The VanderWal boys know and love Eswatini. Just ask them! Some comments surpass their years; others are just what you’d expect from three 8-year-olds and a 5-year-old anywhere.
All of our childhoods reflect our parents’ lives. We’re not surprised, then, that Jacob, Luke, Zeb, and Zion mirror Harry’s and Echo’s passion for those who have little of this world’s wealth or health.
Once a year we like to share the boys’ ponderings and paint an “updated” picture of their lives in Africa.
Consider this scene – a Manzini hospital bed where Simelane lies yelling: “I want the mother of Jacob, the mother of Jacob.” The nurses do not know what to think. But this plea continues until one early morning Echo stops in to see Simelane.
“This is the mother of Jacob. Thank you, mother of Jacob.” And the mystery begins to unravel.
The Liswati man had hobbled to a Luke Commission mobile clinic. Jacob first noticed Simelane who looked and smelled sick. Jacob routinely reaches out to the unlovely. “My daddy and mommy will help you,” Jacob said through the help of a translator. “I will find them. Just sit here and wait.”
Echo learned later that the crusty abscess on Simelane’s leg had been oozing pus for 39 years. She and Harry took him to the Manzini hospital where he spent one month. His leg is healed now, and Simelane declares he will never forget his friend Jacob.
Jacob misses boys his own age, Benele and Joshua, when he comes back to North America. “I think lots about the translators, too,” he said. Age has no friendship boundaries in Jacob’s world.
Another day, Echo was driving American visitors through Manzini when Jacob exclaimed: “That man back there has shoes on his hands and laces on his knees!”
“I had to get Mommy to stop,” Jacob explained. “I told her he was walking like a monkey on his hands and knees. She turned the car around.”
Later that day, the man was fitted with PET wheelchair constructed to withstand the thorns and hazards of the African bush. “It was fun to see him move fast and not look like a monkey anymore,” noted Jacob.
What about the clinics, we asked Jacob…
“Clinics are pretty good,” he answered, “but I like the days at home, too. A neighbor had a birthday party for her little girl. We were invited but the electricity went off and did not come on for the whole party, until it stopped raining.”
Jacob, Luke, and Zeb “attend” a Christian video school, while Harry grades and monitors their learning. “We just finished 2nd grade,” said Jacob. “I liked learning about alphabetical order.”
Now that he’s in the United States, what is Jacob looking forward to? “Seeing all my friends,” he answered.
Luke affirms, “Eswatini is our home now.” He raises chickens there. “Big Sipho said he would take care of my chickens while I am gone. Some hatched just before we left, but so many have died.”
“Emaswati don’t have access to medicine like we do,” Luke noted (and yes he said “access”). “I know that’s one reason Mommy and Daddy keep going back. We help people ask Jesus into their hearts. That’s the big reason.”
A story from Eswatini, please Luke…
“One day we had 1,000 people at a clinic. We watched about 16 people crawl on their hands and knees to get there. Twenty-three of them qualified for wheelchairs, but we had only brought 6 wheelchairs, because they take up so much room in the trailer.
“We had to take the big trailer and go back to Manzini and load up 18 more wheelchairs. Then when we returned to the clinic, we had to put the wheelchairs together and fit them just right,” Luke continued.
“I tried to stay awake until everyone got their new wheelchairs, but it was late and I was so tired that I fell asleep in one the wheelchair boxes. It was warmer there.”
Luke remembers a boy who had been struck by lightning and lost his right arm and left leg. “When he got his wheelchair, he started pedaling and pulling and laughing,” he said. “I really like giving out wheelchairs.”
Zion, known in Eswatini as Mandla which means “strong man,” first traveled to Africa when he was 4 months old. Now 5 years old, Mandla received his name from the Emaswati, when his dad used to carry him around on his shoulders. Normally Liswati men do not show affection to their young children, but they enjoy watching “the American doctor” care for his sons.
“Why are you in Africa?” we asked Zion.
“To help people who are sick not to be sick,” he answered. “And remember, I’m ‘Mandla.'”
Mandla became attached to an infant orphan girl that the VanderWals and short-term team members “adopted” for several months this year. “The little girl Kosi ran away from her mom,” he explained, after Liswati officials reclaimed her. “She was just a little baby, but I held her and fed her and played with her. I hope she has a real mom and dad now.”
Zebadiah offered: “I miss Africa. I miss sharing the love of Jesus with people. But it’s good to be in the United States.”
What did you like best about 2nd grade? “I like math and history. History teaches me about people who lived a long time ago. You know the people in the Bible lived a long time ago, too.”
“I like word problems in math,” Zeb said. “Our teacher calls them ‘thinking cap’ problems.”
Right before the VanderWals left Eswatini, a 40-foot container full of supplies and new trailers arrived from Ohio. Zeb was stationed behind the video camera.
“The truth is after my dad showed me how to record, zoom in and zoom out, I got pretty good at it.”
Zeb befriended Sifiso. “I met him at a clinic. His bones weren’t right. He was all bent up. He had logs on his legs but they didn’t help him. He was using one crutch.”
Zeb has the latest spider story – just for posterity. “It was a scorpion. I tried to take a picture of it, but it ran away too fast. Themba stepped on his legs so I could get a photo, but it was real dark that night and people couldn’t see.”
Darkness, literally and figuratively, is a problem everywhere.
“Who walks in darkness and has no light?” asks Isaiah in Isaiah 50:10. The answer then and now: “Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely upon his God.”
Everywhere may the light of the Gospel shine into hearts.
Expectantly in Jesus, Janet Tuinstra for Harry & Echo & the boys
Luke cares for his African chickens.
“Can you help me?” “Yes,” answers the TLC team at another mobile clinic.
The wheelchair line-up: Assembled out in the Eswatini bush, each awaits a needy Liswati who is about to be delivered from
a life of crawling.
This container arrived recently from Ohio with some practical items for the mission campus. Paul Carlson and
Jeff Girard from CLC in Dayton, OH helped unload.
Luke fills prescriptions in TLC mobile pharmacy.
Some wheelchairs are pushed; others are pulled. All delight recipients.
Luke and Zion sleep in a wheelchair box at a chilly late-night clinic.
On hands and knees, but not for long…
Liswati baby and American boy nap together on mission house couch.
(From left) Zion, Jacob, and Zeb cared for Makhosazana the first 6 months of her life.
Zion hangs up tie-downs used to strap supplies
in the trailer for the bumpy ride to the Liswati bush.
Jacob helps his new friend go from his monkey-walk to
a life of mobility.
The Luke Commission team unloads their first shipment of
Zeb is behind the camera capturing the difficult moving process for this 40-foot container.
The one crane in all of Eswatini was broken the day/week TLC need to offload this container. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. Thank you, Jesus!
One, 2, 3, now 4 semi-truck loads of medical supplies, wheelchairs, eyeglasses, clothes, shoes, Bibles…
This Liswati’s leg leaked infection for 39 years,
until The Luke Commission touched his life.
Echo rejoices with Simelane who thought he
would lose his leg. “We were amazed,” Harry
noted, when the dead bone was cleaned out
and the infection healed after “so many years.”
A new chair a new lease…
Wrapped in God’s provision…
“He does not forget the cry of the humble.”
Transportation just for you, young man…
Zion (Mandla) gives Makhosazana a kiss.
Zeb holds her.
Zion prayed for “a real mom and dad” for Makhosazana.
Jesus answered, and she has been adopted.