Saturday, September 16, 2017
Greetings from Durban, South Africa where I am sitting over looking the Indian Ocean. We are here celebrating Ian’s 52nd birthday and taking a day or two to reflect on where we have been, what we are doing and where we are going. We have 164 children living at Project Canaan now, and the responsibility of that weighs heavily on our shoulders.
As far as my eyes can see, I see water, and it's beautiful and powerful and awe-inspiring. It seems that water has been at the center of conversation for us for a very long time now.
Last Saturday we were glued to the TV, like so many others around the world, watching for surging ocean water as Hurricane Irma moved north through the Caribbean and on in to Florida. The week before we watched helplessly as Hurricane Harvey dumped 33 trillions gallons of water on Houston and other parts of Texas. During that same week we had a conversation with a vegetable farmer from the Cape Town, South Africa area who told us that their rainy season had just finished and their dams were only 1/3 full. He told us that Cape Town (and surrounding farms, wine country etc) will run out of water before the rains come next year.
I have always heard that water is life, but why does it seem that water can be life-giving and life-taking all at the same time?
While I don’t understand why God allows droughts, floods or hurricanes, I do believe that HE is the only one who can make it rain (or not), and I believe that He is the only one who can save any of us from disaster. I don't understand a lot of what God allows/does and doesn't do and I sure don't understand why He doesn't STOP many of the things we see from happening, but that is not for today's blog.
On Thursday we got a call from a Social Welfare officer about a 3-day-old baby who was found in a plastic bag, hanging on a branch of a tree. The child was still covered in blood and his umbilical cord was tied with an elastic band. A passerby heard the child cry and called the police. Why did God allow that? I believe that God is the only one who could save that child’s life. The mother could have dumped him in an outdoor toilet (where 30+ of our other children have started their lives), or lit him on fire (like two of our children), or strangled him and dumped him in a garbage can (like one of our children), or left him in the river to die. BUT she didn’t. Something in her had mercy on that small baby. Something whispered to her spirit to give him a chance, and she did.
As I sit and look at the Ocean and give thanks for my husband’s life and this journey we are on, I am stopping to ask you for help. While it is God who saved each of our children’s lives, it is us who must feed, clothe and care for them, and He invites people to be a part of that journey with us. This is difficult timing because SO MANY people need financial help to recover from the disasters that have recently struck. We do not get government funding to raise these children. We are 100% donor funded, and without more help from monthly donors we will have to say “no” to a baby who has been dumped or abandoned. Please, will you help us today by becoming a Heart for Africa Angel? Or even make a one-time gift to help us help a child?
We can’t control the rain, the wind or the weather, but we can do something about helping a child in need.
Thank you for considering my request today.
Live from South Africa … the ocean brings me peace.
PS In other news, we have a lead on who was involved in the break-ins on Project Canaan. This "Wanted" article was in the newspaper yesterday. We pray that the thieves will be found and prosecuted.
Saturday, September 9, 2017
Yesterday was a typical day on Project Canaan. We were up early, Ian took two visitors to see the water project at the top of the mountain while I drove around the farm delivering things that were brought from the US for various departments and people. Then I headed to the front office where I was to meet the 40 ft container at 9:30 AM. After many phone calls, we were told that the container should already be on Project Canaan. It was not. Sadly, it was stuck on the bridge to PC, requiring an emergency call to Denis and our JCB to get it up the hill.
By the time we opened the doors it was 12:15 PM, and the temperature hit 98F outside (and approximately 115F inside the container). We were short staffed, didn’t think to bring drinking water, and three hours later we had hand-bombed the entire 40 foot container. We were dirty, stinky, dehydrated (although Helen came to our rescue with water about 2.5 hours in to it), but IT WAS LIKE CHRISTMAS DAY! And we had some of our big kids there to help us, which was really amazing to see how hard they worked.
