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Saturday, June 16, 2018

Celebrating life and identity


Many of you have heard me say that our children live in a children’s home, not an orphanage and that we are a large family.  One of the things that we work very hard on is helping each child find their own identity and we encourage their individualism.  One of the ways we do that is to celebrate each child’s birthday with a cake, a gift starting on their third birthday.  Our Aunties and Uncles dress each child in a very special outfit that has never been worn before, complete with shoes, and all the children celebrate that child for the whole day, announcing to EVERYONE whose birthday it is.   


We don’t give cake to all the kids on each birthday, but rather celebrate the day in the home where that child lives. On a child’s first birthday, there will be cake at the baby home.  When a child turns two, they will likely be at the toddler home. And then when they are three, they will either be at the toddler home or up at the Emseni Campus, depending on their development.  Once a child has moved to Emseni, they get the additional experience of choosing a “growth stick” where we measure them each and every year on their birthday.  This was something that my parents did at our cottage each year when my cousins were there in the summer, and it was a tradition that I wanted to continue.

Our children love to show visitors the stick with their name on it and how much they have grown from year to year. It’s a lot of fun, and helps create memories, and identity.

Today we will celebrate a very special birthday for the Patron of our children’s home – the Inkhosikati LaMbikiza (Inkhosikati means “Royal Highness”), and she is a favored wife to King Mswati III.  It was her desire to come and spend her birthday with our kids, and so plans were made, a bouncy castle was ordered and a cake is being iced as I type this blog.

Typically we have Kids Club on Saturday mornings, but not today. Today the children will prepare for the Royal visit by sweeping the stairs, washing the chairs, decorating the Oasis and blowing up balloons.  I LOVE that our staff are guiding our children to understand the importance of special visitors, preparing our home for special celebrations and celebrating life.




If you are reading this blog early, come back later today and I will post photos of the grand celebration. 

Live from Swaziland … we are celebrating life.

Janine

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Building an ark


It is often said that we have built an ark here on Project Canaan, and as the waves of disease and poverty wash over the land there are 191 children who are safely on the ark.  We believe that those children will be a part of the remnant who will be the future leaders of the Kingdom.

We all know the story of Noah’s Ark and that the animals entered the “two by two” – we sing that with our children weekly. I must add at this time that it makes me smile that we have nine sets of twins and an additional seven sets of siblings, who came to us “two by two. 

Today I am writing to tell you about another kind of ark – one that has been custom designed at Khutsala Artisans and is being produced in the months to come.  The entire 13 piece set is made purely of wire and glass beads and it is stunningly beautiful. The question is … would anyone want to buy a Noah’s Ark Set that is made in Swaziland/eSwatini, Africa?


It took two full months to develop and perfect the animals and the ark, and we are working on making 100 sets that will arrive in the US in early September, but we think we can push and make 200 sets IF we know that people will buy them and IF we have them pre-sold.  The ark itself is 15" long x 9" high.

Are you interested in buying an ark, complete with two lions, two giraffes, two elephants, two crocodiles, two flamingos and two doves?  The set is $270 US and comes in a gift box with the label shown below on the front. It is perfect for your children, your grandchildren, a Sunday school class, church or even a VBS. 


While we do not need payment until September, we do need to know if we can sell 100-200 arks.  If you are interested in pre-ordering a handmade Noah’s Ark Set (or many) please go to https://heartforafrica.myshopify.com/products/noahs-ark and you can order and pay for yours today.  If you would simply like to pre-order and then pay in September you cani email me directly at janine@heartforafrica.org. 

Your support not only directly helps us employ 100+ people in our community, but 100% of the profit goes directly back to helping us provide for the 191 children living on Project Canaan.

Please share this blog and let’s get these arks sold!!

Thank you.

Live from Swaziland ... singin' "two by two".

Janine

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Praying with one eye open

Benkhosi
When I was a small child I was taught to pray with my eyes closed tight and would be corrected for opening my eyes until the prayer was finished. I was to keep them shut tight, as if that act would make my prayers heard by God (but maybe it was just so that I wasn’t distracted).

This week I attended two birthday parties and I will admit to opening my eyes during the time that our 40 x 2-year-old children closed their eyes, put their hands together and gave thanks for the cake that they were about to receive.  At the first party for Princess I opened my eyes and peaked, and I am so glad I did because I saw little Jonathan with his hands clasped, and eyes shut so tight that there was no way of him being distracted from giving thanks. And he has a lot to give thanks for having arrived at the age of two almost dead from disease and starvation.  

Jonathan

Princess
The next birthday was Benkhosi’s, and again I peaked, only to find Benkhosi praying with one eye open.  What was he looking for, I wondered?  Did he think his cake might go away or that something extra special would appear? 


I believe in the power of prayer.  Since living in Swaziland I have literally seen the lame walk, the deaf hear and the blind see. I have seen mountains moved, water come from dry land and funds provided, all in ways that defies reason.  My prayer life has changed dramatically in the past few years as I now pray EXPECTING my prayers to be answered and I pray expecting to see the hand of God.  Maybe that is why Benkhosi had one eye open?

