October 26, 2010

Updated Allen Family Photo

Steve, Monica, Lacie and Nathan Allen

A Special Gift

After living in Africa for over seven years, we have gotten used to folks giving us different items as their way of saying thanks and expressing gratitude. Mostly, we are blessed with various fruits and vegetables from different people's gardens and homesteads. We have even been given a couple chickens along the way as well but they quickly become dinner for our family. Upon our recent return to Swaziland, the Khanada family from our Lesibovu Bible study and church expressed to Steve that they wanted to give our family a guinea fowl. They raise guinea fowls at their homestead. We were honored that they wanted to do this for our family as we know the Swazis work hard for what they do have at their different homes. However, we had to admit this was a new and special gift for us to receive this time.

Babe (Father) Khanada told Steve that he needed to have a cage or coop for the guinea fowl when we brought it home or it would fly away the first chance it could get away from us. This was news to us as we had always seen guinea fowl just running around, not flying. So, Steve took one morning last week to make a coop for the guinea fowl but knew it would be a temporary home. Steve and Lacie went to Lesibovu this past Saturday and was given our special gift and temporary pet for the kids, G the guinea fowl. She did OK on the 1.5 hour drive home to our house and Steve placed her in her temporary home. She spent a little while crying out but soon adjusted to her new surroundings. We gave her some food and water and said good night.

When we woke up the next morning, we now had TWO guinea fowls in our backyard. One was in the coop and one was on the outside. Our plan was not to start our own guinea fowl farm! :) G's new friend hung around the house for a couple days until Steve had the time to move G from her temporary home to our freezer for a future meal. As always, life is an adventure for our family!

G the guinea fowl and her new "friend" that showed up on Sunday morning

G getting ready to leave her home at Lesibovu

Hoskins Arrive in Swaziland

Our mission family is very excited to welcome Todd and Deborah Hoskins as they will be serving with us in Swaziland for the next two years. The Hoskins arrived in Swaziland on the early flight from Johannesburg to a cool, misty and overcast day on the morning of October 14. Our family was there to greet them with a sign made by Steve, gather their luggage and bring them to their temporary home. They were ready to go so I took them into town for an opportunity to see one of our grocery stores, ShopRite. Little did we know but the Hoskins have ShopRite back at home in Georgia so they said it was neat to have a reminder from home here in Swaziland. The day the Hoskins arrived was also the first day of our Baptist BoMake (Women's) camp and our team leaders, Wayne and Barbara Myers, were staying at our house during the camp. So, life was a bit hectic but fun for our mission family to be together off and on for a few days. Our kids LOVE having Aunt Deborah and Uncle Todd as part of our mission family and I am sure the kids entertained them in many ways! :)

The Hoksins are living next door to our family temporarily but the plan is for them to find housing in Manzini for their permanent housing. Todd and Deborah were only with us in Swaziland for less than a week before they needed to fly up to West Africa for our company's bush camp training. Steve led them to the main highway in South Africa and with the help of their GPS and our directions, they made their way into Johannesburg to catch their flight to West Africa. They will be back to Swaziland on Monday, November 22, after some orientation at our Johannesburg headquarters. We are thrilled they are here to serve with our mission family and we look forward to all God has planned for their time in Swaziland!

Todd and Deborah at Bible study at Lesibovu

Making new friends at Mphembekati Baptist Church

Greeting Mphembekati Baptist Church with Pastor Lloyd Dlamini as their translator

Visiting the Khanada family homestead with some of our Swazi helpers

Lacie holding their welcome sign at the Swaziland airport

Baptist BoMake Camp

What a blessing to have so many of our BoMake (ladies) gather together for three days of worship, choirs, testimonies, games, fellowship and learning more about the power of prayer! Our annual Baptist BoMake camp was on October 14-16 at Manzini Baptist Church and we had about 45 ladies attend camp this year. For most of these ladies, it was a journey to travel quite a distance from their homes to come to camp in Manzini. They look forward to a time of getting away temporarily from the responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, working the fields, their jobs and taking care of kids and time to have fun being with other women. The women even played games like they were little children and enjoyed every minute of it!

