Eighty Luke Commission leaders came to Christmas dinner at the VanderWal home in Eswatini last week. It was a gathering of good food and good company, but more importantly, of good 2018 memories.

“Please make yourself at home. Our home is your home,” welcomed Harry, Executive Director.

In a season of gratitude, it’s a season of celebration for the birth of Jesus, a season of personal blessings, and a season of speaking aloud what “my God has done.”

We share some jewels of gratefulness from the leaders now, along with some of the reactions of the listeners.

“I thank you for this dinner, for the free garage sale last month, and for the life of my wife, who almost died after our baby was born this year. TLC came to her rescue.” (clapping)

“This has been a difficult year for me. My father and aunt were sick. My mother lost her job taking care of my father. But The Luke Commission stayed with me through these hard times. I also am thankful that all the team has been kept safe on the roads, while we travel all over Eswatini.” (Yes, thank you, God.)

“Fourteen years ago, I got juvenile diabetes. This year The Luke Commission got me a pump to wear on the side of my body to give me insulin. I no longer have to give myself shots.” (hand fists in the air)

“I’m grateful that when my father was sick, an opportunity was created for him to accept Jesus. He did, and although he died, he lives.” (shouts of praise)

“Because we are family, I trust I can share this. Earlier in the year, my wife was pregnant, but we lost our baby. It was a tough, hard time. Sometimes when you are a man, you lose hope. But I’m here to tell you, that Sibu Jr. is coming soon.” (Laughter, clap-clap)

“I am thankful I am still alive. Many people my age have passed away, but I am still here–not because I am wise or can do many things, but by the grace of God.” (He is 27 years old)

“I’m grateful to be part of such a lovely family and that I was able to graduate as a nurse this year.” (clap)

“I thank God for such a wonderful job and having opportunities I never thought I would have. At the end of every day, I can feel victory, even when difficulties come during the day. I appreciate sitting face-to-face with the executive director who has taught me so much.” (laughter)

“I thank the whole medical team. They have been an inspiration to me.” (As Simon spoke, Fletcher who was the doctor-on-call telephoned him. “My boss is calling,” Simon told the crowd. “Answer him,” laughed Echo, Executive Director. Fletcher was put on speaker phone. When he heard all the merriment, he found a way to join the party a few minutes later.)

“I had a 17-year problem with my father. With The Luke Commission’s help, we have been brought together again. I love the team spirit here.” (Her voice was so very quiet, but her words were solid.)

“I’m grateful God has kept me alive this year. TLC has played a big role in my life, being a team but more a family.” (He spoke in SiSwati as some staff members chose to when speaking their hearts. Other team members translated.)

“God is still with me. I became a father for the first time this year. You all are an inspiration to me.” (hoot for fatherhood)

“Some people say I am too small and too young to seek help for patients at their homesteads. But I do, and Harry is my assistant.” (laughter and more laughter)

“You showed me love by letting so many of us go to Mandla’s father’s funeral.” (Echo commended this staff member for helping anxious, ill patients at the gate.)

“I’m so grateful to be part of such a big family. I have preached the Gospel at TOB not because I am good or have lots of faith, but because when we kneel before God, He lets us do something we never thought we could do.” (amens, expressed all around)

“I remember sitting here last Christmas. There are so many more leaders here this year.” (clapping)

“The team and God helped my daughter who came sick. I am grateful.”

“I can’t express all my heart wants to let out. When I found a job at The Luke Commission, I found my rightful place and now call it my home. You helped me send my son to school, and in 2019 he will start working as a teacher.” (She quoted Psalm 23, while the team clapped.)

“When I came here, I was in the dark. You hired me, and now I am a son of TLC.  I thank God. For a person who did not school that much, I can use a pen and pencil now, and my English is improving.” (high-fives)

“You keep me strong. Now to speak in front of my bosses? I never thought I’d have this chance to walk near my boss.”

Each national staff member spoke his or her heart. Many mentioned that they were glad “to still be alive, grateful for life.” 

“You took me to Global Leadership Summit, gave me glasses to see better, and are trying to teach me English, even while I work everyday.”

“I’m so grateful TLC gave me a job when I had none. My mother left me when I was 7-years-old. Through the teachings here, I have forgiven my mom after such a long time.”

