|Five days in a pit latrine and she looked this good!|
Saturday, August 20, 2016
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.
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.
Saturday, August 13, 2016
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.
Saturday, August 6, 2016
The last few week’s blogs have been very heavy, so today I will attempt a bit of levity with some really awesome news about making lemonade out of lemons (or, to be exact, ceramic beads out of the mud from a drought-parched dam).
In 2005 I met an interesting newlywed couple – Jere and Janet Scott. They traveled on an 11-day service trip with us from their home church in Hawaii. Every year since then Jere and Janet have come to Africa to serve with us, in each and every country we have served in (Malawi, Kenya and Swaziland) spending as many as six weeks a year by our sides. Oh the stories that they could tell (and do)!
In 2010 when we were just getting started on Project Canaan Jere told us that we needed a carpentry shop so that we could not only build everything that we need out of wood, but also start our vocational training program. It was built in no time and Jere outfitted it with all of the equipment that was needed to build our cribs, bunk beds, roof trusses, cupboards and now new for 2016 … awesome wooden Christmas ornaments!
Last year Jere and Janet shipped a pottery wheel and kiln over in our UPS container, not knowing that a year later we would not be able to buy local handmade ceramic beads from our local supplier (yes, God’s timing is always perfect). They decided to provide the funds to build a “pottery barn”, which was ready for them when they arrived this year.
For the past six weeks the Scott’s, joined by their travel-partners-in-crime (Jane and Frank Tauanuu and Mark and Lisa Hackett), they have worked tirelessly to get the pottery barn set up and ready to make beads, bowls, ornaments etc and train young Swazi’s to continue the work.
Of course, nothing is easy here. As soon as they fired the kiln, all four of the coils fried making the kiln unusable L . But they were not defeated. Off they went to South Africa for a brutally long day and they were able to order a new kiln that is being made will be here in a few more weeks (sadly, after they leave on Tuesday).
In the meantime, Jere (or McGyver as you might call him) “whipped up” a Raku kiln made out of wire mesh, a ceramic heat blanket (left over from Ian’s pizza oven) and a weed-burner (aka blow torch). The first test got the kiln up to a temperature 1,835F when they were glazing their first round of pottery!! Not one word of a lie.
When the new kiln arrives we will start making our own ceramic beads out of Swazi clay, straight from dam #1, which has gone dry due to the drought. Beauty from ashes? Lemonade from lemons? Absolutely.
These products will be will be part of the Khutsala Artisans treasures and will be branded “SwaziMUD”, which seems like an appropriate name for this new product line (thank you Kim Evinsky!). We are in the throws of building a new and incredible website for our Khutsala product (that Canadians will be able to order from too!!!), but if you are looking a gift item or want to start your Christmas shopping early, please feel free to go to http://www.heartforafrica.org/NewOnlineStore.aspx and shop today! If you want to be a part of our sales team, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are thankful for all who come to volunteer with us, whether it’s for an 11-day trip, six weeks every year, or move for a life-time. We are especially thankful for Jere (who turns 83-years-old this month) and Janet for showing us all how to serve the Lord with determination, purpose and joy. You are an inspiration to us all.
Live from Swaziland … I am excited about SwaziMUD!
Saturday, July 30, 2016
It’s winter here, which means its around 45F at night and 70F+ during the day, but we are all cold. There is a darkness over the country right now that is not allowing light or warmth in to our bones or our lives. We see fear in the eyes of our people, and it is heartbreaking. Tears flow freely and there is not a day that I don’t shed more than my share.
As if the worst drought in recorded history wasn’t enough and starvation in every community around the country, we are starting to see the impact that hunger has on sickness. When people are on anti-retrovirals for HIV/AIDS they must eat properly (including protein) for the medication to work. They have no food. As treatment starts to fail, there is an increase in opportunistic infections and diseases … like Tuberculosis.
This past week we learned that several of our Aunties, who live in the baby home and toddler home, tested positive for Tuberculosis. We do not know yet whether it is drug-resistant or even multiple-drug resistant, but we pray that it is not. They have been removed from the home for now, but not before they had the chance of infecting other caregivers and children.
Here is the thing. Anyone and everyone who has been living in Swaziland has been exposed to TB. They don’t even do the skin test in Swaziland that would show if a person had been exposed because we have all been exposed. Having a health immune system helps the monster from getting in to our lungs or other organs.
This week I saw fear in the eyes of my own Supervisors as they wondered if they too had contracted this deadly disease. Some people have active TB (obvious with coughing, weight loss and night sweats), but some have inactive TB. A sputum test and/or chest X-Ray is how diagnosis is done here, but to make things worse, if a person is HIV positive, it is quite possible for them to have a negative sputum test (even when they have active TB) because their immune system is masking the TB. A nightmare situation.
