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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Ian’s emergency surgery and our cancelled trip

Tai and Georgia - the Swazi's call them our "lions".
On October 5th we will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, and what a wild and crazy 25 years it has been!  For the past six months we have been planning a fun-filled trip back to the US and Canada to celebrate with friends and family.

But alas, our dogs decided that they really wanted us to stay here instead and due to a fluke accident last week, our anniversary trip has been cancelled.  Here is what happened.

Ian was letting out the “big dogs” which are locked up in a large pen during the day and let out to roam within our electric fencing at night.  They keep snakes and wild animals away, and Swazi’s are TERRIFIED of them. One of our female Boerboel’s (named Tai) loves to horseplay with our male Doberman named Max.  Each of them weighs 130+ pounds. 

Ian opened their gate and out they rushed.  Unfortunately the two rambunctious dogs took an unusual path down to the house and ran in to Ian’s left knee and he dropped to the ground.  I got a phone call from Ian, and he said was, “I need help.”  I ran out in to the darkness to see him lying on the ground waving his flashlight in the air so I could see where he was. He was writhing in pain and the dogs were standing over him, licking him (and feeling VERY badly!!).

Tai, Max and Jack ... they're really really sorry.
Kenny came to the rescue and helped Ian get down to the house and in to bed, with ice, Advil and prayer following. On Ian’s 51st birthday he went and saw an orthopedic surgeon in Swaziland who drained 4 oz of blood off the knee and told him to take it easy.  Three days later, while wearing a brace, Ian’s knee twisted while in the house and down he went, cracking a rib and further damaging his knee.

On Tuesday we were sent to South Africa to see a knee specialist to have an MRI and make sure that he would be okay to make the 17-hour flight on Friday and start our anniversary trip.  The specialist saw us first thing Wednesday morning and by 3PM that day Ian was in surgery (in a city we don’t know in an African country).

It appears that when the dogs hit the outside of his knee, the knee cap pushed over the other side of this tibia and a chunk of his knee cap was knocked off before the knee cap slid partially back in to position. The ruptured ligaments allowed blood to pool under his kneecap and keep it out of position.  The bone chunk (the size of a quarter) slid down the front of his kneecap and lodged in between his tibia and his femur.  OUCH! 

We drove half way back to Swaziland Thursday afternoon and made the call to cancel our trip. Last night (Friday) were to have driven 5-hours back to Johannesburg and then gotten on a plane to fly to the US for three weeks that would not have been filled with pain, frustration and unnecessary stress,.

So many people have sent us kind words of encouragement and support, and we really appreciate that. Both Spencer and Chloe have called several times to check on their dad and tell us that they fully support us cancelling our trip, and that warms my heart (and helps slow the tears).   In each call we remind each other that it could have been much worse.  We are not dealing with a poisonous snakebite, deadly PCP pneumonia, Multiple Drug resistant tuberculosis or many of the other things we deal with each and every day. This is an inconvenience (and obviously painful for Ian), not a crisis. 

It’s an inconvenience because I needed oral surgery to fix a tooth that has been broken for months.  I need to see my ophthalmologist to get an updated prescription because I am almost out of contact lenses.  Then there is our ““buy in the US/Canada” list of things that we can’t buy here that will go un-purchased, and Christmas gifts will need to be purchased in other ways.

It’s an inconvenience because we have to cancel our annual Heart for Africa board meeting and we won’t be able to attend the Heart for Africa annual golf tournament.

But it is an inconvenience, it’s not the end of the world.

Of course the hardest part is that we won’t be able to spend time with Spencer and Chloe, who we only see together once a year (at Christmas). We will miss Ian’s dad’s 80th birthday party and Canadian Thanksgiving.  We have cancelled our 25th anniversary party where most of our wedding party was going to gather again and we would have had delicious food and a few good laughs with lifetime friends. But that is life.  Serving in Africa ain’t for sissies, and but we are thankful to have the opportunity to do it, even with the bumps and bruises along the way.

