The Luke Commission's focus shifts back to Swaziland, as the VanderWals returned last month to the fields "white unto harvest."
"Our luggage arrived without one thing being compromised," exclaimed Echo. "All the boxes we packed and taped were opened and re-taped with custom tags from every country we were in, but nothing is missing."
That is 650 pounds and 12 carry-on bags pressed down and running over with praise.
Scheduling and preparation for 2009 mobile medical clinics is underway. Swazi leaders now consider the VanderWals old friends and co-laborers. Here are some of their comments and observations.
Dr. Getahun Tsegaye, head of pediatric department of Raleigh-Fitkin Memorial Hospital in Manzini, thanked Harry and Echo for "helping the poor without tiredness and with full commitment to their tasks, treating patients on the spot, and referring and transporting very ill patients, even during the night without fail..."
Dr. Getahun continued: "I have witnessed their strong commitment to treating patients, spreading in Gospel to the people, and collaborating with other medical personnel when needed, to make it possible to offer medical services to the unreachable rural areas."
The hospital's chief medical officer Dr. R.A. Bitchong said, "I want to acknowledge the important role The Luke Commission is playing in Swaziland, not only in health service delivery but also in making Christ known to many Swazis."
"Harry and Echo are very passionate about their work and always look for innovative ways to reach out to people, especially to those in our country who have difficulty accessing medical services," noted Dr. Bitchong.
The generation from ages 20 to 40 is desperately struggling with AIDS. Identifying who has the HIV virus, determining their CD4 counts, showing compassion and love, and referring the patients to established ARV clinics for continuity of care is crucial in prolonging precious lives.
The VanderWals are transporting blood samples to Raleigh-Fitkin Memorial Hospital for testing. The laboratory supervisor Maurice Musa Magagula said, "The presence of The Luke Commission is a blessing to the entire nation... the Commission has come at the right time when Swaziland is desperate in need..."
A pharmacy employee Michelle Nkonyane recently wrote, "On behalf of the people of Swaziland and the hospital where I work, I would like to thank you for taking care of our people. When I look at you, I see the smile, love and care. God has sent you to us at the right time."
A Magomba community coordinator Bheki Gamedze has watched The Luke Commission since 2005, when free medical services were given to more than 300 people in one day who normally have no health care. "They must travel 21 km to the nearest medical aid, if they have money to pay."
In 2008 more than 500 Swazis lined up at the Magomba TLC clinic. "We appreciate the spiritual uplift to those who are sick, destitute, and orphaned," Bheki said. "We are sorrowful that our Luke Commission friends visit us only once a year."
Mary Nxumalo, head teacher at Nkamanzi Primary School, said of TLC clinic in June, 2008: "Thank you, Doctors. We were in need of clothings. You came with beautiful ones. Some of our kids had never tasted how shoes were worn, but you came with them.
"Our people were given pure medications which healed them. Some even came the following day, thinking that the doctors were available, but were told to go back because the doctors had left. Please come back, soon," pleaded Mary.
Samson Mamba, principal at Timphisini Primary School, said of The Luke Commission's visit to his community: "Ailing people received medicine free of charge. Those who had eye problems were given spectacles. Many received Bibles who have never had a Bible before.
The grateful teacher continued, "The Jesus Christ film was enjoyed by parent and pupils. The film made it easier to understand the Gospel."
Oh, and a common question from all Swazi bush leaders: "When can you come back?"
"Drought, poverty, and sickness make life so difficult for most people here," said Church of the Nazarene pastors Samuel and Pauline Dlamini. "You met the most important need in their lives - medications for various ailments.
(Suffered for 7 years with this wound)
"No one expected you to do home visits, so your visit to one homestead surprised everyone," Revs. Dlamini noted. "The prayers and counseling your team gave were a great help, because healing starts in the mind. Now the people call you all 'our doctors.'"
"Those who received eyeglasses are proud, because they can read the Bible for themselves. The people are now more cooperative when preaching to them. They want to associate with the church. We will remember you."
Firsthand stories from remote areas of Swaziland are multiplied time and time again. The Evusweni community expressed their thankfulness:
"Most of the people you gave free medications to are very poor, and nobody takes care of them. Please pass on our appreciation to your children and the rest of the team for the sacrifice they make."
David Ngcamphalala, a Manzini policeman whose home area in southeastern Swaziland is the poorest of the poor, said: "May God lengthen your lives because you lengthen other's lives. May the Lord fill your pockets, for you lose much to help the needy."
As the Lord fills our pockets, even in times when our pockets are shallow or full of holes, the headman on behalf of Chief and President of the Senate Gelane Simelane-Zwane noted:
"Thank you to all the American people back at your home who assist with donations. Your dedication to help hundreds and hundreds of people until late hours shows your love to each person."
"We, as the Swazi nation, are much honored by your assistance, although we pay nothing. Dr. Harry and Echo work without giving up."
Speaking to each of us, headman Gedion Mpini Dlamini concluded: "May you please pass on our sincere thanks to The Luke Commission Compassionate Medicine staff everywhere, to all those who contribute so you can work in Africa."
Jesus said in Luke 6:38, "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap."
So whatever has been poured into our laps, may we join God in His work in Swaziland.
Expectantly in Jesus,
Janet Tuinstra for The Luke Commission team