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Saturday, February 18, 2017

We are not getting any younger

I used to love traveling around the world.  I counted down the “sleeps” before we would get on an airplane to our next adventure location.  Once we started serving in Africa my “count-downs” would start weeks out, and I couldn't wait to land on my favorite continent.

I still count down the days to come home to Swaziland when we are traveling abroad. I can’t wait to see the “Welcome to Swaziland” sign and know that we will soon see the children.  I look forward to sitting on our patio with our crazy dogs, overlooking the farm (which looks green and beautiful due to recent rains), and to see the smiles on all of our Swazi staff.  This is truly home now, and I love it.

A man and his dogs
What I don’t love it JET LAG!  (I know, this is a bit of “first world” whining). I just can’t seem to shake it off and get on the right time zone. We arrived on Wednesday night and I am still out of wack, and getting worse.  I took two Aleve PM last night and went to bed at a decent hour.  Ian and I both picked up coughs on the airplane and so we both started to cough.  You know how that goes.

At around midnight I moved to the couch and watched TV until 2AM when I got up and made some eggs (comfort food… thinking it might help).  Then a herd of cows from over the mountain came and decided to graze right outside our fence.  Our dogs when CRAZY and proceeded to bark from 2:00AM – 5:30AM, or at least that is when I finally fell asleep.  I awoke at 11:30AM and am now just trying not to bump in to walls as I make my way around the house.

Our three-week long trip to the US and Canada was busy and fruitful. It is always great to see friends, share the stories of how God is alive and well in Swaziland and thank the people who give so generously to support the work at Project Canaan.  But, as well all know, there is nothing quite like getting home and crawling in to your own bed (even if you can’t sleep).

Live from Swaziland … readjusting to time and space here.


PS – some of you may have seen that a Cyclone hit the south east coast of Africa this past week. Fortunately we did get a good amount of rain from it, and little damage (other than to our roads which need a lot of repair). Dam #2 is starting to fill with another 4-feet before it hits the spillway.  The Living Water Dam (#3) is possibly half full.  This is all good news, but does not reduce our need to complete the pipeline from the top of the mountain so that we become “water secure” and can irrigate crops all year long.

Living Water Dam #3.
Dam #2

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Four years later - still an unbelievable story

Happy 4th birthday Deborah
On February 7th, Deborah turned 4-years old.  She is a miracle, just like the other 148 children who call Project Canaan home. 

As I am at the tail end of two week whirlwind trip to the US and Canada I thought I would cheat a little on my blog today and re-post Deborah's story from February 2013.  Here is what I wrote:

On Monday night I arrived home from possibly the worst day of my life.

I had to sit and write to help me breathe.  I sent it to a few dear friends and family members who are supporters of the babies at El Roi, and me personally.   I struggled a lot as to whether I should publish this.  I am paranoid about it sounding sensational (because it is a story from hell) and I don't want to post photos, but believe that people should see what is really happening here.  Maybe then you will help (if you don't already).  After today, I believe that I am supposed to publish this.  I hope I don’t get in trouble for telling this story.  Please share it if you think you should.  Please DO SOMETHING to help if you get to the end.  Here is what I wrote last night…

I just got home after a very long hard day, showered and am now seeking comfort from Donnie McClurkin worship music and my yellow chair.  When my brain and heart are on the edge of exploding I must write.  It is like oxygen to my soul so that I can breathe again and nothing is forgotten. When I am finished writing the tears will have soaked my tshirt and emptied my soul.  Here is what happened today.

At 10AM I got a call from the Child Protection unit of the Police saying a newborn baby had just been found in the bush in our area (Sidvokodvo).  The police were taking the baby to hospital as she was in bad condition. They thought she had been born just yesterday and was found today alive.  I got in the car, picked up Jamie Klee and headed to the hospital.  Halfway there my car broke down (again). We waited 45 minutes before Ian could come to the rescue, switch vehicles and continued on to meet the police.  I am going to start praying harder for the Lord to provide a good vehicle for me to use.

I know you will look at this photo and not want to continue, but seriously, this is really a little baby. Please keep reading. 