The weather turned cooler for camp this year but we pressed on and made the most of everything despite the weather. Our speaker this year was missionary colleague and friend, Make Barbara Myers. She taught on prayer and not only just taught about prayer but had the ladies break into groups to pray as well as individual prayer. We know that God touched many lives at the women's camp this year and we look forward to future opportunities of serving our Baptist women.

Group photo of the ladies at the end of camp

Make Simphiwe Mavuso thanking Make Barbara Myers with flowers for
sharing with the women this year.

Nathan made a new friend

The women were blessed by clothes and other items given to our mission by fellow missionary friends. What a wonderful surprise and blessing to our women!

"I need another touch from the Lord!" :)

October 23, 2010

Back to our Swazi Churches

For the last six months, we have been in many different churches in the USA and although we always enjoy getting to worship our Lord in our heart language of English, we have missed being with our Swazi brothers and sisters in Christ. There is no time restraints here in Swaziland and our church services can easily last 2 - 3 hours each Sunday. For our family, we typically are heading to church by 9:30 or 10:00am and not home until the middle of the afternoon. It is still a challenge to keep Nathan to sit still for the whole church service but this is the season of our lives. Nathan usually makes it to the start of the sermon and then he and I take a walk around outside if the weather is nice. If the weather is not nice, I give him a break and we go sit in our bakkie (truck) for a snack. Our churches are all in siSwati, the heart language of the Swazi people and we have learned many of their songs. Our desire is to be able to fully teach and preach someday but we still have not mastered to do so quite yet. One thing we do love about the Swazi worship services is to hear the testimonies each week of all God is doing in their lives. Since we are not able to be with the people every day, this gives us a small glimpse into their lives as they share during the service. On some Sundays, it could be three to as many as 15 people choosing to go to the front and give a testimony. Because many of the Swazis do not worship together as a family, our prayer is that we can be a testimony to the church and surrounding communities that our family is going to be together for church on Sunday mornings. Each Sunday morning is a different adventure for our family and we look forward to watching God grow the different Baptist churches in unity, love and wisdom. Many weeks we are in awe of how we are able to learn more and more from our Swazi brothers and sisters in Christ.

Lacie hanging with some of the Swazi kids after Mphembekati Baptist Church.

Children's choir singing at Peace Baptist Church

The two treasurers counting the offerings after service at Hawane Baptist Church.

Yes, Nathan has to have one car to keep his attention during church services! :)

Lacie sitting with the kids during a church service.

Lacie's Latest

Our family has hit the ground doing all sorts of things since we have arrived back in Swaziland less than a month ago. Lacie has jumped back into school and a couple after school activities. We are blessed with a great mission community in our area and Lacie has a couple, very, special friends that are also missionary kids. She has enjoyed getting to have play dates with friends as well as play with her brother, Nathan, quite often as well. Lacie said she is happy to be home to her own room but she is missing our families back in the USA. Lacie remembered more from this USA trip and thankful for the special memories we were able to create with all of our family members. Lacie is also going out with our family to the rural areas for Bible studies and church on Sunday mornings. She loves all her Swazi friends but says she does miss not getting to attend kid's worship services anymore. Life is always full of transitions and changes, even for a missionary kid, too! Thought you would enjoy seeing some recent happenings in Lacie's life....
Lacie had "Children Around the World" at her school so she dressed up as "Miss USA"!
Our precious princess!!!

Lacie is reunited with her close friend, Ellie.

Lacie finishing her gymnastics competition

Lacie took home the gold....go Lacie!

Lacie with the welcome sign for Todd and Deborah Hoskins, our newest Swazi mission family team members, at the Swaziland airport.

