Archive for the ‘Swaziland’ Category

The Kingdom of Swaziland (part 1)

July 11th, 2009 No comments

My tagline mentions faith, doubt, family and future (not sure where that “d” word came from).  So far we have covered the first three, so what about the fourth… our future.  Well here are the big plans Beth and I have been mulling over recently.

About a year ago Beth and I realized we had divergent life plans.  It was not that my plans were different from hers; rather, it was that we were holding on to various life plans that could not all happen together.  Were we going to commit to our community in Bowling Green? Where we going to spend time overseas?  Was I going to pursue a Ph.D. and then teach in a university?  Was Beth going to transition into special education and working with students with Autism?

After much thought, prayer, and discussion it was clear that the path we were most dedicated to was an extended period overseas; specifically, we wanted to experience life in Africa.  We wanted to live 5-10 years in a developing country where we could raise Mikayla during her formative years.  We began doing research and setting goals.  We even went as far as creating a giant pro/con list of every country in the continent.  We were looking for a country:

  • that is relative safe with no major civil conflicts
  • where english is at least a secondary language
  • where travel is cheap enough so it is possible to come back to the states or have people visit us
  • with a near temperate climate and varied terrain (okay… really we were just looking for a place that wasn’t a desert)
  • with a rich history and culture
  • where communities addressed societal issues together

It was not our goal to go somewhere to “fix” things, but rather to allow a different set of circumstances to expand our worldview and then work along side those there to bring about a better world for all.

Our search kept returning us to the small country of Swaziland (technically “The Kingdom of Swaziland” since it is the only remaining monarchy in Africa).  This landlocked country is to the north-east of South Africa and is about the size of New Jersey with about the population of Kentucky’s 4 largest cities (Louisville, Lexington, Bowling Green and Owensboro).  It has the third lowest life expectancy in the world due largely to the fact that it has the highest AIDS rate in the world. I will write a follow up post explaining more about Swaziland in the coming days and then another one explaining what we may do there, but until then you can read about the country here.

Our current plans are to travel there in 2010 to research jobs and organizations we may be able to work with, then in 2011 or 2012 make the big move.  Mikayla will be 2 or 3 then and we expect to stay until she is ready for Middle School and then move back.

Of course all this is flexible.  We decided it was better to have flexible goals that we could move towards rather than ambiguous goals that may never materialize.

For now, we are beginning to make contacts over there and have started looking into learning the second language of siswati, we are also researching organizations and institutions that we may be able to align ourselves with.

I look forward to sharing more as it develops.

See also:

Kingdom of Swaziland Part II – Background on the country

Kingdom of Swaziland Part III – What we will do and why

The Kingdom of Swaziland (part 2)

July 12th, 2009 No comments

Yesterday I posted about the decision Beth and I have made about moving to Africa.  Today I want to take the time to give a brief overview of the country of Swaziland, where we are strongly considering moving.  Tomorrow, I will write a bit about why Beth and I made this decision and what it may look like.

Swaziland is the second smallest mainland country in Africa (trailing only Gambia).  It is landlocked and roughly the size of New Jersey.  It lies to the north-east of South Africa and is surrounded on three sides by that country.  Southern Mozambique is along the eastern border of Swaziland.  The population of the country is 1.1M, which is about the same as Rhode Island (by comparison Kentucky has a population of 4.3M).  That gives a population density of roughly the same as Tennessee, but the differences is that Swaziland is more spread out with its capitol and largest city of Mbabane having only 81,000 people.  Only 4 cities have more than 10,000 people and only 10 are over 4,000.


Map of Swaziland

The country has a rich history and remains as the only remaining monarchy in Africa.  Currently King Mswati III is the ruler of the country.  He currently has 14 wives and 23 children.  Swaziland is navigating a fine line between democracy and monarchy with a (relatively) newly adopted constitution.  In the early 1800’s the Dlamini royal house established themselves in the area.  By the turn of the next century, the area known as Swaziland was under British colonial rule even though the royal family was still in existence.  In 1968 the country was granted independence and a constitutional monarchy was established.  This however was short lived as in 1973 the constitution was dissolved by King Sobhuza leading to a absolute monarchy.  Eventually the monarchy was passed on to the current king Mswati III in 1986.  Under his rule (and thorough the pressure of underground political parties) a movement to more democracy was initiated.  National elections begain in 1993 and in 2006 a new constitution was established that declared the king the head of state and a prime minister and parliment along with a judicial system under him.  While power is now shared, the king still has an abundance of control (for instance, all the land is considered to be the King’s).

