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Saturday, October 13, 2018

7 babies in 7 days

This is how we found the 90-year-old Great Grandmother caring for the 19-month-old baby boy
For those of you who read last week’s blog, you would have read that we received baby #200 on the Friday before, and her name is Praise.  What a joyous day of celebration that was!

While you were reading the blog the next day, another baby was brought to us. She is 4-months-old and was left in the forest last Friday night and found by a stranger on Saturday morning. Police started the search for her mother to charge her with child abandonment.  We are calling her Treasure (found in the forest) and she is #201.

On Monday night we were called police to say that they had found Treasure’s 2-year-old brother and they brought him to us as they took the mother to prison for abandoning her baby in the forest. His name is Blessing and he is #202.

On Tuesday AM I drove to Mbabane to pick up a newborn baby whose mother was so traumatized that she tried to abort the baby several times and then threatened to drown the baby upon birth. Her name is Patience and she is #203.

Two hours later on Tuesday morning we were called from another part of the country about an extreme case of malnutrition in a 19-month-old boy who is the size of a 5-month-old. He was living with a 90-YEAR-OLD grandmother who had absolutely nothing to give him.  The photo at the top of this blog is a photo of the boy (left) with our boy Peace on the right. The two of them share the same birthday. You can see the devastating effects of malnutrition in his tiny and sad body. His name is Comfort and he is #204.

These two boys share the exact same birthday.  Peace (left) and severely malnourished new arrival Comfort (right).

On Friday AM we received our 10th set of twins.  They are the 7th and 8th born of a suicidal mother and the first baby was born in a bus stop and a good Samaritan took the mother and baby to the clinic where the second baby was born. Their names are Tabitha and Tamara #205 and #206.

Last week 4,900 people read my blog and only 5 people were moved to sign up to sponsor a child on a monthly basis. Since then we have seven more mouths to feed, seven more lives to pray over (several who are HIV+) and seven lives who need hope for their future. Hundreds of people “liked” the blog or shared it or commented on it, and that is lovely, but it doesn’t feed them, bathe them or help keep them alive.  Honestly, we really need your help. If EVERY person who reads this blog gave $10 monthly we would be in good shape.

Maybe you don’t like the idea of giving monthly, so today I am asking if you would consider giving a one-time gift of $2,700 to FULLY support one of these children for a WHOLE year.

This month we have our US and Canadian Board of Director meetings. If we can’t increase child sponsorship for our children, I know we will be forced to stop receiving children in the very near future. This is not a false threat, it is a reality. If we can’t properly care for them, we have to stop. And nobody wants that, least of all, me.

Please, will you help with just one child today?  Praise? Treasure? Blessing? Comfort? Tabitha? Tamara?

Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.  Today, I am asking Creator of the Universe to rain down provision for these, HIS children, and encourage those of us who are weary and need to see His hand at work.

Live from Minooka, Illinois … show us your provision Lord.


Saturday, October 6, 2018

200 babies lives saved

On March 1, 2012 we received our first baby – Joshua.  The El Roi baby home was built and ready for babies in January 2012, and we wondered if a baby would ever come.  Since that day, we have received a baby every 12 days on average. Our family moved to Swaziland in May, 2012 to be with the children.

Yesterday we received a call about a baby girl who had been left with a stranger by her mother three months ago (!) and the stranger finally went to the police. Social welfare was called, an investigation ensued and the child was placed with us.  We have named her PRAISE, a treasured name that we had been saving for baby #200, hoping that she would be a girl, and she is!

The past few months have been a roller coaster of emotions for me personally as more babies arrive, more babies start to walk, more children lose teeth and more children can speak in two languages.  How will we fund them? What if we don’t get more donor support, how and when will we have to say “no” to a baby who has been dumped in a pit latrine, or left on the side of the road? 200 children is a lot of children, and our eldest (twins) are only 7-years-old. 

Ian and I think of each child as being a 22-year commitment to each child, because that would get them through any post-secondary education that they might seek. I will be 76-years old when PRAISE is 22-years-old.  I know that there are many great people who are alongside us in the calling, and there will be many more when we are gone, but that is Ian and my reality each and every day. Every time the phone rings with a baby in need, it’s 22 more years.  For our family members in Canada who say that we are retired … we are not.

I try to spend as much time as possible with the kids so that I know their unique personalities, likes, dislikes and what makes them laugh.  This past week I have been working on child sponsorship updates for our monthly donors and it was so fun to sit with the Sr. Supervisors and just talk about the children who have been sponsored.

