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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Are you too busy to attend the King's feast?

Caleb and John, preparing for the banquet
Every Saturday morning we have “Kids Club” with our 63 “big kids” at Emseni AND IT IS AWESOME!!

Let me tell you about it.

One of our goals is to be “intentional” about raising our children (as were with our biological children). Our new Program Director (Bryan Throgmorton – who is also AWESOME!) is helping us with scheduling including the following areas:
·      Spiritual life
·      Homework
·      Reading
·      Arts and crafts
·      Sports/recreational activities
·      Music/drama/dance
·      Age appropriate chores
·      Town outings (KFC, Funky Frogs, grocery shopping)
·      One-on-one time with adults

Our Kids Club is an intentional part of our Spiritual Life program and it is designed to teach our children the “lesson of the week” in preparation for Children’s Church on Sunday.  It is a part of the Waumba Land program that we have been able to use from North Point Community Church.  Our children are divided in to five groups of approximately 12 children and each group circulates through five stations over a period of 75 minutes, which include:

1.     Reading the bible story of the week.

2.     Singing new songs and old favorites as well as dancing and jumping. 

3.     Doing a craft that links to the story of the day.

4.     Learning the bible verse for the week and what it means for their age.

5.     Games that help them learn and remember the story for the week.

Today’s story was that of the “Wedding feast”. The children heard the story of the King who prepared a banquet for his friends, but when the time came for the banquet, everyone was too busy to attend. The King then sent his servants out to the town to invite all of the townspeople to attend because the feast was prepared.  The scripture that they learned was “Those who… belong to him must live as Jesus did”. 1 John 2:6

The craft that they made were crowns so that they would be ready to have the feast with the King.

The games were the best!  They had a relay race where they had to run and take all of the supplies needed for the feast to be ready, including a cup, spoon, table cloth, napkin and of course a plastic chicken drumstick!  Then they had to run around and find the hidden “friends” to invite them to the King’s banquet as the feast was ready to eat!  It was hilarious.

The song and dance is always a favorite and the children sing with their hearts and souls.

I am thankful for so many of you who read this blog every week and who share it with friends and family.  I SO WISH that you could be here to experience the love and joy that engulf our children’s homes.  But for today, you will have to enjoy it through photos and this short video. I pray that you enjoy feasting with the King this week.

Thank you for your love, your support and your prayers. These children ARE the future of this Kingdom.

Live from Swaziland … my heart is happy.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Spencer's home!!

Spencer and Chloe at the Toronto airport preparing for their first trip to Swaziland in 2005.

This week our firstborn, Spencer, arrived in Swaziland and will be here volunteering for the next 6 weeks with his girlfriend Jane.  Spencer graduated from Georgia State University in December and was recently accepted in to Graduate School at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.  It’s a double Master Degree program which will give him Master in International Business, and the second year he will live in Barcelona, Spain and attend ESADE Business School (affiliated with Queens) where he will earn his Masters in Marketing Management.  We are so very proud!

Kingston is only a short drive from Ottawa, which is where all of Ian’s family lives,  so he is no doubt looking forward to a few home cooked meals and Grandma’s best cookies with the family.  Jane is busy studying for her MCAT, which she will take in June back in the US, and plans to study medicine. They have a few busy years ahead of them, but are enjoying life together and we are THRILLED to have them with us for a few weeks.

It was June 2005 when we first traveled as a family to Swaziland for 66 days (not that Ian was counting back then).  During the next ten years Spencer and Chloe helped us lead 5,400+ people on 11-day service trips to Swaziland, South Africa, Malawi and Kenya.  That was not an easy assignment for this family, and Chloe was only 8-years-old and Spencer was 10-years-old. Spencer once calculated that he and Chloe have lived at the Lugogo Sun hotel in Swaziland for more than a full year of their lives (yes, more than 365 sleeps!).  When he first told me that I had an epic “mother fail” moment, but I know that God’s hand has been on this whole adventure from the very beginning, and now Spencer is back in Swaziland again … by choice!
Maxwell family in Swaziland, July 2005

Helen Muli joined us in Swaziland in 2005, and now she lives here with us!

Spencer and Jane have only been here for a few days, but it’s just so nice to be able to sit on the patio and chat, or watch an episode (or 3) of  “This is Us” together, or be able to make his favorite cookies (Hello Dollies), just the way a mom should. 

