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The bad men come at night

Morgan McKeown helped us start the Nsoko care point a couple of years ago. And today she’s leading a group from her church to help meet the needs there. The pain in Nsoko is everywhere. My last blog gave you an overview of the situation in Swaziland, but Morgan’s story brings its impact home to t…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
Morgan McKeown helped us start the Nsoko care point a couple of years ago. And today she’s leading a group from her church to help meet the needs there. The pain in Nsoko is everywhere. My last blog gave you an overview of the situation in Swaziland, but Morgan’s story brings its impact home to the heart.
met Eliza two years ago and instantly fell in love.  She was one of the
students whose education we were able to sponsor through contributions
from blog readers.  (Photo at the left is with Eliza on this trip –
taken by Paloma.)

The last day I was here in February she arrived at the carepoint with
open sores all over her foot and leg.  At nine years old she was
cooking over the fire and was burnt by hot oil.

After I left Swaziland Gift started investigating her injuries and the
World Race team here looked into what was happening to her.  It turns
out that there were more then just burns, Eliza had scars and bruising
all over her body.  I cried and prayed and felt utterly helpless being
so far away.  

All I could think about was her sweetness.  Every day I’m at the care
point she runs to greet me and sits with her hand in mine, refusing to
leave my side.   She knows her place, her hand belongs in my right hand
when I’m walking and when I sit her head gets nestled right under my

On Thursday we had a few free moments so, Eliza, Gift, and I sat down to talk out of earshot of the other kids.

She leaned her frail body against me and placed her hands in mine.  I
didn’t know where to start, what do you ask when you suspect that a
child is being beaten. 

“How are things for you at home?”  I asked.  It took a moment for Eliza
to respond, her small shoulders slumped further forward and she didn’t
lift her head while murmuring a quiet answer in SiSwati, which Gift

“Things are bad.” 

“What is bad?”  As I questioned her she begun to nervously run her short finger nails over my long thumbnail. 

“The bad men come at night and I’m scared.” 

Gift explained more to me.  “Her father just lost his job.  The
economic crisis has affected much more than people in the United
States, her father was one of the ones who lost his job.  Now he is
drinking a lot.  I think that the men she is talking about are some
type of loan collectors, or some men up to not good things.” 

My thoughts immediately flashed to Grace and Mswana both beautiful
teenage girls who have contracted H.I.V. through rape.  Unfortunately
their stories are brutally common in this place.  Eliza doesn’t show
signs of having been sexually assaulted, but if she stays in her home
the likelihood of her becoming a statistic and loosing her innocence as
well as her life to rape is astronomic. 

I tried to keep up the conversation but the words caught in my throat.  Gift encouraged me to continue with more questions. 

“Does your family have food at home?” 

Her back pressed closer into me as she sucked in a deep breath before
answering.  Eliza’s words came out, quiet and hesitant.  “We go with
out food most nights, all the nights I’m in school.”  At her answer a
tear slipped from my eye, before I could wipe it away it landed on her
short rough hair.  That meant that a majority of days the only meal she
was getting was the bowl of corn meal from the carepoint. 

Gift explained to me, “Her father has been here at the carepiont asking
for food for his family, since he lost his job he has not been able to
buy food.” 

I felt helpless, with only questions and no answers, nothing I could do
to ease her pain.  A gentle breeze blew through the tree we sat under,
and the sun provided enough warmth to be comfortable in a tee shirt. 
The setting was a stark contrast to our conversation.  No child
anywhere should have to go to bed hungry a majority of nights. 

“Can you tell me about what else is going on at home?” 

Her voice came out scared but she kept talking.  “My father beats my
brother and me when he comes home drunk.  My mom tries to get in the
way and stop him, but he just beats her as well.” 

“What does he use to beat you?”  Tears start streaming down my cheeks,
I was thankful that she’s leaning against me and can’t see my

“He uses a shoe or a log.”  The thought of someone touching this
beautiful, sweet spirited, girl in that way, made me shudder.  I looked
into her down cast eyes and somehow despite everything they still look

Gift continues talking with her and translating for me.  He asked if
she would want to go to school away from home.  There are some funds
available to send her to a place for abused children in Swaziland,
unfortunately spots are limited and Eliza’s case may not be severe
enough for her to be admitted.  The social worker has decided that her
case only counts as negligence not abuse.  

The cell phone rang and Gift leaves to take the call.  I wrapped my
arms tighter around Eliza’s small frame while praying over her.  All I
want to do is shelter and protect her forever. 

