Posts Tagged ‘decisions’

Swaziland: The Decision

September 23rd, 2010 2 comments

Beth and I first began talking about a possible move to Africa nearly 3 years ago.  For over two years we have been looking to move to Swaziland in particular.  In July we visited with over 20 individuals and organizations to get a feel for where our place may be.  [If you want to look back at the journey so far, you can start here.]

After our trip this summer we felt very affirmed in our decision to move, but unsure of where we would end up.  Through careful discernment and lots of conversations, we were able to narrow it down to three locations.  All three seemed like viable options and all three were interested in the possibility of us joining them.  Although we might have had our leanings, we wanted to be sincerely open to whatever presented itself.

Eventually we found that one would probably not be possible financially and another didn’t have a position at the time that would fit our skill set.  So earlier this week, Beth and I were sitting on the couch and I said, "Well I guess that means we know where we will be working in Swaziland."  Beth answered, "Yup… I guess so."  And there it was… three years of research and discernment summed up in a 5 second conversation.  It was kind of anti-climactic, but at the same time very affirming; the decision was so clear it did not require any lengthy discussion, just a simple affirmation.

So now that you have read 3 (rambling) paragraphs, I am sure you are wondering what we have decided; so here you go:

As of July (tentatively) Beth, Mikayla and I will be moving to the lowveld of Swaziland Africa to work with Cabrini Ministries.  (You can read more about their work at their blog.)  I will help with strategic planning and development and Beth will help with education and psycho-social services.  There are still lots of details to work out, but we are very confident in our decision.


The amazing thing is that when we flew to Africa we had intentionally chosen not to meet with Cabrini.  You see part of what attracted us to Swaziland was the mountains and the temperate climate.  Cabrini has neither of those things; it is flat, dry, shrubby land and it gets hot—freakin’ hot—like 115 degrees hot.  We figured, if we had our choice, we would avoid that low lying area of the country.  However, people we met with kept encouraging us to check them out.  One gentleman at an NGO we met with told us point blank that we had to go there and that it would be a perfect fit for us.  So hesitantly we rearranged our plans and actually cancelled a planned trip to a game reserve to drive an hour out on dirt roads to visit this Catholic Mission in the "bush."

We met with Sister Diane, one of two Catholic nuns who works with Cabrini.  She showed us around (the whole community is only a few acres) and answered all of our questions.  She explained that what they were looking for was not a person to fill a job description, but people who could commit to their community and respond in love and compassion.


Even though it is a Catholic mission, it was obviously we had strong theological connections and that our view of ministry was very similar.  It was also obvious that St Phillips (where the ministry is located) would be an ideal place to be immersed in Swazi culture.  (You see, a vast majority of Swazis live on rural homesteads, yet most of the places Beth and I visited were in urban/suburban areas.)  Our hesitations mainly lay in the remote location and the weather – both things we are confident should come secondary to finding a location where we can actively contribute to a vibrant community doing good work.

jg singing

When we returned to the States we stayed in contact with sisters and they told us they would discuss the practicalities of us working with them and get back to us in October.  One week later they wrote us with an informal job offer.  A few weeks after that we spent over an hour on the phone talking about what things might look like if we joined them.  Today I called them and let them know we would be accepting their offer.  We all are very excited and fit seems very natural. 

Overall the whole process has been incredible.  Over the course of the last several years, we have researched well over 100 possible locations in Swaziland where Beth and I could relocate with Mikayla.  Of those we felt 20 were places where we could reasonably contribute and be happy.  Even though many of these stood as strong possibilities, only three made our final list.  At the end, our choice of the one was undoubtedly the best fit for us as a family.  It is a place where we can be a part of good work that is already going on and contribute in ways that are meaningful and needed.  It has been quite the journey, but as I write this post I am completely confident in our decision.

We will post more as it develops, but I wanted to take the time to let you all know at least the basics of what our future holds.


-Ben, Beth and Mikayla

Death of the Camry (UPDATED)

September 30th, 2009 12 comments
Beth laying flowers on the Camry's grave.  RIP

Beth laying flowers on the Camry's grave. RIP

Yesterday I made a post about how Beth and I have cut our costs and are living simply.  In what can only be described as cruel irony, that same day we got word back that our Camry’s engine was blown and would require $1,200+ to put a new one in.  [UPDATE: Because Cash for Clunkers intentionally ruined so many working engines, the cost has gone up substantially.  The cheapest engine we could find is $1,900 with a total cost of $2,300.  Equally disappointing is the fact that we would only get between $100-200 if we tried to scrap it] While we are certainly disappointed (read: pissed) it hasn’t been overly stressful because we have some options.  The problem is, no option clearly seems to make the most sense.

Last month my parents gave me an old Chevy S-10 they had not been using.  It has low miles (for a ’95) and is great for moving things around.  We can fit the whole family in it if we need to, but it is super tight.  Also, it is a stick shift, which Beth hates driving.

We also have my Saturn (which 2 weeks ago I was trying to sell and then informally abandoned that idea after the interior somehow became filled with junk after a road trip to Chicago).  This car is also a stick shift and is beat to crap.  It runs great (with 153K on it) but doesn’t have A/C and the interior is all torn up.  Again, the whole family can fit in there but no one is happy.

And then there is the Camry.  Camries are supposed to be good cars… what happened?  (In case you are wondering… Yes… Beth had made sure there was oil in it).  It also has 153K on it and the tranny has some quirks.  Oh… and the engine doesn’t work.  But, it was a great traveling car, got good gas mileage and the A/C worked.

So what do we do?  Here are the options we see:

  1. Scrap out the Camry and go with what we have – Let’s face it, we are extremely fortunately to have an extra car.  Beth can drive the Saturn and I can drive the truck and we pocket the few hundred dollars that the junk yard would give us.  By far the cheapest option, but Beth hates driving a stick and then we have no car good for traveling.
  2. Scrap out the Camry and buy something else – We could take what little money the Camry brings and perhaps sell the Saturn too and then buy Beth a new car.  We save the repair costs, but selling both cars will probably bring in less than $1,500 and then we have to find a reliable vehicle for a decent price.  Sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.
  3. Bite the bullet and fix the Camry – We sink $1,200 into a car that is 11 years old and has a quirky tranny.  We could sell the Saturn to help pay these costs.  We like the Camry and it meets our needs, but I am hesitant to put this much money into a car that is so old.  At some point it costs more to upkeep a cheap car than to buy an expensive car.  If we do this and then the tranny goes, we are up the creek.

Any of these options would work and we don’t need a long term solution.  We are planning on getting rid of all of our vehicles in 2 years when we move to Swaziland.  All we need is something to get us up to that time without being a money pit.

So, we need your help. What would you do in this situation?  Is it worth fixing the Camry or should we count our blessings and move on?

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