King Mswati III

King Mswati III

Swaziland has two languages, siSwati and English.  SiSwati is the traditional langauge spoken in most of the rural areas and English is the language of business and government.  SiSwati is a derivitive of Zulu; you can hear it spoken here.

By far the greatest issue facing the Swazi people is the AIDS epidemic.  Currently nearly 40% of adults are infected that number is on the rise.  According to the UN, it is one of the few areas of the world where the quality of life is decreasing.  The AIDS rate is the highest in the world, the life expectancy is the third worst, and of 177 countries, it listed as being 141st in terms of human development.  77.8% of the population lives on less than two dollars a day and 47.7% lives on less than a dollar.

Despite these staggering problems and a transitioning government, Swaziland is relatively stable.  There are not major uprisings, civil conflicts, or major border disputes.  There are not rebel groups attempting to overthrow the government like there are in other African countries.

The crime rate in Swaziland is relatively high, especially in terms of violent crime.  However, it should be noted that its overall crime rate is 20% lower than that of the United States.  This compilation report highlights crime statistics as well as human rights issues, which I will address next.

While Swaziland is a stable country, it does have major human rights issues as this detailed report from the State Department explains.  Here is part of the the abstract (emphasis mine):

Swaziland is a modified traditional monarchy with executive, legislative, and limited judicial powers ultimately vested in the king (Mswati III). The king rules according to unwritten law and custom, in conjunction with a partially elected parliament and an accompanying structure of published laws and implementing agencies. The population was approximately 1.1 million. The most recent parliamentary elections, held in 2003, were not considered free and fair. Political parties continued to be banned. Political power remained largely with the king and his circle of traditional advisors, including the queen mother. The civilian authorities maintained effective control of the security forces; however, there were some instances in which security forces committed abuses.

The government’s human rights record was poor, and government agents continued to commit serious abuses. The country faced a serious socio?economic situation characterized by sluggish economic performance, poverty, drought, an HIV/AIDS prevalence rate of 42.6 percent, and growing unemployment. The following human rights problems were reported:

  • inability of citizens to change their government
  • arbitrary killings by security forces
  • police use of torture, beatings, and excessive force
  • police impunity
  • arbitrary arrest and lengthy pretrial detention
  • infringement on citizens’ privacy rights
  • limits on freedom of speech and of the press
  • restrictions on freedom of assembly and association
  • prohibitions on political activity and harassment of political activists
  • restrictions on freedom of movement
  • discrimination and violence against women
  • poor enforcement of women’s rights
  • child abuse
  • trafficking in persons
  • societal discrimination against mixed race and white citizens
  • antiunion discrimination
  • child labor

I want to end on a bright note.  The country of Swaziland is absolutely beautiful with high plains, majestic mountains and pristine valleys.  I have included some pictures below.


Finally, here are a few websites I have found useful in addition to those linked above:

See Also:

Kingdom of Swaziland Part I – Decision to Move

Kingdom of Swaziland Part III – What we will do and why

The Kingdom of Swaziland (Part 3)

July 14th, 2009 1 comment

This is the third post in a series on the decision Beth and I have made concerning a long-term move to Africa.  In the first post I detailed how the process started and in the second post I walked through the specifics of the nation we are strongly considering: Swaziland.  This post will cover the whys and whats.

Most people are considerate enough to assume we have a reason for going there, so the most frequent question has been “What will you do there?”  In fact, in one conversation I had with an Embassy employee, I was told after explaining our plans that “No one just comes to Swaziland.”  Well, we are hoping that is hyperbole.

