August 26, 2009

Pray for Swaziland Baptist National Youth Camp 2009

I cannot believe that it is time again for our annual youth camp tomorrow. Wow, it seems like just the other day that camp ended in 2008! Youth camp is very special to me as it was in 2000 that I was able to help re-establish our national youth camp and the forming of a national youth committee. The youth committee, made up of eight youth representing the four regions of Swaziland, works all year long in planning and preparing or youth camp. The committee changes through the years but is an opportunity to raise future leaders for our churches.
Some years, we have been blessed with volunteer teams to come lead and assist with youth camp and other years, we use national leaders for camp. This year, the committee has asked Lad Chapman, missionary friend, to lead as our main speaker for the evening and Sunday morning worship services. The theme is, "God Chooses Me!", based on Eph. 1:4-5. Lad's wife, Crystal Barkhouse Chapman, and I grew up together in the same youth group at First Baptist Church, West Palm Beach. We had seen each other in over 10 years and then we have been reunited in Swaziland. It really is a small world!
A few years ago, we started having youth camp at a school because we outgrew any buildings of our Baptist churches. Camp has always been planned in late August because it is a term break from school for all our students. This year, we will be having camp at Mbekelweni Lutheran High School. Camp is not the same as back in the USA. The students here will sleep on grass mats or cardboard boxes on the floors of the classrooms of the school. Basins of water will be the classrooms for washing and bathing every morning. Toilets are outside and not the convenience of indoor ones. However, the presence of God is alive and real! Worship is sweet and lively at the same time. Most of the youth do not see each other except at youth camp each year as our students will come from literally all parts of the country. It is a highlight in many ways!!!
*Pray for final logistics of youth camp tomorrow morning.
*Pray for Lad Chapman, Kelly Woody, Pastor Gamedze and other speakers sharing at camp.
*Pray for safety as the youth will be traveling from all over tomorrow.
*Pray for the youth to come with open ears and receptive hearts to receive all God has for each one of them.
*Pray for the election and selection of a new national youth committee during camp.
Here are some youth camp reflections from camps past....
The beautiful Kingdom of Swaziland

Lad Chapman, main speaker, for youth camp 2009

Takes a LOT of food to feed the youth camp crew

Sunday worship service - ending of youth camp
Hanging with great friends

Youth Camp under the big tent - morning worship service

Always time to play some fun games at camp! :)
Praise the Lord for the many ladies that sacrifice their time to cook for our youth!

National Youth Committee 2006 - this committee works hard all year long and I am so thankful for them and blessed by their commitment to serve the youth, churches and communities.

August 24, 2009

Happy Birthday Gogo Polly

Happy Birthday Gogo Polly!!!!
Sending you love and hugs from Swaziland! Wish we could be there to celebrate with you this year but we plan to join you next year when we are back in the USA for our family's stateside time! :) Pray you have an amazing day and lots of fun with Uncle Mike and Caroline!
We love you very much!
Lacie and Nathan (Monica and Steve, too!)
Rare photo of Gogo Polly with both Lacie and Nathan....our son, Nathan
does not like the camera as compared to his big sis, Lacie!
Gogo Polly with precious Lacie at Summerfield's

Gogo Polly hanging with cutie Nathan

The Stones are BACK

No, we are not talking about The Rolling Stones or any other group but rather Steve's good 'ol kidney stones. Kidney stones seem to be a part of Steve's life as he is now facing the 6th one! ;)
It must be some sort of a genetic thing for him as several folks in his family have all faced the good 'ol stones. He has tried various diets over the years to avoid "making" more kidney stones but all seem to result in more stones rather than stopping them.

The stones are kinda sentimental to Steve and I as we met as a result of one of his kidney stone attacks back in February 1999. Steve was on a volunteer mission trip with a group from First Baptist Church, Washington, North Carolina, and a kidney stone attack hit him while out in the rural area down in the southern part of Swaziland. I had arrived in Swaziland in January 1999 to serve two years as a youth ministry worker missionary with the International Mission Board. Steve was taken to the Mbabane clinic and they did all they could for him. He was not able to pass this stone on his own with the meds so I was asked to take him to Nelspruit, South Africa, about a two-hour drive from Mbabane, Swaziland, to see a urologist. Surgery was needed and I stayed with her supervisors living in Nelspruit. Little did we realize at the time, but meeting like we did gave a whole new meaning to "Romancing the Stone"! Plus, Steve likes to share with folks that he met me when he was "stoned"!!! Ha! Ha! Everyone thinks Steve is the quiet one but he has some really good stories and jokes to share!

When Steve and I returned to Swaziland to serve as career missionaries, Steve had an ultrasound right before we left the USA. The scan showed that Steve had three kidney stones in his system and we did not know when they would decide to make an appearance. The first stone caused problems when we were in Kenya in January 2005 for Steve to finish modular class with Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Steve eventually passed the stone right after we got back to South Africa before we headed home to Swaziland. The second stone decided to come last month, July 2009, when we were already in Johannesburg taking my mom back to the airport for her return flight to the USA. Again, he was able to pass the stone within a couple of days. Now, the third and we pray FINAL stone is causing issues and we are praying Steve can pass the stone in the next 24 - 48 hours.