October 11, 2010

Happy Birthday to Aunt Barbara

We wish we could be closer to our own extended families more often but that is just not possible with our family living so far away. However, we are blessed and have been blessed by a wonderful mission family that we serve with in Swaziland. From the time we arrived in Swaziland, we have served with Bobby and Jo Carol Elliott, Wayne and Barbara Myers, Fultz family, Grayson family, Al and Belinda Jordan, Mary Wood, Poe family, Kimber Ringler, Julia Tarr, Oakley family and Warren family. Soon we will add Todd and Deborah Hoskins. Our mission family tries to be together for major holidays and as close to birthdays as possible, too.

Tomorrow, October 12, is Barbara Myers' birthday and our family was able to be with Wayne and Barbara today for both mission business as well as celebrating Barbara's birthday. Our kids had a blast making birthday cards and putting up the birthday banner. We ate pizza for lunch and had ice cream and cake, which the kids loved getting to help Aunt Barbara blow out her candles. We are all blessed by our friendship with Aunt Barbara and we pray she has a fantastic birthday!!!

Aunt Barbara with Lacie and Nathan

The kids "helping" blow out Aunt Barbara's birthday candles

Updates from our Facebook group

Because we have had such a trial getting emails to go out with our africanonline email account, I decided to start a Facebook group to keep folks more updated on what is happening with our family and ministry. It is a closed group but if you are interested in joining on Facebook, just let me know. We did not want it open to the general public so all sorts of folks could write on the wall and so forth that we did not know. However, we know that not everyone has Facebook so we are going to try and update our blog with the group updates until we can get the email stuff all sorted out. Thanks for all your prayers and support!

It is hard to believe that we are all packed up and will be flying back to Africa tomorrow. We have had an amazing six months of stateside time and thankful for all God allowed for our family during this time. We wish we could have seen each and every one of you but not possbile. We are glad our paths did cross with many of you. More importantly, we are blessed with everyone's prayers and support.We hope to send updates more often so we can keep folks more aware of what is going on with our family, ministry and the Swazi people. God is doing exciting things in Swaziland!

Our biggest prayer concern right now is for our flight back to Africa tomorrow for our family. Traveling with a 2 1/2 year old is going to be a bit of a challenge so pray Nathan does well with sitting still when needed and that we are all able to rest some on the flight. We will land in Johannesburg, South Africa, on the 27th, spend the night at our Baptist guest house and then head onto Swaziland on the 28th. We look forward to connecting with you once we arrive back home and sharing more stories of our African adventures. Thank you for joining us as we continue the journey God has called our family in serving HIM in Swaziland.

It is still hard to believe that this time last week, we were still in West Palm Beach, Florida finishing up packing and saying our final good-byes to family and friends. We wanted to say thank you for all your prayers for our family as we traveled back to Swaziland on Sunday/Monday on the plane and then driving in our mission truck on Tuesday to Swaziland. The kids did AMAZING on all the flights and Nathan even took two long sleeps on the international 15+ hour flight to South Africa. Praise the Lord! Lacie returned to school on Wednesday after our family arrived back in Swaziland on Tuesday. She was warmly greeted by her classmates and enjoyed being back into her routine. We have been slowly unpacking more and more each day and getting the house back in order. Nathan is just happy to be playing with his cars. Steve has jumped back into some of his Bible studies, mostly just re-connecting with the Swazis and hearing how God has worked in their lives. Our family plans to attend Hawane Baptist Church in the morning at their invitation and we are looking forward to being with them for worship. The youth leaders in our area were at the mission property this morning for a meeting in preparations for our annual youth retreat for our area in December.