The most honest answer to the question of what will we do is quite simply “we don’t know yet.”  It isn’t that we are planning on moving our family 9000 miles away with no plan, but instead, we don’t want to rush our decisions.  We don’t want to align with an organization without first knowing the impact (positive or negative) they are having.  We don’t want to commit to helping with AIDS victims if we would be better suited to work in the educational system.  We don’t want to live in Manzini if we would be a better fit in the eastern plains.  (you get the picture).  So right now we are being very intention about our research.  We are getting to know the groups currently there, and what opportunities may be there for us.  We are speaking with both Americans and Swazi citizens about the needs and resources.  We are investigating job opportunities in the public, private, government and non-governmental sectors.  We are looking at faith-based and secular openings.  Here are a few things we may consider:

  • I may apply for work at the University of Swaziland teaching Theology and Religion at the University of Swaziland.
  • Beth may try to work in the Ministry of Education to put her special education training to work.
  • We both may work in an orphanage working with orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC).
  • We may work with an NGO doing AIDS prevention and education.
  • I may work in the private sector doing web development while Beth volunteers in the community.
  • We may join the Peace Corp.
  • We may work as “missionaries” with any number of faith based groups in the country.
  • We may figure out these are not the opportunities / needs of the country and do something like sugar cane harvesting… who knows!

I realize that does not answer the “what” question, but I hope you understand our motives.  I fear too many people decide what needs to be done without ever stepping foot in the country or assessing the impact of their decisions.  That is why we are planning a trip there next summer to serve as the capstone of our state-side research.

Now, let me comment a bit on the why of our decision.  The most straight-forward answer is this: we want to experience life outside the United States in a setting that forces us to reexamine our lives.  (so yes, you could say our motivation is primarily selfish).  Despite the fact Beth and I have spent the last 2-3 years trying to simplify our lives and work towards making the world a better place, it is so easy to get caught in the rat race of life and forget there are things larger than us.  As Rob Bell as put it, “one of the greatest dangers of life is assuming our world is the world!”  Put another way, it is easy to get caught up in things that don’t matter when most of the world is struggling to survive.  (Let us not forget every day 30,000 children die of hunger of preventable diseases, while Americans alone throw away 25% of our edible food.)

I was reminded of this tonight while watching Schindler’s list.  At the end of the movie, after the war has ended and the Jews have been freed, everyone there is greatful for the fact that Schindler has saved over 1,000 Jews and he can only weep and wonder about how much more he could have done.  He breaks down when he realizes the gold pin he is wearing could have been used to save one additional life, or his car could have saved 10 more.  He says “why did I keep the car…”

Here is the clip:

We have realized that the questions we ask, and the issues we care about are directly related to our surroundings.  Our goal is not to go somewhere to “fix” things, but rather to be in a place where we are concerned with the things of more significance than what we eat or what we will wear.

The experiencing of living in a country life Swaziland is more than just something Beth and I want to go through.  We want Mikayla’s formative years to occur in a society where the day to day struggles are litterally a matter of life and death, yet where community is something much deeper than who you hang out with when you are not holed up in a comfy suburban home with 1000 channels, a maid and a wardrobe of clothes you never where because they are out of style.

Will it be tough?  I am sure it will be.  Will we miss our friends and family?  Absolutely?  Will we regret it, or encounter problems beyond what we expected? Perhaps.  But, do we feel this is something we must do?  Without doubt.

As for a finish… we are looking at returning in 2019 or 2020.  That would be the year Mikayla would start Middle school. Our rationale is this: we want her to get the best education possible so she can do whatever she wants with her life.  At the same time, we want to return to the US, because we feel this nation has the resources — both financial and individual — to change the course of the world.

As you can tell, we still have a lot to figure out, but I am excited about the direction we are heading.

To wrap things up, I want to give you a few blog links of people who are in Swaziland:

See Also:

Kingdom of Swaziland Part I – Decision to Move

Kingdom of Swaziland Part II – Background on the country

Bulembu Swaziland: Enterprise supports Care

August 23rd, 2009 1 comment

Many of you know Beth and I are planning a move to Swaziland Africa in the next couple years (I wrote a 3 part series on how we made our decision, important information about Swaziland, and what we expect to do there).  Rather than going to “fix” things, we want to be a part of a community that is responding to needs.  We want to participate in something much bigger than us.  While we haven’t made any decisions yet, we have found a place that gets us very excited: The city of Bulembu.


Bulembu is situated in the mountains of northwest Swaziland right on the South African border.  In its prime there were 15,000 residents of this city, most of them employed by the local asbestos mine.  When the mine closed the city fell apart.  The population dropped to less than 1,000 and the infrastructure collapsed.  The entire city was bought by a development corporation who then sold it to a non-profit called Bulembu Ministries.  This organization is primarily made up of native Swazi leaders.  It is now the vision of the city to redefine and rebuild itself.

