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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

37 days: A new baby, an aging mother and a couple of teenagers

Forty -five days ago I started a whirlwind travel schedule that flew me 29,328 miles (or 47,198 km) around the world.  I met with people in Honolulu, Hawaii; Venice, Italy; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Edmonton, Alberta to talk about the desperate

situation of the children of the Kingdom of Swaziland and how we can make a difference to a single baby while giving hope to a dying nation.

The response has been good and I choose to believe that people do want to help.  We have plans from the Hawaiians to start roasting and selling private-label coffee on Project Canaan to help generate income for the farm.  Some of the people we met in Venice, Italy want to help us get a Free Range Egg farm up and running to help provide the nearly perfect protein for orphans and vulnerable children.  Our friends from the MedAssets Healthcare Business Summit in Las Vegas are working to provide medical supplies and equipment for the El Rofi Medical Center and the El Roi Baby Home (including a special shout out to the German company DRAGER for committing to donate a new Isolette, Incubator and Baby Ventilator).  And our friends in Edmonton, Alberta (New Life Community Church) raised $40,000 for needs and further development of the El Roi home for abandoned babies. 

On top of that, we have people working on accessing water from the natural springs at the top of the property and Rotary International is raising funds to build a huge dam at the bottom to capture the water from those springs, while others are looking at how to generate hydro-electric power as it flows down the mountain.  We even have long term volunteers from California, Arizona, Wisconsin and Afghanistan (serving as a Captain in the US Army) preparing to come and live at Project Canaan for one to two years!  God is clearly sending the people and the expertise that is required for this massive project.  We are thankful for all the ways He provides.

But, I have to be honest.  While I really DO get excited about coffee and eggs (the perfect breakfast) and medical supplies and incubators, these things just don’t compare to the news that little Baby Anna has arrived at El Roi!

Baby Anna was born on February 13, 2012 and, while we don't know many specifics around her birth, we do know that she was dropped into a deep pit latrine (outhouse/outdoor toilet) and left to die a terrifying death.  A stranger was walking by, heard the cries from this tiny newborn baby and immediately called the police.
 
She was rescued and taken to the government hospital where she was cleaned up, cared for and treated for a chest problem.  For six weeks we have been trying to have Anna released into our care, but the police were still investigating and trying to find her mother and so the child was kept at the hospital.  After much prayer and appeal to the highest powers, we finally got the phone call and Anna arrived home on Wednesday, April 18th!  She is baby #5 and we give thanks for her life.  

That is one half of my life.  Here is the other.

My mom is struggling with frontal lobe dementia in a nursing home in Guelph, Ontario and my heart continues to break for her.  She has no brain filter system left and her anger/frustration is manifested with flying food trays and scratching and biting her caregivers.  She is completely immobile and rarely gets out of bed (which requires two people and a Hoya lift).  My heart hurts for this woman who served the Lord her whole life, but is now trapped in a body that is broken and hurting.  For those of you who struggle with aged parents, know that my prayers are with you.  Mom’s most recent attempt at escape (via a Bahamian cruise) did provide a little levity to the family mood, but passed quickly.

My pride and joy these days are my beautiful children, Spencer and Chloe.  Never have I been more proud of my children than in these final days of preparing for life change.  Spencer has decided to go to Florida State University (to study Communications) and we are all trying to get our heads around leaving this young Canadian in America while we head off to the Dark Continent.  Swaziland hasn’t really felt that far away from Atlanta because it is always in my heart and mind, but Tallahassee Florida seems like a million miles from the Matsapha Airport in Swaziland.  How is it possible that my little blond boy is preparing to graduate from high school on May 19th?  Spencer turns 18 in June and is ready to take on the world – I pray that when that time comes that I will be ready to release him. 

Chloe is turning 16 in July and will jump right into the middle of 10th grade on June 6th since school in Africa runs January to December.  Most “soon to be” 16-year-olds would be freaking out at the thought of moving to Africa, but not our Chloe.  She is the bravest, sweetest, most loving child that I know and she truly sees the hand of God directing her path to live and serve in Swaziland.  Her maturity and faith far exceed her age and she is light years ahead of where I was at her age (remember, I got shipped off to boarding school for a bad attitude when I was 16 … point taken?). 

There are a lot of moving parts in our lives right now, but God is faithful and has encouraged us, carried up, consoled us and amazed us each and every day of this journey.

May 31, 2012 is our departure date and it is coming quickly.  My speaking engagements and travels are finished until the day I get on a plane to South Africa.  For the next month I so look forward to serving my family, cooking great meals, baking, helping with “University stuff”, planning birthday parties and a fun graduation celebration.  While my emotions seem to pour out of my eyes at the most inappropriate times, I do plan to laugh a lot and give thanks continually.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."  James 1:27    

Janine