Thursday, 6 August 2015

gettingUP when you're knocked down 

- by Ettienne Lombard

It is great to be part of the process when lives are being changed in a positive way; when those who have been knocked down by life-changing events, decide to getUP and move forward with their lives. This is happening in Swaziland. People are finding their feet on the stable, unshakable Foundation. Young people are sharing Good News with their friends. Dreams of a brighter, better future are spoken without fear of being ridiculed of laughed at. CarePoints (CP) are not merely feeding schemes to sustain survival - they are turning into Life-giving nourishment points enabling lives to move from survival towards a point of dreaming of success and thriving in life!

I have been fortunate to be involved with the ministry-team of Adventures in Missions (AIM) and Children’s Hope Chest (CHC) for the last three years. My involvement is but a slice of the ministry pie delivered here. My involvement started with the development of the Ngesikhatsi (gɛ-si- kæt-si) Grief Support Course and currently involves facilitating the development of the Discipleship Life-skills Curriculum ‘Sisekelo Setfu’, which means ‘Our Foundation’. 

Over the past 6 months Bheki Motsa (Discipleship Coordinator) and I have been at work to measure the impact of the Ngesikhatsi Grief Support Course and gather feedback from facilitators who present the course at the CP’s as well as from those children who attend the course. There are some truly inspirational stories of Godly restoration of broken hearts and young people who standUP after life and sad situations knocked them down.

Back in the nineteen-hundred-and-nineties, (an angry) Alanis Morisette made the world aware of the anguish one can suffer when painful life-events strike.  While some of her songs dripped of anger and resentment, many of them were actually quite accurate in their description of the thoughts and feelings that accompany loss-events. In one of her songs though, she hits the bulls-eye on the question ‘how do we get through pain’. She talks about wanting a ‘softer, more comforting place’ when she thinks of her pain; I briefly quote form the song:
“Every time I’m at a loss I feel I’m bolted from difficulty.
My tendency to want to hide away [from the pain] feels easier. 
My urgency to dream of softer places feels understandable; picturing another place more comforting to go.
I’m confused I think there must be easier ways… [to get through pain]
I could just walk away and hide my head in the sand.”

Young people in Swaziland have many and varied loss-experiences at the CarePoints where AIM/CHC staff are operating. Many of those interviewed as part of our evaluations have indicated, “It is easier not to feel anything and forget about the pain, than to face the pain.” [I could just walk away and hide my head in the sand] Living in this denial often creates a continual numbness of the heart, which eventually leads to the wellspring of life to dryUP. Dreams evaporate; personal value plummet; the fog of hopelessness obscures the life giving light of hope. We hardenUP and life passes us by.

The Ngesikhatsi course is not a ‘silver bullet’. It’s not the only way to heal hurting hearts. It is however a puzzle-piece which brings Son-light into their lives and brightenUP their belief and view of the future. As time moves on (which can be translated in siSwati as “ngesikhatisi”) the fogginess clouding young minds is clearingUP. Son-light brings growth and life. It is in this new life, that Hope is encountered. And we are privileged to be witnesses of this in the lives of those who have attended the Ngesikhatsi course. 

Through the Ngesikhatsi course, we are trying to create an environment where kids don’t have to hide because of their pain, shouldn’t feel valueless, unimportant or insignificant because they have no one left in their lives to love them. Through the community created by the small group sessions, young people are rediscovering their worth to God, reviving their support for one another, and liftingUP their gaze, allowing Hope to assure them of their future.   

The chorus, of Alanis Morisette’s song says:
“The only way out [of pain] is through [the pain], the faster we’re in the better. There’s no quick-fix way.
The only way out is through; the only way we’ll feel better, ultimately; the only way out is through.”

To faceUP pain is hard. To face the emotions related to this pain is even harder. But the hardest thing to do, is to find the courageous willingness to wade through that pain in order to grow through the experience, become more resilient, and live a life that truly testifies: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” - Philippians 3:14
Here is one life that has been strengthened by God and found ‘new life’ after attending the course.  All the children in the stories we’ll be sharing have agreed that we can tell their story. They are proud of the growth in their lives and want people to know how God has impacted their lives. We look forward to sharing more of these in the upcoming blogs. Bongiwe and Bheki write the following:

(Picture: Bongiwe (facilitator at Mphaka Care Point) Innocent and Bheki)
Innocent Dlamini (16 years) lost his dad at a tender age. He and his brothers have been raised by their mom who is not working, and she is an alcoholic. Everybody in the family has been growing up doing whatever they please because the mother hasn’t been responsible at all and she is always drunk. 
Innocent and his brothers started stealing and selling stolen items to make a living. Due to his tiny stature, his older brothers have been using him to sneak into houses through windows to steal. Even at the care point he would steal whatever valuable thing he comes across so he can sell. 
After attending Ngesikhatsi Course this is what Innocent said: “I didn’t understand why my father died while we were so young and my mother didn’t care for us. This has been so painful in my life so I started doing all the bad things with my brothers and friends. However, the more I did those things, the more my life felt hopeless and meaningless. I’ve been in a lot of fights and have been stabbed a few times hence I got to a point where I really hated my life. I didn’t want to live. 
However, after attending Ngesikhatsi, which I didn’t know at first why I was chosen, I began to feel loved. It’s like a light flashed into my life which made me understand: God has always been there for me and He has good plans for my life! I started to feel hope being restored in my life and it became so real that even now I know Jesus loves me and there is hope for my future in Him. His presence made a difference in my life and now my life is better and I have stopped stealing, and I’m associating with good friends.” 

Children no longer have to face their painful journeys alone - with the support of friends, love of the facilitators at the CP’s and discovery of the value they have in their relationship with Jesus, kids are moving out of the grip of pain and growing through it. Moreover, they are showing signs of life; spring-like buds and blooms of fresh fragrance flowers that carry the scent of victory of death - just the way Jesus promised!