Today I have peace. I haven’t slept much in the last two weeks, but got a solid nine hours in our own bed last night.  Ian is in a brace on the couch watching Diners Drive-In’s and Dives and is comfortable. There is homemade chili cooking in the crockpot and the laundry is almost complete.  Life is good, and I am thankful.

Live from Swaziland … livin’ the dream.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Ian had a bad birthday

September 15th was Ian’s birthday.  It was also babies Robert, Bernice and Moses’ birthday and they all shared a GIANT cake and celebrated with 39 of their brothers and sisters.

September 15th was also my mom’s birthday (baby Bernice was named after my mom because they shared the same birthday), but there was no Skype call or chocolate dipped strawberries delivered this year since she passed away in February.

September 15th should have included cake for Baby Megan, but again, that was not to be as she passed away last month, and was buried on Project Canaan.

Ian’s birthday celebration was an epic fail. It kind of snuck up on me to be perfectly honest.  On September 13th, Ian was letting the big dogs out of their dog pen and two of them (120+ pounds each) ran in to him on the side, dislocated his knee.  He dropped to the ground writhing in pain and then called 911 (me) for help.  Once I found him on the ground (waving his flashlight in the air so I could find him), I called 911 (Kenny VanWinkle) and he came to our rescue and helped Ian get home.

For Ian’s 51st birthday he got to go to the orthopedic surgeon and have 4 oz of blood drained off his knee and a cortisone shot. We did some grocery shopping, picked up KFC (I can’t believe I am even telling you that) for dinner and then I realized that I also forgot to buy him a gift or bake him his favorite Angel food cake.   To make it worse, we were late getting back to the farm and completely missed the birthday celebration with Moses, Bernice and Robert. 

The birthday party was over and even dinner was finished by the time we got back to Project Canaan, but we stopped in to the toddler home to at least give the kids a birthday hug.  Unbeknownst to me our wonderful “Nutrition team” baked Ian a beautiful chocolate birthday cake, in the shape of a heart, and on it was written “Happy birthday Daddy Ian”.  Ohhhhhhh, be still my heart! 

Ian with Moses, Maxwell and Robert.  Bernice was back at the baby home.
Friday was a better “birthday day” and we celebrated with our friends Chris and John, and the Angel Food cake made it to the table. 

I am so thankful for my husband Ian and the man that he has become.  On October 5th we will celebrate 25 years of marriage – what a wild 25 years this has been.

Happy birthday Ian! I love you.

Live from Swaziland … lamb burgers and Angel Food cake for dinner!


Saturday, September 10, 2016

September 11th – 15 years ago

Fifteen years ago on September 11th, 2001 the world changed forever and so did my life.  Most of you likely know that I was in NYC on that fateful day, Ian was on a flight to Chicago, Spencer and Chloe were at school in Canada… and the planes crashed into the twin towers.

Time stood still while everything changed.

Fifteen years ago the focus of my life was the success of my marketing company, my family and my happiness.  Yes, I believed in Jesus, but he certainly wasn’t the focus of my life. I guess you could say he was on my Top 10 list?

Fifteen years later I can safely say first and foremost that I am a follower of Jesus.  Ian and I are living in Swaziland, while Spencer is finishing University in the US and Chloe is in second year University in Canada.  We are the legal guardians of 138 Swazi children under the age of 6-years, with a new baby arriving on an average of every seven days this year. 

Fifteen years later I have put on weight, see more grey hair every month and am not quite as fit as I used to be, but I sleep very well at night, I no longer suffer from stress headaches and I am okay looking in the mirror. 

Fifteen years ago today I was out clubbing in New York City with my clients from Kellogg’s Canada.  We were bar hopping in The Village enjoying the nightlife, not knowing that the world would change in the morning.  Tonight I will sit on the patio of my house looking out over our 2,500 acre farm in the tiny Kingdom of Swaziland, Africa, knowing that tomorrow morning I will hear the voices of 86 children between the ages of 3-years-old and 5.5-years-old singing songs of joy, of hope, of love and of peace. 

A lot can happen in fifteen years, and I am a living, breathing testament to what can happen when fear, pain, selfishness and greed are turned to joy, hope, love and peace. 

