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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.


Saturday, September 1, 2018

Why wouldn't you?

2019 marks the 10th anniversary of Project Canaan. It’s hard to believe that we have lived in Swaziland longer than we lived in Georgia, but it’s true.

When we bought the 2,500 acres of land in 2009 there were no roads, no fields, no buildings, no electricity, no dams, in fact, there wasn’t even road access to the property.  Today we have 60+ buildings including homes, schools, barns, vocational training, medical clinic, not to mention 197 (really cute!) children who call Project Canaan home!

Face painting at Camp Canaan 2018
Next July we will be hosting a very special trip to celebrate 10 years of HOPE and registration is open today! The team will depart from the US/Canada on Saturday, July 13th and depart from Swaziland on Monday, July 22nd.   We have limited space available, so it will fill on a first come first serve basis.  The “ground costs” for the trip are $1,800 US (not including flights). You can book your own travel or secure a seat through us.

This trip will be packed full with time spent on Project Canaan (including Camp Canaan with our children), homestead visits, and a time of real celebration on HOPE mountain! We will have a formal celebration of the 10 years on the afternoon of Thursday, July 18th, which will include Swazi dignitaries from government, hospitals, police and local partners.  We will spend two days at some of our partner churches doing "well child check-ups" as well as delivering a wonderful celebratory meal for the children, complete with a 10th anniversary cake.

Sunday will be the highlight of the week featuring "Music on the Mountain!"  We will take our volunteers, Emseni children and staff to the top of HOPE mountain for a music concert complete with some North Point Community Church musicians (Seth Condrey and Chinua Hawk) as well as other worship teams and Swazi musicians.  The communities from all around Project Canaan will be invited to attend and we will provide a hot meal (cooked by our local church partners) to everyone who comes to worship with us.

Have you been thinking of taking a volunteer mission trip to Swaziland, but just never took the step? Have you traveled with us in the past and want to come back and celebrate the progress that has been made?  Then this is definitely the trip for you!

Ian and I live a complicated, yet wonderful life here in Swaziland.  We deal with life and death, friendship and betrayal, violent crime and people being healed, and none of it is easy. But we love watching the hand of God every single day and we stand in awe of His goodness and grace.

Why wouldn’t you want to come and see all that God has done and celebrate His goodness?  This is a long weekend for many people so please take the time to think and pray about this and if you are to come, please register at this link:

Ian and I hope that you will join us in celebrating hope in 2019.

Live from Swaziland … it’s Saturday morning!


Saturday, August 25, 2018

How do you fill your "joy-bucket"? Be sure to watch the video at the end.

Yesterday we were honored to welcome a large team from the Deputy Prime Ministers office for a visit.  The Director of Social Welfare, the Deputy Director of Social Welfare and dozens of social welfare officers from around the country came to tour Project Canaan and enjoy a delicious lunch. Our kitchen team had goats slaughtered on the farm, spinach harvested from the greenhouse and eggs picked from the barn to prepare for the meal. We even make our own mayonnaise for the deviled eggs (known as egg-mayo here). 

We now have 196 children who have been placed with us through those very Social Welfare Officers, and it was wonderful to see their joy and amazement when they got to see the children that they had placed in to our care.

I cannot say enough about these people who SEE IT ALL.  We have received children who have been burned by their own parents, have had arm/leg/skull fractures at the hands of relatives, been dumped in pit latrines (outhouses), strangled and put in a garbage can, dumped in the river, put in a plastic bag and hung in a tree, left on the side of a busy road, left at a bus stop, or even abandoned in the hospital after birth.  Every one of our 196 children come with a horrific and unbelievable story, but they are some of the ones that the Social Welfare Officers were able to help.  There are many more children that they can’t help, and they are heartbroken.

Day after day they hear stories of abuse, starvation, abandonment, rape, pain and suffering, but often all they can do is council and console the person who is telling the story.  The toll that it takes on them immense and I often wonder how they do their jobs day after day without crumbling.

But yesterday they came to have their “joy-buckets” replenished and I believe that they were hopeful when they saw our/their children singing and dancing with restored bodies, minds and hearts. 