Eliza had to walk back before dark, and the afternoon shadows were
getting long.  Loosening my grip and letting her go home took every
last ounce of my strength.  As I watched her slight frame walk away my
head fell into my hands and the tears tumbled down.     
A postscript: The good news is that people like Morgan (and maybe you) can make a difference. It doesn’t take a lot – just a willingness to go for a few months and hug a few orphans. The Bible tells us it’s true religion. If you’re interested in helping, contact me.

Comments (9)

  • This is so absolutely heartbreaking! Thanks Seth, for sharing this blog and your last one, even though it is painful to read. I am praying for precious Eliza right now and God’s protection and provision for her. Praying too, for her father, that God would get ahold of his life and transform him. Also for God to send and prepare many more young people like Morgan to care for the many hurting Swazi children, who are in situations just like Eliza. Praying tonight for Pastor Gift and his family. My heart hurts deeply for these beautiful Swazi kids like Eliza. We hope and pray God takes us back to Swaziland again.

  • So much pain in this world, heartbreaking stories that shows what an aweful place our world has become. Just want to hop on a plane and help…..but then I want to do that with all the horrible stories I read. Thank God for Jesus, thank God the Holy Spirit can be in all places at one time. It is so sad to know that even though we claim to have thousands of Christians how many of them have really laid down their own lives to go to places like this. The need is so desperate….we should have enough people to send out an army into Swaziland to bring Gods love and peace but instead we have teams (and God will SO bless those teams!) There is enough wealth in the West to clothe and feed the whole of Swaziland.

    I struggle with blogs like this, not only is it painful to hear, my mothers heart goes out to these children, but it brings out my frustration for a sleeping church that will not be prepared for when the Bridegroom returns.They are sleeping whilst the world is dying and in truth , it does seem like a vast majority of them dont seem to care either.Jesus was so right when he said “the workers are few”. He prayed over the food and it multiplied….I just pray He will do the same over those passionate, life giving people who really have laid down their own lives for Jesus.

  • Morgan it was a pleasure and a blessing to meet you. Especially right before we head there… i pray i am able to help pick up where you left of in regards to the “Legacy Books” i have been moved to tears even before getting to meet these beautiful Swazi people you have fallen in love with.

    i asked God to break my heart for what breaks His… and that it has begun…

    be in touch… we will let you know how things go…

    love to you… and praise to HIM

  • Thanks Seth…

    The stories are sobering…the pictures are provocative…the need is without question.

    At the juncture of being “moved with compassion” and then finally “doing something” we must remember that the focus has to be on those who invite our service and love and less on our own need to assuage guilt. That is the fallacy of some expressions of the “missions enterprise”.

    We can find sadness and squalor everywhere in the world. A dying planet needs Jesus.

    And it is so vital for us to be led in whatever efforts we apply to global needs or even those in our own community.

    That’s because “the need is not the call.” Spirit led engagements receive the empowering touch of the Living God. Anything else is “might and power” and while perhaps good loses out on the great.

    Your blogs always touch me and cause reflection friend.


  • I remember her…most of the time we didn’t know their pain or their story…

    I wish I was still there

  • Butch is right. Sometimes our best intentions – reacting to needs real or perceived – can have terrible, unforeseen consequences. This is one of the common pitfalls of many missionaries and can really make a muck of things. Short termers often go home with a huge list of wrongs to right in the host country, but, in the end, it’s more about assuaging their own guilt. That’s a tough truth but one must acknowledge this and make peace with it to be a truly effective missionary.

  • I remember her as well…all the pain I saw in those kids’ eyes was so heartbreaking.
    Hearing their stories is so difficult.

  • I am not sure if this is appropriate here because I think it’s turning into a thread, but I just want to say that while I don’t understand what it means to “assuage guilt”, I do see many people including myself, who fall into this trap I think you are talking about. I am sorry this happened with Eliza, really sorry. however, it is too easy to let our compassion turn to anger and then to preaching in order to make others feel guilty. I know the church is asleep, and yes, she needs to wake up! Christ is coming! But there are people out there, like me, who still care. we ought to have God break our hearts, then, moved by compassion, we ought to gently or lovingly tell others to go as Jesus commanded, and yes, sometimes this requires a severe reprimand. But we too must also go and practise what we preach. I can see this very thing is in tension and we ought to embrace that tension in order to be better citizens of the Kingdom. But who are we anyway? It is God that started all this and it is God who will end it and He simply uses us. Thanks.

  • having said that, how can I help? I will do what I can to pray for this situation but i am in school right now and am finishing up my senior year in order to graduate. This is where God has called me.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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