Not only did we receive 131,926 diapers and 398,322 wipes (!), but also bed sheets and mattress covers, beautiful new towels, bicycles, wagons, tricycles, playhouses and a wonderful care package from Spencer (it’s funny the crazy things that we miss, like good saran wrap, SOLID WHITE TUNA and Triscuit crackers). THANK YOU THANK you to each and everyone one of you who shopped, donated, sorted and packed this container full of love for us and our children, and thanks Spencer for the box of goodies!
Now to the “nothing is easy” part (not that unloading the container was easy). This morning Ian and I went down to start to sort out which toys/play sets go to which building. The very first priority was to assemble the two feeding tables that hold 8 babies at once, thereby getting 16 children up to a table rather than eating in bumble seats on the floor. Ian and Anthony opened the boxes, and guess what? The company sent the wrong legs for the tables. Rather than being a normal table height, the tables are 15” off the ground, not even allowing space for the seats to be inserted!
WE ARE IN SWAZILAND, AFRICA. We can’t just call the company and have them send out new metal legs for two tables that we need to feed 16 children. Sigh. Nothing is easy here. Fortunately we have a carpentry center and welding equipment along with talented people who should be able to help us get the tables to be functional while we sort out how to get the legs to Africa.
After packing the tables back up we went to see some of the children playing with the new toys. Of course, there is much assembly required for many of them, but the climbing tunnels were popped open and filled with excited toddlers, the assembled wagon was full to the brim and little Jonathan went crazy over his own personal rocking horse (in his TB isolation room).
I will be posting more photos in the days to come, but wanted to be sure to say thank you today for all of your love and support.
As I write this blog I have the US news on TV. Please know that we are praying for the people in Texas, we are praying for people in the Caribbean and praying for the people of Florida as Hurricane Irma makes its way to land. May the Lord protect everyone in its path. Nothing will be easy there for a long time to come.
Live from Swaziland … we are thankful.
Saturday, September 2, 2017
This week I spent a lot of time watching the individual development of our children. We continue to work on making this a children’s home, and not an orphanage, and that requires being intentional about individual care and development.
I cannot tell you the joy that I got from seeing that in practice this week. I will share a bit about a few of our most challenged children.
Morris is 13-months old and is very developmentally delayed. He was abandoned at a rural clinic by his teenage mother and lived there for 6-months with little to no touch, stimulation or love. He cannot hold up his head, and while first receiving a diagnosis of severe Cerebral Palsy, we are now not so certain about that diagnosis. Our Occupational Therapist (OT) was working with him this week and identified a slight spasticity in one arm, but otherwise his biggest challenge is not being able to hold his head up. BUT look at the photo below of him with the exercise ball. He LOVES doing his neck exercises and we are seeing a huge difference his stability already. I love seeing the Aunties cheer him on to lift his head and everyone claps to encourage him.
Barry is also 13-months old and is developmentally that of a 5-month-old. When I first saw him I thought he was blind because of how detached he seemed to be from his surroundings. His mother was very neglectful and would leave him for days a time by himself, just lying on the floor. He had more abuse and neglect than love and positive human touch. This week our OT noted that he is responsive to toys, music and TV, but not responsive to the human voice or touch. We are beginning his daily therapy, which will include a lot of touch, massage and love. I can’t wait to see this little guy in the months ahead.
|Barry working on some exercises to help him sit.|
Jonathan is 26-months old and still can’t stand. He is cognitively smart, has quite the “attitude” when he doesn't get his own way, but loves to play. Also, this little boy LOVES meat! When we bring him a meal that doesn’t not include meat he gets angry. So, of course I said, “Let the boy eat meat!”. You may recall that he only weighed 13 pounds when he came to us at the age of 2-years, but now he is almost 20-pounds! Go Jonathan go!
|Jonathan being assessed by our OT|
Princess is 3+ years old and is still not walking, but she sure wants to. She was off to a bad start with severe malnutrition, TB and related diseases. Now we are working to put muscle on her tiny legs and challenging her to get her hands working so that she can put square pegs in square holes, and round pegs in round holes. She works SO hard on her exercises and we are encouraged each and every day.
