Follow our weekly news by email

Saturday, December 3, 2016

My mom was a hoarder

My mom's Christmas tree.
My mom was a lot of things including (but not limited to); brilliant Pharmacist, passionate researcher, loving mother and wife, devoted Christian, exquisite dessert chef and collector of all things. She simply did not have the ability to throw anything out.  I mean nothing.

Two extremes that I can now share publicly (now that she has passed away) would be finding a drawer full of used wax – the kind that was poured on the top of freshly made jelly to seal it (and then thrown out when the jelly was opened, but not mom’s).   And then there was the zip lock bag in the freezer that contained yarn that she planned to use to knit a sweater.  The problem that I had with that was that the yarn was made from a collection of fur that she had painstakingly collected over the years … from my childhood CAT, Smokey. 

Not kidding. 

I had countless conversations with my parents about cleaning out their basement full of three generations of pharmacy bottles/jars/chemicals/pills/stained glass windows/clocks/piano(s)/ and other stuff from generations of relatives who had died before them.  My words fell on deaf ears (literally and figuratively), mostly because my mom was convinced that she would be “raptured” and so all of her “stuff” would be left to “non-believers” who would be “left behind”. 

Oh mom.

My dad passed away in 2005.  A few years later my mom was moved to a nursing home,  and I was left to deal with the “stuff”.  I was angry that they had left the mess for me.  I felt that I was trespassing by going in to their home and throwing out dumpster(s) full of garbage, giving away their things and keeping the odd item for myself.  But with a lot of help from friends and family, I made it through.

After the big clean out in 2010 we shipped a 20ft container of things from mom and dad’s house to Project Canaan.  As we unpacked it and distributed mom’s treasures all over the farm I found myself repenting for my anger (over and over again).  The Lord knew exactly what those things were going to be used for and He kept them safely in my parent’s home.

Last weekend the Christmas tree was put up at the Oasis and our children hung their ornaments on that tree. That was my parents’ Christmas tree. 

When a child has a birthday and we have visitors join us for cake, the plates that the cake is served on are my mom’s plates.

The stained glass window that hangs in the pharmacy at the El Rofi medical clinic was in the front window of my Great Grandfather’s pharmacy at the turn of the century in Uxbridge, Ontario (also found stored in my parent’s basement).

Stained glass window from my Great Grandpa's pharmacy circa 1,800's.
I am not saying this in any way to be boastful, but rather to share my thoughts on how God works, and to show that I believe that everything that we have, comes from Him. It’s all HIS STUFF, and He will use it as He wishes!

Yesterday another container arrived from Canada and while it was mostly filled with diapers, wipes and toys, it also had the last of my mothers treasures. Among them was a beautiful piece of hand carved marble that my parents bought in India, many years ago.  It is inlaid with semi-precious stones, each carved by hand by the very same artisan families who hand-carved the Taj Mahal. 

My parents had it shipped back from India in the 70’s and then had a table base made for it.  It was one of the few pieces of her own furniture that was in her nursing home room.  It truly was a treasure (and not to be out of her sight!).  Now it is here in Swaziland, Africa, and I am so thankful for it. 

Another one of her prize possessions also made the trip.  Mom’s baby grand piano arrived in the container and will be used for piano lessons for our children (just as it was for me), Christmas concerts and lots of other special occasions.

Mom's piano - being moved by our JCB (she may roll over in her grave for this one).
As Christmas approaches and I prepare for Spencer and Chloe to come home, I am reminded every where I look at the influence my own parents had on my life, both in life and in their death.  Their work ethic, their faith, their commitment to family and their commitment to their community has forever impacted my life, the lives of our children and now, the tiny Kingdom of Swaziland.

Christmas is a time when family gathers together, and even with all of my parents “stuff” that now surrounds me, none of it replaces having them here in person. 

Live from Swaziland … having a “moment”.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

How to prepare for Christmas with 143 children?

Get a little help from your friends!

Today was the second annual Project Canaan Academy Christmas pageant and it was beautiful.

Our friends, Sarah and Luke Ferguson, joined Teacher Amber in preparing a wonderful fresh approach to the Christmas story and it was funny, heartwarming and they all did such a great job.  It’s a musical called “The Case of the Reluctant Inn Keeper”, told in front of a judge and jury. Hilarious and oh, so sweet.

Here are a couple of short videos so that you can enjoy a bit of what we enjoyed.