As we get back into ministry, pray for
- our family as we adjust back to our lives here in Swaziland
- God's clear direction to know new work areas- upcoming National Women's Retreat on October 14-16 with Barbara Myers, our friend and co-worker on our Swazi mission family, leading the sessions on prayer.
- our Swazi mission family is getting new missionaries, Todd and Deborah Hoskins, arriving in Swaziland on October 14. Pray for their final days in the USA and special times with family and friends. We are excited to see our mission family growing once again.
- Lacie is taking her entrance exam to start grade 1 at Sifundzani Primary School in January. She will do great but she is a bit nervous.Lacie is finishing up her kindergarten (grade 0) school year right now. We are blessed and thankful for Al and Belinda Jordan that covered our ministry work and stayed in our house for the past six months. We were able to be with them briefly before they departed back to the USA. We cannot put into words how much we appreciated their willingness to serve our Lord in Swaziland the past several months.

Check out our family blog at: http://www.allensinafrica.blogspot.com/ for more stories and sign up to be a follower to keep us accountable in writing stories more often.

We have been so blessed to have Lacie in a small, preschool since she was three years old. It is literally five minutes away from our house with great teachers. They have Christian principles, even though it is not technically a Christian school. She has great friends there and we have loved the environment for her. Kindergarten or Grade 0 is the oldest class at the preschools here in Swaziland. Lacie is now preparing to start Grade 1 in late January, when our new school year opens. The school year for us is all-year round, January - December, with three term breaks. Right now, Lacie is on the list to get into Sifunduzani Primary School and we hear great reports from others that it is an excellent, private school. Primary schools are grade 1 - 7 so our little Lacie will be quite the little fish in a big pond next year. She will be taking her entrance exam on Thursday morning at 10:00am, our time. It is more of a time to see how Lacie does with listening skills, see where she is at with her basic learning skills, interacting with adults and so forth. We know she will do fine but she is a bit nervous. She is afraid she will be asked to repeat kindergarten, which is so not true. We should find out fairly soon if Lacie has been accepted into the school and finalize the plans for her to start in January. Pray that if this is where Lacie is to be in school that everything will work out. If it is not, God would close the doors tightly. If she is not to attend there, give us direction on other options. We have homeschooling as an option but not sure if that is the right one for us right now, either. Education is so important and we know we are at crossroads to an important decision concerning Lacie. We appreciate all your prayers and any advice of others as well.

Hope this catches everyone up on our latest updates....

Meet the Hoskins

Thanks for all your prayers for Lacie's entrance exam last week. All went very well and she did fantastic. We are now waiting to hear from the school if she has been accepted or not. At this point, it is a matter of space as the school only takes 60 students for two 1st grade classes. Praying for God's will to be shown to our family.

This week, our mission family will be receiving new personnel...yeah!!! They are Todd and Deborah Hoskins and will be serving a two-year assignment with our company. They will live next door to our family for a short time and then the plan is for them to move down to Manzini to be more centrally located. They will be doing church planting/developing in the Manzini area as well developing rural "schools" for leadership training, discipleship classes, etc. We look forward to all God has planned for their time in Swaziland.

Pray for Todd and Deborah as they are saying good-bye to family and friends for a couple years. They will fly out of the USA on Tuesday, arrive in Johannesburg, South Africa on Wednesday, spend night at our Baptist guest house and arrive in Swaziland on Thursday morning on the 7:40am flight, our time. Whew, they will need a few days of rest to get over all those travels! :) They will only be in Swaziland for several days before they head to Burkina Faso and Ghana for our company's 40/40 bush camp training.We look forward to sharing more about Todd and Deborah in future updates! As always, thank you for your prayers!!!!