|Princess working hard with her hands.|
For the rest of our children we focus on individual childhood development plans. This week during school break the children worked on motor skills development, which included everything from paint-by-number to visiting the Kufundza center to hammer nails into wood, turn screws in to wood and even get to pull down on a drill press to make holes in wood.
|Jacob and Allen teaching the kids to hammer and screw.|
|Gabriel doing paint-by-number|
I am so thankful for an amazing team of people who are so commitment to each and every child. Yesterday I was on a long drive to pick up out newest baby (#163) and our volunteer Program Director, Bryan Throgmorton, came along. We had fun talking about so many of the things we love about so many children:
· How Paul loves to say “thank you” for random things that he appreciates.
· How Titus will tell me that he likes my hair.
· How sweet Moses is when he runs over and gives a big hug.
· How funny Caleb is when he gets his dance grooves on.
· How sweet and happy Phephile is now, when 2-years ago she arrived with a broken femur, tibia and as a very angry and hurt child.
|Our newest baby whom we are calling Bryan. He is 8-months old.|
Each and every child has a special need, just like each of us has a special need. While we cannot know about or provide for all of them, but I can rest in the knowledge that their heavenly Father knows them all and sees it all, and HE is our provider.
|This full rainbow appeared last week and went from the Emseni chilren's campus to Dam #2.|
Live from Swaziland … my heart is filled with joy.
PS – no updates on the break-ins. Nothing at all.
Saturday, August 26, 2017
|This 5 foot tall beauty is carved from Spring Stone and will be auctioned at the Georgia event.|
I have received many emails over the past few weeks saying, “I feel helpless”. The messages have come from our staff and friends around the world in response to my blogs and social media posts about the vandalism and attacks that we have been living through on Project Canaan.
I understand that feeling of helplessness. I too have felt helpless as thieves continue to break in, steal and frighten our volunteers and staff.
Yesterday we were in South Africa where we purchased powerful tasers and pepper spray to provide to those most vulnerable. In addition, we are working diligently on a security plan that will further secure everyone on Project Canaan, but as we know, if people want to get in to a building, they can get in, and so we also continue to pray for protection for all.
So what do we do? We keep on keepin’ on (as my friend Rose Smith often says). We endure. We (try to) give thanks in all things. We refuse to be bullied. We refuse to be afraid. And we spend more time with the children to remind ourselves why we are here and whom we are here to serve.
|Sarah, Titus and Hannah - why we do what we do.|
And what can you do? The truth is, we need your support now more than ever. And today I am writing to invite you to come and meet with Ian and me in October and give us a hug, encourage us in person and hear more about what is happening here.
We will be in Georgia, USA for a Drive and Dine event on October 11th. There’s a golf tournament during the day and a fun-filled dinner at night. If you would like to come and show us some love, please buy your tickets today here: Click here for Golf Click here for Dinner
|These 22" birds are carved from Green Serpentine stone and will be auctioned in Georgia.|
We will be heading up to British Columbia, Canada on October 14th for the 2nd annual Evening of HOPE and would love to see our Canadian friends and family at that time. Please buy your tickets today at this link.
|This 22" statue is made of Spring Stone and will be auctioned at the BC event.|
We shipped some AWESOME handmade stone carvings that will be available for auction at both events, and there will be a silent auction at both events. But what we need most is to know that we have people standing with us, praying with us and supporting us during these dark days.
|This fabulous carving is 20" high and is made of Spring Stone and will be auctioned at the BC event.|
Thank you for continuing to read and share this blog each week. Your friendship and prayers are felt.
Live from Swaziland … enjoying time with all the children today.