This has been a long hard journey, but I wouldn't change a single step of it.  I have tears (again) pouring down my cheeks as I type this because today fifteen years ago seems like yesterday.  When I hear people on the news talk about 911 it is still as raw to me as it was fifteen years ago.  But then I look up and see where I am, and my peace is restored.

Thank you for allowing me to share so much of my journey with you over these past few years and thank you for your love and support.   Jesus always restores my joy when I have dark day and he brings me hope when things seem hopeless.  Of all the lessons I have learned, I am most thankful for the knowledge that He is always with me.  Always.

Live from Swaziland … remembering 911.


Saturday, September 3, 2016

12 babies in 16 days (and two funerals)

Zacharia, Moses and Isaiah sharing Joel's birthday cake - I just had to give you a CUTE photo to start this blog

August was tough.  We received 12 babies in only 16 days (we typically receive one child every two weeks.  We buried 23-month-old baby Megan after she succumbed to an AIDS related illness (PCP pneumonia – read last weeks blog) and tomorrow we bury the mother to our babies Princess and Anthony. This 22-year-old mother was dying from HIV/TB related complications, but in the end died in a fire that engulfed her small mud hut with dry grass roof.  We praise God that Anthony and Princess were safely with us so that they escaped a horrific death.  AND if that wasn’t enough, we had a huge TB scare at the baby home (a blog for another Saturday!).

I just reviewed each of the babies’ stories who came to us in August to look for any patterns to share with you.  Here is what I found:
·      6 of the babies are newborns, either dumped in pit latrines (outdoor toilets), left at the hospital by the mother or removed from a violent mentally disturbed mother.
·      One 2-year-old was dumped on the side of a railroad and the mother ran away.
·      Two 2-5-month-olds were dumped with neighbors and the mother ran away.
·      One young mother had a psychotic breakdown when after her mother died of an HIV related illness and the girl discovered that she had become HIV positive from not using proper precautions when bathing and caring for her mother. The family found her feeding her baby antiretroviral pills (the baby is not HIV positive) and rescued the child.
·      The other two toddlers were left at an “alleged” family members house and then left the country.  Those family members denied that the child was a part of their family and took them to the social welfare department for help.

Many of you have stepped up to become monthly financial donors to help us care for these children and we cannot say THANK YOU enough!  I was losing hope for a time, but you have restored my hope in humanity.  Support also came from right here in Swaziland (which doesn’t happen very often/ever).

Last Sunday we had surprise visitors as some of our friends from Taiwan brought their friends from Hong Kong (who live and work in Swaziland) to visit us.  They are devout Buddhists and believe that it is important to help the poor and specifically orphans and vulnerable children.  The people from Hong Kong invited us to come and visit them at their textile factory in Matsapha and said that they produce many of the children’s clothes for PEP, EDGARS, MR. PRICE (all store brands here in Swaziland). 

Ian and I dropped in yesterday to visit and they gave us a tour of the factory, with promises of giving us children’s clothing as it was available.  Last night Ian got a call at 8PM saying that they were very moved by what they saw and heard and that they quickly pulled together a few things for us immediately, but would have MUCH more next week.

This morning at 7:30AM we met them on the side of the road and they handed us 5 BIG boxes that contained 500 (FIVE HUNDRED) pieces of clothing for our babies!  Brand new!  All sizes!  And they were all from the more expensive stores, not the cheap ones (where I shop).  They apologized that they didn’t have more today, but it was literally all that would fit in their car. Next week they will have more.

You see, I believe that it’s ALL God’s money, and He is the one who invites people in to His story. Everything we have is from Him - everything in the bank, everything in our closet(s), everything in our garage(s) and wherever else we store our “treasures”.   

Even though I am glad to have August behind me, and I look forward to September, I want you all to know that we have seen the hand of God over and over and over again IN the darkness, and we have never felt alone.  He has never left us and never will and He WILL (and does) provide.

Live from Swaziland … spring is in the air (and we hope rain is coming).