“I came to TLC when I was 17 years old. Later, I was a very naughty girl and ran away with my boyfriend. I thank God for Echo. At first I could not face her. But she has forgiven me.” (laughter. She is short, and one team member commented while she spoke, “Could you stand up so we can see you?” more laughter)

“Finally, I have graduated in nursing this year. But TLC has taught me what being a nurse really means. I am also grateful that my brother got married. I don’t like to cook, and now I don’t have to.”

“Not many organizations let you sit with your colleagues and dine. We have such great leaders.”

“A saying we use about HIV is that ‘if you are infected, you are affected’. My only brother died two years ago. I could not have gone through this cloud without TLC, without all the counseling and gifts you gave me and my family,”

“My family has had an 8-year challenge since my father died, which TLC helped us solve this year. I am so grateful, and for my baby son.”

“Being at TLC has taught me many things. It’s not how many degrees or the knowledge a person has that is most important. It’s our character.” (clapping for the doctor)

“I do not know why God has let me be part of this vision. We should not try to control it, but just let the Father take care of it. I am really alive here.”

“I am new here, but I have grown spiritually and emotionally. I looked around and thought ‘These people seem like they are all from one mother’. Now I think I’m from that one mother, too.”

“I never expected to be part of an organization with such determination and perseverance. I always have wanted to serve, but never thought God would put me where I’m so compatible. It doesn’t matter how hard the work or how long the day. It’s the faces of those we are helping that speak to us. My father (who has worked for an international NGO for many years) says. ‘TLC is one of a kind’.”

“My heart turned to stone when my mother and grandmother died this year. But with TLC training, my heart is now flexible. And I’m grateful my house is almost completed.”

“My wife, last born child, and I were in a serious car accident recently. We are grateful to be alive, and TLC helped us be fast healed.”

“I couldn’t see, but now I can see. My dad and I were apart for 15 years. Now we are building a relationship. TLC brings out the best in me.” (He received a 2nd cornea transplant this year through TLC)

“Most of you know the type of person I was when I joined TLC. But management has walked with me through my difficulties. This is a new life to me.”

“Washing my eye (cataract surgery) gave me back my sight. Thank you.”

“Thank you for growing my leadership. I no longer tell my (kitchen) team what to do, but I ask them what they’d like to do.” (yes!)

“Every day I learn something new and so something I have not done. I’m thankful for the unity between departments.” (He’s a nurse.)

“I came here to enjoy the Christmas lights and the music. This has not been a good year. My son refused to go to school and disappeared. TLC tried to help him. I’m too much grateful.”

“TLC is helping me build my house. I am taught many things about building and how to work hard.”

“I am grateful for my assets teammates.” (lead at a TLC construction project)

“I’d like to give honor to Make (mother) Echo. She gave us the invitation to be here. Christmas came into our hearts. We feel at home here.”

“We need to praise God for all the miracles we are seeing here.” (clapping for the lady who has been with TLC since 2010)

“In all my life, I’ve never seen a large family like this. May TLC be blessed with 1,000 employees.”

Echo commended the team for flexing with the Holy Spirit:

“You understand your calling from God. There’s no substitute. We will continue to be the agents for change, not because of who we are but because of Who He is. I’m emotional. Patients and staff and visitors are accepting Jesus. I cannot absorb all God is doing here. He has given us something extremely special to steward,” Echo said.

PS Two days later, all 385 staff members were given Christmas presents, such as laundry hampers, washing basins, maize, beans, sugar, soap, salt, cooking oil, soup, beans, tea, rice, custard powder, mayonnaise, flour, lollipops, assorted vitamins, skin sprays, Tylenol, 3-ring binders.  How much of each item was based on longevity and level of responsibility,

One 23-year-old staff member said: “My mother will not believe all this I’m taking home. She will ask me who I stole it from,” he laughed. “She will say, no organization will give away all this. When she calls here to check on my story, please tell her it’s all true.”

A 62-year-old grandmother of 11 children and 3 children who all live together at one homestead, exclaimed and exclaimed the next day: “When my daughter brought this package, we only had a little to eat for the evening. Nothing to cook for tomorrow. How did you see we do not have food? It must be God.”

She continued in a phone conversation, saying, “Now we will have Christmas. I do not know how to start to thank The Luke Commission or where to end. I never thought I would see this large amount of food, especially the maize, in our home. Please extend my gratefulness to everyone there who remembers our family.”

Many, many other expressions of gratefulness flowed into The Luke Commission. Thank you, Jesus, for being the provider, so TLC could pass on the provisions and His love.

(by Janet Tuinstra)