Saturday, August 19, 2017
|Jere's arm after tacking the robbers.|
On Wednesday night vandals broke in to the Guest House while our dear friends, Jere and Janet Scott, were sleeping. Janet awoke with the men in their bedroom and when she shouted at them they hit her in the head twice. Jere (who is 84-years-old) jumped up and grabbed one of the robbers, and pulled his ski mask off before they ran out the door with multiple electronics and cash. We are so thankful that they weren’t hurt or killed, and both are strong and more determined than ever to continue serving the Lord here in Swaziland.
|Janet's black and blue eye from being hit|
Daily we reminded that we are living/working/serving in a third world country. We are surrounded by hunger, orphan headed households, poverty and lack of education, which is leading to anger, jealousy, a sense of entitlement, but only by a few. And you know what they say - it only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch. I think there are a few bad apples in our basket. That being said, there is crime everywhere. Houses are broken in to all the time in Canada and the US, cars are stolen, people are robbed. This is not a third world problem, but it is a very real, ongoing problem for us here.
We have local and regional police involved as well as a private investigator. We are working on a broader security plan that will need to involve weapons, cameras, better trained security and more fencing. But I HATE that we have to do this. I HATE that a few young people who are smoking dagga (weed) are giving a nation a bad name. I HATE that by writing this blog and sharing what is happening that some people will no longer want to support Heart for Africa financially or change their plans to come and serve here because they are afraid. I HATE that there is fear amongst some of our volunteers and fear amongst most of our staff. And I really HATE that Spencer and Chloe have to be worried and afraid for us a million miles away.
It would be easier (and likely much wiser) for me to stay silent, and not tell you how many calls we now get in the middle of the night from police or investigators asking about this person, reporting an incident that just happened or wondering if we are okay because our dogs have gone crazy barking.
What would you do?
We are weary. We are not sleeping well. We (I am) are trying to not be intimidated or fearful, but alas, we are along way from home, and at times feel very isolated and alone.
I can certainly see why so many people have just packed up and moved home after trying to help in Africa. I can also see why donors are skeptical and don’t want to support ministries in Africa. I GET IT.
But we will not be leaving. We will endure. We will continue to pray for wisdom, and strength and endurance and financial support and protection as we continue to love and care for 162 precious children who GOD himself has entrusted us with. HE IS our protector and HE HAS won the battle.
|This is how Jonathan sleeps, with one leg crossed the other - he is why we must not be afraid.|
|This is Bonita's 2nd birthday - she is why we must not be deterred.|
Thank you all for your many words of encouragement, your prayers and your love. If you feel that you want to help us financially as we incur more costs to further secure our volunteers and children, I thank you in advance for that too.
In the US click here.
Live from Swaziland … it is Saturday morning.
Saturday, August 12, 2017
August 11 Blog
Last Saturday night we had another break in on Project Canaan, but this time it was at Amber and Kenny VanWinkle’s house. The VanWinkles are long term volunteers and were offsite visiting friends when the thieves cut through the burglar bars at their home, went through their whole house and stealing laptops, iPhone, TV, a wedding ring and some personal family treasures. Their Jack Russell dog (Yebo) was in the house, but clearly did not deter the burglars.
This was as devastating to Amber and Kenny as it was to us when our house was broken in to back in June (http://janinemaxwell.blogspot.com/2017/07/our-home-was-vandalized.html).
We are quite certain that it is the same thieves and we are quite certain that it’s an inside job, meaning that people whom we know, trust, love and employ are directly involved with both break-ins.
We have hired a private investigator who is infamous in Swaziland. His name is well known and as he says, “When a snake heads towards the monkeys, the monkeys will scatter”. There certainly has been some scattering on the farm when this man started showing up on the premises to investigate.
Two nights after the break-in (with a 24 hour guard assigned to their house) the thieves came back and put rat poison in Yebo’s water bowl that was in the backyard inside their gated area. We are told that rationale was to scare us all in to calling off the investigation, but it will not be called off, we will NOT be afraid, and Yebo was smart enough to point it out to Kenny.
We are working with several experts on elevating the security all over the property, but won’t share any of those details here as many of our employees read this blog. Suffice it to say, things are changing at Project Canaan.
