit of steam.  The Bishop did the first and last reflection; Mary Jane did the second; Rev. David Pritchard (a retired Anglican priest from Canada) did the third and lay people did the other three.  Each reflection was followed by prayers prepared by other lay people.  Of course, music was interspersed throughout.
Tuesday and Wednesday we were also on the road with Arch Deacon Magongo visiting schools.  On Tuesday it was St. Anthony’s (somewhere southeast of Hlatikhulu) and New Warm (and it was not “warm” on Tuesday) closer to Hlatikhulu.  On Wednesday it was back to Mpandesane Primary.  That trip was about 400km round trip on good roads;  Tuesday was half as far but took about the same amount of time.  It always breaks our hearts to go to the south.  The meeting with the teachers at Mpandesane was one of the best ones we have experienced.  The day we visited, the cook was sick so there was no food for the children.  Those kids came to school hungry, and went home hungry.  And in the middle they were singing for us with good zeal.  Of all the school children we have seen, the children at Mpandesane appear to be at the most nutritional risk, and are poorly clothed.  We delivered a batch of new uniforms and jerseys for girls, and uniforms for boys will be delivered later. 
Younger children at Mpandesane
The country closes down on Good Friday (and apparently also on Easter Monday).  Will try to get our packing done on Monday (a holiday) so that we can spend a good day at the office on Tuesday.
Older children at Mpandesane

Finally got back to contacting Fr. Joel Dlamini Friday evening.  We had heard that he was leaving Sunday for another trip to Johannesburg for medical check-ups.  He came into Mbabane today to run some errands and then came to visit us.  Many Iowans met Joel in 1999 as he and six other Swazis planted and painted, etc., across our Diocese.  Several Iowans have experienced God’s call to ordained ministry while visiting Swaziland; Joel had a similar experience in Iowa.  Keep him in your prayers as he continues to fight cancer.
Fr. Joel Dlamini

Easter Sunday will find us back at UNISWA for an 8am Easter Celebration.
Many more things to report but still no wifi at the apartment – and it is slow elsewhere in town – so that will have to wait.
Wishing all a Blessed Easter!
Dave and Mary Jane+

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wednesday, 16 March

Will try to post a short note tonight.

We ask your prayers for our good friend, Margaret (Meg) Dempsey, who early yesterday found release from the imprisonment of ALS and has joined that heavenly host preparing to celebrate St. Patrick tomorrow.  And also your prayers for her husband Bill Gutowski of Ames and daughter Sarah of Iowa City as well as for her parents, Bill and Lucille Dempsey of Great Barrington, MA.  Bill, Meg, and Sarah spent a year in Cape Town several years ago so have been wonderful support to us as we planned this trip.

Sunday morning found us in Pigg's Peak where Mary Jane preached and celebrated two services at St. Anne's.  Wonderful reception by Canon Charles Kunene and his wife Thulie.  Have already shared the picture of the altar with the folks at St. Paul's, Marshalltown, as their old purple pall now graces the Lenten (and Advent) altar at St. Anne's.  Lunch served by the parish was much appreciated.  On the way back we drove past Maguga Dam again to try to replicate last Tuesday's photo.  I think the water is a little deeper after the rains last week, but it will take many more rainy weeks to fill the reservoir.

Canon Charles Kunene at St. Anne's, Pigg's Peak

In the afternoon we had tea with Lungile Shongwe (center) and a colleague of hers in her new job.  She is still taking oral chemo but the cancer seems to be in remission and she is doing quite well.

Buie, Lungile, Mary Jane
Tuesday we were at St. Bernard's Anglican Primary in the morning.  That is somewhere south of Matsapha, several kilometers beyond the end of the pavement, across the Usuthu River on a bridge that was certainly under water last week.  It is also in another beautiful part of Swaziland with green slopes, some maize, and close to the location where the Rose Craft Weaving is done (some of you have seen their work at places like Swazi Candles).  We were "challenged" to pronounce the names of the teachers as they were introduced to us.  When we were ready to leave I gave the Principal a couple of notes for "the mispronunciation fund".  As he gathered them together for a picture on his camera he handed it to one of the teachers and announced that it was from us for them to celebrate.  Hopefully it got them some cake or something similar.  We were impressed with what this team is doing under extremely difficult conditions.

We then visited St. Michael's Primary and St. Michael's Secondary in Manzini.  Each visit brings its own items of interest, needs, etc.

