Psalm 100:5 - For the Lord is good. His mercy is everlasting; and His truth endures to all generations.
Last night we received terrible news. Our babe, Siza Shabangu, has passed away. We don't know and likely will not know his specific ailment, but he had been sick for the last couple weeks. We returned from church yesterday to find babe in considerable pain and make preparing to take him to the hospital. Babe had been to the hospital several times in the previous weeks and would vary between resting in bed days and talking to us from the sofa days. One of his daughters came in her car to get him around 3pm and we walked him to the car and he, make, and the daughter all went to Manzini for what Grace and I thought would be a checkup and possible admittance to the hospital. Later that evening around 10pm we got a knock on our door and found make leaning against the door frame. It was then that she told us “he is dead”.
Grace and I had prepared to witness death in our community when we joined the Peace Corps. We knew that in Southern Africa and in a land stricken with HIV/AIDS and TB, that the possibility of someone we knew in the community dying was quite real. However, we never could have expected for it to hit so early on, so close to home, and with someone so near and dear to our hearts. Babe Shabangu was the first Swazi we met with no affiliation to the Peace Corps. He was the one who came and took us home and gave us our names “Mvuselelo and Nomvuselelo” (meaning revival in siSwati), he was our first challenge with siSwati, and he was the only one to always ask first in siSwati and then translate for “his children” in English. He was my first major experience with the language barrier when he and I had a thirty minute conversation about the fact that beef came from dead cows. Babe was truly our father, his wife truly our make, and all his children truly our bosisi and bobhuti. Words cannot express our sadness in this time as the man who first gave us a comforting welcome to this beautiful country is now gone, but we remember that God is good. A humbling and eternal truth that babe and make have instilled in us in all of our hardships as trainees, with language and with being away from our American families. We ask all of those reading this post to say a prayer for the Shabangu family but to also thank God for being so good. We do not always know his plans, but, as make has reminded her entire family including us her children, He is good, and we can rest with the reassurance that babe was met in heaven with arms spread wide in welcome. The faith that the Shabangu family has is unshakeable, and even though our knees wobbled when we received the news, the faith that is pervasive throughout the homestead has lifted us up. We are continually blessed and forever thankful to have know babe for the time we did, and our hearts go out to his wonderful, faithful, loving family.
For the time being the Peace Corps has moved us and all of our belongings back to SIMPA. Culturally in Swaziland when someone dies the make and women of the family go into mourning in the main house, and the men of the family mourn outside. A funeral brings together the entire family and all of the community as people come to pay their respects the whole week before the funeral. With the influx of loved ones and community members, all homes on the homestead are needed for the family so the Peace Corps made the decision to remove us for the time being and Grace and I agreed. We will stay at SIMPA but will return to our home for the funeral and then we will be able to visit as often as we wish.
We had a chance to speak with make this morning before we left, and I must say again that this woman's faith is unlike any I have ever witnessed before. As Grace and I silently cried, our hearts splitting for make, she reminded us that God is good and we are her and His children. She was sorry to see us go and was worried that this would scare away our American parents from visiting her, but we told her that without a doubt we would visit, parents in tow, next year. We told her how much we loved her and how sorry for her and the family we were, and then it was time for us to leave and give the family space. We said goodbye to all our bosisi, which was just as gut-wrenching as it sounds, but we left behind banana-grams, a sign we said that we would return and they must practice. Grace and I have never had sisters before but we let them know that they were all our bosisi now, and that we love them all very much. We love all of our family both Swazi and American so very very much. Remember, God is good.