It's marvelous to watch God pair The Luke Commission team with other organizations and people to enhance and expand the medical missions work in Swaziland. Here are some evidences:
One recent day Echo was driving around Manzini looking for tires to replace the flat tires that require daily changes on Swazi back roads. Passing a large truck, she noticed a small sign which read "Operation Christmas Child."
"I had 25 things on my mind, but Jesus nudged me to follow that truck," Echo laughs. She met Pastor Zakes, a Swazi Christian who had been entrusted with 100,000 shoeboxes packed with toys, clothes, and Jesus stories for poor children in Swaziland. Every year Samaritan's Purse, a renowned ministry, sends millions of these shoeboxes worldwide donated by American families.
However, Pastor Zakes faced several obstacles, he told Echo. He had a place to store thousands of stuffed shoeboxes, vehicles to transport the gifts, and money to buy petrol. Enter The Luke Commission and God's perfect timing.
"I walked around on cloud nine, when all this came together; my feet didn't touch the floor," said Echo. "We had made the decision to stay focused on medicine and eyeglasses. Then God lays this at our doorstep. It all fits."
This Monday and Tuesday The Luke Commission delivered hundreds of shoe boxes full of gifts to six schools and five carepoints (where orphans are fed once a day).
Pastor Zakes explained to Samaritan's Purse: "These people are reaching people we cannot reach." Pastor Zakes, in turn, has become a cultural advisor to Harry and Echo.
One Luke Commission 40-foot container is now full of Christmas Child boxes which also will be given at future bush medical clinics.
The Luke Commission is networking more and more with other missionaries and the Swazis themselves. Raleigh-Fitkin Memorial Hospital, a mere half mile from the VanderWals home, has asked Harry and Echo to be on staff as "outreach medical personnel." Critically-ill patients brought into the hospital from the bush clinics should be treated faster, and the VanderWals should have more input into the treatment patients receive.
Nurse Kathy Campbell of Sandpoint, Idaho, and Bob and Sabrina Ludka of Athol, Idaho, just returned from serving with the TLC team for two weeks.
"I couldn't believe how smoothly the clinics ran," said Kathy. "People lined up and followed orders so they could be treated. Even with all the AIDS and diseases and sick babies, the peacefulness of the people touched me. I was busier than I've ever been, but it wasn't overwhelming. I definitely felt God working."
To her medical cohorts back home, Kathy noted: "It wasn't like anything you'd ever do in the States. You just treat people hour after hour, and there's no charting or paperwork. I lost track of time and even what day it was. I'd do it again in a heartbeat."
Bob Ludka said, "We've been a financial supporter of The Luke Commission for a year and have received so much joy. Now that we've been to Swaziland and watched firsthand what God is doing, we realize our gifts and the financial gifts of others are multiplied over and over again. God takes $1 and stretches it to $10 there. It's one miracle after another to watch."
Sabrina thinks about her Swaziland trip every day, she said, and hopes her family and friends pursue short-term missions, too. "In our weakness, we find God's strength," Sabrina explained. "I experienced that and have been blessed by the Swazi people."
For those who have been praying, the 40-foot container has been released from Swazi customs and moved onto the guarded compound by the VanderWals. The container had to be completely unloaded and set on the ground with a forklift because no crane could be found in all of Swaziland. (The crane used for the first two TLC containers is out of the country and not scheduled for return until May 1).
"Even though it was hot, hard work, unloading the container was exciting," Harry said. While stacking and sorting the contents, we thought about all the people in the United States and Canada who had donated their best for the Swazis."
"I loved seeing all the different handwritings on the boxes," Echo added.
A tax-exempt status has been granted, so SiSwati Bibles can be purchased in South Africa. Amazingly, 3.000 New Testaments and 5,000 complete Bibles have been set aside at a reduced rate for The Luke Commission. Thank you, Jesus.
What are the boys up to these days? Zeb said of one clinic where 598 patients were treated medically and another 289 received new eyeglasses: "It was crazy out there today. One little kid, about as tall as my mom's knee and with a head that looked like an upside down triangle, followed us around all day. He said we looked funny," Zeb laughed.
One translator noted that Jacob was "doing his homework, I mean his carwork" late one night on the way home from a clinic 3 hours from Manzini.
Three black mamba babies were found in the VanderWal's yard. Pray for the boy's safety. A man was stabbed in the back just outside the VanderWal's barbed-wire fence. Harry and Echo taught the Swazis gathered around how to stop bleeding. "Otherwise the people would have just let him lie there and bleed, not knowing what to do," said Harry.
All in a day in God's vineyard... here and abroad. We're grateful to each one of you.
Janet Tuinstra for Harry and Echo, Grace and the boys.