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It’s a Team from Here to There
Assisting Harry and Echo are a team of Swazis, whose number one job is to translate from the difficult Siswati language to English and back again. They load and unload supplies for the bush, package medications in individual packets and bottles, control the crowds and help the North American team members understand the Swazi culture.
BIG SIPHO [+/-]
At 32 years, Big Sipho leads the translators. His duties include supervising the packing and repacking of the trailers, translating as Harry treats patients, tracking down patients in the bush who need surgery, and keeping the other translators joyful.
“I especially like talking to HIV patients,” Big Sipho said. “I tell them it’s better to die with Jesus than without Him. We are staying here just for temporary. We must all meet God someday, and then we will understand.”
Big Sipho has two children, one living. His little girl was poisoned by a traditional healer relative who did not like Sipho’s Christianity. However, Big Sipho expresses no bitterness, and every morning walks by his daughter’s grave on the way to his “prayer rock” overlooking a Swazi valley.
Big Sipho was raised by his mother and never knew his father. “He died. I only have a photo,” he explained, as he talked about his 3 sisters and 7 brothers.
About 7 years ago, Big Sipho “was watching all my brothers drinking and not working. I did not like that. They had no true joy, so I had to take Jesus into my heart.”
Big Sipho said a neighbor woman led him to Christ. “I had a dream that I must listen to this woman. She came often to my family to encourage us. The next Sunday she asked me what would happen if I died, like so many of my family…”
Big Sipho is “too happy to work for The Luke Commission. It’s a dream come true for me. Each and every clinic I get to tell people about God.”
PHUMZILE (lovingly called Pumi) also leads The Luke Commission Swazi team. The 35-year-old widow with 4 children, Pumi leaves her homestead and stays in Manzini at her brother’s home while she works for The Luke Commission. Her mother and other family members take care of her two teenage boys and two younger girls. She seldom sees her children, like many Swazis who work away from home.
Pumi strives to keep her children in school. Every parent in Swaziland must pay school fees for their children, and tuition costs increase in high school. Her fireman brother helps her, but The Luke Commission gives her a steady income when the VanderWals are in the country.
Pumi loves her job. She conducts HIV testing and counseling, cooks for all the translators on “restocking days,” and coordinates clinics on the telephone, switching from English to SiSwati in the blink of an eye. She pitches in wherever another hand (and heart) is needed.
“When I was little, I wanted to grow up and meet people. Now I get to know lots of other peoples,” Pumi said. “Maybe I can help them with their problems. I can share my experiences. God is my provider. I do not have a cent, but He takes care of everything.”
She continued: “The Luke Commission is serving God, and I get to be part of the team. This makes me happy. I talk to people at the clinics who do not realize Jesus is behind everything. They think they are strong, and then they come across a big problem, like AIDS in their bodies.”
SMALL SIPHO [+/-]
SMALL SIPHO calls little children “Smally.” He has two small children himself and recently married his sons’ mother. He still owes his new father-in-law 15 cows for his wife. Many young Swazi men do not marry but father children, because the bride’s family asks for the dowry first.
Small Sipho has been with The Luke Commission since its beginning, as have Big Sipho, Pumi, Themba Pharmacy, and Mduduzi. He quietly works in the eyeglass department day after day and sometimes night after night, tenderly helps dress orphans and other school children in new outfits and shoes, and gently touches the lives of those around him.
“The Luke Commission has changed my life,” Small Sipho said. “I’ve learned so many things. You have to care for other people, physically and spiritually.”
Before coming to The Luke Commission, Small Sipho worked in a factory that produces sweets (candy) and went to electrical school for 9 months. He can install electricity in homes, if he can find a job. Too often education in Swaziland does not mean a job will follow.
MDUDUZI (called predictably DUZI) loves being in The Luke Commission because “it’s here in Swaziland with my own people. So many get healed and get help.”
“Second,” Duzi continued, “I have a lot of time to tell people about God. It’s a challenge.”
The 2nd oldest of 6 children, 27-year-old Duzi has found purpose and excitement with The Luke Commission. Duzi can do any of the translator’s jobs, as needed, often switching jobs several times in an hour.
Duzi addresses the crowds of 500 to 1,000, translating for the Harry and Echo as they organize the clinics and place everyone in lines for treatment. At the end of clinic days, he helps Echo figure out who in the same family have accepted Christ, who needs a SiSwati Bible, or who can read English well enough to receive an English Bible.
Ask Duzi what are his favorite TLC jobs, and he answered: “I like to write triage cards best, so I can meet new people and listen to their medical problems.”
Duzi has not always been so motivated. He turned to Christ in 1998. “My mom was praying I would stop doing the wrong things I was doing. It came to my heart that I just had to accept Jesus.”
He finished high school in 2000, did nothing but hang around home in 2001, started and quit electrical school in 2002, took temporary jobs when he could find them for two years, and then went back to electrical school to finish the one-year-course.
“But when the VanderWals are here, I like to work for The Luke Commission,” Duzi added.
It’s that simple, and we know what he means!
Life with The Luke Commission is “great,” said a young woman who calls herself GUGU and won’t tell her birth name. “This job teaches me how to talk to people, how to be patient.”
Gugu is especially gentle with the older patients who come to the mobile clinics out in the bush. “Even if a patient is harsh, I should be polite and make him or her see we are serving God,” she noted.
Gugu was raised primarily by her grandmother who paid her school fees. “I learned English is school, but I did not like speaking it. Me teacher used to beat me when I would not talk in English. Now my job is speaking English, back and forth, back and forth.”
Today Gugu translates prayers made on everyone’s behalf before seeing the doctors. She fits in wherever needed at a particular moment with enthusiasm and determination to complete tasks quickly.
Gugu’s mother died in a car accident in 1997. “My father left when I was little. He can’t do anything for me, because he has another family,” Gugu explained.
Now 25 years, Gugu accepted Jesus as Savior in 2005. “I heard a pastor preaching, and he made me nervous,” she remembered. She recently received her first Bible from The Luke Commission, a SiSwati Bible which she holds dear.