Published on: 04/02/2019


It’s all change in Swaziland, but the Elim mission work will continue to reach out

Known for its wilderness reserves, Swaziland is a land of poverty currently embroiled in a row after the king renamed the nation as the Kingdom of eSwatini. Amidst the turmoil, as one Elim missionary returns home, another couple are already in place to continue to carrying the message of hope. Here are their stories as reported to Elim's Direction Magazine...

Clair Oates

claireoct18The decision to leave Swaziland was a gradual process. I knew I wasn’t there for ever and initially intended doing three years. However, due to God’s favour and the generosity of my sending church, I stayed a further year.

My intention was to try and employ a Swazi nurse to train up and take over my role, but this was not possible. And so I worked with the only person I had and trained her in the area of commu- nity development, which is where our evangelism was most effective alongside health.

We were able to add two more to the team, thus growing from two to four people. I think I managed to do a good job in training Nokuthula, who carries the same heart and passion for people as I have, so I am confident in her and the team’s ability to continue and advance what we had started when I withdrew.

The decision was still difficult as I knew I was leaving behind both a country with its wonderful culture, and the many people and friends I had made along the way. This was the hardest thing.

The transition from one culture to another, even if it’s back to the culture you spent all your life in, isn’t any easier than leaving home in the first place.

By the end of my third year, the Swazi culture and language were embedded in me. Even now, back in the UK, I find Swazi words coming to the tip of my tongue, and gestures and mannerisms coming naturally in my behaviour. And it surprises me. But I know God is faithful, and that he will continue what he has started, not just in the work itself but within the lives of those he has touched and changed.

We will not see the results of much of our work this side of eternity, but this should not stop us working tirelessly to bring light and hope in Jesus to those we meet on our way, wherever that may be.

This work does not belong to us. It is God’s. We are merely stewards, and I hope I have handled it well. God’s grace is sufficient for all my failings but I hope my heart has been pure.

Rachel & DAN Smart

smart1oct18Four years ago, my husband Dan and I were living in a lovely seaside com- munity, near family, raising three young children, which to many would sound idyllic. But we had a ‘hunch’ that it was temporary.

Thanks to my brother in law, who had served in Africa many times, I had the opportunity to visit Swaziland for the first time in October 2014. Again, I had more than a hunch that God was up to something huge and felt that our lives would turn upside down.

smart3oct18God called us to Swaziland and, after the initial shock of the task God was asking us to undertake, he led us to apply to Elim Missions. With the help of Paul Hudson along with sup- portive friends and family we were commissioned, and flew to Swaziland in November last year.

Since then we have lived in Bulembu, a former mining village which houses 350-plus orphans and vulnerable children. God has been so good. Elim advised us to take some months to ease in and enable our children to make friends and settle into school while we learned the language and culture and built relationships. This has blessed us, enabling us to transition with minimal stress.

smart2oct18We have learned so much already from the seasoned missionaries and all the staff who helped us find our feet. Dan now teaches IT to form fives and trains interns in software, helping them gain valuable skills – while building trust with students who are also our neighbours, or part of the worship team in which we serve.

I teach at the Teen Challenge women’s rehab where I use mime and dance to highlight subjects they’re studying and inject fun. We’ve just joined Royal Rangers which is like scouts with discipleship, and will begin teaching soon.


Bulembu is part of Challenge Ministries which has nationwide projects enabling lo- cals to live out James 1:27, serving orphans and widows daily, something we have always searched for. We’re gradually get- ting involved. When we arrived we realised people’s view of ‘orphan villages’ is narrow – children are soon teens and the town is also a youth centre buzzing with exams, results, careers advice and internships.

I suddenly thought, “Who will walk these girls down the aisle? Who will drive them to university and embarrass them?” And tomor- row... tomorrow we drive our first girl to university, and hopefully won’t embarrass her. God is gracious!

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