PS - we now have 137 children whom we are legal guardians for, living at Project Canaan.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

We lost Baby Megan this week.

  On Thursday afternoon we lost our beautiful baby Megan to PCP pneumonia (Stage 4 AIDS related pneumonia).  It is a deadly and unforgiving form of pneumonia that takes the lives of almost everyone that it attacks, both young and old.  When Megan first came to us she was very tiny and very sick.  At 2-months-old she was fighting HIV, tuberculosis and severe malnutrition.  In isolation for many months, our medical team and Aunties worked tirelessly to keep her stable while dealing with feeding tubes, fevers, mal-absorption, thrush and a myriad of other issues.

On Monday morning she, along with her ten brothers and sisters (who are HIV positive), were on their way to see the specialist at the Baylor Pediatric AIDS clinic for their monthly checkup and medication.  They noticed Megan’s breathing was becoming a bit labored and the doctor was very concerned, sending Megan directly to the local private hospital to be assessed. She was admitted immediately and the testing began.

By the next morning we were told that she was in kidney and heart failure.  WHAT?!?  How could this be?  It was the dreaded PCP pneumonia.   PCP - three little letters that are a secret code for “almost certain death”. I did not know that at the time, but I do now.   But we prayed and we hoped and we prayed some more.  Only a few hours later she was put on a ventilator to help with her breathing and take some extra strain off her little body.

Wednesday came and went with reports of septicemia, acidosis and still no urine.  But Thursday morning had a better report. They were starting to wean her off the ventilator and thought it would come out completely by Friday!  We were assured that she was not out of the woods, but that she was heading in the right direction. I quickly sent out an update to our Boards of Directors and 30 minutes later I got a call from Helen, who had stopped by the hospital.

Megan was dead. 

I was not prepared for those words.  None of us were. 

Megan is no longer suffering. There will be no more anti-retroviral medication and no more feeding tubes.  There will be no more physical therapy to help with her mobility (or lack of) and no more exercises to help build muscle in her legs so that one day she could stand on her own.  And there will be no more tickling, no more clapping hands and no more birthday cake. 

Celebrating Megan's 1st birthday on September 15, 2015.
The Aunties have taken this news very hard and we are all reeling.  We deal with SO MANY VERY sick children that it is nothing short of a miracle(s) that we have not lost more.  But EVERY baby is special to us. They are our children. And I know that they are very special to you as well.

Megan was born on September 15, 2014 and shared her 1st birthday with Ian (also September 15th).  Next month there will be one less cake and our little Megan will be deeply missed.

Live from Swaziland … this isn’t getting any easier.


Thank you for the many prayers, condolences and expressions of love on Facebook, by email and elsewhere. If you would like to help us cover the costs of Megan’s hospitalization or the emergency medical costs for any of our children, you can do so by clicking here for the US link and here for the Canadian site.  Thank you.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

I am struggling

I find myself crying a lot these days when I sit with Ian at night watching TV.  It’s like I am on overload and don’t know how to “de-frag” my brain or put my world on hold for a time.  But in the morning I go down to the Children’s Campus and am refueled again as I see babies walking whom we thought would never walk. Or children laughing whom we thought may never laugh again.  And then I get a call about another child and the horrific situation that they are in, and my heart sinks and the tears need to be held back until the child is safely at Project Canaan and I am home on the couch again.

We received eight babies in ten days over the past two weeks (!).  That means we now have 135 children whom we are legal guardians for until they finish High School.  We also have 20 babies who we do not have  any funding for. That is a shortfall of $4,500 each and every month.  So, really, I only need 100 of the 1,000+ people who are going to read this blog this week to sign up to give $45 a month to cover them all. OR maybe 45 of you could sign up to give $100 a month?  Or, maybe you would like to make a one-time donation of $2,700 to cover the cost for a whole year?  I don’t know how the Lord is going to provide for His children, but I pray He does (and does it quickly!).

Each of these new babies who arrived has a story worse than the one before.  One little girl is HIV positive, but because her mother dumped her with strangers at 3-months of age, she was never started on treatment.  No one knows her name or when she was born so we “threw a dart” and gave her a birth date of December 17th and we are calling her Margie.  Can you imagine … she is living with strangers for five months and they didn’t know her name or age?  They guessed that she was 3-months-old when they got her. 