Here are a few highlights so that you can know a bit more about a few of our children:

·      Shirley is a strong-willed child and is in a time of “testing” our staff.
·      Lucy is very smart and not only skipped Pre-kindergarten, she is at the top of her class in Kindergarten.
·      Timothy likes to paint within the lines, and is left handed.
·      Phephile wants to be Grace’s best friend and Anna is jealous of their friendship and is acting out because of it.
·      Most of our bigger boys want to be a Power Ranger or a Super hero when they grow up.
·      Nathan will cry if you make him do any form of physical exercise.
·      Margaret (2-years-old) is very caring for the other “little babies” and helps them up steps, helps feed them or helps them up if they fall.
·      Job, River and Hosea are the “3 Musketeers” at Emseni One.
·      Lenah, Angel and Deborah (who now prefers to be called "DD") are best friends and love to laugh and be silly girls.
·      Holly and Ivy are IDENTICAL twins, but Holly’s hair looks like Don King, so that is how you know which one she is.  We have nine sets of twins.
·      Jonathan is now speaking in English and siSwati, but his voice sounds like a high-pitched bird. A year ago we didn’t know if we would live.

There is no greater joy I have than to sit and watch these children learn, love and grow. Some days I take my laptop down to the baby home or the Oasis and that is my office for the day. I can’t do that at the toddler home – too many sticky hands and fingers!  The toddler home is for hugs and throwing the ball.

I can’t imagine what our lives would be like if we had not said “yes”, not having a clue what we were really saying yes to. Obedience precedes understanding, and I am so thankful that we were obedient because the blessing that has been given to us indescribable.

Please join Ian and me in sponsoring a child today. We have some awesome gifts from Khutsala to share with you for a limited time. See below.

Live from eSwatini … giving thanks for the support of others.


Saturday, September 29, 2018

$850,000 US for water??

Giving thanks for fresh water flowing
This week Project Canaan became “water secure”.  This is a REALLY BIG DEAL and may not make any sense to those of you who have access to water any time you turn on a tap or flush a toilet.  We don’t have that luxury (which you likely take for granted).  Let me explain – I know you will think this is really cool.

We don’t have a river on Project Canaan, so we have built three dams which are only filled by rain fall.  We have drilled down below dam #2 and we pump the water 1.7 KM/ 1 mile up 100 meters/yards to a holding tank. There it is goes through a filtration system and then flows back down the mountain to our homes, schools and to the front office. The tank is filled a couple of times each week.

There is no aquafer (body of water below the surface), and we have had many surveys done to look for water that we could source. We are completely dependent on rain water, and we have been in the worst drought in recorded history for the past few years. 

This is a bone-dry dam #1 where we gathered in August 2016 and prayed for safety as the bulldozer started up the mountain.
That lead us to the top of the mountain where we found seven natural springs.  Even during the drought the water flowed freely from the springs.  Once we knew there was water at the top of the mountain, then we had to find a company who could bring it down to the farm.  This was a MONSTER project at a cost of $850,000 US. 

Natural springs located 900+ meters/yards above the farm
I cannot tell you how much conflict this brought to our lives. There were people who just didn’t think we should be trying to raise that much money for “just” water.  It caused conflict on our Board, and with some donors. Of course, those people don’t have to worry about only showering every few days to save water or bathing 190+ children with no water.  But we were steadfast in our belief that the Lord created those natural springs and put them on this property for a reason – for us to never be without fresh water.  AND, if it’s God’s will, it’s God’s bill, and He would provide.

We secured the water rights with the government for two of the springs and started raising funds. First, we had to make SIX MILES (9.5 km) of roads up a mountain with our bulldozer.   Not an easy feat. Then all the materials (steel, concrete, piping) had to be taken up by tractor loads.  

The project was done in four stages:
1.     Build two weirs/dams at the top to redirect the water. You MUST watch the video  below of a guy taking one of hundreds of loads of wet concrete down a steep hill to build the weirs.
2.     Install 1.7 km (1 mile) of steel pipe above ground.
3.     Dig 7.8 km (4.8 miles) of trenching to bury the OPVC piping underground from the steel pipe down to connect to a 500,000L (110,000 gallon) holding tank.
4.     Dig more trenching to connect that tank to another holding tank of the same size behind the egg barns.

As we raised the funds for one phase, we would start that phase. The OPVC piping had to be ordered from Spain, so each order would take 6-8 weeks to receive, and then we could continue.  

Weirs being built

Chloe on weir #2
Each and every person who Ian has taken up the mountain to see the progress has been BLOWN away by the magnitude and scope of this engineering feat. No photo or video can possibly capture the complexity or scale of the project.