The vision includes a town where 10,000 residents are safe and have access to quality work and essential social services.  A town with the infrastructure and programs to provide ongoing care for 2,000 orphaned and vulnerable children with access to education, health services and family structures so they can develop into young adults and emerging leaders with hope for the future.

The rebuilding process in built around a plan for a fully sustainable city.  Rather than rely on outside aid, the people of Bulembu have a vision for place where the community enterprise completely supports community care.  Industries have been brought in (tourism, forestry, bakeries, etc.) to provide work for the local people.  Then, all of the profits go towards sustaining the orphanages, schools, churches, hospitals, etc.

Nearly every aspect of the city is built around shared opportunity and individual potential.  The orphanages are designed in a village structure so that children live in “families” rather than being shuffled around in large institutional settings.

The commitment is to provide holistic care for each child in a home, rather than in a large institutional orphanage. Each child lives in a refurbished home with a caregiver and 5 other children.  In this way, each child becomes a part of a caring family that will prepare them for a bright future filled with hope and to emerge as the leaders of tomorrow.  These new famlies will be the thread that restores the social fabric of a nation on the verge of collapse due to the AIDS pandemic.

In a similar way, the schools are based on individualized instruction so each student can be taught the skills they need while developing their natural ability.

What really gets Beth and I excited is that this initiative was started and is sustained by local people with an amazing vision for what their city could be.  It is also a place where a diverse group of people are partnering together for a common good.  It is a place where we could be part of something much bigger than us with a long range vision for positive change.  We don’t know where specifically we will end up in a couple years, but learning about this city has energized us and reminded us why we want to move 8,000 miles away.

Here is a youtube video from the city as well as a few more pictures and links:




siSwati Language Resources

November 1st, 2009 10 comments
siSwati Prayer

siSwati Prayer

[UPDATED: 21 June 2013]

SiSwati is one of two official languages in the Kingdom of Swaziland (English being the other).  It is a Bantu language and of the Nguni sub-group.  It shares significant similarities to Zulu, and native speakers find the languages mutually intelligible.

Swaziland uses English in business and governmental settings, but siSwati is considered the native tongue.  For perspective, if you are in a meeting in Swaziland people will usually speak English, but when you go lunch the discussion will usually be in siSwati.

In our own quest to learn siSwati we have found that since only one million people speak it as a first language (3 Million overall), it has been a bit difficult to find helpful resources.  It is hard enough (impossible) to find a local speaker in the US, let alone a teacher or lessons.  Thus, I have tried to pull together a list of online and print resources.  I hope this list is helpful for other people who may be in a similar situation trying to learn siSwati.

Peace Corp Material:

By far the most current and widely available material comes from the Peace Corp.  They provide a pre-departure pack that includes a study manual and accompanying MP3s.  It is far from comprehensive, but it does a great job of getting you used to the language and introducing you to basic phrases.  You won’t be able to communicate with just this material, but you will be able to be polite. Here are the links to the pre-departure materials:

The above material is the most current, but it is not the most comprehensive.  You may also benefit from their older publications.

  • siSwati Language Handbook – Download from ERIC, Published 1980, 116 pages.  This is primarily a collection of narratives in English and siSwati.  Helpful for an intermediate learner, but the language is a bit dated.
  • Understanding and Speaking siSwatiDownload from ERIC, Published 1969, 449 pages.  This is comprehensive manual, but unfortunately it is quite dated as many of the language conventions and phrases have changed.

The Peace Corp has also just released a new manual for its Swaziland Volunteers and it is very nice.  It is a great mix of useful information, important phrases and essential grammar.  It is the best resource I have found that pulls together what you need to begin learning siSwati.  Unfortunately it has not been publicly released, although if you send me an email, I will try to point you in the right direction.  If Peace Corp puts it out for general use, I will certainly link to it here.

Print Materials:

Unfortunately, I have not been able to come across a single print resource that effectively pulls together everything you need to learn the language (especially if you are trying to teach yourself.)  However, I have found the books listed below, when used together, provide a great base to build on.  I have provided links to the Amazon and Google Books pages so you can get the details on the books (ISBN, book cover, etc.)