Wednesday we got to the far north (beyond Pigg's Peak) to visit Mbasheni Anglican Primary School.  Here the government has built one of three demonstration schools for special education.  Total enrollment exceeds 800 students.  While the new building appears to be well built and useful, it would be more useful if there were water to be able to use the toilets.  This school does harvest rain water from several buildings, but the bore hole is apparently not functional.  Further the fees provided to the school by the government for special needs students is apparently no different from regular students.  As usual some well-stated joys and challenges from the teachers.

On the way back we stopped at Forbes Reef Anglican Primary School to deliver 10 school uniforms for girls and 10 for boys from the fund raising activity led last year by the young adults in Swaziland, Iowa, and Brechin.  Those were delivered to the Principal and teachers this afternoon and will be distributed to needy children on Friday.

Archdeacon Bheki with Forbes Reef Principal
And then it was to the Mountain Inn to buy some wifi access and a bit of supper.  Haven't heard any projections on when wifi might be restored at the guest house.
Looking forward to seeing Jacob and a friend this weekend and also realizing that 30 March is getting closer.
Dave and Mary Jane+

Thursday, March 10, 2016

10 March 2016--will try to add some pictures when I have a better connection.

(Saturday afternoon.  No good wifi in Mbabane currently.  We are at an internet cafe near Malkerns and hope to get this posted before my wifi time expires.)

Sunday we were at the UNISWA (University of Swaziland) Anglican Chapel.  Had no idea what to expect for congregation but there were probably about 80 people including 20 children, several faculty and students and sundry families.  Met a Dr. Mathews who heads the Sociology and Social Work faculty.  He is originally from SW India (Kerala State) where the tradition is that St. Thomas arrived in 52 CE.  He had been to Iowa in 1988 to visit nephews—one at ISU and one at UI.

That afternoon we had the opportunity to see Thulie N. who used to work with the former HIV/AIDS office.  And when we met her at St. George and St. James in Manzini, we also saw Lucy Mabuza who will be coming to Iowa next month.

Monday we took most of the day off.  (That is what the clergy are supposed to do here on Monday we are told.  I don’t have an excuse.)

Then came Tuesday!  Archdeacon Bheki had to go south to visit the family of a teacher that died.  We took “our” little Ford Figo, picked up Mandla at the Diocesan Office and headed northwest.  It took a couple tries to get started up the road to St. Paul’s but we made it.  531 learners and no water at St. Paul’s.  I didn’t get a picture of the children carrying water to the school, but they spend too much of the school day doing that.
Providing water to St. Paul's Anglican Primary School

We also struggled to manage the road from the highway to St. Aiden’s Primary and Mbeka Secondary schools—which share a bore hole so are in much better shape for water.  When we left there we completed the loop crossing Maguga Dam and heading back to Mbabane.  The picture shows the difference between current water level and more normal water level.  The drought is serious!
Maguga Dam - Beware of Hippos

As we dropped Mandla off at the office we heard the first clap of thunder.  Got to the apartment about 10 minutes later as the electrical activity was increasing.  A few minutes later we watched out our kitchen window as the lightning traveled down the tree 12 feet from the apartment.  I think it hit the evergreen but then transferred to the adjacent palm into the ground.  Several small limbs from both trees on the ground and a larger limb – one of about three spires of the evergreen – is caught in the branches of the palm.  There was very heavy rain and some bb-sized hail but that doesn’t help refill either Maguga or Hwane reservoirs.  I do think that the rain (not necessarily the storm) was fairly general but have no idea how much there was anywhere in the country.  The only coverage in the Observer Wednesday morning was two photos of schoolchildren walking home in the rain—the “responsible” children walking barefoot and “saving” their shoes; the “irresponsible” children who kept their shoes on.  (My interpretation was that the first group were 6-8 year olds; the latter closer to high school age.)
Evergreen limb atop Palm

Base of the Palm Tree
We had no water Tuesday afternoon (it returned by Thursday noon) and no electricity for about six hours after the lightning strike.  Gloria did bring over a couple of candles in the late afternoon and we do have a couple flashlights as well as USB-powered LED string.  The battery that powers the front gate also got knocked out.  They were able to get it open far enough to get a couple cars through Tuesday evening – and left it half-open.

