The vision of one resident here has turned the hearts of an entire congregation to a small African nation.
Sally Townsend said for much of her life, she has felt led by God to care for the people of Africa.
And when she studied the continent, she felt even more led once she discovered the struggles of Swaziland, a tiny country with the highest rate of HIV/AIDS and the lowest life expectancy in the world.
Swaziland is known as a nation of orphans. But help is now available.
“God has multiplied my efforts,” she said, noting how her congregation, K2 the Church, has adopted Swaziland as a project. Members now are traveling to a village there called Ekudzeni to man a carepoint for kids to receive care and food each day.
“God has shown me the power of one person stepping into a situation where they have to trust God and let Him do the rest,” she said. “God used me. It was a beautiful ripple effect He allowed me to be a part of.”
Townsend said having felt led by God to visit Africa, she first started studying about problems there five years ago. She said she was determined to make a decision about what she could do to help there by her 30th birthday in July of 2010.
“I just felt a clear directive that I was supposed to go to Africa,” she said.
But with 56 countries in that continent, she said making a decision about what to do seemed overwhelming.
“What was manageable was to take one step of faith each day,” she said.
The process of deciding what to do took several weeks.
“I called a lot of nonprofits,” she said. The process quickly showed her that every African country had its banner problems.
But when she came across Swaziland’s overwhelming plight, she said she knew that’s where she had to take action. “There are a lot of countries that need help, but they seemed to have the most critical need,” she said.
Joining with two nonprofits already serving there – Children’s Hope Chest and Children’s Cup -- Townsend financed her own trip to the country in the fall of 2010.
And in 2012, Townsend was asked by her church about what was happening there. And she discovered an associate pastor had moved from Swaziland six and a half years earlier.
Before she knew it, Townsend had a volunteer position orchestrating trips to Swaziland with church members and supplies every six months.
In the time since she first went there, Townsend has taken 70 unique individuals who make trips in groups of 18 every six months now to the area.
The church has built a solar paneled chapel in Ekudzeni and also serves at the carepoint with medical needs and various other services for 200 to 250 children each day.
In addition, members of her church sponsor individual children.
“We really encourage them to develop relationships with these children,” Townsend said. But Townsend pointed out that it is not just the people of Swaziland who are transformed as a result of the service rendered there.
“It is helping transform our people at K2 from what we learn from the people in Swaziland,” she said.
And she said the benefits to her own family also have been extensive as her husband, Kevin, and her young children all support the effort.
“The impact on my kids has been great,” she said. “They always have an awareness of serving others around the world.”
She said the eyes of her family are opened to things they probably would have been too stubborn to see otherwise.
Swaziland Enthusiast Discusses Transformation Through Service
Sally Townsend said the changes that have come about in herself and those who have made trips with her across the world to Swaziland have been astounding.
“I thought the act of caring for the orphans and widows would be what helped me turn my back on the things of this world,” said the Sandy resident in a blog post about her adventures in caring. “I was not anticipating that it would actually be the orphans and widows who would help teach me this process.”
Townsend said she has learned from the people of Swaziland that the poor are the rich and the rich are the poor.
“I feel as if the air has been ripped out of my lungs. I am humbled – humiliated, yet there is hope.”
The Sandy woman explains that as she and others develop deeper relationships with those from Swaziland, “God sheds a painful light on the deficiencies in our own culture and hearts.”
She said she has realized that in America, self-sufficiency has choked God out of people’s lives.
“We strive for independence not realizing the joy and freedom of dependence,” she said in her blog. “We have embraced things of this world.”
Townsend said she is plagued and perplexed at how these people, who live among such poverty and face hardships beyond her comprehension, can sing boldly with an authentic joy that takes her breath away.
“Simultaneously I am inspired and ashamed, enlightened and tormented,” she wrote.
Townsend said she believes when groups step across cultural, geographic or comfort boundaries, they are forced to lean on Jesus and not themselves.
“When we dare to stand on the edge in situations where we feel completely overwhelmed and ill-equipped, our survival hinges on allowing God to fill in all the gaps,” she wrote. “Perspectives shift, hearts are softened, blinders are ripped off – we begin to realize that without Christ alive and blazing within us, we are all impoverished.”