Last night we invited the people who are living up at the Lodge down for dinner, including our long time friends Janice/Roy/Jessica Johnson, Chris Cheek, Kindergarten teacher Leana McKnight and young Egg Farmer from Canada David Newcombe.  And while it was wonderful to cook for them all and sit together by the fire, there was no one who warmed this mama’s heart more than seeing my boy, and his best friend, sitting at the end of the table. 

Chloe … I think you should come home too!  :)

Live from Swaziland … I am a proud and happy mom.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Do children really have human rights?

I love that he got a McDonald's happy meal and became "Batman"  He wore this mask to surgery.
There is a lot of talk about “freedom” this week with a focus on human slavery around the world and especially sex trafficking. We deal with the issue of human rights almost every day here in Swaziland, both for our children and for our staff.

The thing that many people who live in “first-world” nations may not realize is that is there are many places where “basic” human rights are not a “right” at all.  You see, if there is no law within the country where the slavery or trafficking is happening that says it is illegal, then it is not illegal. If there is no law in a country that says it is illegal to have sex with a child, then it is impossible for law enforcement to stop the behaviour, that other parts of the world might see as wrong.  People may agree that it is morally wrong, but many people (the perpetrators) would disagree.  Either way, the children suffer.

On September 8th, 2012 (the year that we moved to Swaziland) the Children’s Protection and Welfare Act of Swaziland was enacted by King Mswati III.  It was, and is, a VERY important piece of legislation that provides protection for the children of Swaziland in many areas including: the right to basic food/shelter/clothing/education, the right to have a birth certificate, prevention of child marriage, access to healthcare and HIV testing and it also includes child labor laws and overall child protection laws.  Because we now have LAWS (not guidelines) to protect children, the police can intervene in cases of abuse and hold the abuser legally responsible.  The children of Swaziland DO have human rights and this Act was a life-changer/life-saver. 

I am a firm believer that awareness is the first step to knowledge.  Knowledge is power and power is required to make change around the world.  As people continue to raise the issues of slavery and trafficking, I am thankful for organizations like IJM (International Justice Mission) whose lawyers work diligently to help countries re-write laws that provide protection and real HUMAN rights for those in need. 

One of things that the Children’s Protection Act allowed us to do in the past few months was to get surgery for one of our little boys.  He was born with eight (8) toes on each foot and seven (7) fingers on each hand, for a total of THIRTY (30 digits). His big toes were in the middle of his feet and he did not have thumbs.  Thanks to donors who continually fund our “emergency medical fund”, and with the full support of the Deputy Prime Ministers office, we were able to get reconstructive surgery for this child so that he will have a more normal life.

Last week was the last of four major surgeries that this brave little guy went through. Each of them required crossing the border from Swaziland to South Africa (and back), which is not an easy thing anymore due to anti-trafficking laws, which are also here to protect the children.  We are thankful for our driver (Kenny VanWinkle) and Sr. Supervisor/Auntie Khosie Mamba, who have been with him for every step of this painful process.  Today we welcome them all home and are thrilled to report that all the surgeries where a huge success.

Praising God for 5 fingers on each hand and THUMBS!!
Let us all continue to pray for people all over the world to have access to human rights that would be God honoring and life-giving. 

Live from Swaziland … thankful for all who fight tireless to protect children.


PS - I am told that the same legal minds who worked diligently on the Children’s Protection and Welfare Act continue to work on laws for better protection of the women of Swaziland, including a law that would make domestic violence against women, illegal. We pray that this dream becomes a reality soon so that our Aunties and staff will become more safe.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Nothing is wasted; chickens and God

As you may know, we are in partnership with the Egg Farmers of Canada and the International Egg Foundation and Commission.  Through their support we have been able to build two egg barns, each holding 2,500 laying hens. This has allowed us to provide close to 4,500 hardboiled eggs EVERY DAY to the orphans and vulnerable children of Swaziland through our 31 church partners for the past year.

Now that I am married to a farmer 😊 I can tell you that a “laying hen” will produce an egg every 26 hours and will do that until they are approximately 70-weeks-old. After that, their production starts to slow down and so it is time to bring in a new flock, who are young and ready to pump out eggs!

Our next flock arrives on Friday of next week, so we are in preparation mode for that. What does that mean? Well, first, we had to “deal with” the 2,500 chickens that have finished their original purpose … laying eggs. Then we have to clean and disinfect the barns. But unlike many hens in other parts of the world, the breed of chicken that we have still has a lot of meat left on it, and they are very worthy of eating.  So we needed to “harvest” the 2,500 birds.

