Our family recently took a short break in Swaziland. Swaziland was never a place that was on my radar before moving to Mozambique. Yet, when we had to go there for visa issues, we fell in love with the country. It has mountains, cool weather, hiking, pecan trees, nice grocery stores, lots of art and culture….and they speak English! It is a great place for us to rejuvenate and to find a pediatrician with whom I can communicate.
One day during our trip we were driving around looking for a nice place to picnic and hike near Sibebe, a solid granite mountain. After a few detours, we found a trail that led to a waterfall. We noticed candles under the waterfall as well as a few men, an older woman, and a young girl by the waterfall pool. We said hello and kept hiking.
Shortly after Eva picked out our perfect picnic rock, we heard screaming. It was the young girl. Thoughts began to flood my mind. “Were they hurting her? What would I do if they were? Would I be putting my own family in danger?” But I could not continue on with my lunch as if I did not hear her. I snuck over to peer at them behind the cover of some large rocks. The men were holding the girl under the likely cold waterfall. One of them was chanting something I could not understand. I said some silent prayers and continued to secretly observe while the adults also went under the waterfall.
I determined the girl was not in immediate physical danger and returned to my family picnic. I wanted to talk to the people about what was going on but I did not want to intrude either. (Being limited in English conversations most days makes me a bit more bold when those conversations are possible.) We finished our lunch and headed back towards the waterfall. The candles were still burning but the people were gone.
A few other guys and a young boy were there. The men looked as if they were from a National Geographic magazine. I struck up a conversation with them. The man said that he was there searching for rock rats but could only find their excrement. He would have to return at 3am. I asked about what I saw before with the young girl. He explained it was sacred water with powers…a place for ritual cleansing. Many people practice Zionism, a religion born from missionaries bringing Christianity to people who incorporated it into their traditional faith.
I was reminded that Swaziland, despite seeming more familiar, is still vastly different from the world we are from. I was horrified to hear this girl scream….but I thought these folks may also be horrified to hear Eva’s screams as someone stuck a needle in her arm to drawl blood. What must that look like to someone who doesn’t use Western medicine? Still I do not know how to process what I observed. I can only leave it as something beyond my box of understanding and realize God’s big beautiful world is wild and diverse. And God’s love covers every centimeter of it!