Saturday, August 22, 2009

Back From Africa

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I hardly know where to begin this post... When you start a journey like the one I just took, you can't help but have expectations, whether you know it or not... Somewhere deep inside your heart, God likes to uncover hidden agendas, ungodly attitudes and places where you've put Him in a box...

Thankfully, God had put Ian, the President of Heart for Africa, in our path before we left, and He used him to prepare my heart for what was to come...

I asked Ian, "What attitude do you have in your heart when you travel to Africa? Do you just go with a heart to love them? Encourage them? What are you thinking?"

He barely even had to think before he answered... "Obedience...just obedience." He encouraged me to always be present, listening for God's guidance, as we went through the trip.

The trip turned out to be nothing like I expected and yet it was abundantly more than I dreamed... Over the next week or two, I'll tell you my stories, share some photos and tell you the lessons I learned, but I want to tell you a little about Swaziland first, I think it's important to have some context about why it is a nation in desperate need of the hands and feet of God...the church. Be aware, this is not a pretty, feel good picture I'm about to paint...

Swaziland has a population of just over 900,000 people, it has a NEGATIVE population growth rate... It is a dying country, AIDS is killing it's people at a breathtaking rate... When I went in 2007, the incidence of AIDS was 42%, now different sources estimate it to be between 42-46% (it is the highest in the world)... Essentially that means that 1 out of every 2 people you meet is HIV positive.

There are 120,000 orphans in the country, that's over 10% of their population, and it's predicted that by then end of 2010, there will 200,000 orphans, 20% of their total population.

And think about this.... It is predicted that by the year 2020, there will essentially be no adults left living in the country... Can you imagine a country filled with children, 18 and younger?

Unemployment is 40%+, 70% live below the poverty line, and the average life span is 29 years... Are you getting the desperateness of their situation?

Families live on garbage dumps... Children, young children, are left alone to care for themselves and their younger siblings (it is estimated that there are over 5000 orphan headed households in the country...based on some things I learned, I think that is probably just the tip of the iceberg) They are often the victims of rape and abuse and so they end up HIV positive too... They have no one to feed them, protect them, care for them, love them... Their life is a fight to survive...

I met people who do their best to reach out to the orphan headed households in their community, but with 70% living below the poverty line, many of these people barely have enough food to put on their own tables... Every where I turned, the silent, but screaming need was simply for food... (Aren't you glad you read my blog today?!)

I have fallen in love with this country...

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It is stunningly beautiful and most of the people you meet are gracious, humble and friendly. I was so happy to come home and see my family, but I really wished my family would just come to Swaziland, 10 days just wasn't long enough...

And let me just say this, even though my heart broke over the things I saw and experienced, I was blessed beyond my wildest imagination and I have never laughed so hard... One of the couples on our trip was Ron and Kerri Pomarolli, they are HYSTERICAL Christian comedians and they kept us laughing, but let me tell you, that girl could pray too!

It's good to be home, but my heart will never be the same... I look forward to telling you more.

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4 comments:

Lori said...

Wow. Sharla, that was so sobering. It's hard to imagine such a place as we sit here in our cushy American homes.

Definitely heart-stirring. Thanks for sharing.

Cindy M said...

It's so amazing to me to read blog posts like this and see into the heart of the writer...a kindred spirit. My soul yearns to live a life of radical faith in which we change this world. I am captivated, and I can't wait to read more.

sierrasmom said...

I have no doubt Sharla that in the coming weeks you will change our hearts as well, through your amazing pictures and God led words. I am glad yuo are home safe.
Kathie

Your TV said...

So glad you are back! Can't wait to hear more!
Hugs,
April