  • Handbook of siSwatiPublished 1991, 175 pages.  This is a course book for classes at UNISA and thus takes a more academic approach.  This is where you are going to learn about grammatical structure and parsing. (Amazon | Google)
  • Essential siSwatiPublished 1981, revised 1990, 80 pages.  This is a basic phrasebook designed to be a quick reference.  It also includes stem charts.  It is a great companion to understand how actual siSwati phrases are formed.  I have found some of the phrases are a bit dated. (Amazon | Google)
  • Concise siSwati DictionaryPublished 1981, 187 pages.  Neither of the above books do a good job of teaching vocabulary, so you really need a dictionary.  Just know that because of the way siSwati works, you have to have a basic understanding of the language before you can even use this.  It too is an older resource and some of the words are “Deep siSwati” instead of daily use.   (Amazon | Google)
  • Silulu SesiSwatiPublished 2010, 452 pages.  This new dictionary was recently published as part of a large African Languages collaboration.  It boasts to have been the first dictionary compiled by native speakers.  It provides English > siSwati as well as siSwati > English translations, but is a better resource for those looking to learn English.  Much more up to date than the above dictionary, but is missing key works, and doesn’t do a great job of explaining the differences in various translations (i.e. which are transitive and intransitive forms).  However, if I was only getting one dictionary, I would choose this one for sure. It is often referred to as “The Red Dictionary” (as opposed to the Blue one above) for its plain red design.  (Google)

I have seen all of these books in Swaziland (Websters in Manzini has had all three, CNA in Mbabane and Manzini usually have least couple of them).  We were also able to find them online, but we had to search around for them.  Besides Amazon (US), here are a couple other places you can look:


Of course to learn siSwati (or any language) you first need to memorize vocab and prefixes/suffixes.  I have tried many different options in the past, but recently discovered Anki.  It is an easy-to-use flashcard program that works on computers and mobile devices.  If you use your computer or Android, it is free (iTunes charges a small fee).    It uses algorithms to focus your study time on new and difficult words while stilling keeping the words you know in your memory. You can find out more on the Anki Website.

The best way to learn is to create the “deck” of anki cards yourself, but if you want to go with a short cut, I have upload an excel sheet of 550 siSwati words and phrases from my anki deck.  It took me about two months to learn these at 30 minutes per day.

Everyone is going to learn their own way, but I found it helpful to prioritize these words into 3-4 groups based on importance  and frequency (and upload in appropriate batches).  Then I focused on seeing the siSwati and knowing the English.  As I got used to these words, I also included the English word and had to know the siSwati translation. (This is easily accomplished by simply typing selecting the “Show Reverse” option on appropriate cards.)

It took me about two months to learn these by using Anki 30 minutes per day.    That base allows me to pick up key words in conversation and also have the most basic of conversations (assuming you know some grammar rules to accompany it).

Grammar Notes:

Knowing vocabulary is useless if you can’t put it together into meaningful sentences (or be able to parse sentences given to you.)  Learning the grammar is way outside the scope of this post, but I can tell you that to have a basic understanding of siSwati, you have to understand noun prefixes, verbal extensions, morphemes, subject concords and object concords.  If that already makes sense to you (or you are willing to learn from the books listed above), then this siSwati Cheat Sheet might be helpful.

Other Resources:

Another resource to look into once you begin getting a basic understanding is YouTube.  There are several videos posted in siSwati (mostly religious) which will be helpful in practicing comprehension.  This one is particularly helpful because it includes English subtitles: Thandiwe

I had the opportunity to talk with a headmaster at a school in Swaziland.  I asked him which resources he would recommend and here is what he had to say:

The best book (if you can obtain it) is from the Sebenta National Institute called ‘siSwati Setfu’ translated ‘Our siSwati’ and was a joint venture publication between the Sebenta National Institute and the US Government, under contract no. 79-042-100.

I have not been able to track it down, but if you do, please let me know where.

Hopefully the above resources will be helpful if you are one of the very few who want to teach yourself siSwati.  I will continue to update this post as I find more.

Categories: Reviews, Swaziland Tags: , ,

Swaziland Update

January 25th, 2010 3 comments

It has been a little while since I have written about our Swaziland plans.  Lucky for you we have some news to share.