We had several people offer suggestions on the latest chicken slaughter/plucking machines, but I knew in my heart that we have the very best (and fastest) slaughter/plucking machines already on Project Canaan … our Swazi’s!  I have never seen someone slaughter, pluck, disembowel and chop up a chicken faster than a Swazi woman.  And so the task began early Tuesday morning, and was complete by 9PM Wednesday evening.  It wasn’t pretty, but was it was incredible to watch.

Our children eat 1,200 drumsticks every month, and so the drumsticks were frozen in large bags together.  Our Aunties eat the thighs and wings in stew and so those, along with the breasts were frozen separately.  The livers and hearts are a great source of iron and so they too went in to separate bags and are being added to our children’s menu (we love liver and heart here).  Our freezer is almost full! 

Then there are the intestines, the other organs and the feet.  Those are decidedly the “best parts” according to any self-respecting Swazi, and were cooked up immediately so that everyone could enjoy a “take-out” plate with them when they finished work on Wednesday night. 

I had hoped to get a large stockpot full of bones so that I could make a big pot of chicken broth, but I was reminded that nothing is wasted by our Swazi family, and when it comes to chickens the Aunties and Uncles will even enjoy chewing on the bones when the stew is finished.  No chicken broth for us this time.

Not to link God to chickens, but this week I was reminded over and over again that He also wastes nothing.  This week we also saw lots of hardship, heartbreak and suffering, but through it all we also saw the hand of God in so many ways. We received two babies (a 3-month-old girl and a 2-year-old boy) and through their tragic stories we saw salvation, redemption and renewed hope in the eyes of Doctors, Social welfare officers and Great Grandparents.  God wastes nothing.

There may be things in your life that are not pretty, do not smell good, and seem like a total waste, but I promise you, God has a plan, and he uses everything.  James 1:2-4 says, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Let us not rush through the lessons that we are being taught now.  But let us persevere SO THAT we can be mature and complete, and lack nothing.

Live from Swaziland … I think we will have chicken for dinner.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

We love North Point Community church!

Today we welcomed a team of eight volunteers from North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, GA (if you haven’t heard of it, go to  The team has been lead by Hannah Gaddis for the past three years and each year they arrive with more enthusiasm than the year before (which is hard to fathom).

We have hundreds of visitors each and every year at Project Canaan. Some stay for days, some for weeks, some for months, and some end up moving here.  We always try to work with our volunteer teams to find out where their skills sets lay, where they can add value to what we are doing and help us do things better.  Our North Point team is a wonderful example of that intentionality being successful.  Let me explain.

Hannah and her team come from a North Point environment called “Waumba Land”, which is created especially for infants (six weeks) through preschool-aged children. Their aim is to teach these little ones that “God MADE me. God LOVES me.  Jesus wants to be my FRIEND forever.”  When the team comes to Project Canaan they work with our Children’s Ministry team and encourage, equip and train them in teaching our children the same message, in different ways, each week in Children’s Church and at home throughout the week.  It is a wonderful time of fellowship, fun, laughter and prayer for our children.

This week Hannah and the team will not only be working with our Children’s Ministry team, but we will host a special day where two representatives from all of our 31 partner churches will also come and do workshops on “how we minister to children”.  This will be the first time our Pastors will see the silly side of Project Canaan, while hopefully learning new and interesting ways to teach young children about the true heart of God. In country where so many children are fatherless (or parentless), we believe that it is even more important that they be taught how much their heavenly Father loves them and will never leave them.

Our “big kids” greeted the team at the front gate today with a traditional Swazi dance.  The little guy doing the dance in the video below is named Andrew.  He was named that after Andy Stanley, the Pastor of North Point, when he and his wife Sandra were with us a few years ago. Both little Andrew and baby Grace were place with us through social welfare while the Stanley’s were here, and both names were chosen at that time. 

The boy at the front is Andrew - named in honor of Andy Stanley.
May I take this moment to really say a big thank you to Andy and Sandra’s leadership and friendship. Also to the entire GlobalX team for training and sending such amazing people, and to ALL the people who give so generously to the BE RICH campaign each year.  Because of your support of BE RICH, North Point has been able to fund our staff housing building, our green house, a 40-seater school bus for our school and also made a significant contribution to the next Emseni building at Project Canaan. Your prayers, your love and your generosity encourage us each and every day. 

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  If you know someone who attends North Point or an associated church, please feel free to pass along this blog to them, with our thanks.

Live from Swaziland … happy to have friends visiting this week!