The November team that comes is our last group of volunteers for the year.  All of our volunteer teams are a blessing to us, but the November team is a particular blessing to me because they help us get ready for Christmas!  The literally help the children decorate the tree, hang garland, bake and decorate cookies and get everyone in the Christmas spirit!  Thank you Village Christian Church for your friendship, support and love (and for all the wonderful goodies you blessed us all with!).  

Don’t forget to shop at this weekend and use our discount codes for great deals!  EVERY dollar you spend helps us provide for the children in these photos.  We are thankful for all of your love and support.

Live from Swaziland … it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Happy birthday to me - and a gift for YOU!

Today is my 53rd birthday (I heard you say “Happy birthday Janine!” – thank you!).  I am really not sure how I got to be 53, since I was only 33 last year?  But alas, the wrinkles, the graying hair and the waistline all seem to point to 53.

Today I also share my birthday with Rachel and Leah (twins of my beloved and deceased Nomsa – see and a new little guy who joined us a few months ago, and the name on his health card was “Maxwell”!  Imagine a Swazi boy named Maxwell, with the same birthday as mine? We knew he was ours!

I can't recall who took this photo, but it's just the best!
So what does a girl who lives on a remote mountaintop in a tiny Kingdom in Africa ask for on her birthday?  That’s easy.  Rain.  And it is raining!  We have had what they call “small rains” on and off for the past few weeks and everything is green again.  The small rains typically come in September softening the ground for the “big rains” that should be upon us now, but we give thanks for gift of rain, period!

I also share my birthday with an amazing young woman named Nqobile, who is our HR Supervisor at Khutsala Artisans and lives at the Sicalo Lesisha Kibbutz on Project Canaan and it is with her in mind that I make this birthday wish and give YOU this birthday gift.

Birthday girl Nqobile is on the right.
For the next 48 hours I would like to offer you a 30% discount at so that you can start (or finish?) your Christmas shopping (or buy a few things for yourself)?  Our artisans have worked SO hard this year, but it doesn’t matter how much they make if it doesn’t sell.  We have a massive amount of beautiful and new inventory in the US right now and we need it to sell!  With that in mind, I am offering you a special discount for today and tomorrow if you will start your shopping. It would simply be the best birthday gift that Nqobile and I could ask for. 

The discount code at is: HAPPYBIRTHDAY (all caps).  It’s just that simple!  We have cool wall signs made of Lucky seeds (thanks for the idea Larenda Casey), coasters made of wood from Project Canaan and of course our stunning beadcraft.

Now that this blog is written I will go back to enjoying the sounds of the rain, the thunder of an angry sky and reading my birthday present from Ian, Ellie Weisel’s “Dawn”.  At 3:30 I will go and enjoy cake at the toddler home with little Maxwell and then head up to the Oasis for cake with Rachel and Leah.  A perfect day (but missing Spencer and Chloe).

Live from Swaziland …THANK YOU for shopping today!


PS - if you haven't seen the YouTube video done by my friends Gabe and Kayla Ferris, you MUST watch it now. It will simply make your Saturday!  Click here to watch now.  Thank you Ferris family!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Movin’ on up… to the east side

Today was a big day for seven of our toddlers who are now “Big Kids”.  Bella, Angel, Joash, Seth, Isaiah, Jerry and Zachariah moved from the toddler home up to the Emseni Campus.

The Emseni Campus is the “permanent” home for each of our children.  Typically, the children are 3-years-old or about to turn three when they move up. They will live there until they finish high school and move on to University, trade school or enter the work force.

Today five little boys joined the big boys at Emseni #2, which means there are only THREE spaces left there.  AND, since we now have 37 2-year-olds at the toddler home, we know that those spaces will be filled soon.  SO… that means we need to start building our third Emseni building this month!  We have the funds for the foundation, and pray that the Lord will provide the rest of the funds needed to build that building.  Within a year, all of those 37 toddlers will have moved up to Emseni and the 34 babies at the El Roi baby home will be at the toddler home.  The 11 babies currently living at Kuthula Place will move to the El Roi baby home.  And it continues.

It’s an exciting day when children “move up” to their next home, but bitter sweet for those of us who remember the day that each child arrived and the history that came with them.  It’s hard to believe that a new born who was strangled to death by her own mother and dumped in a garbage can, then brought back to life with life-giving CPR, is now big enough to walk up the stairs and climb in to her new bed. 

