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Saturday, June 28, 2014

What is different about Heart for Africa now?

I remember my first trip to Africa in April 2003 like it was yesterday.  If I close my eyes I can still smell the sour odor of human waste and filth wafting off the street children, the smell of raw sewage that flows freely through the slums and the rotting flesh of HIV/AIDS related Kaposi Sarcoma cancer.   I will never forget the looks in the eyes of the children who were living on the street and remained living on the street as we drove away in our safe vehicle to return home to a shower and food on the table.   I remember asking myself how 500,000 children could be living on the streets of Nairobi and how 11 million children had lost their parents to a disease that was never talked about in Canada, ever? 

It was in April 2013 that I started on the journey that I have been on for 11 years and it was a journey to knowledge; knowledge about HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, malnutrition, poverty, wealth, greed, hunger, Christians, sacrifice, love, joy, peace and total surrender.

I remember clearly that I wanted everyone I knew to go and see what I had seen in Africa.  Six months after my first trip to Kenya I gathered a group of people from ONYX Marketing Group to travel with me to see what I had seen, so that together we could fight against the injustices of poverty, corruption and sin.  I was a bit like a rabid dog wanting everyone I knew to GO AND SEE!  And then I knew they would be transformed, as I had been, and we could do something to help.

In 2005 our family started volunteering with Dream for Africa and on February 1, 2006 we took over the ministry full-time and changed the name to Heart for Africa.  From 2005 to 2014 we hosted more than 5,400 (!) people on 11-day service trips in South Africa, Swaziland, Kenya and Malawi.  For many of those years we worked tirelessly to recruit people to go and see for themselves, so that they could help.  But I quickly learned, as so many do, that it’s really hard to help in any significant, long-lasting way, when you live thousands of miles from the people whom you serve.  I, along with many who volunteered with us, would often leave Africa discouraged, feeling like we hadn’t done enough or helped the people in greatest need.  Much of that changed when we moved to Swaziland.
Volunteering in Swaziland 2005
Living here has been a huge gift.  It is not easy, but we love it. I miss my children desperately and I am only now realizing the huge sacrifices that they have made in the past eight years, including our incredibly disruptive move to Africa.  There are days that I long for “normal” – you know, dinner in a restaurant, no emergency calls about a sick/burned/dead baby or no power outages.  But I know that we are where the Lord wants us to be, and that by being here we can help in a significant, long-lasting way.  I believe with my whole heart that the development of Project Canaan is not only benefitting the abandoned babies who are being raised here, and the people from our surrounding community who are employed here, but as we work to achieve our goals of self-sustainability we will also be helping many others in the rural communities who are currently unreached. 

With a plan in place to become self-sustainable (meaning no donor funds needed for operating costs) by 2020, we have now been able to identify areas where we can invite volunteers to come and help in maybe a more meaningful and practical way than before. 

Starting in 2015 Heart for Africa will only have one large 11-day service trip to Swaziland that is in the model of the past trips (i.e stay at Lugogo Sun Hotel, all ages welcome, great intro-to-missions trip, work at Project Canaan, visit community homesteads, serve at a rural church on Sat/Sun).  This trip will be in July to accommodate all westerners who want to come during school holidays.  We don’t plan to ever cancel that trip as long as people are willing and able to come.

Just had to add a cute baby photo from lunch time.
During the rest of the year we want to host smaller teams who can either stay at the Moringa Guest House on Project Canaan, or a the nearby Nkonyeni Resort (4 miles down the road).  We will be looking for people with specific skill sets like:
·      Trades people who can come and hold clinics to teach our tradesmen new techniques to improve their skills.
·      Sewers/knitters/jewelry makers to come design with and train our Artisans
·      Children’s Ministry leaders who can come and teach others the importance of and how to teach our little ones (and each other) about Jesus.
·      Farmers who can assist in helping us implement best practices in animal husbandry, crop yield, dairy production etc.
·      People who just love children – and want to come and read with our kids, play with our kids and take a little pressure off the Aunties who are there 24/7.
·      Dentists who can come and provide care for the 220 workers who have never been to a Dentist in their lives.
·      Nurses and Doctors who can help us provide care to the surrounding community.
·      And so many other skills that we don’t even know that we need yet.

This is a big change in focus for us, but now we believe it is the right change and look forward to continuing to have people come and serve God through the people of Swaziland.

 I was reading in Ecclesiastes yesterday and thought this scripture was very timely.

There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:
A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace.

But in the end, does it really make a difference what anyone does? I’ve had a good look at what God has given us to do—busywork, mostly. True, God made everything beautiful in itself and in its time—but he’s left us in the dark, so we can never know what God is up to, whether he’s coming or going. I’ve decided that there’s nothing better to do than go ahead and have a good time and get the most we can out of life. That’s it—eat, drink, and make the most of your job. It’s God’s gift.  Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 The Message Bible

Live from Swaziland … looking forward to spending the day with Chloe!


PS Registration is now open for a team of people to come and help us finish up the dorms and kitchen/dininghall for the "big kids".  We are looking for anyone who can paint, hang curtains, assemble furniture, fix-it people, or anyone who can just lend a hand.  You can register today at

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