Saturday, February 18, 2017

We are not getting any younger

I used to love traveling around the world.  I counted down the “sleeps” before we would get on an airplane to our next adventure location.  Once we started serving in Africa my “count-downs” would start weeks out, and I couldn't wait to land on my favorite continent.

I still count down the days to come home to Swaziland when we are traveling abroad. I can’t wait to see the “Welcome to Swaziland” sign and know that we will soon see the children.  I look forward to sitting on our patio with our crazy dogs, overlooking the farm (which looks green and beautiful due to recent rains), and to see the smiles on all of our Swazi staff.  This is truly home now, and I love it.

A man and his dogs
What I don’t love it JET LAG!  (I know, this is a bit of “first world” whining). I just can’t seem to shake it off and get on the right time zone. We arrived on Wednesday night and I am still out of wack, and getting worse.  I took two Aleve PM last night and went to bed at a decent hour.  Ian and I both picked up coughs on the airplane and so we both started to cough.  You know how that goes.

At around midnight I moved to the couch and watched TV until 2AM when I got up and made some eggs (comfort food… thinking it might help).  Then a herd of cows from over the mountain came and decided to graze right outside our fence.  Our dogs when CRAZY and proceeded to bark from 2:00AM – 5:30AM, or at least that is when I finally fell asleep.  I awoke at 11:30AM and am now just trying not to bump in to walls as I make my way around the house.

Our three-week long trip to the US and Canada was busy and fruitful. It is always great to see friends, share the stories of how God is alive and well in Swaziland and thank the people who give so generously to support the work at Project Canaan.  But, as well all know, there is nothing quite like getting home and crawling in to your own bed (even if you can’t sleep).

Live from Swaziland … readjusting to time and space here.


PS – some of you may have seen that a Cyclone hit the south east coast of Africa this past week. Fortunately we did get a good amount of rain from it, and little damage (other than to our roads which need a lot of repair). Dam #2 is starting to fill with another 4-feet before it hits the spillway.  The Living Water Dam (#3) is possibly half full.  This is all good news, but does not reduce our need to complete the pipeline from the top of the mountain so that we become “water secure” and can irrigate crops all year long.

Living Water Dam #3.
Dam #2

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Four years later - still an unbelievable story

Happy 4th birthday Deborah
On February 7th, Deborah turned 4-years old.  She is a miracle, just like the other 148 children who call Project Canaan home. 

As I am at the tail end of two week whirlwind trip to the US and Canada I thought I would cheat a little on my blog today and re-post Deborah's story from February 2013.  Here is what I wrote:

On Monday night I arrived home from possibly the worst day of my life.

I had to sit and write to help me breathe.  I sent it to a few dear friends and family members who are supporters of the babies at El Roi, and me personally.   I struggled a lot as to whether I should publish this.  I am paranoid about it sounding sensational (because it is a story from hell) and I don't want to post photos, but believe that people should see what is really happening here.  Maybe then you will help (if you don't already).  After today, I believe that I am supposed to publish this.  I hope I don’t get in trouble for telling this story.  Please share it if you think you should.  Please DO SOMETHING to help if you get to the end.  Here is what I wrote last night…

I just got home after a very long hard day, showered and am now seeking comfort from Donnie McClurkin worship music and my yellow chair.  When my brain and heart are on the edge of exploding I must write.  It is like oxygen to my soul so that I can breathe again and nothing is forgotten. When I am finished writing the tears will have soaked my tshirt and emptied my soul.  Here is what happened today.

At 10AM I got a call from the Child Protection unit of the Police saying a newborn baby had just been found in the bush in our area (Sidvokodvo).  The police were taking the baby to hospital as she was in bad condition. They thought she had been born just yesterday and was found today alive.  I got in the car, picked up Jamie Klee and headed to the hospital.  Halfway there my car broke down (again). We waited 45 minutes before Ian could come to the rescue, switch vehicles and continued on to meet the police.  I am going to start praying harder for the Lord to provide a good vehicle for me to use.

I know you will look at this photo and not want to continue, but seriously, this is really a little baby. Please keep reading. 

Jesus help us.
When we got to the hospital we quite accidently bumped in to the doctor whom I often write about (but never name for privacy reasons).  He was so surprised to see me because he was just about to call me about an abandoned child.  He had just examined the baby and was waiting for her to come to be washed and cared for.   He allowed us to go in to the tiny room where they washed her and take photos to show what condition she was in.  She has many bug/insect bites all over her body, there is a bone misplaced in her leg (will check for fracture when she is stable), her face and backside are in very bad condition (maybe burned?) and raw and she had maggots crawling out of her eyes and ears.  Lots of them.  She is premature and weighs 1.8 KG (4.1 pounds), but she is a fighter.