Two years later, the pipe was connected to the second holding tank, and on Thursday we became water secure! Once that holding tank fills up (which should take two days), the water will then be channeled down to fill dam #2 (remember, that’s where we get our drinking/bathing/cooking water), and when that is full it will overflow and fill the Living Water Dam (dam #3).  I should also mention that there is a T-junction in the piping so that the community of Gebeni can also tap in to the water once they have their piping secured. 

Easy eh?  Ha!

I cannot tell you how proud I am of my husband, Ian, for his tenacity, perseverance, passion and absolute faith that this project was the Lord’s will.  This project is like a “life’s work” and  generations to come will have water on Project Canaan because of his faith. 

Thank you to David Bryant for working tirelessly to raise the funds for this project and for never giving up.  Thank you to Tim Lambert and Chad Gregory for having our backs through this journey and for your commitment to water security. Thank you to each and every person who gave a large amount or a small amount or even bought a Water bracelet to have a part of this massive undertaking. 

Thank you Jesus for the gift of fresh water, and for being our living water. Because of you we will never thirst again.

Live from eSwatini … I am eternally thankful.


PS I loved this comment that someone wrote on my Facebook wall in response to our water photos: “I am partnering in prayer with you for ALL the ways that water symbolizes and releases life over your community.”  Amen.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

I HATE begging

Photo credit Linda Olsen
It’s a rainy Saturday morning here in the Kingdom of eSwatini, and it’s the morning after the country’s General Elections.  The country awaits the results of the polling stations as well as the His Majesty King Mswati III’s appointments of Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Cabinet. There are no guarantees of when His Majesty will make his decisions or announcements, but we wait expectantly.  With a new government comes a new day, one that no one can accurately predict.

Also happening in the Kingdom this morning is a newborn baby boy who needs a home. When I finish writing this blog Ian and I will hop in the car and drive for several hours to pick up a newborn baby boy.  Another tragic case of sexual assault of a young woman, by someone in her own family. There is a common expression for that here “ti bit end lu” - simply, it means “a family secret” and specifically relates to incest.  There is not a week that goes by that I don’t use that expression in one conversation or another. My siSwati isn’t good at all, but my staff and colleagues teach me the important ones, and that is one of them because it’s like a code for what is going on behind closed doors.

This 24-hour-old baby boy will be #199 and next week another newborn is expected, taking us to 200 children that we have committed to for life – they are our children, and yes, they will leave us when they finish school and become productive members of society, but they will always be our children.

We are desperately behind in child sponsorships.  We have had more than 100 people visit in the past few months, and I am praying that some or all of them will find it in their hearts to sponsor a child that they fell in love with. Or those of you who like our many photos on social media or read this blog religiously every week – will you help us today.  Any monthly amount will help us provide for the children who live here. They are clean, well fed, well cared for, but that doesn’t happen without funding. 

We are very close to having to say “no” to more children until our current children are fully funded. I BEG YOU to sponsor a child today by clicking on this link for the US or this link for Canada.  PLEASE - I hate begging.

This is baby Boaz who just arrived home.
I have so much to share each week, but have to limit my blog to a reasonable length so that you will continue to read it and share.  But Ian and I will be in the US and Canada for most of the month of October.  Maybe you would like to come and meet us in person and ask questions, hear more details of our lives here, and find out how you can get involved with Heart for Africa and the 200 children who call Project Canaan “home”. Please check out the locations and dates below and be sure to share this blog far and wide so that we can fill these events to the brim. There is much to say – hopefully much can be shared in October.

Please come and help us bring HOPE to a nation.

Celebrate HOPE Dinner – Minooka, Illinois - Friday, October 12th

Celebrate HOPE Dinner – Vancouver, BC – Saturday, October 20th

Heart for Africa Golf Tournament – Atlanta, GA
Celebrate Hope Dinner – Atlanta, GA – Thursday, October 25th

Live from Swaziland … time to go get a baby boy.


Saturday, September 15, 2018

The highs are high and the lows are low

So many crazy things happened this week that I will attempt to share some highs and some lows in bullet form so you don’t have to read all day.

·      Our friends at Global Medical Relief Fund have agreed to help the young burned girl I blogged about last week ( and she will start her journey to healing in January! THANK YOU ELISSA!
·      Our friends Eileen and Joe Habelow (along with the support of Mount Hope Christian Center, Belmont) have agreed to host the young burned girl and her guardian for the next 2-3 years of surgeries and procedures to restore her to body, mind and soul to health!  THANK YOU HABELOW FAMILY!
·      After a 4.5 hour drive yesterday we welcomed home our 198th baby. She was left for weeks at a time with strangers. She is 20-months-old and is the size of a 9-month-old. She has the saddest eyes and doesn’t make a sound, but she will be loved back to life by my amazing team of Aunties.
·      We celebrated EIGHT birthdays this week, including Ian, Robert, Bernice and Moses’ today! It’s a good cake week.

