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Saturday, October 15, 2016

All in all, this was a good week.

This week started with an anonymous donor offering to put up a $50,000 US match for our urgent fundraising drive to bring water from the top. The challenge was for five days with hopes to reach our goal of $200,000 (the first 25% of the funds needed to bring water from the top of the mountain) so that we can move full speed ahead in building the wier (see last weeks blog for details).  I am THRILLED to announce that we have raised $178,405 US ($230,782 CDN) so far and pray that people will continue to give and the balance of it will come in the next few days.   Even more exciting is that 221 individual people invested in the project and bought piping that will run down our mountain.  The project will begin on Monday!

In addition to that good news, we received a new little boy on Wednesday welcoming our 140th child to Project Canaan (!!).  This little guy turns 2-years-old tomorrow and his mother abandoned him with a neighbor before she ran to South Africa and the “alleged” father denies paternity. The police and social welfare are still doing further investigation, but for now we are working on his nutrition (he is severely malnourished) and he is settling in nicely with all of his 41 2-year-old brothers and sisters living at the toddler home.

Face blocked to protect his identity.
This week we celebrate three birthdays.  Glory and Titus turned 3-years-old and today John turns 4-years-old.  Each and every child gets their own birthday cake on their birthdays, with the exception of our 7 sets of twins who share a cake.  When a child turns three, they get a big stuffed animal to sleep with. When they turn four, they get a book bag (back pack) for school.  When they turn five, they get a handmade quilt for their bed.  They also get to go to the boma (tall wooden sticks at the Oasis playground) and choose their own measuring pole that they will be measured on at each birthday.  We work hard to make every child feel special, loved and to be raised in their own identity in Christ, not an identity as an “abandoned child”.
Happy 3rd birthday Glory!

Happy 3rd birthday Titus!

4-year-old Grace got her very own swing(s) so that she can be strapped in and swing with the rest of the children and she also received leg braces (think Forest Gump) that will help her walk on her own. BUT already, this little girl who we were told would never sit, walk or see, is sitting, walking and seeing!  One of the “perks of the job” is seeing miracles each and every day.

Yesterday we welcomed my cousin Kim and her husband Joe along with their friends Carol and Barry from BC, Canada. Kim is our North American Sales Director for Khutsala and she is the one who is responsible for our beautiful new Khutsala Artisans website.  Be sure to check it out for your gift giving needs at   I can’t tell you how nice it is to have family here after going through several very hard months personally. 

Ian’s knee is healing, slowly.  He is now using only one cane and the swelling is also slowing going down.  His body tells him when he does too much in a day or doesn’t have his leg up enough, which saves me from having to tell him J.

All in all, this has been a good week, and I am SO happy to be able to say that.

Live from Swaziland … heading down to eat birthday cake with John!


Saturday, October 8, 2016

It begins with 65 tons of material carried UP the mountain ... BY HAND!

Ian and Gil reviewing the plans to bring water down from the springs on HOPE mountain.
At long last I can write you with some really great news!  As I am writing this blog, Ian is finishing a meeting with our “water guy” discussing the day that we can start bringing the water down from the top of HOPE Mountain.  As you may have read, we are in the worst drought in recorded history, with the last big rain happening at Christmas 2014.

This has been a loooooong process involving researching every possible option and/or alternative to this expensive initiative, getting written “water rights” from the government, gaining local support from surrounding Chiefdoms, building a rough “tractor road” to the top and then finalizing a plan of action, complete with drawings and then negotiating the final pricing for the project. It is critical that we become "water secure" for our children, our staff and our animals to survive and for us to start growing food again. This project will even benefit people in our surrounding community when complete.

ONLY after all those things could be done could we in good faith reach out to our friends and family for funding.   The total project will cost approximately $800,000 USD ($1,100,000 CDN), but with as the exchange rate changes (daily) the cost rises.

On Wednesday we launched our “Water from the mountain” campaign and in two short days we raised $91,000 USD from friends in the US and Canada, which will allow us to get started, hence the meeting on our patio this morning.

The next step is to build two wiers, which in layman’s terms is a concrete structure that will adjust the flow of water to a pipeline that will bring the water down 5.7 miles.  One wier will be 9 feet wide and the other 15 feet wide and 9 feet deep. Unfortunately we cannot get heavy moving or digging equipment to the site so it will all have to be excavated and dug BY HAND!  This will all start in the next two weeks and I will be sure to post photos.

