Day 4: Lessons from Madonsa

Today was a long, full day. We started the day with a trip to the Global Leadership Academy to participate in morning worship and devotion. Side note: Swazi worship is hands-down the best music you will ever hear. As soon as I get home and WiFi is cooperating, I will upload a recording from this morning. We did a little bit of shopping from the Cup Closet, the name given to the room where the Children’s Cup job training class’s wares (handmade necklaces, bracelets, earrings, Timbali Crafts, etc.) are kept. Lunch was at Baker’s Corner, a charming restaurant with delicious chicken curry, Appletizer and what has been dubbed ‘the Creamy Jesus’…an éclair done in truly Swazi style with the best cream-to-pastry ratio. From there, we made it out to our second Care Pointe at Madonsa. Several noteworthy things I saw:

  1. A child wearing a “Help Haiti” t shirt, so that was pretty cool.
  2. Little Swazi boys with an apparent crush—I was handing out hugs and ni uyaku tsadza’s and kisses on cheeks and foreheads as our team was saying our goodbyes. Two or three of the older boys (maybe 8-11 years old) came up to hug me and receive their kisses as many as 4 or 5 times. After the second turn for each, I said something like, “You again? Oh so much love.” And the boys would giggle, let two or three little ones say goodbye before jumping in line for their turn. Too cute.
  3. One girl whose name I cannot remember, much less spell, came up to me to see if I knew a song to sing to the children and I did not know the song, but I discovered an error in the English being taught in the local school: This sweet child, who by my best estimate was problem in the eighth grade, called me Mommy. The Siswati word make (pronounced mah-gay) is a generic, formal term used when speaking to a woman older than yourself, similarly Mrs. or Miss, but the word is also used when addressing your mother. This beautiful young lady came up to me and said, “Mommy, can you sing dis:” before rattling off a beautiful little melody. She was disappointed to see I didn’t know the song, and I didn’t have the heart to correct her.
  4. Later, I had picked up a crying child who had fallen in the dusty dirt and held him on my hip as he sniffled on my shoulder. I rubbed his back and sang quietly until he had recovered enough to remove my sunglasses and perch them upon his own nose. My fast friend was standing nearby and listening to my song, and she noticed that the dust from the small boy’s pants and shoes had transferred to my black dress. She was so concerned. She came up to me again and said, “Mother, may I wash your dress?” (which is how I knew I didn’t mishear her previous, Mommy) Her hands were still wet from washing before her meal, and I knew the dirt would simply transfer to her hands and therefore her mouth as she ate. I said, “No, sweet baby. I like the dirt. It shows I am having fun.” A quizzical look collided with one of pure joy as she realized I meant I was enjoying her company. I don’t remember the last time I saw an eighth grader so happy.
  5. As I hugged and kissed three early teenage girls (who followed suit in calling me Mommy) goodbye, the same girl said, “Mommy thank you so much for coming to our Care Pointe. Thank you for spending time with me.” As she went in for her hug, I strung together the little Siswati I know: Ah Sisi, ciabonga kakhulu. Ngiyajabula kukubonga. Oh sister, thank you so much. I am so glad to have met you. And I really did mean it, but the other girls around me started to laugh hysterically. When I questioned their laughter, an older girl nearby said they shouldn’t be laughing because it was not kind, but they were impressed with how well I speak Siswati. Total score. Siswati is not an easy language to learn.
  6. I met one sweet baby, Zethu, that greeted me at the gate and quickly assumed her position as my shadow. Every once in a while she would wander off, but come right back and slip her hand into mine. For a while, we sat on the porch of the school building. Zethu sat on my lap and sang the Teddy Bear song:

My teddy bear, my teddy bear, I love my teddy bear

My teddy bear, my teddy bear, I love my teddy bear

I polish your shoes! I love my teddy bear!

Some of it was singing—most of it was shouting. She would bend over and polish my dusty Toms before wrapping her arms around me and shouting “I LOVE my teddy bear!” It was so precious. At the end of the day, I couldn’t find her for the longest time and when I finally did, she had these huge crocodile tears in her eyes. I had to peel her off of me to leave—I was the last one in the khombi. As we pulled away and started down the mountain, she and a few other kiddos chased us for a solid half mile before standing and waving until we could no longer see them from the backseat of the khombi.

  1. I was tasked with handing bowls of food to children in the queue after they washed their hands, which is such a blessing. Something I noticed: of the fifty or sixty kids to whom I handed bowls, a grand total of 5 or 6 thanked me. As the first few breezed through the food line, I didn’t think much of it. These were preschoolers, after all, and at home my 3 year old brother still needs reminding to say please and thank you. No big deal. But as the line slowly reach older ages (read: kids who should know better), still no thank you’s. I remember thinking to myself, this is something we should be teaching them. I heard them say thank you for balloons and sweeties, so I know they can say it…so why aren’t they? The sweet girl in the purple shirt later said, “Mommy, I knew you would dish us dinner. I knew it.”
  2. And that’s when it hit me: they aren’t saying thank you because this is an expectation. The intuitive nature of children astounds me: they recognize us as caregivers, life-bringers, spirit-providers. Sweeties and balloon animals and kind words and affection are not expectations, which is why they go out of their way to say thank you or ciabonga. But providing for basic needs—they recognize that as our very purpose and they are totally right. It is my job and sole purpose to bring life to each and every child I encounter—physical life through food, spiritual life through my acts and teaching, emotional life through hugs, kisses and tears, social life through games and dancing and song. When our sweet babies walk up to the food queue they hold out their hands, expectant, waiting for the red bowl of fortified rice and beans I have in my own because they I know I can. I give what they are asking, and they go on. So I guess what I’m trying to say is this: today, I learned yet another lesson about praying expectantly. I first heard that term last summer while in Swaziland, and it seemed like a terrible concept. Who am I as a sinner that I should ask the Creator of the universe for what I want or need? I pray almost exclusively for God’s Will in the hopes it will coincide with my own. To sum up what the lovely Prince family told us about this breed of prayer: it is commonly known as ‘ye of little faith.’ After all, I serve the one true God, creator of heavens and of earth, the beginning and end of everything. How can I as a believer pray with good intentions and in love, in anyway less than expectantly? Philippians 4:6-7 speaks to this: “do not worry or be anxious about anything, but in all things, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to the Lord. And the peace of the Lord, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” We know that God is in us, in this world, in our lives. His hand is on everything; we know that anything is possible that will prosper us (Jer. 29:11) and that will bring glory to God, so why don’t we pray like it? Just as my sweet Madonsa babies expect a red bowl of rice and beans, fortified with vitamins and protein and prepared with love, that could not hurt them, only make them feel full and increase health, we should expect provision, blessings and protection from our God. He promised. It’s his job, after all.

For the record, I would pick expectation of being Mommy over thank you’s any day.

 

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