October 2, 2010

HUGE thanks to the Jordans

Our family was so blessed to have Al and Belinda Jordan come serve in Swaziland while our family was in the USA for our six-month stateside assignment. Monica met Al back in 2000 when Monica was serving a two-year term with our company and Al came with our company as part of a Baptist Student Ministers discovery team. Little did we all know how much God would guide our paths to develop a friendship over the years. Al and Belinda also came to Swaziland in 2001 to cover the ministry work of former Swazi team colleagues and friends, Sy and Ruth Grayson, but they lived in the house next door. During the 2001 time, Steve came to Swaziland in June 2001 for a mission trip and met the Jordans and Monica returned in August 2001 to help lead the National Youth Camp. We also had the privilege of serving with the Jordans living next door to our family in 2005-2006 as volunteer coordinators for our Swazi mission family. So you can see there is much history between our two families.
It was not an easy six months with ups and downs in Swaziland but we are grateful for the Jordan's willingness to serve the Swazi people in our absence. We know God's kingdom was advanced because of their faithful hearts.
Thank you Al and Belinda for ALL you did in Swaziland!!!! We are blessed by you both tremendously and love you tons!!!
Monica with Al and Belinda before they left the mission houses.

Al and Belinda (also known as Paw-Paw and Aunt B) with Lacie and Nathan before they left Swaziland on Thursday morning

Al and Belinda Jordan and Gogo Maria Shandu with Steve, Lacie and Nathan on the morning we left Swaziland for our stateside assignment back in March.

October 1, 2010

Back to our African Home

It has been far too long since I have written much on our family blog. Our family was able to be in the USA for the past six months visiting with family/friends and sharing in churches about our ministry/lives in Swaziland. This blog would be too long to share all that we were able to experience while we were in the USA but we were blessed by many special times.

Our family left the USA on September 26 to return to Swaziland, our African home, for another term of service. The month of September marked our family's 7th year anniversary of serving as missionaries in Swaziland. Africa is home to our kids and Lacie, especially, could not wait to get back to her home, school and friends. When the plane landed in Johannesburg, Lacie turned to me and said, "Yes, we are finally home again!"

Upon landing in Johannesburg, we were blessed to have dinner waiting for us by some of our missionary friends and colleagues with our mission company. We spent the night at our Baptist guest house, re-united with our mission truck, loaded up all our luggage and headed for Swaziland the next day. We needed to purchase new SIM cards for South Africa for our cell phones since we travel into South Africa often. Little did we realize that to purchase new SIM cards required to be registered in the computer system now and it turned out to be quite interesting. The first store was offline, the second store was out of SIM cards to purchase, and the third store had the SIM cards but ended up going offline while they were in the process of registering our new numbers. So, I was sent back to the second store to officially register the new numbers. You would think that we would be able to begin using our cell phones immediately but no. I was then told it could take up to FOUR hours for the registration to be completed. Luckily, it took only about two hours so I was able to send a few text messages as we drove onwards to Swaziland. We arrived at the border and all of us needed to use the bathroom. However, not possible as the border was "temporarily" out of water but the border crossing was quite easy. Praise the Lord!

We returned to a cold day in Swaziland and scrambling to find winter clothes for all of us again. Remember, we just left sunny and warm South Florida so our bodies were in shock a bit! We pulled into our driveway and immediately was greeted by Al and Belinda Jordan, the wonderful volunteers and former missionaries with our mission family that lived in our house while we were in the USA. They had dinner ready for us and even a fire going in our living room. Yeah! :) So blessed and thankful for such a warm greeting. Lacie was beyond excited and really wanted to return to school the next morning. I thought it would be impossible with jet lag but she was up and ready to go. She was greeted by her class with much enthusiasm and she is thrilled to be back at school again. May she always be that excited to go to school! :)

Our team leaders, Wayne and Barbara Myers, came over to Mbabane yesterday to say hello to our family and good-bye to the Jordan's. It was a nice visit for everyone and yes, we were actually awake for it all! :) We visited a new Pick 'n Pay (grocery store) that just opened last week and it is nice...but so are the prices. It seems like everything has gone up in price since we left several months ago. Whew! We got home to find out that our phone line was out so no time to share with folks that we were safely back in Swaziland. Less than 24 hours back and no phone means no internet. Praise the Lord the phone company actually came today to fix it!

Ahhhh....such is life in Africa and although there will be MANY more adventures yet to come, we are thankful that God is going before us and guiding us with HIS mighty hand!