We spent four hours driving through Swaziland until we came to an unmarked dirt road. We turned up the hill and immediately began dancing over the bumps and rocks. The dirt road was filled with gullies from hard rain and hundreds of little bumps from former vehicles. The car would swing back and forth and create a dust storm behind us. The road would switch back and forth as it climbed the side of the mountain and went from one peak to another. Then came the surprise of another vehicle shooting down the hill in an almost uncontrollable manner. The fog of dust behind them would temporarily blind you and you would take a deep breath and hope you don’t go over the cliff.
We drove thirty minutes on the dirt roads until we saw a sign announcing the village of Ka-Phunga. (Swazi for smell, presumably the blood smell from the war with the Zulus) You could see some simple buildings. Then it struck me. Here in a remote area of Swaziland was a Korean vehicle and center built to introduce Buddhism to the tribes in the mountains. They had poured vast amounts of money into this community center and had staffed it with many people. It was as if the thought had never occurred to me that Buddhists would be attempting to spread their faith in such a place.
We continued the climb until we reached some areas that were familiar to me. I saw a home of an elderly man who I had prayed with over a year ago. The missionary noted that he is doing better. Memories flashed in my mind of the house, the people, the room and that special moment from the past.
We came closer to the home of Numsa Lukele and the hundreds of orphans who are victims of the HIV/Aids epidemic. Over 900 children in these six small villages are continuing without their parents. Unfortunately those child led homes are scattered over a vast and remote area of these mountains. It can be an additional 45 minute drive just to reach another village. The school in Ka-Phunga has a water well available only for the children attending that school, not for the community.
Water is a precious commodity in this remote place. Everyone must walk to the streams lower in the valleys to draw water for use at home. Several hours each day is taken by the task of gathering water. It is their way of life.
We turned off the dirt road onto a path with tire ruts from recent rains. We passed mud homes, roaming cattle, walking children and huge boulders. The path got smaller as we drove back into the remote mountain top near our destination. It switched back and forth over large rocks and muddy puddles. Then we reached the gate and turned into the corn field headed to Numsa’s home. The arduous journey was now over as we pulled into the yard of the Lukele home.
We were greeted by family members and the stately matriarch of the family. Numsa lovingly put her arms around Cathy and myself when we walked into her home. Her welcome was very warm. Unknown to us she had prepared a lunch for our arrival.
We sat, ate and discussed the ministry she is orchestrating among the orphans. 29 Gogos (grandmothers) are partnering with her to reach out and teach these orphans how to grow corn, prepare a meal, and run a home for their brothers and sisters. She has gotten permission from local tribal chiefs to plant a field of corn for the orphans in each village area. Each grandmother plants a vegetable garden to assist the children with food. They teach life skills and the truth of Jesus Christ to these lonely children.
My heart soared as the reality of this vision in the heart of Numsa became more clear. Harvest time was recent in the corn fields. Numsa took Cathy and me to see the harvested corn. The corn crib was full. I noticed a second crib for corn but it had only a third of the amount in Numsa’s crib. My heart sank when she told me this crib is from the children’s field. I asked why one was so full and the other is very short. The money was three weeks late to purchase the seed corn and the crop did not produce as much. Late, why? The ministry funneling the money to her group had been slow to process and send the money. Politics had clearly played a role. The crop would have to be subsidized by corn purchased to fill in the gaps.
We visited a small feeding center for orphans in the immediate area. Over 50 children come to get a meal once a day. Outside the gate two bulls charged and wrestled with one another. Their horns were locked and dust was flying. The local people hardly took note. It was amazing for us.
Cathy and I delivered a small gift and some money from a generous lady in Memphis to purchase 15 bags of corn to be used in November. It will take 25 bags each month for four months to fill in the gap of corn. She was very excited to see the funds come to start the process of securing additional corn. Her excitement was written all over her face.
Her little grandson was in the room with us and became a point of interest for Cathy. We both worked on getting him to smile. It took a while, but he finally came around. I wondered how long it takes to get the orphans to smile.
Thank you for sending us to Africa. Cathy flies to Cape Town while I return to the States to teach at a youth conference in Missouri. Pray for us as we are apart for two weeks on two continents. We know your prayers are vital to us and it shows in what God is doing. It’s a privilege to have you join with us to serve our Lord
Cathy and Danny Sartin
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Four decade veteran of youth ministry in churches, Youth For Christ and now is the Founder and Executive Director of Deeper Still Missions. Danny and his wife Cathy spend most of their time mentoring missionaries in Africa, Europe, Central America and North America. Future opportunities include South America and the Asia Pacific area.