We're back in the states! Jet lag is a beast, but we are still basking in the experiences of Johannesburg and Swaziland.
There's no doubt we were captivated by the African culture and landscape, but most of all, we loved the people. Their warmth taught us immeasurable lessons about humility.
While in Swaziland, we met a young lady named Nikiwe. She is 18 years old and was one of the dancers/singers who welcomed us to their village with a native Swazi performance complete with traditional Swaziland attire and instruments. At the end of their ceremonial dance, Nikiwe took a selfie with us and told us how she wanted to be our friend. Of course, we obliged and exchanged information without hesitation.
Within the hour, Nikiwe was a member of our Facebook family and had sent Lauren a greeting via Facebook messenger.
"Hw I wsh in lyf I could hv a better lyf lyk u dea", she wrote.
Our hearts melted. In the very short time we spent with her, she somehow found us to be role models -- the epitomes of her American dream.
The very next day came with its own dose of poignancy.
Valencia was standing just outside of a Swaziland restaurant where the family was getting ready to eat a late lunch.
A man walked up to her with a baby girl in his arms. The child looked to be about 16 months old. He said something in Swati which Valencia didn't understand.
Valencia: I'm sorry, I speak English
Him: I want to give you.
He lifted the little girl toward her as if she were a material offering. The child gazed into Valencia's eyes.
Valencia in confusion: No.... Sir.....
I can't take your baby.
Him frankly: Yes. I want to give.
Valencia stood motionless as tears began welling in her eyes.
This man was desperate. He wanted so badly to provide his little girl an escape from poverty, and Valencia signified a one-way ticket to a better life.
The unnamed man accepted Valencia's silence in disappointment and walked away.
Our lives have been changed since crossing paths with the girls of Swaziland. We no longer take our freedom of livelihood for granted, and have a newfound dedication to charity on their behalf.
To Nikiwe, that little angel and YOU... we offer this prayer:
May your lives be filled with joy, even when surrounded by sorrow.
May you always be guarded by divine protection, and guided by His purpose.
May the desires of your heart be met with miraculous intervention.
And when resources seem scarce, may you find compassion and goodwill as your source of peace and sustenance.
We love you "dea",
V + Lo