On Monday we will start testing the women and children who were most exposed to the infected Aunties. Because it is impossible to get sputum from an infant, we will do an expensive blood test on everyone (including me) to see what our infection level is. We pray that we have caught this beast before it has unleashed hell on our Children’s Campus, but even if we have, the battle is not over.
Meanwhile we are taking further action in the three Chiefdoms surrounding us o see how we can help those in desperate need. We have assigned a full time Community Support person to go out in the community and assess the situation, starting with the elderly and the orphan headed households. We will start delivering food and helping where we can, as we can, next week, and this will be in partnership with the local Chiefs and the Community Health Motivators (see last week’s blog).
We have set up an account for Community Support. If you would like to help us help those in need, please give generously today at this link. If you would like to help us with the cost of the TB GOLD tests (approximately $36 US each) please click here.
Thanks for your prayers for all concerned. I will provide an update on the test results in next week’s blog.
Live from Swaziland … praying for health and strength and His provision.
Saturday, July 23, 2016
|Photo credit - Chris Cheek|
These have been the most difficult ten years of my life.
Total surrender to God comes at a very high price and it not without pain, suffering, judgement and loss. Our family has felt all of those things over the past decade, but we try to remember to give thanks in all things, we are human and suffer like anyone else.
Since Heart for Africa was founded in 2006, our family has moved to two different countries and lived on two different continents (three if you include Chloe’s High School years in Taiwan). We have said goodbye to old friends, and worked hard to meet new ones. We have made life-long friends, and have some broken relationships that need forgiveness and repair.
We have served in four countries (South Africa, Malawi, Kenya and Swaziland) and Spencer and Chloe have lived in hotel rooms for more than a year of their lives, while helping lead people on 11-day service trips.
The work does not get easier as the days pass, and it seems like the learning curve is still vertical, with no sign of a curve (even after ten years).
We have learned about things we never even had interest in and have become well versed in many critical areas reaching from Swazi culture to HIV/AIDS, from dairy farming to multiple drug-resistant Tuberculosis, from currency exchange to construction with concrete, from malnutrition to aquaponics, from bore holes and dams to the impact of drought.
Yesterday we called a meeting of the Community Health Motivators from the four Chiefdoms that surround us. These women are paid E350 ($24.00US) each month to work full time to closely monitor the people in their community who are on treatment for HIV, Tuberculosis, asthma, diabetes, or who are pregnant, orphaned or vulnerable children and the elderly. They are paid to “motivate” people to maintain proper hygiene (to reduce disease), eat proper meals when taking HIV or TB medication (especially eat meat protein) and they personally provide hospice service to the elderly including bathing them, feeding them and praying with them.
We called the meeting because Chris Cheek (one of our long term volunteers who spends a lot of time out in the local homesteads) came to me and said that she was feeling a shift in the community. The people are starting to panic. There is no food. What can Project Canaan do to help (in a country of less than a million people, most in the same situation).
And so we sat for two hours and listened to the women share from the depth of their beings, what they are seeing in the community and how they are affected. Here are the highlights (or low lights) of the meeting.
One lady said, “People are starving everywhere. Swaziland has always been a poor country, but we could always go to our fields and turn the land to plant maize. Now that there is no water, we couldn't even turn the ground. We didn’t plant in November and now there is no food. There is nothing at all to eat. Some people are even grinding up left over corncobs (left after the maize kernels are removed) and trying to cook them in to porridge. And we can’t plant again until the next rainy season comes, which we hope is in November”.
IF the rains come again in November, those who have lived a year with little or no food, will turn the land, but without assistance, they will have no seed to plant.
Another lady said, “There is no water to drink, to cook the little food we scavenge for or to wash ourselves with. The elderly people we are supposed to care for smell very bad because they are so dirty and we have no water to clean them with. We also don’t have masks to wear when we visit patients who have Tuberculosis. That makes us very worried that we will also get the disease.”
Several women chatted in unison explaining that the acts of violent crime are escalating as teenagers are breaking in to homes, attacking the elderly, just to steal something that they can sell – an old shirt, a broken dish, an empty water tank. The community is becoming increasingly dangerous as people become more desperate.
They told the story of an old Gogo who was beaten, robbed and raped by some teenagers and left to die. She found the woman and now cares for her.
Many of them underscored to us that this year is different. Even in dry years in the past, they have never suffered the way that they are suffering now. When I asked them what they are most afraid of now, each and every one of them said, “Hunger. I have nothing to feed my own family and nothing to give those who I am supposed to “motivate” to eat well and take their medication”.