Wednesday morning Bheki called to cancel our school trips for the day – the roads would be impassable even for his 4-wheel drive vehicle.  We spent some time at a SwaziPost hotspot.  Mary Jane was able to download some resources for Sunday’s homily preparation.  I was able to get email messages, but somehow was unable to send anything.  The power was off again this afternoon but I think that was just for repairs here at the Guesthouse.  It was back on in time to fix a batch of soup for supper.  Internet hasn’t been restored here; Tim said he would call in the morning to get someone to check that out.  We have had light rain most of the day today and it has been much cooler.  That didn’t keep people off the golf course!  We also found the dress and linens shop downtown run by Thondo’s mother (Thondo drove for several visits—2004, 2006, 2008 at least).  Thondo is now working as an electrical engineer in Matsapha (near Manzini) and will be married in May.  Hopefully we will get a chance to see him before we head back.

Several meetings are scheduled in town on Thursday; I hope to be able to post this sometime.  Pictures might not get added until our ISP is restored.  Friday I’m planning to get to a couple more schools.  Not sure yet if MJ will be doing that or continuing to work with Thandi at the Diocesan Office.  Thandi left Sunday and should have returned Wednesday afternoon from a Hope Africa workshop for Social Development Directors in the Province of Southern Africa.

The January Dionet was published this week.  I’ll try to remember to remind Mandla to get that sent to Cheryl and to the Diocese of Iowa office so that a link can be put on the One World One Church page.

The Rev. Orma Mavimibela has been in the hospital in Manzini for the past several days.  She has been experiencing another bout of back/hip problems which have made walking very painful and difficult.  She hopes to be released from the hospital tomorrow, but do keep her in your prayers.  (Saturday pm:  Talked to Orma Friday evening; she did go home Friday feeling much better.)

We are safe and well-cared for.  However, we also realize that arriving back at the apartment ten minutes later on Tuesday we might have been walking under those trees to the apartment at the wrong time.  At least when lightning struck a tree at home several years ago, it occurred in the middle of the night when we were sound asleep – didn’t realize we had an ash that was split all the way down until the neighbor called a few days later!

Thursday afternoon.  Still no wireless at the apartment--and very slow and questionable at SwaziPost.  Hope this gets through.  I can see what I have for email messages but have not been able to open any of them.

Friday, March 04, 2016

4 March 2016

Greetings in the Name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ!

That is the greeting at every worship service and at almost any meeting of a church-related group.  So it is our greeting to you as we celebrate the beginning of our second month in Swaziland.

Some of you may have noticed it has been over a week since we last posted anything to this blog.  It has been a busy week.  We worked on trying to finalize a grant application while the Bishop was in Liberia for meetings.  Final version should be submitted before your day is over.

Last Saturday morning we went to St. Andrew’s, Malkerns, for a training session for the Parish Church Council of the Usuthu Mission Parish.  Leader for this was Canon Charles Kunene;  Canon Peter Zungu, Rector of the Parish, is in the background.

Charles leading PCC training

We also visited more schools.  Archdeacon Bheki Magongo and I visited three primary schools between here and the border crossing (on the route to Johannesburg) on Tuesday.  On Wednesday Mary Jane joined us as we visited three more a little further north.  Next week I think there will be three near Pigg’s Peak on Tuesday, three in and near Manzini on Wednesday, and two in the far southwest on Friday.  The Archdeacon is determined to get us to all of the Anglican schools to visit with teachers and principals.  One thing we have learned is that he has a passion for education, a thorough knowledge of the Swazi laws pertaining to schools, and a willingness to stand up for his principals and teachers when necessary.  Chairing the Diocesan Education Board is a task that he has taken seriously.  And ALL of the schools have shown improvement in the past year in terms of student examination results.

The tenth school on our marathon tour (the third on Wednesday) was Enkhapa Anglican Primary School.  This was the first school where the teachers had prepared a written list of concerns to present to us when we met.  Since all six of the principals this week knew we were coming and had a general idea of what we would be doing, it was clear that this was the result of a very organized Principal, Mrs. Mabuza.  That meeting began with some wonderful Swazi singing of O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing to a tune which we did not know but with plenty of harmony.  The school has challenges, but clearly the faculty is working together to achieve excellent results.  It is very definitely a rural school with few monetary resources, but has the third best record among Anglican schools for student success.