They had to wash/scrub her twice then finally went and got disinfectant to bathe her in to try to kill the bugs.  She screamed as the liquid hit her open skin. We stood and prayed.

She was then put on a sheet under a “warmer” and the nurse left to get dressing for her wounds. 

Maggots filled her mouth, eyes and ears.  These were digging a hole behind her little ear.
As Jamie and I stood in this small washing room, we suddenly realized we were in the NICU room. There were three other babies there on oxygen and monitors.  I looked at the little boy beside our baby and it didn’t look like he was breathing.  I said that to Jamie and went and put my hand on his tiny chest.  I didn’t feel anthing, but I am not in any way a medical professional.  The nurse walked in just then and I mentioned that the baby didn’t seem to be breathing. She left and got the doctor who was right outside the door.  He came in and immediately started CPR, as we stood and watched and prayed.  After 10-15 minutes of CPR, listening, oxygen, and other emergency things I can’t think of the name of right now (which seemed like a flash and an eternity all at once) he shook his head.  The child had turned color.  He was dead.  Just like that.  Gone.

We believe and are hopeful that our baby, now named Deborah because she is a fighter, will live.  I will be there every day this week to help with her care while the mother of the baby boy will mourn the loss of her beautiful child.

After a time Jamie and I left the hospital in tears, and headed home.  I couldn’t just go home with the vision of that baby boy in my mind so suggested that we stop at the police station to find out if they knew anything more about Deborah’s situation.

This is where the plastic bag with baby Deborah was found.
The police were very kind and agreed to take us to the place she had been dumped.  Deborah was a newborn (umbilical cord still attached) and was put in a black plastic grocery bag.  The police said that the top was tied in a knot and she was left in the bushes under a tree in the middle of nowhere.  This morning a local man was walking by and heard what sounded like crying.  After listening closer he moved closer to the sound.  When he saw the bag moved he was terrified and thought it was a snake so ran to a local store for help. He and the store-keeper came back to investigate the strange bag and found the baby.  She was somehow half in and half out of the bag, face down in the dirt and crying to save her life – literally. 

We went and met the man who found her – the hero of the day.  He said her mouth and ears were full of maggots and it was terrible. He shook his head when he spoke of what he saw.  I gathered together all that I had left in me and shook his hand, thanking him for saving the life of a chosen child – a child who was seen by El Roi himself.

I am tired, confused and emotionally finished.  I don’t know why the Lord had us sit on the side of the road today for 45 minutes, only to be in the room to see a baby die.  I don’t know why he allowed baby Deborah to live for two days (they think) in a black plastic bag under a bush – not eaten by dogs or snakes, and then He allowed a baby boy to die in a hospital NICU care center. 

But my faith is in Him and always shall me.  He is El Roi, the God who Sees and I will cling to that today and in the days ahead. 


Sorry for the long blog, but this is a Tuesday update, which has prompted a mid-week blog.

Baby Deborah on Tuesday.  So much better.
Don't mind the guy replacing the entire light FIXTURE over the NICU babies.
Monday night around midnight I got a text from a young woman saying she was cutting her wrists to commit suicide.  A bad text.  I called her and tried to encourage her and change her plans. She hung up the phone and it was early morning before I could contact anyone to find her.  By 10 AM we drove and found the young woman. She was lying on the ground in a local homestead and had overdosed on a drug we couldn’t find.  We took her to the hospital (sadly there is no 911 to call, no ambulance and the social workers of the country don’t have transportation) and got her in to the emergency room.  From there I literally walked to the Neonatal unit of the hospital and spent an hour with baby Deborah who is doing MIRACULOUSLY well!  The nurses can’t believe the change in her!  She is off the oxygen.  She is breathing well on her own and the swelling has gone down so much.  The nurses say, “This one will live!”.  I spent an hour with her and fed her a bit, but she was tired and slept for most of the time while I told her about what a fighter the Prophetess Deborah was. 

From there I checked in the Emergency Room again, stomach pumping still in force, then on to the TB hospital to see the mother of our twins Leah and Rachel.

This is a mid-week blog to bring those of you who really care and want to read it.  I really pray that EVERYONE taking the time to read this mid-week post will take the time to give monthly so that we can feed and care for these babies. Even $10 a month can help.  If you can give $100, or $1,000 that would help too. As Nike says, JUST DO IT.