Maybe we should all think about praying with one eye open this week – expecting to SEE God show up and answer our prayers. Why not? He wants to be seen :) 

Live from Swaziland … praying with expectation today.

Janine
 


Saturday, May 26, 2018

Babies found in the garbage is my "new norm"


Home made burgers with Geneele and Archie Crenshaw, along with David Bryant and Spencer.
The past three weeks have been a whirlwind!  I left Swaziland on May 2nd and returned May 22nd and have yet to re-acclimate.    I remember my first few trips to Africa and how shocked I was at how different EVERYTHING was.  The water wasn’t drinkable, the food was simple and sparse, the pace was slow, the plans always changed and the smells cannot be forgotten.

Then I would go back home to “normal”, to my home in Canada where the water was clean, the food abundant, the pace was fast, plans were stuck to and everyone smelled good.

It seems that I have a new normal, and that is a “Swazi-normal”, where the pace is slow, spending time relationally is important and where babies routinely get dumped in the garbage.  That’s my “normal”, and I seemed to have gone through some reverse culture shock during my trip to the US that I am still trying to process. 

Did you know that McDonald’s delivers now? In fact, it looked to me that all fast food chains deliver.  Is it possible for people to be SO busy with life that they don’t even have time to drive thru a restaurant to get food?

Life in America is SO busy that even the ads on the radio and TV often referenced having a “busy life-style”.  There is so much noise, so many distractions and so much “more” of everything imaginable that I found myself absolutely overwhelmed in the cracker aisle at Target.

While my head was spinning as I raced from meeting to meeting, meal to meal and presentation to presentation, I was overwhelmed by the response that people had to hearing about the challenges that we face.  In the past I have heard people say, “Why are you helping in Africa when we have poor people in the US?”  I didn’t hear that this time, because when I jump to the bottom line of so many babies being dumped in pit latrines (outdoor toilets) and Albino children being hunted so that they can be sacrificed … I only saw tears and empathy. 

The great news is that not only did people cry with me, and pray with me, but they also stepped up and gave money to support our projects. Specifically, we were able to finish raising the funds to build the Emseni #4 building (a home for 40 children), but also to finish bringing the water down from the top of the mountain (an $850,000 project!), making Project Canaan “water secure”.

Yesterday was another “normal” and we got a newborn baby who was put in a plastic garbage bag and dumped in a dumpster (or dustbin as they call it here), only to be found by a passerby.  The police took him to the hospital, social welfare has placed him with us and we have a new son.  Project Canaan is now home to 190 children and getting an abandoned or abused baby every ten days is my new “norm”, and I am thankful.  


While I sit and look out at the beautiful scenery from my mountaintop in Swaziland and try to get my mind, soul and spirit back in their proper places in my body, I can’t help but give thanks to the great provider for all that He is, all that He does, and all that He has given. 

Thanks to each and every one of you who supports this ministry and all that we do to serve Him and His children.

Live from Swaziland … I am so glad to be home. 

Janine

Saturday, May 19, 2018

This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine



Early this morning I was up to watch the Royal wedding, joining millions of people around the world.  I remember doing the same thing as a teenager when Princess Diana married Prince Charles, and up early again to watch Princess Diana’s funeral. Canada is a member of the Commonwealth and I am proudly Canadian.

Everyone who watched the wedding will have their own favorite moments, but I actually sat up and started taking notes when Bishop Michael gave his message.  He asked us to “Think and imagine a world when love is the way.  When love is the way, poverty will become history and no child will go hungry.  We are family, we are brothers and sisters of God.” What a beautiful message for the world to hear. 

I have been in the US for the past two weeks talking about Project Canaan, and effectively talking about love.  The people whom I have stayed with, eaten with, laughed with and cried with have shown me love and I am so thankful for each and every one of you.  Raising 189 Swazi children is not an easy feat, but we join together with many to love these children back to life, despite the complications of HIV, TB, malnutrition, sexual abuse, physical abuse, burns, broken bones and broken hearts.   

When today’s ceremony ended and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex left the church, a choir started to sing, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine” and I started to cry (I was not likely alone). Meghan is stunningly beautiful and her gentle smile is a light that shines bright.  She reminds me of our daughter Rose. 


Rose is stunningly beautiful and her gentle smile lights up any room that she is in.  She is only 7-years-old, but has had a profound impact on everyone who knows her.  She is a thoughtful, caring girl who is aware of the people around her and who is always willing to lend a hand.  I will never forget the condition that she arrive to us in, and I give thanks for her life and her light.

“This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.”

Shine Meghan shine. 

Shine Rose shine.

Live from Chicago … let love be the way today.

Janine

Saturday, May 12, 2018

A 12-year-old mother, on Mothers Day



I have the privilege of spending Mothers day weekend with my children, Spencer and Chloe in Atlanta, GA. This is the first time in six years that we get to do that, and I am enjoying every minute. Our time together includes pedicures, delicious meals, a movie and lots of talking.

I asked Chloe what I should write my blog about today, and without missing a beat, she said, “ Why don’t you write about the 12-year-old moms that you know”. 

