Our mission as a family is to reflect the great love of Jesus in every season God leads us through. We believe god has called us to live and serve in Eswatini Africa, we’re delighted to call Eswatini home.
Melinda and I first got started in Eswatini in 2008 when it was still called Swaziland. We discovered through our church that the African nation was facing an alarming crisis where a many middle-aged men and women in the nation had died due to HIV/AIDs. Between 2008 and 2012, we visited on three short term trips and kept finding that Swaziland held something for us, but we also felt that the timing was not right.
We pursued our careers with Brandon working on photo management and editing for a photography company, made videos and built software for an event registration company, built websites for an award winning interactive digital agency, and then helped make custom digital experiences for a globally recognized healthcare services company. Melinda meanwhile worked as a photographer and photo editor, then in the food service industry, then she worked for our church where she helped with logistics and office administration. Meanwhile Swaziland kept pulling on our hearts. In late 2014, when we decided to apply to become missionaries, we thought we would go back to simply serve the community we originally visited. We're surprised to find we were an answer to prayer --all of our work experiences uniquely qualified us to serve in Eswatini so we could use those skills for the ministry and to train our ministry's staff.
We knew that there are real dangers in moving to Eswatini, we’ve thought through every scenario from contracting HIV to getting bitten by a Black Mamba, to losing one of our children. We know that anything is possible -including the bad, and these things do happen to real people everyday in the country. We know that we can’t control what happens to us, but we also have hope that God will be our protector. The number one thing that helps us gain courage in all this is that we have friends in faith who’ve committed to pray for us and our continued protection -their prayers are so special to us.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28.
We moved our family to Eswatini in 2016. We ended up in an embarrassingly large home and started serving alongside the other 16 missionaries. It's now been 6 years, and much has changed in the ministry. Staff has come and gone; the ministry has grown. Our ministry is now serving well over 7,000 children at 40 locations. We also have a potential location to build a base to lower costs.
We've also grown and have moved roles as needed. Brandon is over the "Partner Relations" department which helps ensure that children are attending, that updates are sent to partners, and that any questions or issues are handled well. He works daily with six Swazis helping them stretch and grow. Melinda has provided a much-needed human resources foundation, providing a helpful employee manual, assisting with contracts and moving our hiring schedules to be more efficient. She helped get our payroll on direct deposit which has helped reduce the amount of physical cash we need to transfer and store. Recently Melinda has been asked to be a project manager for our ministry's new base development project.
Here's a video from 2017 that shows what life kind of looks like for us.
Brandon and Melinda married in Salt Lake City in March 2008 after meeting a few years earlier at the University of Utah. Their joyful and joy-giving son, Zachary, was born January 2015, and they now live in Manzini, Swaziland, serving children’s ministry programs through Adventures in Missions. They find it awkward to write about themselves in the third person. So, here’s a little about them as described by the other…
"Brandon is a coffee-lovin’ all-around nice guy. He grew up just north of Salt Lake City in Layton, UT, with his older brother, younger sister, and lovely parents. Brandon has many talents, including the ability to figure out how to operate or fix anything with and on/off switch. Brandon isn’t afraid to break his manly I-like-to-grill-stuff-image by admitting his favorite of our three pets was our smallest kitty. At 6 ft. tall, I often call upon him to reach that shelf above the fridge. Brandon has an impressive amount of patience and is one of the best listeners you will ever meet. His encouragement in my relationship with God and with others is so valued and I’m thankful he’s always looking out for me. Brandon hadn’t put much thought into going to Swaziland at first, I had to gently persuade him to go. Now he seems just as passionate about the country and its people as me. I’m so grateful we’ve been able to experience our trips there together as a couple -it means so much to have complete unity in this decision to move there."
"Melinda is my favorite person and I know that I’m not the only one who thinks Melinda is awesome. She has a special personality that’s a mix of being very smart and highly compassionate. I love her ability to switch from hours of deep and meaningful conversation to destroying friends in a dance off. She’s always quick to consider the best way to include everyone –especially outliers, I love her heart. She is forbidden (by more than just me) from visiting animal shelters, if it were possible she would adopt every. single. animal. That’s not to say that she didn’t adore our three pets, in fact, she loved them so much that they were always following every move she would make -in perfect triangle formation. I’ve always admired Melinda’s heart for serving others through missions, she was definitely the driving force for me to take my first steps of faith. Looking back on our first trip, we were pretty crazy to get married only three days after returning state side. I’ve always found happiness when we journey together, following God’s plan for us.
Thanks so much for taking the time to get to know a little more about each of us. As you can tell, we are pretty normal folks that decided to step out and serve in a very untypical way. While our need for financial support is very real, we are always in desperate need for your prayer support. Would you be willing to sign up for our monthly newsletter? We promise we won’t spam you –it would mean the world to us to be able to stay connected with you while we are in Eswatini so we can share the latest updates on how things are going.
Eswatini has the world's highest infection rate of HIV at 28 percent -affecting over 360,000 of the 1.3 million Swazis in the country. Back when we started serving in Eswatini, in 2008, the HIV infection rate was closer to 40 percent. With a life expectancy of 49 years and poor employment opportunities, many Swazis struggle to make ends meet. Subsistence farming is very common in Eswatini which makes drought nearly intolerable especially for rural communities. We believe the organization we serve is poised to be an effective help for the 40 communities that they help. Those communities receive food, discipleship, leadership training, grief counseling, and basic education. This help is given freely and is never conditional on children accepting Christ.
We fundraised through Adventures in Missions (ADV) and but also serve with Children's HopeChest (CHC), another US-based non-profit organization. ADV and CHC have a rare and beautiful 10-year partnership where they each contribute equal parts to better serve Eswatini's unique needs.
"Our vision is to see Transformed People transforming communities through discipleship, asset-based community development, and a holistic approach toward addressing the complex issues of poverty. As the people we train see their lives transformed, they'll respectfully seek to see that change happen in others. We don't want to provide aid, we want to start a movement of people who help each other and their communities without motive.
Long-term, we would like to see Eswatini become a leadership training ground to the surrounding nations and more. We aim to help people get a solid foundation so they can confidently walk into their next step in their journey -whether that means business, ministry, or missions."
"We tend to each child holistically for survival, community, education, and future employment. Encouraging them to maintain a focus on sustainability, discipleship, leadership, independence, and long-term self-sufficiency. We also help transform the lives of the partners through exposure, education, relationships, and service.
Empowered local leaders share the gospel, disciple, and help create self-sufficiency for every child. Our local leaders are hand selected from our CarePoints, where we often see teenagers who are natural leaders. We work with these young adults and their families to create opportunities for them through a program called the Swazi Leadership Academy.
Encouraging partners to directly engage in healthy international development practices using asset-based development plans. Our development plans are created with active involvement with the broader community through open community meetings and active discussions with community leaders.
Our strategic partnerships help implement, fund, and manage leadership development and sustainability in Eswatini communities.
We address the complex causes of poverty, including material, spiritual, emotional, social, economic, and educational needs."