Chiefland woman gets royal treatment

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Meets king of Swaziland

By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

Carol Kearns was on a mission trip to Colima, Mexico, with her husband, Pastor George Kearns of Lighthouse Word Church in Chiefland, when the call came.
Would she be interested in doing God's work in Swaziland?
Why not spend 10 days in July in Swaziland, one of the last countries ruled by a king who is the closest thing to an absolute monarch. It's only 7,800 plus miles away, land-locked between South Africa and Mozambique.
"The population is about 950,000," the Chiefland resident said. "And about 50 to 60 percent of the people have AIDS or HIV."
Swaziland is No. 1 in the world in percentage of population testing HIV-positive or for AIDS, according to the Central Intelligence Agency's "World Fact Book."
But on her trip, Kearns not only got to work with 33 children at New Hope Centre in Bethany, she also trained dancers to perform in front of the monarch, King Mswati III, and his wives at the 20th anniversary  Somhlolo Festival of Praise. Kearns also sang at an international prayer breakfast during the festival.
New Hope, where Kearns worked during her trip, was founded in 2002 by the Rev. June McKinney and Dr. Elizabeth Hynd.
The nation is majority Christian and the festival attracts thousands of people for a week of celebration. At the festival there is a camp for 123 orphans chosen from throughout the country.
"Two of the orphans from the center danced at the prayer breakfast," the former dance teacher said. "They did it outdoors and with flags."
But Kearns does not speak SiSwati, the country's language, so teaching was a challenge. "So, I did a whole lot of sign language."
"When they were dancing, the king was there and the king's cabinet was there," Kearns said. "These children were dancing for their king and for God. Our children (in America) would be in awe, because they would not be so accustomed to that royalty."
After the orphans performed for the king, Kearns was among a group invited to meet with him. He asked them what God wants for him and his country. In addition to the HIV/AIDS problem, Kearns said,, "They are facing an economic dilemma as businesses go under when the people who have them die."
The kingdom is under pressure to become a province of South Africa.
"We took a Bible to him and said that God's plan is for him to prosper as his soul prospered in him," she said. The group, Kearns said, did not take a political stance. "We shared that God has a plan for you," she said., noting that the nation has been Christian since 1821 when the first missionaries arrived. She said the group did remind the king that "As you are diligent in AIDS education you will see your nation prosper again," she said.
The big challenge in AIDS education, she said, is destroying the myth among men that having sex with a virgin will cure them of the deadly disease.  "So we need to pray for these kids and we need to pray for the people taking care of these kids and protecting these girls."
In contrast to the royal audience she had, Kearns spent part of her trip feeding Swazis working at a dump. They are not bringing in the garbage. "They're gleaners, salvaging items to rework and sell. One woman, Kearns said,  takes brightly colored plastic shopping bags and weaves them into placemats and other household items she sells in the local market. "People are doing this to help themselves," Kearns said. "She makes beautiful placemats and coasters."
Kearns , who has been involved in her husband's ministry for 34 years, returned from Swaziland obviously touched by the experience.
No one has to call her again. She is going back, she said.