Jesus help us.
When we got to the hospital we quite accidently bumped in to the doctor whom I often write about (but never name for privacy reasons).  He was so surprised to see me because he was just about to call me about an abandoned child.  He had just examined the baby and was waiting for her to come to be washed and cared for.   He allowed us to go in to the tiny room where they washed her and take photos to show what condition she was in.  She has many bug/insect bites all over her body, there is a bone misplaced in her leg (will check for fracture when she is stable), her face and backside are in very bad condition (maybe burned?) and raw and she had maggots crawling out of her eyes and ears.  Lots of them.  She is premature and weighs 1.8 KG (4.1 pounds), but she is a fighter.

They had to wash/scrub her twice then finally went and got disinfectant to bathe her in to try to kill the bugs.  She screamed as the liquid hit her open skin. We stood and prayed.

She was then put on a sheet under a “warmer” and the nurse left to get dressing for her wounds. 

Maggots filled her mouth, eyes and ears.  These were digging a hole behind her little ear.
As Jamie and I stood in this small washing room, we suddenly realized we were in the NICU room. There were three other babies there on oxygen and monitors.  I looked at the little boy beside our baby and it didn’t look like he was breathing.  I said that to Jamie and went and put my hand on his tiny chest.  I didn’t feel anthing, but I am not in any way a medical professional.  The nurse walked in just then and I mentioned that the baby didn’t seem to be breathing. She left and got the doctor who was right outside the door.  He came in and immediately started CPR, as we stood and watched and prayed.  After 10-15 minutes of CPR, listening, oxygen, and other emergency things I can’t think of the name of right now (which seemed like a flash and an eternity all at once) he shook his head.  The child had turned color.  He was dead.  Just like that.  Gone.

We believe and are hopeful that our baby, now named Deborah because she is a fighter, will live.  I will be there every day this week to help with her care while the mother of the baby boy will mourn the loss of her beautiful child.

After a time Jamie and I left the hospital in tears, and headed home.  I couldn’t just go home with the vision of that baby boy in my mind so suggested that we stop at the police station to find out if they knew anything more about Deborah’s situation.

This is where the plastic bag with baby Deborah was found.
The police were very kind and agreed to take us to the place she had been dumped.  Deborah was a newborn (umbilical cord still attached) and was put in a black plastic grocery bag.  The police said that the top was tied in a knot and she was left in the bushes under a tree in the middle of nowhere.  This morning a local man was walking by and heard what sounded like crying.  After listening closer he moved closer to the sound.  When he saw the bag moved he was terrified and thought it was a snake so ran to a local store for help. He and the store-keeper came back to investigate the strange bag and found the baby.  She was somehow half in and half out of the bag, face down in the dirt and crying to save her life – literally. 

We went and met the man who found her – the hero of the day.  He said her mouth and ears were full of maggots and it was terrible. He shook his head when he spoke of what he saw.  I gathered together all that I had left in me and shook his hand, thanking him for saving the life of a chosen child – a child who was seen by El Roi himself.

I am tired, confused and emotionally finished.  I don’t know why the Lord had us sit on the side of the road today for 45 minutes, only to be in the room to see a baby die.  I don’t know why he allowed baby Deborah to live for two days (they think) in a black plastic bag under a bush – not eaten by dogs or snakes, and then He allowed a baby boy to die in a hospital NICU care center. 

But my faith is in Him and always shall me.  He is El Roi, the God who Sees and I will cling to that today and in the days ahead. 


Sorry for the long blog, but this is a Tuesday update, which has prompted a mid-week blog.

Baby Deborah on Tuesday.  So much better.
Don't mind the guy replacing the entire light FIXTURE over the NICU babies.
Monday night around midnight I got a text from a young woman saying she was cutting her wrists to commit suicide.  A bad text.  I called her and tried to encourage her and change her plans. She hung up the phone and it was early morning before I could contact anyone to find her.  By 10 AM we drove and found the young woman. She was lying on the ground in a local homestead and had overdosed on a drug we couldn’t find.  We took her to the hospital (sadly there is no 911 to call, no ambulance and the social workers of the country don’t have transportation) and got her in to the emergency room.  From there I literally walked to the Neonatal unit of the hospital and spent an hour with baby Deborah who is doing MIRACULOUSLY well!  The nurses can’t believe the change in her!  She is off the oxygen.  She is breathing well on her own and the swelling has gone down so much.  The nurses say, “This one will live!”.  I spent an hour with her and fed her a bit, but she was tired and slept for most of the time while I told her about what a fighter the Prophetess Deborah was. 