This morning my Facebook page popped up an image from five years ago. It was a photo of our first nine children, in their pajamas all sitting on a change table. I went down to Saturday’s Kids Club and the Oasis and we re-enacted the photo of our first nine. The kids squealed in seeing themselves as babies and loved crawling up on the bed to get the updated photo.
|Levi, David, Caleb, Jeremiah, Emmanuel, Anna, Joshua, Esther, Miriam - 2012|
|Levi, David, Caleb, Jeremiah, Emmanuel, Anna, Joshua, Esther, Miriam - 2017|
I sent both photos to Kenny and Amber to encourage them and remind them why we are all here. While fear continues to want to keep a stranglehold here at Project Canaan, LOVE is so much bigger and SO much stronger than fear. I am sharing them today with you to show you what the love of Jesus looks like. Look at the hope and joy in the eyes of our children now. My heart is full.
We are told that the greatest commandment in the bible is to “love one another”, even when it’s hard. Today, and every day, we choose love.
Live from Swaziland … I choose love and I will not be afraid.
Saturday, August 5, 2017
|This is 2-year-old Jonathan. All of his parts are in the right place. I have an update on his health at the end of this blog.|
I am not sure that I have every used the word “testicles” in my life prior to a month ago. And in the last four weeks, it has been a word used in my daily vocabulary.
Strangely, we have had four boys in the past few weeks who we have discovered in “well child check ups” to have un-descended testis (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptorchidism).
This is more common than one might think, with 1 in 20 boys being born with the problem. Typically the testis do make their way down to where they are supposed to reside, but if they don’t get there by the time the boy is 9-months-old, surgery is recommended. Without surgery, the risk increases for infertility and/or cancer.
How hard could it be to have this kind of surgery in Swaziland you ask? Well, not really that hard at all, but there is only one urologist in Swaziland (we are very grateful that he is here!) and the cost is approximately $4,000 USD per surgery/child. Yes, that means an unexpected cost of $16,000 in the past four weeks for testicles. You can see why the word has been spoken so often in my current circles. What do we do? We had a small amount of money in our “Emergency Medical” fund, but certainly not that amount. But we moved forward in faith, and started with the first boy.
Now I am writing a blog using that word with the hopes that some of you will understand the importance of the surgery for the other boys and will help us out.
Ian and I often sit and look at each other and say, “you can’t make this stuff up”. And we sure can’t. And the other thing you can’t do is predict that four of your boys will have undescended testis next year and put it in a line item on a budget for Board approval. Imagine that conversation.
Speaking of testicles, I wanted to give you an update on the rapist that I had the distinct pleasure of capturing in November 2015. You can read about it at http://janinemaxwell.blogspot.com/2015/11/a-rapist-was-caught-this-week-and-then.html
|This is the evidence bag that had the phone, machete, and the lady's underwear in it.|
Last week he went to court, and while he confessed to multiple rapes while at the police station, he denied them in front of the judge. The good thing was that the day we caught him, and put in the back of my truck, he had the lady’s cell phone (that he stole from her) in his bag, the machete that he attacked her with and his DNA was on her clothing. He was found guilty of two counts of rape and one robbery. He will be sentenced next week, but we are expecting 15 years for each of the rapes and then the robbery on top.
While I sat in front of the prosecutor preparing for court, an old lady sitting beside me described how this man had also raped her a few months before the November case. These two ladies were sisters. One, the eldest in the family, and one was the youngest. My heart broke for them both, and while I think that we should have used his bush knife to cut off his … well … I won’t use that word again in this blog, I am relieved that there is one more bad guy out of our community.
|The guy in the red plaid is the rapist, the blue stripe was the arresting officer.|
If you can help with our Emergency fund so that our little boys can get help, please do so by clicking on the links below so that we can proceed with the other surgeries.
In the US click here.
Live from Swaziland … Ian and I are having a date day.
|This skin problem is directly linked to Jonathan's severe malnutrition.|
PS Update on Jonathan. Our poor little Jonathan started to lose weight last weekend and so they did another x-ray, only to find a spot on his lung. They have started him on treatment for Tuberculosis and will keep him in the hospital for the next two weeks to see if he responds to treatment. If he gets healthier, that is great news. If not, it could be drug resistant TB, which is a different problem. We pray for quick and total healing.