At the end of lunch, Pastor Nate Ferguson gave them a word of encouragement and then our children gave a full performance with poems, song and dance.  It was magical and our guests cheered over and over again, sometimes jumping up to join in the singing and dancing.  At the end there was a spontaneous eruption of dance that brought joy to my heart and I knew that if for only a brief moment in time, these people who work so hard for so many, were happy and filled with joy.

Some days are harder than others, but yesterday was a GREAT day and my “joy-bucket” was also filled to over-flowing.  How do you fill your "joy-bucket"?

Please join me in praying for the Social Welfare Department of eSwatini and its leaders. Let us pray for courage and strength to endure and that their joy-bucket will remain full.

Live from Swaziland … taking it easy today.


Saturday, August 18, 2018

Mom sex trafficked her own daugher

This week I spent two days in a Swazi courtroom, praying for a young woman who had to testify in open court that her own mother forced her to have sex with strangers for money.  The girl’s mother sat just 25 feet away across the room from the girl, with arms crossed, glare in her eyes and enough attitude to fill the room.

The girl was terrified and could hardly be heard as she whispered her story through a cracked voice in her mother tongue – Shangani.  The interpreter would then translate the African language in to English and the High Court judge would write down every word of both questions and answers (there is no court stenographer).  At times the details were so painful that the interpreter herself found it hard to speak without showing her own emotion.

At 16-years-old this girl was ripped from her home in a foreign country and smuggled in to Swaziland through a fence in the Swazi bush.  Her mother would take her to bars, ply her with alcohol and then sell her for the night to a stranger (always a white man) for R200 ($14 US).  If she tried to refuse she would be beaten or not given food for three days.

I have known this young girl for many years now and thought that I had heard her whole story, but alas, my jaw dropped time and time again as she squeaked out her testimony for the world to hear as though she was using her last breath of air to do so.  She was ashamed, embarrassed and afraid, and the world was listening.

How does a human being sex traffic another human being?  How does a biological MOTHER sell her own daughter to perverted men who will pay for sex with an underage girl? 

The legislation that made human trafficking a crime in Swaziland only became legislation in 2009.  It was only three years later in 2012 that the Child Protection Act became law in Swaziland – the same year that we moved here.  We all hear and read about human trafficking and while the problem is growing globally, I fear that the people of the world may be getting tired of hearing about it and have grown numb to the pain that so many are suffering.

Yesterday's newspaper article about the case.
This week was a hard week for me with my trust broken again by another office break-in on Project Canaan.  Then my heart was shredded into a million pieces by listening to a girl, who is the same age as Chloe, share her two-year journey in hell.

The court adjourned after she was finished testifying and will resume in December. Until then there is no closure, no healing and more fear.  Please join me in praying for justice for this victim and for victims around the world. Please pray for healing and forgiveness that can only come through Jesus. Please pray for courage and strength for everyone fighting darkness every day. 

Live from Swaziland … Come Lord Jesus, come.  


Saturday, August 11, 2018

What lie is stopping you today?

In a few short hours we will host an 85th birthday party for our dear friend, Jere Scott.  We met Jere and Janet back in 2005 when they came on their first Heart for Africa mission’s trip.  We became fast friends and they have come to serve alongside us EVERY YEAR since then.  Jere and Janet have been involved in almost every department on Project Canaan from building the Kufundza Carpentry Shop and SwaziMUD pottery barn, to building furniture, organizing containers, training staff, preaching, loving, counseling and feeding us all. 

Then there is our friend Robert Smucker who was one of the very first people to step foot on Project Canaan. Robert walked the land and climbed the mountains (avoiding as many snakes as possible) and helped scope out roads, building locations and water.  He stood by us when Board members didn’t believe that we should buy the land, he designed lots of furniture and to top it off, he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and biked across South Africa to raise money and awareness ALL while holding a fulltime engineering job!