Steve got out of the Mbabane Clinic last night around 6pm, our time. He has felt pretty well, with the help of some great meds! :) On our way home, we stopped to get take-away pizza at Debonairs Pizza in town. Wow, take-away two nights in a row is really a treat for our family! Steve thought is would be appropriate for him to order a Stoney Beer in honor of The Stone. By the way, Stoney Beer is a ginger beer so no, this Baptist missionary/pastor is not drinking! :)

So, as you can see, there is a history of stones in our family and we are praying for a new kind of stone or gem to come our way now. are cheaper in Africa!?!?

August 22, 2009

Daily Life with the Allen Family

Thought you might be interested in learning how crazy life can get for our family....

It all started last night when Steve got a call from one of our pastors that they needed him to be at a meeting with the community council/elders of one of churches first thing this morning. The meeting was for the council to show and mark the land for the church's new plot. Steve had to leave the our house by 7am to collect our folks and be ready for the meeting by 8am. Steve dressed up for the meeting as this is expected since he is a pastor and was on his way early. By 9am, the ladies of the church brought out tea and sandwiches for a tea break. By 10:30am, the elders still had not come (which is typical with Africans as they are normally not on any set schedules) but Steve had a Bible study to head to by 12:30pm. The ladies of the church told them to go ahead and leave as the elders were now in another meeting and did not know when they would be finished. Steve took our folks back to catch their bus home and he headed home for a quick bite to eat.

Kelly Woody, our True Love Waits International consultant, is here with us in our area and along with three of our Swazis, were going with Steve to Bible study at Lesibovu. Kelly planned to teach the True Love Waits presentation with the adults and youth and Steve and Ntombi were going to lead the children at Bible study. Well...they left on time and Steve, Kelly and Maria headed to our local grocery store, Spar (great meeting place as it is not far from the bus rank/station), to collect Ntombi and Jane for the Bible study. However, they got to the Spar parking lot and discovered they had a flat tire on the mission truck. Steve changed the tire in the parking lot and then discovered the spare tire was flat, too! Big time bummer! So...the plans to get to Bible study, unfortunately, did not happen today. It is always difficult to cancel Bible study out in the rural areas because folks are waiting all along the roads to be collected for the Bible study time. Praise the Lord, we do have a cell phone (amazing that so many folks have cell phones but yet no running water or electricity at their homes!) for one of the men that attends the study faithfully each week so he was able to tell folks nearby that the study had to be cancelled today. Too bad, we had not no way to get word to the kids waiting on the side of the roads. Hopefully, they did not wait too long for Steve today and realized he was not going to make it.

Meanwhile back at the Allen homefront with Monica the kids (Lacie and Nathan)....
We were eating our lunch, which was not much for Lacie as she has been under the weather, and watching the monkeys in our backyard (yes, we do live in Africa!). Nathan is our bread boy and wants bread at every meal. Monica was eating such a healthy meal of hot dogs and potato chips! :( Nathan had his usual yogurt, fruit and bread. We have been blessed with great eaters and Nathan loves to eat! :) He was shoveling in his bread roll (small part had gotten hard and Monica did not realize it!), which is normal, but this time, he began to choke. He had a large piece stuck and it was not coming out. Amazingly, Monica stayed calm (for the most part!) and immediately flipped Nathan upside down and hit his back about five times. Praise the Lord, the piece of food eventually came out. Monica was praying and praying to the Lord to help Nathan get the food out so he could breathe again. It was a scary few moments but praise the Lord, Nathan is OK! After it was over, Nathan was crying, Monica was shaking and Lacie was hugging us all! What a precious big sister!!!

We decided it was a night to get take-away (carry-out) from Nando's restaurant (chicken place), which is a real treat for our family. Kids are bathed, dinner is over and we are now watching a family movie. Steve is working on his artifacts collection and Monica is finishing writing this short story about our family.

Whew....we say all this to tell you that there is no "normal" or "typical" day in the life of our family, which we are sure if the case with most families. We are often asked, "What is the typical day of a missionary?" so here is one day....

