Out of Africa: A missionary's story

Third generation missionary and her adopted Swazi son tell of life in Swaziland

 

Swaziland offers mountainous views, lush forests, fertile valleys and warm and friendly Swazi people, but it is a country living with the tragedy of one in four of its adult population being HIV-positive. 

Bringing tales from the small beleaguered southern African nation to Cayman last week was Dorcas Croft, a missionary living and teaching at Emmanuel Wesleyan Bible college in Swaziland. 

Speaking at churches and schools in Cayman, where she grew up, Ms. Dorcas described what life is like in a country where poverty, scars of abuse, negligence, abandonment and sexually transmitted diseases are a major concern and where a vast number of children is raised by grandparents. 

Ms. Croft was not traveling alone; with her was her adopted Swazi child Mathis. Mathis was found abandoned on the sidewalk by a bus stop when he was just two months old. Now 10, Mathis joins his mother in sharing their testimony with the Cayman community. 

Every two years, Ms. Croft visits the United States for a vacation and to raise funds for the work she carries out in Swaziland, where she has been living for the past 20 years. This time, her travels took her back to Cayman. 

Born in Jamaica to American missionary parents John and Naomi Croft, she grew up in the Cayman Islands where her father was a pastor at the West Bay Wesleyan Holiness Church. During a trip to Africa to visit a missionary aunt during her college years in the U.S., Ms. Croft fell in love with Swaziland and its people. In later years, she returned there as a missionary to take up teaching. 

“There is lots of poverty and Swaziland is number one in the world for HIV, AIDS and TB,” said Ms. Croft. 

She explained that the estimated life expectancy in Swaziland is lower than 50 years, mostly due to the prevalence of HIV and AIDS. “This has caused there to be a lot of orphans and abandoned babies. Some of these young mothers infected with HIV will go to the extreme and kill their babies or put them in an outhouse where they know they will die,” she said. 

Ms. Croft said AIDS is wiping out Swaziland’s young adults. “Some families do not have enough to eat and many are starving. Sometimes a 10- or 12-year-old child is raising their younger siblings all by themselves. They get taken advantage of by neighbors, people in the community are sexually victimized to provide food for their family and they die from AIDS. It is a vicious cycle,” she said. 

“The newspapers are full of obituaries with pictures, and … 80 percent of them are young adults. There is an effort going on by the government to educate and stop the spread of HIV, AIDS, but they kind of waited too late to begin,” she added. 

Ms. Croft said there are many folk remedies that contribute to the problem instead of helping and many times children are caught in this. “Mathis is one of those children,” she said. 

A bright and outspoken young man, Mathis listened as his mom explained how he came to be adopted and in her care. 

“Mathis was an abandoned baby as a result of the HIV/AIDS problem,” said Ms. Croft. He was rescued by a friend of hers who operated a home for abandoned babies.  

“When they found Mathis, he looked about 2 months old; no one knew his parents. The only thing we knew was his mother was HIV-positive because at that time the baby also tested positive. But once he started making his own antibodies, he tested negative,” said Ms. Croft, who adopted him when he was 9 months old. 

“He is a good boy,” adds Ms. Croft. “He doesn’t cause problems, he loves God, loves to play the drums and guitar, and sings.”  

Mathias-S

Mathis plays the guitar during a church service in Swaziland.