·      During a celebratory lunch with my Khutsala Supervisors I witnessed a man with a rifle shoot a dog a right in front of us. I assume it was a wild dog, and obviously unwelcomed. We heard a shot, then a yelp! yelp! yelp! as the dog ran in circles (I think he was hit in the hip), then another shot and the yelping stopped. The man returned to the lunch table and finished his lunch.  The rest of us lost our appetites.
·      We had another late-night office break-in, this time with weapons involved.  A spray of buckshot scared the robbers from trying to cut their way in to the safe, then Ian and the boys chased the four masked men in to the bush, while Tricia and I guarded the open office. Lots of damage, but nothing stolen.  We will not be afraid, nor deterred from the work the Lord has called us to.
·      We had a big storm that brought water in to our house and blew out two transformers, a DB box at the egg barn and one of the tunnel roofs at the Greenhouse. 
·      I learned that in Swazi culture, if a man pays Lobola (payment of cows for his bride) to her family, then he “owns” her womb, and any child that comes out of.   If the payment is not paid, then her womb is only being “rented”.

This was a discouraging week for me and I appreciate the prayers of friends around the world. Some days/weeks are just harder than others.  But He is my strength and my shield and as our children sing “If God is for us, who can be, who can be against us?”  He restores my soul through their voices.

Live from Swaziland … time to go make French toast for my favorite birthday boy.


If you would like to sponsor this new baby, please click on one of the links below:

In the US:

In Canada: 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

5-day-old baby girl burned in house fire

This is a traditional stick & mud house. The dried grass roof is highly flammable.
Recently I received a call from a social welfare officer who was in tears.  She had just met an 8-year-old girl who was burned in a house fire when she was only 5-days-old, and has not received treatment since then. She called me to warn me that she was sending me some very graphic photos of the young girl. She asked me to look at the photos and then call her back so we could see if there was any way to get the child help.  (I will not post the photos in this blog).

Next, I heard the “bing, bing, bing” of photos coming in to WhatsApp on my phone, and with trepidation, I opened them. I have received MANY horrific photos from police, hospitals, social welfare officers and even our own staff, but nothing prepared me for these photos. 

The girl was allegedly burned in what is commonly known here as “Lubane”.

“According to the Traditional Healers Association in Swaziland, Lubane is when fire erupts out of nowhere and is associated with the use of black magic.  The intention of Lubane is to hurt the person experiencing it and often leading to death if untreated. A person goes and raises a dead person with fire and uses them as an invincible arsonist who, after touching anything, will leave it on fire.” (source: Swazi Observer June 2018).

Those of us who don’t believe in such things might suggest that the grass roof was struck by lightening and spontaneously combusted in to flames, collapsing on the people inside, often leaving no time to get out of the collapsed roof/house.

Photo of a stick and mud house after a fire. Photo credit: Chris Cheek
I opened my WhatsApp and saw something out of a horror film. A girl whose head had been so badly burned that one eye was completely heat-sealed by skin, but I could see the eyeball underneath the skin shielding the eye.  One of her ears had burned off, her nose was gone and her top lip had also burned away, leaving her teeth and mouth exposed and unable to close.  Half of her scalp had also burned, leaving a swath of exposed skin pulled tightly over the top of her skull.

I was sick to my stomach, and called the social worker back to get more details of the story. She told me that the father is in prison (which is where she first heard about the case), the mother works in town and sends food to the homestead when she can.  The young girl stays with a very old Gogo (Grandmother) in a very rural part of the country. She was in 2nd grade in school, but the teasing and taunting of the children became too much and so now she stays at home and sits outside all day.

Ian and I are met with challenges on a daily basis that we just can’t do anything about.  There are so many people in need, so much disease, so many hungry children, so much pain and suffering, and we simply can’t help everyone. But seeing a child in such pain is not something that I can live with, if there is a way to get her help. 

We have friends in the US who have helped us with a burned child in the past, and so I quickly typed and email, said and prayer and hit “send”.  Over the next few days I emailed back and forth with our friends, and true to their nature, they want to help this little girl if they can.

Many details still have to be worked out, but one of the major challenges is finding a home in the Boston or Philadelphia area for the child and a guardian/social worker to live for several months at a time.  Her surgeries will take several years to be complete, and she will come back to a safe place in eSwatini between procedures.

Please pray with us for wisdom, clarity and favor for us as we navigate a path of healing and wholeness for this child of God. 

Thank Jesus for hearing this girl's cries and the prayers of the old Gogo. Thank you for hearing all of our cries and for sending the Comforter in our darkest hours.

Live from Swaziland … Lord hear our prayers.