Journey to Africa

Published 10:41 am Friday, July 30, 2010

When the Clyburns and McAdamses first met at an informational meeting for a short-term mission trip to Africa, they said they both thought of the other couple, “They’ll never make it in Africa.”

Now more than two years later, both families are planning on not only making it in Africa, but building a life there.

Both Alabaster families have sold all they own and will be moving to Swaziland, a small country in southern Africa, in August. Both are members of Westwood Baptist Church in Alabaster.

Mark Clyburn said they are working through the organization Adventures in Missions and will be moving to the city of Manzini. Their primary focus will be orphan ministries, working at care points throughout the countryside to provide meals, clothing and medical care to about 4,000 children.

After taking several short-term mission trips to the area, both families said they felt called to be there full-time.

“You can’t go there and fall in love with these kids and meet the grandmothers who are trying to take care of these hundreds of thousands of orphans every day and come back and not be changed,” Amy McAdams said. “You have to answer for it once you know about it.”

Both couples are taking their children with them to Swaziland. The Clyburns have two daughters, ages 7 and 11. The McAdams have three daughters, ages 12, 8 and 6. Allison Clyburn is a teacher and will home school the girls once they get to Swaziland.

In preparation for the trip, the families have quit jobs, sold houses and given away almost all of their possessions. Each person will only be able to take two suitcases, Mark said.

“My kids have made a 180 in the last year. Before, I couldn’t get them to sell their stuff at garage sales even for money. They were just attached to their things,” Amy said. “But now they’re just giving stuff away like crazy. They said to me, ‘It’s a lot easier to clean your room when you don’t have any toys!’”

The homes the families will live in are in the Manzini and will have electricity and running water, most of the time, Allison said. There are still many dangers they may face, though.

Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world, Mark said. At least 50 percent of adults are infected with the disease. Swaziland also has a high crime rate and many dangerous animals.

“Anytime you see a TV show on the deadliest animals in the world, they’re always from Swaziland,” he said.

Allison said they plan to take precautions and protect their children from these dangers, just like they do here in the United States.

“We try to live smart here,” Allison said. “We don’t go to certain parts of Birmingham at night. We’re going to live smart there, too. We’re not going to be stupid.”

While caring for orphans in Swaziland, the families will also be sharing the gospel. Though many people in Swaziland claim to be Christians, they often practice several religions, Amy said.

“They practice a combination of Christianity, ancestor worship and witchcraft,” she said. “It’s kinda gotten muddled together. We’ve met people that can quote scripture, know about Jesus, but would go to a witch doctor when they had an illness.”

One of their main goals is to live as an example of a Christian family, Mark said. They also want to build relationships with the people, provide much-needed care to the orphans and share the gospel.

Right now the families are waiting until they gain enough financial support to cover their monthly expenses before they can move. Much of this support has come from the generosity of others here in Shelby County, Steve McAdams said.

“There a lot of people who would love to help orphans in Africa, but their not going to board a plane and fly 15 hours and live in the conditions that we’re going to live in,” he said. “That’s how people can have an impact on the orphans in Swaziland, by partnering with us in prayer and in partnering with us financially. Those two ways are just as important.”

For more information on giving to their cause and to follow their journey once they arrive in Swaziland, visit the families’ blogs at and