Principal Mabuza showing us the refurbishing of teacher housing at Enkhapa
Meeting room @ Enkhapa Anglican Primary School

An old, but well-maintained classroom building at Enkhapa
Spent some time on Monday, Thursday and Friday with Thandi Zulu as she continues to try to organize the Diocesan Social Development program and attends various diocesan meetings.  She flies to Cape Town on Sunday for a Hope Africa training workshop for Social Development coordinators from around the Province.  She has some plans to take with her for discussion in that forum.

Our main activity Thursday morning was to get the paperwork done to remain “legal” for the next month.  There were supposedly two ways to do that.  We chose to visit the Office of Home Affairs to get an extension stamped into our passports.  What a warren of narrow hallways and tiny offices!  Had to go back outside to a booth by the street to get some photo copies made before the process was completed.  The other alternative would have been to drive into South Africa and turn around and reenter Swaziland (two sets of passport stamps).  We were glad that we did not choose that option when we saw Dean Advent.  He had gone to Johannesburg on Tuesday to get some new hymnals and priests’ hosts.  It took him four hours at the border to get back into Swaziland!  No pictures!  I remember the 2004 trip when some of us nearly had our cameras confiscated when we were ignoring the rule of “no cameras” at the airport.

Today we had lunch with Nola Nixon, a retired teacher from Northern Ireland who is visiting schools to emphasize the importance of reading books to the learners.  She has been here several times since 2010.  We had met her briefly at the consecration in 2012.

Tomorrow the Anglican Women’s Fellowship is sponsoring tomorrow’s Worldwide Day of Prayer at the cathedral.  Mary Jane plans to get to that in the morning.  While she is there I will get her homily printed (the internet café where we can get things printed closes at 2pm on Saturdays).  On Sunday we will be at the University Chapel worshipping with Dalcy Dlamini’s student congregation there.

Went for a short walk after supper tonight (it was still dusk when we started, but dark when we returned about 20 minutes later).  Realized as we came into the apartment that we had no electricity.  That came on about an hour later but it took longer for the router to wake up.  Last weekend we were without water for two days and we had understood the two days on, two days off pattern would continue for another six months but we have had water since last Sunday afternoon.  The Hawane reservoir does not have more water in it so we wonder what is happening.  I hope that the reason does not have to do with the fact that the US ambassador has been here this week – and her residence is two blocks away.  I mistakenly said earlier that the new embassy was near here.  The new embassy won’t be finished for another two or three months but is in Ezulwini.  The news this week is that when the King gets his tour of the new embassy there are places that he will not be allowed to visit.  A year ago some of that underground work was being done – at night by American workers – leading to all sorts of rumors about what was going into it.  That crew has supposedly moved to Mozambique to work on a new embassy there.

And we also reserved a couple rooms at Thokoza for Palm Sunday weekend.  Jacob Nastruz, working with the Young Adult Service Corps at a school in Springs, South Africa, will bring some friends to visit that weekend while their school is on break.  We are looking forward to hearing about his work and he will want to catch up with some of the friends he made here in December 2014.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Thursday, 25February

The workshop for principals/headmasters of Anglican schools Wednesday started shortly after 9am and concluded about 4:30pm.  This is the second year for bringing the principals together in order to bring about some coordination/cooperation among the Anglican schools.  The workshop concentrated on the legal expectations of the headmaster under Swaziland law.  I feel a bit like the blind man in the gospel after Jesus has touched his eyes the first time, “I can see people, but they look like trees walking.” (Mk 8:24).  Education law and the working of the schools is much different from in Iowa.  In many ways the school is the principal in the eyes of the law.  I think that most legal problems in the past have involved disputes between teacher and principal or parents and a teacher.  So much of the day dealt with responsibilities and record-keeping.  The Principal is responsible for educating his/her teachers about their legal responsibilities.

We had a short break to get back to the apartment before returning for supper with the Cathedral leadership – clergy, wardens, other members of the P.C.C. (I think that is Parish Church Council).  Those present represented outposts of the Cathedral as well as the Cathedral congregation itself.
All Saints' P.C.C. diners

Today was a bit easier.  We worked awhile this morning with Thandi on the long-term plans for the Social Development Office and then took it easy this afternoon.  I developed a sinus cold last Friday – which is mostly gone now.  However, Mary Jane is dealing with similar symptoms.  We decided it was time to cut into that Paw Paw (papaya) that Dalcy gave us Monday – so have enjoyed some of that today.  I think that on Saturday we will be sitting in on some of the ministry training led by Fr. Charles – not sure if this is with lay ministers or with those who are working toward ordination.