Lightheartedness has its place even in the bush clinics of Eswatini. This update will emphasize the simple delights and challenges of serving others and Jesus.
The VanderWal boys, three 6-year-olds and one 3-year-old, watch and often assist their parents and The Luke Commission. But they also play with snakes and rocks and sticks, get dirty from head to toe, make friends with the Liswati children, and talk about their lives on the other side of the world.
"We pray every day before we leave for a clinic," said Zeb. "We all get together in a circle and sing and pray. I want a turn every time, but sometimes I just listen."
Jacob noted rather philosophically, "Adults like big prayers; kids like small ones."
What is one of those small prayers? "Thanks for letting us be missionaries," Jacob said. "Please help all the sick people we'll see today. Make them feel better, Jesus."
"We see a lot of really hurt people, so many hurt legs," said Luke, who is learning to hand his mother clean instruments.
"The clinics are too late," said 3-year-old Zion, whose Liswati name Mandla means "strong man."
Indeed, often the clinics extend into the night. "The more remote the clinics, the more the need," observed Echo.
Sometimes when hundreds are waiting, Harry said, "They'll ask us if everyone will be helped. We assure them we will stay until the last person has been treated."
Although the temperatures hover around 100 degrees every day, the boys do not complain about the heat. But they do miss sledding, when their cousins and friends in North American are playing in several feet of snow.
"But we can summer sled," said Zeb. The boys flatten the medication cartons and slide down the big hill in front of their home in Manzini. "Hour after hour after hour," laughed their dad.
One afternoon the boys found a scorpion in the garage. A battle ensued, but eventually the boys won and carried the outnumbered critter around for two hours. Luke told his mom: "We can't let it bite us, because we would die in two seconds, and that's not long enough to get to the hospital."
The youngsters have captured a big toad, a colorful snake, a pretty praying mantis, a large blue lizard, and a huge transparent moth. They turn them loose at bedtime, but not before a lot of analysis and speculation.
At one clinic, the boys discovered huge rocks. They Emaswati gasped as all four boys scrambled up the rocks, higher and higher, but laughed for several moments when the boys reached the top and waved to all those watching below.
One day Echo was preoccupied with making sure dozens of new believers received SiSwati Bibles. Jacob ran up, admonishing her: "I can't believe you sent Zeb away. He wanted to help."
"More and more our boys are getting their arms around what we're doing here," said Echo, "and they do understand why we're here."
Zeb asked one day: "Mommy, have the translators all asked Jesus into their hearts to be their Savior?"
One of the boys' favorite jobs is putting new clothes and shoes on children whose parents have died from AIDS related diseases. "It's a tender sight." noted Harry.
Getting clean after a long day in the bush has become somewhat complicated this trip. The running water to the Manzini house only trickles, due to problems with the underground pipes. The old air conditioner that cooled one room has bit the dust, literally. The element on the hot water heater stopped working.
But none of this bothers the boys, nor does it concern Harry and Echo much. When the electricity is turned off... now that does crimp The Luke Commission's style a little. Load shedding is increasing in Eswatini as South Africa builds the 2010 World Cup complex. When this happens, the Emaswati do without.
"It's tough not to have fans to combat the heat, but oh well," Harry admitted.
"We see God do so many dramatic things," Echo said, "We know he'll take care of our basic needs, too."
Until next time, may all us Luke Commission team members on this side of the world, remember what Jesus said in Matthew 18:16 - "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God."
One half of Eswatini's population is under 15 years. Please pray they'll come to Jesus.
Janet Tuinstra for Harry and Echo in Africa