Wow.  Okay, that’s a good idea, let me give that a try.

MANY of our babies come to us because their mothers are very young teenage girls who have been violently raped and found themselves pregnant. There is a tremendous amount of shame and sometimes they want to commit suicide and even end the life of their unborn child.  It is in those situations that I am called to help counsel them.

I have looked deep into the eyes of MANY young 12, 13, 14 and 15-year-old girls who have been brought to me by the police or Social Welfare and I can see their pain and their shame.  As some of you know, my birthmother was also 15-years-old when she gave birth to me in 1963 and she too brought great shame on her family. In fact, she was sent away to a home for unwed mothers so that no one in her community or family would know that she was pregnant with me. After she gave birth, I was adopted by Bernice and Russell Willis, and she went back home with her secret buried deep in her heart.  (See more details in my blog:  http://janinemaxwell.blogspot.com/2012/05/my-birth-mother-was-15-years-old-when-i.html).

What I am able to say to these young teenage moms is that God has a plan for their lives and a plan for their baby’s life.  I am living proof that God doesn’t waste anything and that while an unwanted pregnancy, at any age, can be traumatic, it is ONLY GOD who can make a baby, and each child has a purpose.

We don’t often have family members visit our children, but just today we had a young teenager come to see her little boy whom we have named “Russell”, after my adoptive father. The girl just wanted to see if the baby (whom she hasn’t seen in four years) was okay.  She is now in Grade 7 in school, and lives with her Great Grandmother.  Russell has a bright future ahead of him and the young girl was able to see that her request for us to take her child was the right one.

Last night we had a wonderful evening with dear friends at the home of Dr. David and Becky Fern.   It was great to be able to share from the depths of my heart, all that is happening in Swaziland – the good, the bad and the ugly.  At the end of the evening our friend David Mears pulled me aside and told me that while he was proud of all that we have done and accomplished, we should be most proud of Chloe and Spencer and the adults that they have become.  David, I couldn’t agree more, and thank you for saying that. 

Thank you Kim and David Mears for your friendship.
Happy Mothers Day to the young mothers and the old.  Motherhood is not easy, but it is such an important job.  May I encourage you all to be strong and courageous as you parent the treasure that God has given you.

Thank you Spencer and Chloe for being amazing children and such wonderful role models to your 189 young brothers and sisters.

Live from Atlanta … I am a very proud mom.

Janine


 PS - I just had to add a couple of crazy hair photos from our kids in Swaziland to make you smile.

Deborah looks like Cindy-loo-hoo.



Both of these beauties came to us from young teenage moms.





Saturday, May 5, 2018

When you wake up and realize ...



Friends Ann, Lainey and Doug Williams
If you have been reading my blog for a while you have heard me say that living in Swaziland is complicated.  Every thing is hard, from the condition of the dirt roads that cause back and neck pain, having to travel to seven different government offices/police stations just to buy a trailer for the car or even finding sour cream for your favorite recipe.  I am not meaning to complain, it just is what it is, and to live successfully you must learn to go with the flow and learn to live with frustration and/or disappointment … and embrace the adventure!  If you don’t, you will be miserable.

Today I woke up and wondered where I was? I was in complete silence (no dogs, birds, tractors or people).  I slowly opened my eyes and discovered I was in a wonderfully soft bed in Indiana. I am in the US on an 18-day whirlwind trip to raise awareness and funds for Project Canaan and I am blessed to have Spencer with me as he is between school terms.

Last night we stayed with our dear friends Ann and Doug Williams and enjoyed a lovely dinner around a beautiful table with their friends and we were able to share about life in Swaziland – fun stories of what we have learned, difficult stories of child abuse, redemptive stories of the lame walking, the blind seeing and the deaf being healed.

I was asked what the hardest part of serving in Swaziland is, and I explained that it is having a foot in both worlds. Living in Swaziland full time, and visiting the US or Canada once or twice a year is like standing on a dock with one foot on the dock and one foot in a canoe in turbulent water. Some times it feels like Swaziland is the dock and the west is the canoe, and sometimes it feels like Swaziland is the canoe and the west is the dock.  It’s hard to explain. 

Once you get used to a way of living, a way of thinking, a way of being, then the “other way” seems odd/complicated/unstable/distressing.   When I share about the hard life for children, women and the poor in Swaziland it’s upsetting for western the listener to hear.  But then when I hear about opioid addiction, gun killing sprees and human trafficking in the US it is equally upsetting for me to hear.  Where is the dry dock? Where are we safe from turbulent water?

I hadn’t planned to make a “lesson” of this blog, but it seems obvious as I write this that our dry land or dry dock must be the Lord. There will always be turbulence in life, but if we keep our eyes on Him, we will be safe. Even if the boat flips over and we end up in the deep water, He is with us always and we can go to Him for shelter from any storm or uncertainty.

I look forward to the next 15-days of sharing God’s grace, His mercy and His love for His children all over the world, even through the darkness and pain, and I pray that people here who are being invited to the banquet will say “YES!” and not be too busy or distracted to join His work.

Live from Indiana … it’s Saturday morning.

Janine

Missing home already!