By McKenna MIDDLETON
Members of Montrose Church, from June 9 to June 22, served their fellow man through construction projects, healthcare, and AIDS/HIV intervention, all while building relationships with community members in Swaziland.
The traveling mission team consisted of 17 members, but the entire Montrose Church congregation contributed to the trip through annual giving, praying for the team, and following daily social media updates during the trip. The trip marked a new step in a long-term, 10-year partnership between Montrose Church and the Nazarene church in Swaziland.
“It is difficult to find projects in which you feel like you’re doing anything more than just giving money. I think having people hands on and building relationships comes with [feeling like you’re doing something more],” Montrose Church pastor Dave Roberts said. “We can build relationships so we get to know what the needs are. That gives us a great opportunity to be there long-term.”
The team was split into two main groups: compassion and construction. The compassion team participated in activities such as visiting the local hospital, working with the HIV/AIDS taskforce, and painting a nearby school. The construction team worked to build churches and child development centers alongside community members. Each day at lunch, the Montrose Church team swapped its peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the Swazis’ meal.
“Sharing together, getting to talk and share stories and working together, I think, helps them to feel like they’re not alone. They’re not isolated. Roberts said. “We care and we’re there to listen.”
The child development centers are funded by Montrose Church and operated by the local Swazi churches, a clear example of the true partnership between the two churches. The centers feed 50 to 140 children daily, depending on the need of the village.
“I don’t think most people in the U.S. can imagine that that level of poverty still exists. I think interacting with the people there is the only way you start to understand what that really means to them and culturally what’s insulting and what’s uplifting,” Roberts said. “I think that’s what happens when you work side-by-side.”
Swaziland demonstrates the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS in Africa, an epidemic that has left many children orphaned and in deep poverty despite recent medical advancements. The Montrose Church team partnered with an AIDS/HIV taskforce that visits patients once a week to provide medicine and food.
“I believe that the mandate to care for the physical needs of people is extremely high there,” Roberts said. “I think they have a very strong commitment to the overall wellbeing of a person. They look at it like the church is not structured to help you just spiritually. The church is here to help you holistically.”
The Montrose Church team also had a chance to participate in the mission project of a local church, painting and refurbishing a nearby public school. Montrose Church continues to partner with the Swaziland churches, most recently helping to fund a well for the village near that school.
Highlights from the Swaziland 2016 Mission Trip will be presented on Thursday, July 21 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Montrose Church auditorium. There will be a taste of authentic Swaziland food with decorations at 6:30 p.m. followed by the travel log presentation at 7 p.m.
Montrose Church is located at 2409 Florencita Drive.