On May 31st, 2012 the Maxwell family boarded a plane and moved to Swaziland to live at Project Canaan. I hope to update my blog on Saturday mornings and share, as honestly as I can, the highs and lows of our life in Africa. We are living on a farm in a remote part of this tiny Kingdom and are serving the community as well as the orphans and vulnerable children of the nation. The 365 day count down started on June 1st, 2011, but the real journey begins now. Thanks for joining us.
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Saturday, June 15, 2013
Why would a father do that to a child?
My dad with Spencer and Chloe at the cottage at Watebeag Lake.
On Monday I had the privilege to attend an official event
celebrating the International Day of the African Child.The theme for this year is “Eliminating
harmful social and cultural practices affecting children: Our collective
Dr. Barnabas Dlamini and Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku both gave
outstanding speeches defending the rights of Swazi children and calling the nation
to protect the children of the Kingdom, but it was the students themselves who
spoke that took my breath away, and sucked all the air out of the room over and
I write this blog in honor and memory of my father, Russell
F. Willis who passed away on February 13, 2005.He was a kind man and, while I was adopted by him and my mom
as a baby, he loved and cared for me and protected me as a treasure given to
him by God.I wish all the
children of the world could have a father like my father.
This is another tough blog to write because what I heard on
Monday was tough to hear.I was
hoping to get a copy of each speech given by each student so that I could post
their words directly and not have to summarize them, but alas, that has not
been possible so I will summarize what I heard a few of the children say about
The issue of “Swazi culture” was spoken of in repetition.
Each Swazi student reflected back on what Swazi culture used to be like before
everything changed.They spoke
highly of polygamist marriages where a man only took another wife if he could
provide for her and her children.They spoke of growing up with many siblings from several mothers who all
lived in harmony and shared the love of their father, shared his food, his property
and his belongings. They spoke of love and marriage and the custom of a man
seeking a woman’s hand in marriage and then giving a gift of “Lobola” (cows) to
the woman’s father to thank him for taking such good care of his new bride and
allowing her to remain a virgin.They spoke of times when children may be orphaned, but the community
would protect those vulnerable children against harm.
But then the culture started to change, fathers started to
change and children became vulnerable.
I heard a young girl tell a story of being one of many
children, from multiples wives that his father had taken, even though he had no
job or money to care for any of them. She spoke of being hated by her siblings,
by the other wives of her father and eventually hated by her father who spent
his days drinking and abusing everyone around him.This same young girl lashed out about fathers who have
started having sex with their young daughters claiming that they are only doing
it to prepare their daughter to be a good wife for her husband.That same girl collapsed in tears
behind the podium half way through her speech and had to be rescued and removed
by a teacher and the head of the event.She came back and finished the speech later, and it was heard in dead
silence by the crowd who had gathered including the highest levels of
Prime Minister Dr. Barnabas Dlamini
I another young girl talked about her friend who was taken
out of high school so that she could be married off to a man twice her
fathers age. It is a practice called “Kwendzisa” and the girl said that
having girl children has become good business.It used to be that young men would court young women and the
families would be involved in helping the young couple get established.Now, fathers are selling their young
girls for cattle so that they can increase their personal wealth with no regard
for the girl’s safety or happiness.
Each student got up and spoke with such power and force that
the room almost shook, but at the same time there was a deafening silence from
the truth they spoke that made the room freeze.These students spoke truth about THEIR culture to THEIR
government officials and THEIR leaders and THEIR teachers and begged for help
I couldn't stay and listen any more.I was confused, shocked, in pain and
ashamed to be an adult sitting in that room.But I was so very proud of the students who shared their own
pain, grief and torment publically in order to have change made.
Just before I decided to leave there was a young man who got
up and spoke about his parents dying and him being left alone to be cared for
by his uncle.He said his uncle
beat him mercilessly on a daily basis often making him unable to walk.One day his uncle came to him and said
he was tired of beating him, so instead, he sodomized him.There was a collective gasp in the room
and all the air seemed to be taken away.The boy went on to say that he was not able to sit on a chair for a
week. The uncle came at him again the following week, but this time the boy
fought back and then ran to the local officials to report this crime.Rather than getting support from them,
they beat him and rebuked him for reporting such a thing. They told him he was
not being respectful of his uncle and that he should never say such things.
Instead it should be “Tibi tendlu” or “swept under the mat”, “kept behind
closed doors”, “don’t air your dirty laundry” or whatever expression one might
When the students had finished the leaders of the nation got
up and hugged them and allowed the students to weep in their arms. It was a
time of great emotion and I am thankful for their response to the words that
had been spoken. I believe that change will come, not as fast as we want it to,
but the children are speaking out and I, for one, am listening.And now you are too.
Tomorrow is Fathers day and I weep for the children of
Swaziland, but I also know that children all over the world are being abused,
raped, enslaved, sold, mistreated, marginalized or even “just” ignored.You might have had one or more of those
things happen to you when you were a child.You might be one who is doing those things to a child. But
know this, El Roi, the “God who Sees” sees YOU.He knows YOU and He sees all that happens.
I am so thankful that my father was my protector and
encourager.I am so thankful to
have married a man who loves our children and is their protector and
encourager.I am thankful that I
am in a place to protect and encourage 33 children who have been brought to the
El Roi Baby home and the children who will come after them.
Psalm 68:5 says that He is, “A Father to the fatherless, a defender of the widows, is God in His holy dwelling”.
For that I am thankful.