God is always teaching us new things each day and we are so thankful for His grace, love, mercy and unending faithfulness. Even though things do not always turn out as we plan, God's plans are bigger and better than we can ever dream or want for our lives, even in the simple and daily things of life. has your day been? :)

August 10, 2009

Allen's African Adventures - August 2009

Dear Prayer Partners,

Thank you for praying last week for the first Sunday worship service in the community of Lesibovu. Steve started a chronological Bible storying class in this area in February. There was definitely spiritual warfare in play Sunday. All of the family members were fighting colds. Thunderstorms and torrential rains began in the early hours Sunday morning in what should still be our dry season. Half of a major concrete bridge on the way to Lesibovu suffered a collapse. At a place where the road crosses what is usually a wide, dry river bed, the water was flowing about a foot deep. Despite the rains and high water, Steve made it to the church for the service. Thirty people braved the inclement weather to come to the service and one man prayed to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. This is a huge praise as men are typically hard to reach in Swazi culture. This makes the 50th profession of faith in the Lesibovu community since the Bible study started. Please pray that those who have made professions of faith would remain faithful to the commitments that they have made. Pray that Steve would be able to effectively disciple these new believers. Pray that a church would be started in this community and that leadership would develop internally.

Steve had a wonderful experience on his two-week archaeological trip to Israel last month. He participated in a project at the biblical site of Tel Gezer, sponsored by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the Israel Antiquities Authority. Steve used vacation time to pursue one of his long-time passions - archaeology. He has really missed his former profession and enjoyed getting back into the dirt again. He had the opportunity to uncover walls and lots of artifacts of Gezer from the time when the city was destroyed by the Assyrians in the 8th century B. C. When Steve's artistic abilities were discovered he was immediately put to work doing artifact illustrations, which will be used in next year's publication of the site progress report. In addition to working at the archaeological site during the week, weekend historical and archaeological fieldtrips were taken to biblical sites such as Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Caesarea Maritima, Megiddo, Hazor, Dan, Caesarea Philippi, Herodiom, and Capernaum. While visiting the Jordan River, Steve was asked by two of the archaeological project participants if he would baptize them. After questioning them about their salvation he did baptize them in the Jordan, with fish nibbling at their toes. That was a truly memorable experience. The trip was life changing and contributed a lot to Steve's understanding of places that were key in the biblical story. (A couple of photos from the Gezer excavation are attached at the end of this message.)

Our team is sad to report that our fellow team members, the Warren family, have had to end their term early to return to the states, due to a medical issue in Lisa's immediate family. Lisa's father, Lloyd Claiborne, suffered a stroke several months ago and is being released from the medical facility where he has been treated. Lisa is an only child and her mother is not physically able to handle the care of the continuing needs of her husband on her own. Please pray for Bert. Lisa, Jesse, Matthew and Sarah as they returned to the states this week. Pray for their readjustment to life in the states, for employment, schooling for the children, and for the strength and wisdom to know how to minister to the needs of the father. Mr. and Mrs. Claiborne will be moving to live with the Warrens. Please pray for the adjustments for all of the family members to these new living conditions.

Our family was blessed to have three guests for part of the summer. Monica's mother, Polly Trice, was able to spend about five weeks in Swaziland with our family during her summer break from her job as a school nurse. It was great having her here to spend time with the family. Our children do not usually have the opportunity to spend extended time with family, so it was a special treat for Nathan and Lacie to have Gogo Polly here. Part of her trip overlapped the time that Steve was away in Israel, which gave Monica help with the children and special times together as mother/daughter. Hunter and Brinkley Johnson, from First Baptist Church, Washington, North Carolina spent about a month ministering with our family, the Warrens and the Myers this summer (winter on our side). Steve has known both of these young ladies since 1995, when they began attending the same church. Both of these sisters have been to Swaziland multiple times. This was Hunter's third summer to spend in Swaziland and Brinkley's first trip that was not part of a team. They ministered in a wide range of teaching roles and locations among our Baptist churches in addition to working with mission partners from another denomination with medical clinics. Hunter also was the keynote speaker for the annual planning retreat in preparation for the Swaziland National Youth Camp. It was great having Gogo Polly Trice and the Johnson sisters with our family.

Please pray for the Swaziland Baptist National Youth Camp which will be held August 27-30 at Mbekelweni Lutheran High School. The main camp speaker will be Lad Chapman, who works with Children's Cup, an orphan ministry in Swaziland. Lad's wife, Crystal, and Monica were in the same youth group at FBC West Palm Beach, Florida in the states before they both ended up in Swaziland years later. The camp theme this year is "God Chooses Me," based on Ephesians 1:4-5. Please pray for Pastor Chapman as he prepares and leads the sessions for the National Youth Camp. Pray for the national speakers who will be sharing in other teaching times. Pray that the hearts of the Swazi youth would be open and responsive to the word that God has for them.

***Remember, we live in Africa and there is no guarantee that our e-mails are received or even sent out correctly. If you have written and not heard from us, please write again. We would rather receive e-mails two times than not at all.***

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Blessings and love,
Steven, Monica, Lacie and Nathan Allen
IMB missionaries to Swaziland

What a cutie! :)

Hanging with Gogo Polly during her visit to Swaziland

Steve having the time of his life....doing archeology!

Tel Gezer Archeological Project

Hunter and Brinkley Johnson receiving their gifts from Maria Shandu at the National Youth Leader's Retreat in June 2009.