FAITH – We mentioned in a previous post how excited we were about the arrival of friends of ours Nate and Melanie Sweerin. They joined us in April 2013 along with their infant daughter Natalie to help us and the ministry for a year. It is never an easy decision to bring your young family from the comforts of the States to a third world country 1/2 way around the world but this young couple decided that they would answer God’s call and words cannot describe the blessing that they have been to us.
Not only was it the first time that we have had a couple serve here along side of us (good for morale, encouragement, and friendship) both Nate and Melanie fit in perfectly with the help that we were needing. Nate with his skill at fixing vehicles, building, and general handiness was a great co-laborer for Jako allowing him to share the burden of all the maintenance of our off road vehicles, generator, and everything on the grounds here but also his passion for discipling and seeing locals grow in their knowledge of God also made him the right fit to help meet the spiritual needs of the people here as well..
Melanie came with the skills and heart needed to meet our other large need – someone to oversee the preschool program and help with the upstart of the primary school. Not an easy job to undertake, but after spending a few weeks with Alyssa, Melanie took the reigns and did a great job, building relationships quickly and helping the local teachers become more self sustainable while still providing the support and encouragement that they needed. Soon she was comfortable enough with the preschool and the local teachers there that she could focus more and more on planning for the primary school.
HOPE- Not long after being here with us the Sweerins found out that they were pregnant with their second child who was to be born in December 2013. This brought great joy and of course much to look forward to in the future. Even though we (the Jouberts) we planning on being gone to the States for a few months from Mid Sep – Early Dec the Sweerins prayed and decided to travel to South Africa and have the baby there when it was close to the time and then return to Zambia. When the team from Iowa came (along with Nate’s parents and brother Nick) they brought gifts and things for the baby.
LOVE- One big blessing of having been here before was that both Nate and Melanie already knew a bit of what to expect and how we do ministry but it was a joy to see the genuine love with which each of them did their roles. Nate worked hard everyday with whatever physical task needed to be done (which was a great morale booster to Jako- having someone to work with who knew what he was doing) but Nate’s real joy was doing a weekly Bible study with our two workers Sakumbilla and Thomas (using Firm Foundations material). He also enjoyed filling in for Jako at the two church Bible studies and community Bible study. It was neat witnessing his relationships with the locals deepening and how he discipled and spiritually mentored the locals that God brought his way. The locals in turn respected him when he lead community projects or worked tasks with them because of his care and love.
Melanie’s love for the children and teachers at the school was also evident,. as well as her love for the children and mothers at the Children’s home. Little Natalie brought joy and smiles to everyone’s face and allowed Melanie a chance to relate to the local woman and teachers in way that only another mother can – helping to bridge cultural differences and allowing deeper friendships and a way of relating when discipling. Melanie lead short daily Bible studies with the preschool teachers but also empowered them to continue on their own in times of her absence. She fit in well with our team here and in with just a little instruction was equipped to handle all the things that Amber does while we would be gone (admin, finance, children’s home weekly distributions, community medical assistance etc.).
And then came NICK- Nate’s brother, arrived with the team from Iowa and stayed on for an additional month plus. It was a great encouragement to Nate and Melanie to be able to share the ministry they were doing with family and of course Natalie enjoyed all the love and attention she got from her Uncle Nick. A hard worker and wanting to serve, Nick was quick to help with any project at hand whether it be digging holes and helping to install a big solar panel array, reading or playing with the children’s home kids, chopping firewood or even doing dishes – he was here to serve and was a blessing to all. It was nice for us to know that he would be there to help Nate and Melanie at the beginning when we were gone.
Plans were made for our departure both on our side and on theirs and in terms of the physical all was looking good.We left in September confident in their ability and so thankful that God had provided the right people to sustain the ministry while we were away. We left with the excitement that next time we see each other that the Sweerins would be 4 instead of 3!
LOSS and PROVISION-September 22, 2013 was a day that was both wonderful and tragic as Elijah Dale Sweerin made his entrance into this world, and then soon left to be with the Lord. Words cannot describe the emotions the Sweerins must have encountered by them in the loss of their precious baby boy however in their grief they could still see God’s hand of provision. Not only was Nate’s brother Nick there to help support and encourage them but friends from home were flying in to visit them (previously arranged) only days afterwards. Missionary friends in Zambia surrounded them with love and support and because of their FAITH in God, they decided to not make an immediate decision to return home to the States. Instead they returned to Mukamba and through their grief, continued to trust in God and carry out duties here (with the strength that only God could have given them).
In spite of it being a time of deep sadness and healing God almost immediately opened doors through Elijah’s death as the people in the community saw the Sweerins commitment and love for them. They grieved with them, prayed for them, attended a small burial service for Elijah and through his death, Melanie was able to relate and minister to a teacher at the school who had been through a similar experience. The community became serious about building the primary school and for the first time in years (since first agreeing and promising to do their part for the primary school) the community actually had a workable group coming every day to transport bricks and build them. God was showing his faithfulness and provision in the midst of dark times.
FAITH FOR THE FUTURE- After some time and with a lot of prayer Nate and Melanie felt like God was calling their family back to the States for a time. They left in early November and while they don’t know what the future may hold they are trusting that God does and that He will guide and direct them every step of the way (whether it is to stay in the States or return to Zambia). Please pray that God will continue to heal and minister to this special family and make His presence and His will clear to them. To read more about their time here and their journey from their perspective go to http://nathanandmelaniesweerin.blogspot.com/ and to see more pictures of their time here visit https://picasaweb.google.com/missionoflovezambia/TheSweerinFamilyAndNick