From there I checked in the Emergency Room again, stomach pumping still in force, then on to the TB hospital to see the mother of our twins Leah and Rachel.

This is a mid-week blog to bring those of you who really care and want to read it.  I really pray that EVERYONE taking the time to read this mid-week post will take the time to give monthly so that we can feed and care for these babies. Even $10 a month can help.  If you can give $100, or $1,000 that would help too. As Nike says, JUST DO IT.



Saturday, February 4, 2017

What do you do first?

US Staff dinner
Ian and I have been in the US for the past week and I am writing this blog at the Atlanta airport as we prepare to board a plane to Canada.  While many people have wished us well with hopes that we would have a nice relaxing trip, the truth is that there is no relaxing for us.  Here is a quick peak in to a typical trip to North America:

·      Drive five hours from Swaziland to Johannesburg, take 18-hour flight to Atlanta, disembark and drive directly to see Missy Willard for a great hair cut
·      Dentist appointments with the amazing Dr. Mark McGee and team
·      Head straight to dental surgeon to have tooth removed and implant installed
·      Eye doctor appointments with Dr. Nemi (order contact lenses for the next 12 months)
·      All staff meeting (first time that we have ALL been in the same room at the same time)

Staff/Board dinner (missing a few people)
·      US Board of Directors meeting for two days (reviewing 2016 and planning for 2017)

·      “Target” shopping (complete with the overwhelming awareness that there are more items and variety for sale in one store than ALL the stores in Swaziland put together).
·      Eat body weight in Queso with jalapeno peppers
·      Be intentional to eat at as many of the following as possible:  Chipotle, Chik fil A, Vinny’s, Pure Taqueria,  Bagel Boys, PF Changs and squeeze in a Costco hotdog if at all possible (don’t judge).
·      Pull winter coats out of storage (have cleaned and moth repairs done)
·      Pack extra suitcases to the 50 pound mark with goodies to take back to Swaziland when we fly back through Atlanta.

Today we are heading to Toronto, then on to Ottawa to visit Ian’s family, whom we have not seen in two years.  We will attend several events hosted by our Canadian board members, attend some media events, visit with friends in Toronto, and of course the highlight is that we get to see CHLOE!!!

Later in the week we head to Chicago to spend some time with the Ferguson’s and our friends at the Village Christian Church in Minooka, Illinois, old friends Ann and Doug Williams and …. Drum roll please … tickets to see HAMILTON in Chicago!!!!!!! 

I distinctly remember when I was just starting out in my business life (circa 1985) that I was going to know that I had “made it” when I could afford seasons tickets to the Royal Alexander Theatre in Toronto.  I also distinctly remember giving up those seasons tickets when we closed our business and started to work in Africa.

While I have no desire to have seasons tickets anymore, I am more than thankful to have the ability and means to be able to buy tickets to see this show and have a fun night out with Ian. 

Live from Atlanta … heading to the great white north.


PS - thank you Julie and Pete Wilkerson for always welcoming us in to your home when we visit.  You guys are awesome.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

We don't do this all on our own

Yesterday we were driving from Swaziland to South Africa to hop on a 16-hour flight to Atlanta.  As we crossed the border, I quickly took a photo of a typical sight - a strong, powerful, African woman, carrying her unbelievable load.  I didn’t consider for a minute that I would use it for today’s blog, but alas, it was the perfect image for today’s message.

I am in awe of my African sisters, Aunts, Mothers and Grandmothers.  Their superhuman strength, their unmatchable endurance and their love is never-ending.   And while African culture is one of living in community and sharing each others loads, we see that the AIDS pandemic, coupled with the drought, has left the majority of Swazi women carrying a big, big load on their own. There is no one left to help them.

