(re-posted from April 2011)
Grace was widowed many years ago, and 4 of her 5 children have passed away. After her husband died, she went to live with one of her sons. After the son died, her daughter-in-law decided to sell their house and land, and Grace has been without a home for about the last 5-6 years. She sleeps at a different friend’s house every few nights. Some of the Timbali women have done a great job at taking her in from time to time. It’s rare in the rural areas for someone to just have nothing…not even a small piece of land…but somehow, that is what has happened to Grace.
However, recently a couple people have given Grace small plots of land on which she could build a small house. Usually in Swaziland, when you are given land, or land is changing names, you are supposed to give a cow to the chief of the community where the land located. Since the chief in this area knew Grace was a poor widow, she only had to buy him a coke. I’m pretty sure that whole scene would have made the best Coca-cola commercial EVER.
We have a couple churches sending teams over this summer and we’re hoping it works out for them to help build a house for Grace. So yesterday I drove out to the rural area to find Grace and have her show me her land. When Grace walked up to my car window and I explained what we were hoping to do, she immediately had her whole upper body through the window, giving me a hug. Later when she was sitting in the back seat of the car and we were explaining a little more, she hugged me again…I thought she was going to crawl right over the seat she was so excited! She must have said “Hallelujah” about 25 times.
We drove as far as we could towards the first property. We walked down a dirt path, through a small stream, stopped and said ‘hi’ to a neighbor, went up a small hill, and then we were there. It was a nice piece of land, with a beautiful view of the surrounding rolling hills. It’s close to a water source and neighbors, and has enough room to plant a large garden. There were more hugs hallelujahs from Grace interspersed throughout the journey.
On the way back to the car Ellie had to use the bathroom, so we stepped off the path so she could go. Ellie doesn’t mind doing this at all, but usually there is tall grass, bugs, and/or large thorny bushes nearby, so she wants me right there beside her. The whole thing can sometimes be an ordeal. I’ll spare you the details, but afterward the ladies with us were teasing me for not teaching Ellie how to go to the bathroom the right way. Peeing in the grass just isn’t one of those life-skills I’d thought much about passing on to my daughter!
On the way back to the car the neighbor, (who was of course family to one of the women with me, because everyone is related out there!), offered us some water, so we stopped and chatted for a while. Then we were off to the next property.
Again we drove as far as we could, then parked the car and walked…down a path, through a small field, under a barb-wire fence… About halfway through the second small field it hit me how much walking we’d done. Actually, it hit me how much walking Grace had done. At 73 Grace walks pretty stooped over, often times with a cane. And here she was, homeless, shuffling all over the countryside (it’s actually a pretty quick shuffle), all the while “hallelujah-ing,” hugging and acting as happy as could be. Actually I probably shouldn’t have been too surprised at Grace’s endurance. At our yearly camps for the Timbali women, Grace is quick to ditch her walking stick and be the first one up and dancing when the worship music starts. She can kick higher than any 70+ year old that I’ve ever seen.
I love the moments when God gives me the chance to get a closer glimpse at the reality of these ladies’ lives. We weren’t doing anything out of the ordinary for someone out in the rural area, but for me it was just one of those afternoons where you want to soak up every detail.