Another baby was dumped in a pit latrine on a Sunday and not found until the following Thursday!  Can you imagine, a newborn baby girl, lying in human waste for FIVE DAYS????  No water, no food, no clothes, only darkness, and many years of urine and feces. AND she lived! And she is only had a few bruises and a bit of swelling on her face!  A MIRACLE for sure.

Five days in a pit latrine and she looked this good!
And then there’s the drought that I keep talking about.  Everywhere we go there is such a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.  I feel guilty when I take a shower that I think is too long and wish that we could water the grass at the baby home campus so that the children aren’t playing in dirt. But then we go out to the community to see elderly people who take all day to walk to and from a nearly dry river to get a bit of water for cooking.  

So this week I am struggling. I am struggling because I miss Spencer and Chloe who seem to be a million miles away in Canada and the US. I am struggling because I feel like I am always asking for money on Facebook and from my blog readers.   I am struggling because I wonder when our Boards of Directors are going to tell me that I am not allowed to bring any more babies to Project Canaan. I am struggling with the tuberculosis that we are dealing with on a daily basis.  I am struggling because I am a “fixer” and this can’t be fixed.  With the drought upon us, every government person or police officer or hospital worker that I speak with says things are going to get worse before they get better. 

And then I go back to the Word of God and see that I really am blessed and should not be carrying these burdens because Matthew 5:1-12 in the Message bible says,:

 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

 “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

 “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

 “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

 “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

 “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.”


Live from Swaziland … He carries me.


PS – we are getting a 2-month-old baby on Monday.  

US monthly donor page

Canadian monthly donor page.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Drought relief?

I fear that you are tired of hearing about the drought, but I beg you to read just one more blog on this topic and hear about a “short term solution” that we have found to help some of the neediest people.

Yesterday’s national newspaper announced that the country’s Capital of Mbabane (which has been on water rationing for many months) will be going to the level of rationing.  Starting today, people living and working in the Capital will have their water turned OFF for FOUR days, and then turned back on for two days. Off again for four days, on for two, until the rains come.   Think of the implications this has for hygiene, health, business and life.  BUT, if there is no water, there is no water.

Project Canaan still has water in dam #2, which means our borehole still has water, but the dam is shrinking daily.  We have had the property surveyed and we are told that there is no water to be found, so drilling another bore hole is not an option. Bringing the water down from the mountain springs at the top of our mountain is the only solution that we see, so we expectantly wait for the Lord to provide the $800,000 US needed to do that. 

But, while we wait on him, we have to help those in greatest need in our own surrounding community… the elderly and the orphan headed households. Today I want to share our plan with you.

We have hired a young man, who will work 6-days a week with the Community Health Motivators to identify the people in greatest need.  Every day they are identifying people literally dying of thirst because they have no water or starving to death because there is no firewood to cook with and/or no food to cook. 

Drought Relief Food Pack
We have created a Drought Relief Food Pack for only $75 US or $100 CDN and will feed a family of 1-3 people for a full month, including food delivery and follow up.  The pack includes 22 pounds of rice, 22 pounds of maize flour (the staple here) 22 pounds of onions, 11 pounds of sugar beans, salt, cooking oil, soap, sugar, soup mix, 60 eggs, 4 cabbages, candles and matches. 

For the families where there are children, we will distribute Feed My Starving Children Manna Packs. Where there is no access to water or firewood, we will take wood and water from Project Canaan.

Our desire is that we can visit each of these families monthly to encourage them, pray with them and deliver food.  Our hope is that we can do this until the rains come and the next crop is harvested in April 2017. We need to help people get through the next nine months (praying that the rain comes). 

Matthew 25:34-40 says, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Will you help us today?

You can buy a Drought Relief Food Pack in the US by clicking here.

You can buy a Drought Relief Food Pack in Canada by clicking here.

Live from Swaziland … giving thanks for His provision.