Ian and I have had many people criticize us for going it “alone” on Project Canaan.  We have also been accused of not being “qualified” to do our jobs.  Those “nay-sayers” are always taken aback when we laugh and completely agree.   If we had applied for these jobs/roles with our marketing/business resumes we would never have been considered.  Instead, it was God who CALLED us to start the organization with the promise that HE would be with us and HE would give us “one page at a time”.  This has not been an easy journey, but He has never failed us.

We cannot do this alone, nor do we want to.

Over the years we have been overwhelmed and astonished at WHO and WHEN the Lord sent experts in their fields to assist us.  The list is so long that I will be forced to leave the lions share out, but a few key people include: Pete Wilkerson (landscape architect), Charles Mully (Kenyan advisor), Matt Marschall (Agri-business appraiser), Tom Daniel (land developer), Jere Scott (renaissance man, who kinda does it all), Annie Duguid (small/sick/abandoned baby expert from Uganda), and the list goes on and on.

Typically these people arrive before we even know that we need them, and then we are in awe again at the Lord’s provision.

This past week we were so blessed to welcome back, Annie Duguid from Uganda.  Annie is an expert in early child developed and has personally rescued 1,080 Ugandan babies who would certainly have died. She volunteered to come from for 5-weeks in January 2012 to help get us set up, trained and prepared for the babies we knew were coming. The day before Annie was to fly home, Joshua arrived, and we all danced for joy. I was in the US when Annie called me and then I called Ian, who was on the top of Project Canaan with Pete Wilkerson, working on more land plans/water flow etc.

A month ago Annie messaged me to say that she had a week where she could come back and see how we were doing, and her timing was perfect.  She was so happy to see that many of the systems that she had implemented (without babies in here) were still in place and effective. She was able to help us make improvements that will help with early childhood development and stimulation, and we were all overwhelmed (in a good way) with the knowledge that she shared with us. God is good, all the time. And His timing is perfect.

This next month we will have many more highly trained and qualified people coming to serve with us in the most extra-ordinary ways.

·      Rick Cogbill and a team from Mercy Tech are coming for two months do vocational training in the areas of mechanics and welding for the third year.
·      The Egg Farmers of Canada have a volunteer coming to help us “harvest” the first flock of 2,500 hens and clean and prepare the barn for the new flock arriving March 10th
·      Northpoint Community church is sending a GlobalX team, lead by Hannah Gaddis, to continue teaching our Children’s Ministry team on how to teach our young children about Jesus. In addition they will educate our 31 church pastors in some children’s ministry techniques, that will be fun for all to see.
·      Andrew Fisk from YWAM/EMERGE in Colorado, is an expert in Aquaponics.  He will be coming for 2-weeks to start up and train us in the growing of fish and plants in a enclosed eco-system.

Last but not least, the Harp family is leaving us on Monday, after volunteering in Swaziland for the past 3-months.  Barry is a CPA, who has been invaluable in creating systems at Khutsala, and Shelly’s heart for woman’s has been a blessing to all whom she has touched.  Their boys loved our children and our children loved them back!

All this so say that it really does take a village to raise a child, and we are thankful for the global community who have come alongside us in the past and will come in the future.  It's a wonderful living example of the body of Christ coming together with its many parts. 

Live from Alpharetta, Georgia … it’s Saturday morning!


Saturday, January 21, 2017

If you call yourself a “Christian”, what are you afraid of?

Welcome to our newest long-term volunteer - Bryan Throgmorton!

This is NOT a politically driven blog.  I promise.  I am a Canadian, living on a mountaintop in a tiny African Kingdom (with the last absolute Monarch in Africa), just thinking about a world filled with fear.

Today I am speaking to people who would call yourself a “Christian” or a “follower of Jesus”.  What are you afraid of today and why are you afraid?

Did you know that there are 365 references in the bible that we are to “fear not” or “not be afraid”?  I find it an interesting ‘coincidence’ that it’s the same number as days in the year.  We are reminded each and every day that we are not to be afraid. Why? Because God has a plan and His plans are better than our plans.  We may not understand His plans, we may not agree with His plans, but He is God, and we are not.

I can’t tell you how many people have confessed to me that their biggest fear when they became a Christian was that God would send them to Africa.  And while many of them were saying it tongue-in-cheek, there was a hint of truth in their confession.

