I’ll never forget the first time I stepped off the plane in East Africa. There is a distinct smell that since then has felt like home each additional time that I have been back. For the past three years, I have had the gracious and incredible opportunity to travel to Swaziland, Africa with a group of students to do community development work. I could share hundreds of stories, as I reflect on my time in Swaziland, but two stories remind me of what it is like to see from a different perspective.
The mountains of injustice in this world can seem so overwhelming, yet I see hope in Swaziland. One place of hope is in my new friend Augustine, the town baker in Bulembu. On my recent adventure to Swaziland, I asked for a recipe for scones, and in the simple act of asking was invited to come to the bakery and learn how to make them. To be invited to cook is a status shift from guest to family, and Augustine showed me that. I learned more than just how to make my favorite Bulembu breakfast. I learned about the importance of finding joy in the little things, just like Augustine has, in meeting the simple need of bread for the town. My perspective shifted from that of an outside guest to seeing this town as a definition of home.
In all my travels, the second half of the proverb still rings true, and I find myself asking the question, how am I lifting stones today? While in Swaziland, not only did I experience the invitation of home, but also of work. Each morning our day started with a work project, not with just the team secluded but rather alongside men of Bulembu. A young man, who shared with us not only his story, but also his music, supervised us. One day, while painting a house, rain struck. Not just a light drizzle, but a storm. Those of us painting the exterior of the house crowded underneath the front porch with our supervisor. Tempted to complain, I could hear thoughts of frustration swirling in my head because all we really wanted to do was finish the project. It is in the patience of waiting, however, that I had the pleasure to learn.
After only a couple of minutes of waiting for the storm to pass, our supervisor began to sing in worship. Person by person, our team joined in song. Lifting stones that day meant enjoying the blessing of rain. The storm only lasted for a few minutes, and then we were able to get back to work. In reflection of that day, if it had never rained, we would have never known a piece of our Swazi supervisor that bonded us together. Upon returning to the states, I often think about those moments. I am reminded to take advantage of today, to work with joy, to invite others into my family and to my story, and to learn to find hope even in the tasks at hand. Sometimes, big impacts happen in the smaller moments during the most unexpected times.
Elizabeth Lyon is the Resident Director of Wilson Hall who traveled with students to the Swaziland, Africa missions trip.