Today we give thanks for each of our children, for the Care Team who loves them and encourages them every day, and for all of the people who give on a monthly basis so that we can provide for our 143 children.

In addition, we give thanks for the rains that have fallen this week and for the green grass and leaves that have exploded to bring us all hope for the future.

Live from Swaziland … it’s a good day.


Saturday, November 5, 2016

We could have lost a baby today.

Today I witnessed a miracle. Yes, another one.

From time to time the police and social welfare ask us to help out with young girls who are pregnant and don’t want or can’t keep their babies when born.  The situations are always very complicated and we hesitate to get involved, but know that in the end we are likely preventing a baby being dumped in a pit latrine or left on the side of the road.

Today one of “my girls” gave birth to a beautiful 3.6kg (7.9 lb) baby girl, but not without giving us all a scare.  She was 42 weeks pregnant and had some complications. When I have pregnancy concerns, I always direct the girls to go to a wonderful missionary gynecologist who will see them immediately and help.

Today at 8:30 AM she was wheeled in to the theater (surgical room) to have a C-section and I was robed and masked to go and hold her hand and assure her that everything would be okay.  The Doctor had her instruments in hand, closed her eyes, and prayed.  It was incredible to watch and then feel God's presence at that moment.  As the doctor pulled the baby out she saw that the umbilical cord was wrapped around her little neck. She quickly unwrapped the cord and then told us that it was double wrapped. This unwrapping seemed harder and we could see that the baby was blue.  

The cord was cut and the baby was whisked away to the next room. I crawled under the oxygen tubes in my white rubber boots and green scrubs and followed behind.  The baby was indeed blue and they gave her oxygen and started to aspirate stuff out of her mouth and nose. Within about ten minutes she “pinked up” and started to make her arrival known.

It was explained to me that with the umbilical cord double wrapped around her neck, her 42 weeks gestation and very low amniotic fluid, that the child most likely have died if she had tried to deliver vaginally. 

Several hours later baby Noelle arrived home at Project Canaan and the young girl will rest and start the healing process in a private hospital.  It is funds from my Compassion Purse that allow me to make the call on taking a teenager to a private hospital when that care is absolutely necessary. So, for those of you who have given to my Compassion Purse fund, please know that you saved at least one life today, maybe two.

It looks like her hands are praying.
Noelle was given her name in memory of Noelle Crea Koosman, the daughter of our friends Rose and Mark Crea (CEO of Feed My Starving Children) who lost her fight to cancer a few months ago.  We pray a special blessing on baby Noelle and ask the Lord to send his peace and joy to the Crea/Koosman family today.

Live from Swaziland … I stand in awe of our maker, creator and healer.


Saturday, October 29, 2016

He did it again.

If you read my blog on June 11th you would have been amazed at the incredible “coincidence” (God’s perfect timing) that brought a new nurse to us (Hannah Vilakati) when our nurse Brooke Sleeper was leaving on maternity leave (and then moving back to the US), with only a few weeks to spare.  If you missed it, you can catch up here:

This week HE did it again. 

Hannah also was pregnant when she joined the team so we knew she would be leaving on maternity leave in October.  Last week we did a “hand off” of information from Hannah to our clinic nurse who would step in to Hannah’ role for the next few months.  Unfortunately, at the end of the day on Friday of the same week, that nurse resigned, leaving us with no medical staff for our 141 babies and 280 employees.

My first reaction was “Oh NO!  What are we going to do now!?”, but honestly, only seconds later I thought about how Hannah came to us and just knew that God had a plan, and it would be perfect. I just hoped His plan would be quick!!

Monday morning I was in town at the government hospital picking up a 10-day-old baby boy who had been left on the side of a road.  A taxi driver had almost ran him over and then backed up to see what was wrapped in the blanket, only to find a newborn.  The nurse who brought the baby to me at the social workers office told me that she had a friend who needed a job. I am asked for jobs all the time, so assumed she meant as a caregiver/Auntie. I told her that the only position I had open at this time was for a nurse.

10-day-old baby Martin
The lady looked at me and said, “My friend is a nurse! She is looking for a nursing job!”

Ha – of course she is.

Turns out that her friend is 60-years-old and was forced to retire from the government hospital due to age, but she was still strong, smart, active and wanted to work! 

