For 60 years Bulembu, Swaziland hosted the largest asbestos mine in the world, but as the world became wary of asbestos-related illness, the demand for asbestos faded. In 2001 the mine closed and the city that once housed 10,000 people became a ghost town. In this photo you can see the mountain of mine tailings across the valley from the houses and schools of the town. As the mine was winding down, the AIDS epidemic was revving up. Ultimately it would destroy nearly a whole generation of Swazi people, orphaning their children.
Bulembu is now owned by a ministry whose sole purpose is to provide for these children. And our purpose in going there was to lend our sweat to help them do it. We came prepared to paint, dig, mix concrete, work in the clinic, care for babies, and help with homework. I thought I was there to lead worship for the workers. What I did not expect was that I would find a growing community of student musicians, hungry to learn all they can about singing, playing, and writing songs. I love the idea that the children of disaster have become singers of songs. They grow here like young trees at the top of the slag heap, and in time, God will use them to remake the landscape of their country. And I am inspired to help them. More on that later.