Katy Teens Serve in Swaziland
We love to share good news about the youth in our community. What a delight it is to feature seven Katy teens who traveled to Bulembu, Swaziland this past summer. Our hats are off to these young missionaries! They departed Houston on July 8 with members of Creekside Community Church and Westland Baptist and flew to Africa, then returned home July 23 after serving orphans and their caregivers who live in a region with zero population growth. An AIDS pandemic has decimated this part of Africa, leaving children parentless and homeless.
A Community of Blessings
Although Swaziland faces a crisis, there is hope. Located several hours outside of Johannesburg, Bulembu is fast becoming a self-sustaining community that provides total care for these orphaned and vulnerable children. Bulembu is a not for-profit organization serving Jesus Christ by restoring hope to the people of Swaziland through community enterprise and community care.
By building houses, painting, and tutoring, all of our Katy missionaries (ranging in age from tweens to grandparents) made a difference. This year, the goal was to build a climbing wall for the orphans—a project spearheaded by Ida Franklin of Venus Construction. Many Katyites found room in their suitcases to help transport bits and pieces of tools and parts, while others brought along extra bags filled with shoes and school supplies. They also packed sweaters and hoodies, for it is cold in Bulembu at this time of year. In the midst of great need, the missionaries found themselves blessed by blessing others through hard work and fellowship.
Katy Teens Become Missionaries
The Katy travelers stuck together and took care of each other during long flights back and forth across the Atlantic. With layovers, the trip took 17 hours one way. Most of the travelers fund-raised and worked extra hours to pay for airfare and the cost of the trip, including seven teens: Rachel Hakala, Emily Saxton, Cameron Morvant, Rachel Solfronk, Kaitlyn McNair, Jami Douglas and Marshall Camp.
Some flew with their church groups (but without their parents)—making this a trip of a lifetime half a world away from home. They arrived in Johannesburg, took in the sights, visited a game preserve filled with giraffes, lion cubs, cheetahs, ostriches and other indigenous animals, then left for Bulembu. This is where the Lord touched their lives in profound and humbling ways.
“It really impacted me to see so many orphaned kids who are happy, cared for and grateful for everything,” says Emily Saxton, a 17-year-old Katy High senior. Most Katy teens have been raised in a world of technological gadgets, central heat and air, WiFi, paved roads and shopping malls. It was eye opening to realize that the basic necessities—food, medicine and shelter—mean so much to children who would otherwise perish. Emily and Rachel traveled together with the Creekside Community Church group, with Tina Hatcher acting as their surrogate mom and chaperone. “I look at their lives and I look at mine, and now I have a new perspective on what’s really important,” says Rachel.
A Life Changing Experience
The orphans of Bulembu are fortunate, for not every child in the countryside is cared for. The mission is to build more homes to house every parentless youngster (infants to teens), and it takes volunteers to expand the facilities in Bulembu. “Honestly, it was terrifying to allow my teenager to travel to a foreign land on the other side of the planet,” says Emily’s mother. “But I saw Emily’s resolve and how she worked to raise money for the trip. I saw friends and total strangers, as well as some of my clients, donate toward the cost. A local Christian business, Bumbera’s Performance Associates, was especially supportive. And I realized Emily was in the best of hands with the Creekside group… and that every teen, including mine, should have the opportunity to serve as a missionary at least once.”
Emily, Rachel and their fellow teen missionaries returned home with life experiences they will never forget, mostly due to their love for the orphans, but also because some were unable to communicate with their parents for long stretches due to the lack of WiFi. They all “grew up” just a bit, but also grew in the Lord.
Taking the Step
There are many opportunities to serve others at home and abroad. But if you are specifically interested in serving the orphans of Bulembu, check out www.bulembu.org. The mission trips are coordinated through Mission Discovery and participating churches throughout the country. You can also talk to Pastor Tim Douglas of Creekside Community Church about the next trip, scheduled for 2015. Visit www.thecreekside.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.