Mother, daughter mission trip to Africa ends abruptly amid coronavirus pandemic

By Shawn Hardy |The Record Herald

There were no news reports of the coronavirus in Africa when a Chambersburg woman and her daughter, who lives in San Diego, left March 10 for a missions trip to Swaziland. Less than two weeks later, after much scrambling and many hours spent on the phone with airlines by people on both sides of the Atlantic, they got the last flight out of South Africa to the U.S. amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Myrna Gowing is a piano teacher at Cumberland Valley School of Music and Global Vision Christian School’s Scotland campus, gives private piano lessons and accompanies the student choir at Wilson College. She also is involved in music and women’s ministry at Antrim Brethren in Christ Church, where her husband, Rob, is a pastor. Daughter Lynzy Gowing is a cosmetologist and sings with various San Diego area ministries.

They joined a group of women from Canada to help out at an orphanage in Bulembu, Swaziland, a small landlocked nation bordered in one side by Mozambique and three sides by South Africa.

In Africa

The women had only two days with the children before a quarantine went into effect and border closings were on the horizon. They got to hold the babies and tried to do a craft with the toddlers.

“It was pouring rain and there were about 20 little ones in a very small room trying to do crafts that no one had any idea what to do,” Myrna related it in an email. “It ended up being a time of clapping games and songs. That worked best because those kids could really sing.”

They attended an assembly, where children 5 to 12 received field day awards. The “smart looking teens” at the high school were in class so the group had little interaction with them.

A tour of the homes for the 350 children revealed, “A row of shacks … one bedroom with three bunk beds, one closet for all … as neat as a pin … one table and six chairs for homework, and a small room for their Auntie that looks after them. They have one school uniform, one set of playing clothes, one pair of shoes for school and one for play, one jacket and that is all. It is beyond sad and there were many tears on our part … but happy children surrounded us all the time. They each do their own laundry by hand with a bar of soap, water and a pail,” she recounted.

After the quarantine was put in place and the women could not work with the children, they put a small dent in huge containers of donations from places like Germany and Canada. Myrna was disheartened by the poor condition and uselessness of many of the donations.Get the York on the Move newsletter in your inbox.

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“It seemed to me that donors just thought ‘we don’t need this, or use this, so let’s send it to Africa where they have nothing and get rid of it,’” she said.

“I can hardly talk about it because these kids have nothing and we have excess. Plain and simple. I felt so guilty worrying about my nails, or buying anything I wanted, whenever I wanted. I plainly saw poverty at its best, and it still brings me to tears,” she continued.

On a brighter note, they were still able to go on a planned safari during which they saw the Big 5 (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and Cape buffalo), the Small 5 (elephant shrew, leopard tortoise, ant lion, rhino beetle and buffalo weaver) and the Ugly 5 (warthog, wildebeest, vulture, marabou stork and hyena).

Read from source PublicOpinion

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