At the end of the meeting we prayed together and the ladies were fed a home cooked meal and driven back to their community with a TB mask and four trays of eggs each (120 fresh eggs) – one tray for their family and three to be distributed to people in need, as they saw fit.
One of the Community Health Motivators went with Chris, Ned Lehman and Kathy Ott (two of our US board members) to visit the mother of our babies Princess and Anthony. She has been sick with HIV and TB for a long time, which is why both of the children have been placed with us. Chris called me to say that the young woman is near the end of life (in fact, thought she had passed while they were there), but then she breathed again. They called a private ambulance and she was taken to the hospital, to die.
Yesterday was a typical day, but then again, there is no such thing as “typical” here. They are all hard days and we learn so much each and every day from our Swazi brothers and sisters.
Some (many) days the pain and suffering we see is just too much and I find myself unable to hold back the tears on a daily basis. But we do what we can with what we have and we pray for continued strength for the days and months ahead. This is going to get much worse before it gets better.
Please join me in praying for Swaziland, for the funds to bring water from the top of our mountain to fill our dams and boreholes, for guidance on how we are to address the needs of the people in need in our surrounding communities and for unity, peace and restored joy for all of us.
Thank you for your support over the past ten years. We simple can NOT do this without you, nor do we want to. As I reflect back over the decade it is abundantly clear that the Lord has guided and directed us, as well as provided and protected us. Despite our own inadequacies and failures, He is sovereign and faithful always.
Live from Swaziland … giving thanks for 10 years of HIS provision and love.
Saturday, July 16, 2016
We have a little boy named Moses who came to us from a tragic family situation. He was born on September 15, 2013 and was a twin, but the sibling twin died in childbirth, along with his mother. His 15-year-old sister had been caring for him, and the other four children as best she could (after the father ran away), but she couldn’t provide food or milk for them so she sought help from Social Welfare. We were asked to take Moses and we agreed.
When a new child comes to us the first thing we do is pray over them, bathe them then do a full physical assessment (weight, length, signs of scaring, signs of witchcraft etc). Upon this boy’s assessment we discovered that his little teeth were black/brown from severe malnutrition and he had eight toes on EACH foot and seven fingers on EACH hand. This is most likely the result of a case of incest and while seeing extra digits isn’t that uncommon here, seeing so many extras is quite unique.
Moses has learned to adapt with his hands, but they are not functioning well and his feet will always be a problem. After getting medical advice from Doctors in the US, South Korea and Swaziland it was recommended that he receive surgery.
Two weeks ago he was taken to a top Orthopaedic surgeon in South Africa and assessed again. The recommendation was that he have 2-3 sets of surgery, which will result in the removal of ten (yes TEN) fingers and toes. They will do some reconstruction and repositioning with careful attention to the positioning of the big toes (needed for balance and mobility) and his thumbs (needed for the “pinching” movement to do up a zipper or button a shirt).
The Doctor also recommend that these surgeries happen sooner than later so that he can recover quickly and have his new hands and feet develop as he continues to grow. The cost for these multiple surgeries, including transportation/hotels/food in South Africa, is approximately $20,000 USD. They will do both feet and one hand in the first surgery and leave one hand for him to use. The second surgery will be the second hand and any other adjustments from the first surgery. They are hopeful that a third surgery will not be needed.
In addition, last week baby Timothy needed surgery to have a hernia fixed. That was done here in Swaziland at a private hospital by the surgeon whom we know and trust. It is the same Doctor who did Ben’s skin grafting and colostomy reversal and all of Baby River’s clean up surgeries and several colostomies and reversals). Timothy’s total surgery cost was $2,000 USD and it was successful.
So today I am asking for your financial help. We had to move ahead with Timothy’s hernia surgery for health/medical reasons and now that hospital bill is due.
We would like to book Moses’ surgery for the end of August (the soonest they can do it), but cannot do that until we have the funds to do so. I am writing today with the hopes that someone feels for these children and can help us do the best we can to help provide a bright future.
To donate in Canada click here.
Please remember that every dollar helps. Thank you for considering my request today.
Many, many thanks.
Live from Swaziland … praying for continued provision for His children, by His children.
Saturday, July 9, 2016
Our hearts are broken for all that is happening in the US and around the world. The enemy is here to kill and destroy and he is hard at work in believers and unbelievers alike.
I have no words that could possibly comfort those who are mourning, those who are angry or those who are afraid, so today I will simply share words from the Lord himself.
Live from Swaziland … praying for peace.