But here I am, writing this blog in Africa.  And I am not afraid.  I do not fear snakes, or spiders, or fundraising (or lack of fundraising), or government official visits, or surprise police visits, or receiving three babies in a day, or HIV/AIDS, or multiple drug-resistant TB.  No, I am not Superwoman, and believe me, I have my own “stuff”, but I don’t struggle with fear, so I find myself talking with others about it frequently. 

On January 11th I read a shocking, yet wonderful devotion by Oswald Chambers. He explains, “If we obey God, it is going to cost other people more than it costs us, and that is where the pain begins. If we are in love with our Lord, obedience does not cost us anything— it is a delight. But to those who do not love Him, our obedience does cost a great deal. If we obey God, it will mean that other people’s plans are upset. They will ridicule us as if to say, “You call this Christianity?” We could prevent the suffering, but not if we are obedient to God. We must let the cost be paid.”

I believe that the reason I have no reason to be afraid is because I am being obedient in my actions, and so my obedience is rewarded with delight. I AM FAR FROM PERFECT (ask my husband or children – or don’t!), but I am intentional in my desire to do what HE wants me to do.  If you are being obedient to the Lord in your daily walk with Him, then you should not be afraid of anything.   

This week we welcomed two new long-term volunteers named Leanna McKnight and Bryan Throgmorton.  Leanna is here for a year as our Kindergarten teacher and Bryan has moved in to the Emseni boys dorm as our Program Director.  While they have not shared this with me, I have no doubt that they have family and friends who did not want them to move because they were afraid, for them, and/or for themselves.  But they put their own fears aside (if they even had any) and said YES.

I have no doubt that Leana and Bryan will be filled with delight in the days and months ahead because of their obedience. I know that our children and our staff will benefit in such a mighty way because of their obedience.  Please join us in praying for peace, strength and for His delight (joy) for these volunteers and all of our other long-term volunteers.   

As you deal with your own fears this week and maybe the fear of the unknown (and while you give thanks that you weren’t called to live in Africa!), please rest in the truth of the scripture from Isaiah 41:10 (Amplified) that says,

 Do not fear anything, for I am with you;
Do not be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, be assured I will help you;
I will certainly take hold of you with
my righteous right hand,
a hand of justice,
of power,
of victory,
of salvation.

Live from Swaziland … delighting in rain this week!


For those of you who heard about Deborah's surgery, she is home and doing very well.  Apparently learning how to drive today before her 4th birthday.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Who knew? God knew.


In 2008 we were leading a team of volunteers in Swaziland from the US and welcomed a family from Charlevoix, Michigan.  I remember them will for a variety of reasons. First, the father was a dentist and was going to work with Dr. Mark McGee doing dental work for the whole week. The second reason was that her brother (a strong, fit young man) fainted out in a homestead visit while we all stood and held hands to pray. He was dehydrated and anyone who has traveled with us since then has heard us tell how important it is to drink a lot of water because he this young man could get dehydrated, anyone could.  (As an aside, he chipped his tooth when he fell and his dentist father had to glue the tooth back together back at the hotel. Great to have a dentist as your father).

The third reason that I remembered them was that almost all of their luggage was lost, and the 14-year-old girl (Jane) had none of her own clothes to wear.  Most girls that age would be very upset, but Jane just went with it and even had to borrow clothes from her older brother all week without a single complaint.  Her luggage never did arrive and since that trip the whole family only travels with carry-on luggage!

Today I saw that young girl, Jane, again. She is now 23-years-old.  In fact, Jane has been with us for the past month here in Swaziland.  She and Spencer have been dating for the past few years and have now graduated from University.  Both plan to go on to graduate school and decided to take the next two months to go on a trip of a lifetime (as if Africa wasn’t enough!). 

Today we put them on a shuttle to Johannesburg where they will take an 8-hour flight to Abu Dhabi.  Then they will take another 8-hour flight to Vietnam.  They will backpack through Vietnam for 23 days and the move on to Thailand for 20 days, finishing up their adventure in Indonesia for 17 days. 

We are so incredibly proud of both of them and their desire to stretch themselves, learn about the world, and learn about each other as they look towards and unknown future in a world where nothing is certain. 