I gave the nurse my card and asked her to have her friend send me her resume.  Two hours later, when I was back on Project Canaan, I got a call from the front gate guard saying that there was a nurse there to see me. She had received the call, got in her car, picked up the social worker from the hospital who knows us well (nothing like bringing your own references with you!) and drove out with hopes of meeting with me.

Needless to say I interviewed her, showed her around, asked Dr. Lemmer (who runs our clinic) to interview her, he checked her references and we hired her the very next day! 

She doesn’t start until November 1st, but has been to work every day this week “volunteering” and getting to know what we do and how we do it.

Yes, God did it again. I was in the right place at the right time with the right person and He delivered us a nurse with 35 years experience.   

I just can’t make this stuff up, but I do love sharing these stories with you so that you can see that miracles still do happen.

Live from South Africa … thankful that God’s timing is always perfect.

PS -  A quick update on Ian’s knee.  It is not healing properly and is still very swollen, painful and he says it “slips” when he walks. We are in South Africa for the weekend so that we can see the surgeon early Monday morning. We are anticipating reconstructive surgery on Monday or Tuesday so please pray for us all as we start this  journey again.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A bag of frozen chicken parts?

Ncamile, Kim, Hlengiwe, S'bonga, Nqobile.
This week I had fun.   I don’t have fun very often. I LOVE my job and my life, but “fun” isn’t really a word I would use to describe by life, but this week I had fun.  My cousin Kim came to visit with her husband Joe and their friends Carol and Barry.  Since I first started my marketing business in Canada back in 1988 I wanted to hire Kim, but children, location, time and space never allowed us to work together.  But now, here we are in our 50’s and I have finally been able to hire and work alongside one of the brightest, creative, hard working sales people that I know.  In January Kim became the North American Sales Manager for Khutsala Artisans, based in Chardon, Ohio and this week we had fun together!

Kim came this week to work with the Khutsala Artisans team. We spent time talking about sales targets, pouring over spreadsheets, designing jewelry, packing boxes to ship and suitcases to carry.  She also came to encourage, thank and love the workers who are responsible for producing the product that she sells.  Let me give you an idea of what this team did in 2016.

In 2016 (only our 3rd year in business) our amazing team of 100+ artisans produced:

  • 3,152 assorted key chains (hearts, giraffes, flowers, elephants, Africa)

  •  54,836 Christmas tree ornaments (4 different designs)

  • 3,592 3D beaded giraffes, elephants, zebras and owls

  • 297 Angel decorations/tree toppers

  • 475 of the cutest reindeer decorations!

It total they have handmade 62,352 pieces of art made from wire and colored beads, and that does not include thousands of pieces of jewelry that were produced as well.

Before Kim came she told me she and her friend Carol wanted to buy a “treat” for all of the workers to thank them for learning a new trade and making each item with love and excellence. I spoke with our Production Manager and asked what would be the perfect treat, and a plan was made.

Yesterday the Khutsala Artisans stopped work early and sat in a dark room while I showed them our brand new website (  Of the 105 people in the room, only four are on Facebook and the rest did not know what the internet was, but I did my best to explain. They were so excited to see their own faces on our site and squealed with delight when they saw the really awesome 1-minute videos that we have about how some of our things are made (you really need to go watch them – they are fun - 

And then we announced what the real “treat” was. Each person would be given a 2KG (4.4 pound) bag of frozen chicken parts and a 2L bottle of Coke.  The room literally erupted in screaming (remember the day that Oprah gave away cars to her audience? Kinda like that.).  They jumped, they sang, they danced and after everyone received their frozen chicken and Coke there was a spontaneous dance party at Khutsala. A bag of frozen chicken parts showed our people that they are loved and appreciated - and last night their families all got to eat chicken!

“Khutsala” means “hard working person” in siSwati, and each of these artisans have worked hard this year to learn how to make beautiful products so that they can provide food and school fees for their own families. BUT as Kim and I discussed, if we don’t sell the product, we won’t need to keep them employed again next year.

Today I am asking you to go to our website and start your Christmas shopping.  This new website allows for Canadians to shop too (finally!).  We have many new and beautiful items for sale.  Your shopping will literally save the lives of the families whom we employ and 100% of the profit goes directly back to providing for our 141 (142 on Monday) children who call Project Canaan home.

If you are interested in hosting a jewelry party at your home or help us sell our goods, please email me at or  

Live from Swaziland … hoping you will shop at today!  


PS - we also have some handmade wood and sisal ornaments. The wood and the sisal are harvested directly from Project Canaan.