Malolotja Nature Reserve in Northwest Swaziland

We just renewed our passports and purchased our tickets for our summer exploration trip (let’s hope that is $3,600 well spent).  We will be flying out of Nashville on July 12 and returning on July 26.  Since the flight is over 20 hours (with a stop off in the west African country of Senegal) that will shave a day off our trip each way giving us 11 or so days to explore the country.

Our goal for this trip to get a good feel for the country, and meet with as many people/groups/organizations as possible in preparation for a move to the Kingdom in 2011 (You can read more details about our plans to move to Swaziland here, here and here.)  Right now we are hoping to find an organization we can work with for our first six months.  That way we can have some stability when we move, but are not having to commit ourselves for multiple years without being very familiar with the specifics.

So far we have made contact with 4-5 people on the ground.  We are hoping to follow up on several leads with strong potential and then leave enough time open during our trip so that we can discover other connections we had not planned on.  I have a feeling we will be playing a lot of this trip by ear.

One thing we have found is that it is much easier to get a hold of the Western Christian organizations than it is to contact the local and secular organizations.  Unfortunately we are also finding most of the Christian groups are a bit too evangelical and charismatic for our comfort.  We are open to working with Christian groups, but we want our focus to be on indigenous solutions and community development, not proselytizing.  In many ways Beth and I feel like we would do better with a “regular” job where we can live out our faith a part of it.  Our main focus in moving to Swaziland is to expose Mikayla (and ourselves) to life outside the United States so our worldview can be informed and shaped in a global context.  Of course we want to be apart of something good and make an impact where ever we are, but that is not our primary goal.

Of other Swazi news, Beth and I have been working on our siSwati, but I must admit we are not as dedicated as we should be–we are still working on the standard greetings and responses.  Hopefully by July we will have the basics down and then can spend the next year mastering it.

That’s the update for now.  I will let you know more as it develops.

Categories: Family, Swaziland Tags: ,

Counting to 10 in Zulu

February 2nd, 2010 No comments

Beth and I have (slowly) been working on our siSwati in preparation for our move.  Since siSwati is only spoke by 1.5 million people in the world (0.02% of the world’s population) there is not a whole lot of learning resources.  Because siSwati is related to the Zulu language, we have also been looking at some of those lessons.  Below you will find a video clip of the numbers from 1-10.  We were feeling pretty good about things until we got about half way through things.

Learn Zulu Numbers for Free with Byki

What are the chances we can 5-10 years without using the numbers 7-9?

New Passport

February 18th, 2010 No comments

In preparation for our move to Swaziland, Beth and I have had to get new passports.  My ragged blue book (which survived the washing machine while in Germany) has now been retired.  Gone are my stamps from Frankfurt A.M. and San Jose Costa Rica.

Here is a look at old and new:

2010-02-18 Valentines Day 016

No passport photos are ever good.  I think I traded a "really bad" for a "moderately bad" one:

passport photos

Categories: Random, Swaziland Tags: , ,

We can’t take it all: Books

May 4th, 2010 No comments

We are two and half months away from our summer trip to Swaziland and just a little over a year away from when we actually plan on moving.  That has Beth and I looking at things in new ways.  We are asking questions like “What are we going to do with our dishes?” and “Who is going to keep Shiloh?” We have spent close to two years trying to accumulate less and downsize where we can.  In my mind I have already begun making a list of what things we will want to take with us and what needs to be given away, sold, loaned out or put in storage.

I knew early on the hardest thing for me to part with would be my collection of books.  Not because they are so valuable (although I do have several thousand dollars wrapped up in them), but because in many ways they define me.  To help the transition, I moved most of my academic collection out of my house and to the church.  That way other people could use them and if I left them there I wouldn’t feel like they were lost.

Now, as we are beginning to investigate actually job opportunities, and we realize there is a decent chance I will be able to teach at either a school or the University, I have begun thinking about what resources I would need.  That, along with our overall planning for the future, has prompted me to start a list of books I already own that I want to take with me.  Since my training is mostly in Biblical Studies (especially the Hebrew Scriptures) a majority of the books are from this field .  I have also included books from fields like Christian History and Theology to have as a reference, but I must admit I do not feel qualified to teach anything but basic topics in these areas.  Finally, there are a few books that have been so influencial for me that they had to be included.  You will note I have not included any fiction or pleasure reading — I figure I can pick that up while I am there.

