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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Some days even I think we are crazy – 76 babies and counting.

Every now and then I find myself sitting on the couch at the end of a long day with Ian and I am completely overwhelmed at what we have been called to do.  That happened this week when we got our 5th set of twins.  Yes, 13% of all our children are twins (two fraternal, two boys, one girls). 

We now have 76 children, under the age of 3.5 years, living at Project Canaan and we get a baby on average every 12.5 days.  Fifteen of our children are under the age of 6-months (!), seven are HIV positive and many are underweight and/or developmentally delayed (often those two things are directly linked).

Two weeks ago I wrote a blog about a set of twins that we found out in the rural community.  You can read the details at  On Friday, October 3rd I picked up Lori Marschall and Janice Johnson at the airport and then headed straight to Siteki to pick up a baby (Eliza) from the hospital.  As it turned out we were asked to take two babies that day and after the paper work was done and babies fed we headed back to Project Canaan.

On our way home I got a call from the mother of the twins in the blog noted above.  She was crying because she and the baby girl had been discharged and she still didn’t have any money to pay to get out or take a bus home. Somehow the hospital didn’t have record of the $32 US bill I had paid the week before and now she owed another $8.70 US for her and her baby’s 5-day stay at the hospital.  We stopped in, cleaned up the confusion and the bill and gave her bus fare to get her home.  We promised to bring the male twin to her on Monday with the police, as they were the ones who took the baby in the first place.

We had a team of people here this past week so I tasked Helen and Shongwe to go to the police station and get an officer to go with them to return the child to the mother.   Two hours later they arrived back at my house with both twins (!).  What?  Yes, they found the mother lying on the ground outside and the baby alone inside.  She was no longer breast-feeding and there was no formula so the baby was only being given water.  She was almost down to her birth weight (4.1 lbs) at 3-weeks old and it was clear that she was dehydrated.  The 21-year old mother also has a 4-year old and a 5-year old (who was recently raped by her Uncle) and did not want these babies at all. The alleged father of the babies has turned off his phone and has not been in contact with the mother since she first told him she was pregnant.

Photo of "Robert" being returned to his mother. 
I am told there were several phone calls between the police and the Social Welfare officer and the mother and finally Helen and Shongwe were asked by the family and the government to take the children – a report, paperwork and a court order would follow right behind.

Bernice and Robert arrived at Project Canaan.
Some of you are wondering why we would do this?  Why wouldn't we try to help the mother instead of taking the babies?  And those are valid questions. There have been cases where we did invite the mother and children to live at the Kibbutz so that they could stay together.  This situation presented itself differently and sometimes we just have to go with our “gut” and rely on the wisdom and background knowledge that the officers involved are aware of, even if it is not shared with us. 

We have named the babies Bernice and Robert. They were born on September 15th, which is the same birth day as my Mom (Bernice Willis) and that is also Ian's birthday.  Robert Smucker was with us on the day we first found the babies so we have named the boy Robert in honor of our dear friend, and brother Robert Smucker.  

That night I was overwhelmed.    So many little mouths to feed (150+ bottles per day alone), so many diapers to change (400+ every day), so many children to provide for and love for life.  There are so many moving parts here, so many operational challenges, staffing challenges and funding challenges.

Ian is landing in the US today for the Annual Heart for Africa Board meeting, so I have a couple of weeks alone here on the farm. This morning in my quiet time I watched a video that was released by the Egg Farmers of Canada yesterday about Heart for Africa and their partnership with us.  It was so great to see the faces of our children, but also all the faces of the Swazi’s who are here caring for the babies and volunteers who come and help.  As I watched I saw the farm workers, the dairy workers and the Khutsala Artisans and knew that they are all a direct part of helping us with this daunting task. Then there are the Egg Farmers of Canada themselves who are coming to help, and the US Bank and UPS people who were just here helping, and there are more people on their way. These are God's children and He is their Father - He must send the people and we pray that those who are called will say "yes". 
Jan Bechtel - Long term volunteer feeding Bernice.
We are not in this alone and we are not called to do it on our own.  It takes a village to raise a child, and these children are being raised by a global village.  There are days that even I think we are crazy, but maybe “crazy” is a good thing under the circumstances?

Thank you for your prayers and support. We do need financial support for the last SIX children who have come to us in the past month so if you would consider becoming a monthly donor we would very much appreciate your direct assistance.   

In the US please click here.

In Canada please click here.

Live from Swaziland … this is a busy place.


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