An example of what a wier looks like.
To make things more interesting (!) we can only get trucks to within 500 yards of the actual springs and from there everything will need to be carried up the mountain on the backs of strong Swazi men including:
o   32 tons of crushed stone
o   5 tons of concrete
o   28 tons of river stone
o   1 ton of rebar
o   Wood to build forms
o   A total of 65+ tons materials will be carried.

On average a man will be able to make 15 trips back and forth carrying a 25KG (55 pound) load each time.  65 tons divided by 55 pounds/load is 2,600 man loads or 173 days of carrying, if it were one man.  We plan to hire 20 strong men and have the materials up to the springs in 15 days and we are HOPING that the wiers will be built within a month… if all goes as “planned” (hahahahaha).

So, we are taking another step in faith to get this incredibly important and life-saving project underway, with the $91,000 already raised.  But we need another $710,000 to complete the project, and we need it soon.  Once the dam is dry, we have no options for water, and raising 139 children takes a lot of clean water.

Ian and I bought each other $250 of pipe to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary this past week. It might not be the traditional “silver”, but the gift of water is even better! 

Will you join us in buying a piece of pipe for $25 TODAY?  Or ten pieces for $250?  Or 100 pieces for $2,500?  Or maybe you are willing to give a gift of $25,000 or $250,000 to help us bring water from the top of the HOPE Mountain?   Our lives literally depend on your support.

To make a donation in Canada please click here.

To make a donation in the US please click here.

Live from South Africa … praying for funding in a big way.


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Hope in a bag? Seriously.

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I can’t believe it’s October already!  And living in Africa that means that spring is in the air, the blossoms are starting to bloom and the trees are flowering.  But Christmas still comes on December 25th (even if it’s 110F) and so my Christmas shopping has begun.

Has yours?  If not, maybe today is the day to start.

I am THRILLED to be able officially launch the 2016 Heart for Africa Christmas tree ornament made by the talented Khutsala Artisans on Project Canaan in Swaziland, Africa.  You will see that it is a stunning “Classic” ornament shape made with “oilslick purple” glass beads.  Each one is carefully handmade and each person trained and employed to make them cares for an average of 13 people back at home. 

2016 Classic Christmas tree ornament
100% of the profit goes directly back to helping us care for the 139 babies who call Project Canaan home. The profit allows us to buy diapers, pay for caregivers, medical care, food and everything else that goes in to raising these precious children.

This is baby Michelle in a costume made by Gwyn Puckett and the hat knit by Becky Fern. The image is one of the inserts in each of the Christmas ornament packs that tells the Heart for Africa story and who made the ornament.
Today I am asking you to think beyond your own tree decorating and to think about buying a “Bag of Hope” that includes 26 assorted ornaments that you can give to your friends, family, teachers, small group, baby sitters etc. OR you can buy a bag and then sell them for us!   The profit generated by buying one bag of 26 ornaments for $312 US allows us to provide care for one of our babies for whole month!  Almost everyone reading this blog will buy Christmas gifts for loved ones – why not start shopping today and crossing many people off your list at the same time by giving a gift with a purpose.

Of course if you only want to buy a few, you can do that at
A Bag of Hope - 26 assorted ornaments.
Our goal is to sell 40,000 ornaments in 2016! And I know we can do it!

I am proud to announce that we have a brand new Khutsala Artisans website and it is BEA-UTIFUL! It is also FILLED with new items including fabulous new beaded zebras, and very soon Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer and a stunning angel tree topper/mantel decoration.  We will even have wooden ornaments

We have not received a baby in the past two weeks, leaving us with 139 lives that we are caring for “in sickness and in health” (like my husband of almost 25 years :).  The babies have had bouts of Rotavirus, many rounds of vomiting and diarrhea and too many babies rushed to hospital for IV antibiotics.  But isn’t it encouraging to know that by shopping at the new Khutsala Artisans website you are directly helping us to care for these children?

As you may know we needed to cancel our 25th wedding anniversary trip to the US and Canada due to Ian’s dislocated/broken knee.  We are taking a few days in Durban to look at the Indian Ocean and give thanks for all that the Lord has given to us in these past 25 years, including YOU, our friends and family who support us “in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health”.  We give thanks for you each of you.

Live from South Africa … hoping you will start shopping today at  (and yes, Canadians can now shop on this new site!).


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.