When Harmon Schmelzenbach pioneered the Church of the Nazarene in the small Kingdom of Swaziland (now Eswatini) more than 100 years ago, he probably never imagined the generations of Nazarenes who would serve there.
Twelve Eswatini missionary kids and other Swazi friends gathered in Siteki 10 November for a unique family reunion after some of them had not seen each other for more than 50 years.
The MKs came from across the United States and South Africa for a Swazi feast of grilled meats, mealie bread, beetroot, and a variety of other foods typical of the region. The group sang old Sunday School songs in siSwati. Dumsile Shiba, local church planter, even led everyone in the songs’ accompanying motions.
A solo was sung by Mathuba Gumede, a police officer with the Crimes Unit in Siteki who is studying theology at Southern Africa Nazarene University. He is working closely with the ministry begun by MK Lynda Hetrick Arroyo, HopeAlive268. This eSwatini ministry has an anti-trafficking focus, carepoints for feeding orphans, and provides school scholarships.
Several testimonies were shared, including one by Dawn Evans, wife of MK Doug Evans.
“God blessed me with a good man and together we have a good family,” Dawn said. “But here today, God has greatly extended my family and given me a whole new country!”
Ellen Gailey Decker thanked the Swazis for their understanding that MKs are a blend of both cultures — not 100 percent Swazi and not 100 percent American — and for always welcoming the MKs back.
CEO of Raleigh Fitkin Memorial Hospital Ben Simelane helped organize the day. Many who attended the event had ties to the original pioneers of the church in Africa. Cloyd and Kenneth Pato, grandsons of the young boy who guided Harmon Schmelzenbach’s horse and sons of the previous president of Nazarene Bible College in Siteki, are both Nazarene pastors.
Leonard Ndlovu, the water resources manager for the Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation, led the group in song and played his guitar along with MKs Dan and Doug Evans. Leonard’s parents were known in Endzingeni for opening their home to needy children who needed a place to live so they could attend the nearby school. Over the years, Leonard and his eight siblings gained another 20 “brothers and sisters” through their parent’s generosity, a tradition Leonard, his wife, Sibongile, and their four adult children are carrying on.
Samuel Dlamini, with his wife, Pauline, was the pioneer district superintendent on the eSwatini South District, a position he served in until he passed away in 2010. His wife, Pauline, their four children, and their granddaughter were also able to attend the reunion. Dlamini’s son, Vusi, is the pastor of the Ndubazi Church of the Nazarene. Two of his sisters work for the Nazarene institutions: one teaches nursing at SANU and the other is an administrative assistant at Raleigh Fitkin Memorial Hospital in Manzini.
Louskin Mabundza, schools manager for all 41 Nazarene elementary and high schools in eSwatini, came with his wife, Happygirl. He views the schools as outlying mission fields.
“The children come to receive the stellar education available in Nazarene schools, but they also learn about Christ and then they go back to all corners of our country to share His light in the darkness,” Mabundza said.
Pauline Dlamini led the group in prayer. She also expressed gratitude to the MKs for not making it difficult for their parents when they were called to missions.
“You did not ask to come, you were not called to come, but when you came, you accepted it,” Pauline said. “You made eSwatini your home so your parents could share the gospel.”
MK Connie Evans Vandersteen appreciated Pauline’s prayer.
“Pauline’s comments regarding our [MKs] role alongside the work our parents were doing healed a part of my heart that I didn’t know needed it,” she said. “It was like a bit of heaven on earth.”
The event ended with the Swazi naming of Dan Evans’ children — Cari and Eduardo. Cari was named Busisiwe, which means blessed, and Eduardo was named Sibusiso, which means blessing. Their names reflect the spirit of those in attendance, both the Swazis and the MKs.
“We have been blessed with our rich heritage,” Decker said. “May we be a blessing to others.”
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