Frank and Jane Tananaau first came to Swaziland in 2006, packed up and MOVED here for a year and then returned for six weeks almost every year to serve alongside Jere and Janet with any and every project that they are involved in.  Frank retired from the US Army in 2011 and between he and Jane they build, sew, drive, cook and love on our children, our staff and us.

What are you doing with your life?  Do you think you are too old?  Are you too busy at work? Do you have too many health issues?  What lie is keeping you from serving the Lord with all your heart and soul?

Between Jere and Janet, Frank and Jane, they have had multiple hip and knee replacements and two of them are wearing leg braces today, while they continue to serve, but it hasn’t stopped them from hearing God’s voice and being obedient to His call. Robert has been dealing with a serious health issue for the past few years, but that hasn’t stopped him from continuing to support us in Swaziland, AND to expand his service to some of the most dangerous places on earth, going where the Lord sends him to help people in desperate need.

What lie is stopping you from going on a mission’s trip?  What lie is stopping you from volunteering at your church?  What lie are you telling yourself that is preventing you from stepping out of the boat, helping people who need help and receiving the blessing that comes with following Jesus?

Living in Swaziland isn’t easy, but I can’t imagine living anywhere else in the world, or doing anything else with my life. I LOVE IT and I LOVE seeing friends come alongside and be blessed by serving the Lord with all their hearts and souls.

Is today the day you will take a step of faith? Why don’t you join us on an 11-day service trip in November and help us prepare for Christmas for 195+ children?  You can sign up today at 

Live from Swaziland … I am thankful for good friends.


Saturday, August 4, 2018

I don't handle "stupid" very well

Photo credit: Chris Cheek
We are just a couple of Canadians who moved to eSwatini, Africa to serve God through a bunch of orphaned or abandoned children who have been dumped in pit latrines, left in plastic bags in trees, dumped in the river or even lit on fire by their parents. That’s it. No hidden agenda. 

I see how critical people are of Pastors (our Pastor Andy Stanley sure gets his daily dose from believers and unbelievers alike!), politicians, Royalty, celebrities and then there is the day-to-day bullying in schools and Sunday Schools every – single - day.  It’s exhausting to observe.

I do embrace constructive criticism as that is how I learn, grow and get stretched, but I don’t handle “stupid” criticism well at all.  I find myself having to repent from being condescending, dismissive or critical (the CDC as my family calls it) of those people.

Let me give you a couple of examples:

This week we got an email message from a lady responding to our diaper drive who said, “I can't believe you are using diapers and purchased wipes for those babies! What do villagers use?”  I wanted to respond with the photo above and a message that the “villagers” (even though Swazi’s don’t live in villages) don’t use diapers (known as nappies) or wipes. They use leaves to wipe the babies bare bums as they toilet train them in the bush.  And what do you mean by “those babies”?? 

But I didn’t.

Then there was the Swazi man who sent us a message through the website accusing us of making up statistics about his country, said that we taking advantage of Swazi’s because they are all gullible and that we are getting rich off of the faces of the children.   To him I want to respond and say that I was rich when I lived and worked and employed people at my company in Canada, and I sure didn’t need to move to a country dying of HIV/AIDS and poverty to get richer.  Furthermore, I don’t believe that ANY of the 280+ Swazi people that we employ at very fair market wages are gullible.  Not one.

But I didn’t.

Last week Pastor Andy said, “The best way to avoid criticism is not to do anything.”  I choose to be criticized. And I am trying to respond with grace (or not respond at all).
Thank you Julie and Pete Wilkerson and the amazing guys from SCAPES who loaded the container!
For those of you who support us (and why would you be reading this if you don't?), and who think our babies should wear diapers and be cleaned with wipes, I want to say a HUGE THANK YOU from all 195 children and our 77 staff who care for them.  More than 380 people shopped on line and bought 104,000+ diapers, 360,000+ wipes, 17,000 Pull Ups and endless educational supplies and toys, bicycles, sheets and towels.  Yes, our children do ride bikes and they do sleep with sheets and dry off with towels (okay, no more CDC today). I love my Heart for Africa family and am so thankful for your love, grace and support.

Live from Swaziland … feeling a little salty today.