What they both do know for sure is that God brought them together when they were 13/14-years old and God has a plan for their lives. As we said goodbye to them, Ian prayed over them for protection, peace and joy.  We look forward to following their adventures over the next months, and there is a part of us that envies the carefree time that they have to explore the world.

So, what is the moral of this story? You just never know who you are going to meet on an 11-day service trip with Heart for Africa!

Live from Swaziland … our nest is empty again (except for the other 148).


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Was your Christmas absolutely perfect?

The "perfect" Christmas brunch. 

This blog is likely a bit more for moms than dads, but I encourage for dads to read it anyway so that you have a glimpse in to what may go through your wife’s mind during the Christmas season.  I am certainly not claiming to be the voice for all women or moms, but I think I might be speaking for a few of you.

We want every day of the holiday season with our family and friends to be perfect. Absolutely perfect.   Every cookie, every wrapped gift, every cup of coffee, every meal, every light on the tree, every piece of music chosen, every interaction between family members and especially every conversation.  We think about what we can do to stretch the hours in the day so no moment is wasted? How early can we get up so that the kitchen smells good and how late can we go to bed so that the house looks perfect? 

Making the "perfect" brunch for 98 children and 60+ staff.
How do we prepare meals in advance so that we maximize our time with our family and not waste it doing things like dishes, laundry, taking out the garbage etc.

It’s exhausting, and that exhaustion, combined with unrealistic expectations, almost always leads to chaos and tears. 

Our family is not immune to the above picture, and mom is at the center of the dilemma (I am referring to me as mom, not my mom). 

Our family is complicated, as is yours.  Our complication is just different than your complication.  We hadn’t been together as a family since last Christmas and I wanted Christmas to be even more perfect than last year. But here’s the rub.  We have ALL changed in a year. We have all grown older, more mature (I hope), have had more hurts during the year, more joys, more experiences and we all arrive at Christmas, changed. 

What I learned this year at Christmas, despite my inability to deliver the perfect Christmas is that grace has to be at the center of our Christmas activities, and my family exhibited that in a wonderful way.  Grace starts with each of us and as the focus of Christmas is Jesus, we are reminded that Jesus was the ultimate grace-giver.

Chloe, Ian and Jane making home made vanilla ice cream (with farm fresh eggs of course).
Despite my own fears and failures, I had the very best Christmas with my amazing family.  I am unspeakably proud of the young man that Spencer has become as he graduated from Georgia State University and as I watched him working on his applications for his Masters in International Business schools.  I am unspeakably proud of Chloe who spent 35 hours traveling to Africa and 35 hours traveling back to Canada while talking through the decision to change her University focus from sociology to business. 

Both of these young people have navigated their University/College years with our 100% support, but it was from 8,600+ miles away.  We haven’t been there in person to help with buying a used car, getting new passports, navigating an apartment lease, dealing with banking, or more importantly, heart break, tears, fears, anger, joy or excitement that they face each and every day.  That has all been done by phone or Skype, which just isn’t the same as a real hug, a real tissue a real shoulder to cry on.  

Enjoying the first smoked pork butt made in Ian's new Green Egg!
All that being said is that I find myself beating myself up (as I know many of you do) and doing the “coulda, woulda, shoulda”, that moms do.  But then I remember what someone told me years ago, that every parent tries to do the best they can with what they have and what they know.  I know that I am doing that, and I am sure that you are too.

I would never have written my parenting life the way it has turned out.  Afterall, who in their right mind would pack up and move to Africa (period), especially when their children are still in school!  It’s crazy. But God’s plans are perfect (and can appear crazy). Now we have 146 children who are brothers and sisters to Spencer and Chloe.  I can’t imagine my life without them all.

The photo that makes it all worth while.
I am thankful for a heavenly Father who extends grace to me each and every day and shows me that He can use me even through my own fears, anger, frustration and doubt.  I pray that as you enter in to 2017, that you will also feel his love and grace in your life and that you will allow Him to use you, even through your fears, your anger, your frustration and your doubt.

Live from Swaziland … here’s to a new year.


We got a few days in Durban with the kids before Chloe flew home. The "perfect" spot for us.