Stack of books from my first semester at Asbury. Only one of these made the list.

Here is my list of “Keepers” (shoot me a comment if you think of any good ones I am leaving out):

  • The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, NRSV -This was my seminary bible and still my favorite for reading through (I figure I can leave my leather-bound Thompson Chain here in the states.
  • BHS and NA27 – You have to start with the original texts.
  • Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar, Pratico and VanPelt – This is not the Hebrew grammar I learned on, but I have found it is the best for catching me back up when I find I have let my language skills slack.
  • A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, Arnold and Choi – A concise reference that is phenomenal for making a budding scholar look like they know more than they really do.
  • Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, Mounce – The Greek counterpart to Pratico and VanPelt.  My Greek is much rougher than my Hebrew, but this is a good grammar to get back up to speed.
  • Life in Biblical Israel, King and Stanger – An excellent reference and even better bathroom reading.  This book is the gooey center of the cinnamon roll – it really helps the text come alive through detailed contextual insights.
  • A Biblical History of Israel, Provan, Long and Longman – More of a reference than anything else.  Well documented and easy to use as a gateway for deeper studies.
  • Harper Collins Concise Atlas of the Bible – Another great reference.  Not especially thorough, but very helpful.
  • Epic of Eden, Richter – If I ever have the opportunity to teach an introduction to Old Testament, I would want to teach it like Dr. Richter.
  • An Introduction to the Old Testament, Brueggemann – While I don’t agree with him on all fronts, my theology and understanding of the Old Testament is most shaped by Walter Brueggemann and this is a great primer/survey.
  • Introducing the New Testament, Achtemeier, Green and Thompson – Not my favorite New Testament Survey, but the only one I own.
  • Christian Origins and the Question of God Trilogy, NT Wright – These have long been my go to reference for all things related to New Testament concepts.
    • The New Testament and the People of God – This is the best book I have found for laying out the setting of the New Testament and its implications
    • Jesus and The Victory of God – My Christology is largely shaped by Wright’s thoughts in this book.
    • The Resurrection of the Son of God – I don’t have this one yet, and in practice, I use it the least so if space is tight, I may only take the first two.
  • Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible – By no means my favorite source for Biblical information, but handy to have around when you need to look up things you have forgotten (like which ecumenical council discussed the Arian controversy?)
  • History of the World Christian Movement, Irvin and Sunquist – In my undergrad and seminary career I have read quite a few Church History books and this one is by far the best.  I am anxiously awaiting Volume II.
  • The Story of Christian Theology, Olson – I am very weak in my knowledge of the history of theology and this is the only book I have to reference.
  • Challenge of Jesus, N.T. Wright – While Wright does discuss Christology in this book and it does have academic merit, for me, it is a defining book in how I understand the nature of Christianity.
  • Prophetic Imagination, Walter Brueggemann – I know I sound like a broken record when I mention this book, but one of the most important concepts in my life that I live by is Brueggemann’s idea of the prophetic imagination and criticizing/energizing culture and community.
  • The Politics of Jesus, John Howard Yoder – I may never have the opporutnity to teach from Yoder’s book, but I will certainly be able to live by it.
  • Walden, Henry David Thoreau – One of my sources of rejuvenation.
  • Where do we go from here: Chaos or Community, Martin Luther King Jr – We named our daughter after King; surely I must take his most seminal work.

So I was able to whittle my collection of several hundred down to 22. Even then there are so many that I am leaving out that I would love to include.  In reality, this list is probably too large when you consider how much we can actually take with us; but…. at least it is a start.

Swaziland Departure

July 10th, 2010 No comments

On Monday we fly out to Swaziland for two weeks.  Even though this trip has been nearly two years in the making, we are still rushing to get last minute details together.  I wanted to take a break from the packing and planning and printing and preparation to let you know that Beth and I will do our best to update our blogs during the trip so you can follow along.

In case you are wondering “What in the world, why are the Kickerts flying half way across the world?” then here’s the cliff notes answer:

  • Next summer we are planning on moving to Swaziland Africa to live for 5-10 years.
  • This trip is an exploratory one where we are meeting with various organizations to see where we might fit in best.

In many ways the direction of the decade of our lives will be tied into these two weeks.  Your thoughts and prayers would certainly be appreciated.

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